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tv   CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto  CNN  March 26, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PDT

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good tuesday morning to you. house democrats are meeting for the first time this hour since the special counsel handed the president a momentous win and forced a rethink of the course and strategy. nancy pelosi is telling her caucus to focus now on the legislative agenda. a half dozen committee chairs are demanding the mueller report in full no later than a week from today be shared with them. also this morning a switch that could cost millions of americans
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their health insurance. the trump administration wants a federal judge to throw out the affordable care act, obamacare, entirely. this is a change in position for this administration. if accepted by the court one that would have enormous national consequences. >> absolutely. this is a big and unexpected shift on the part of the department of justice. last year the doj said it thought some provisions of the law were unconstitutional. couldn't be defended. it never said it thought the whole law was unconstitutional. just to take a step back, remember this was the key achievement of the obama administration. texas and other republican-led states brought a fresh challenge. it said we think the law is
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unconstitutional. at the time the trump department of justice said, no, no, we don't think the law is unconstitutional. just some key provisions. those aimed at pre-existing conditions. now late last night, the trump administration said we agree with the district court judge. we think the whole thing is unconstitutional and it can't be defended. besides the fact of millions of americans could potentially be affected by this, that tees up a battle that will bring it back to the supreme court. per not talking about issues challenged like the individual mandate. this is broader. medica medicaid, medicare. even labels on food products covered by the law. it would impact millions if the federal appeals court were to
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agree with the trump administration's position, jim. >> no question. ellie hoenig joins me now. now let's get to the surprise. how rare is it to change this? >> very rare. given the stakes of the case. we are talking about a complete change. yes, there are certain provisions, the individual mandate that are unconstitutional. the rest should stand to now it all should come tumbling down. we have changed who the attorney general is from sessions to william barr. it puts the lawyers in a tough position of having to go in front of the judge saying we have changed our minds and all the cases before, the other side is against us. >> ignore all that. this sets up a couple of battles.
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before you get to the supreme court you have 21 states with democratic governors stepping in to argue the other side of the case. do courts like being in the middle of what's such a partisan divide here? >> no. courts want no part of politics. in fact, courts won't even hear a case if they decide it is a political question. courts understand circumstances change. certainly when administrations change that happens. this is unusual. you are within one administration. but the judges will still look at it on its merits for perceived political undermining. >> the next step is the court of appeals. one level below the supreme court. as a betting man, chances that this goes to the supreme court are very high. >> depending on where the intermediate court of appeals depending on what they do. if the court of appeals keeps obamacare in place and pulls out
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a provision but says the rest could stand i don't think the supreme court will touch it. almost as certain as you can be if the court of appeals strikes down the whole thing it will go up. >> is this a left or right-leaning circuit? >> covers areas of louisiana, down south. it's known as one of the most conservative leaning ideologically of the circuits. >> chief justice famously when the acc came before the court he surprised and disappointed many by upholding it. again, you are not inside his mind. but based on that decision of the chief justice, does it indicate how he might decide on this? >> he'll be in in an interesting position. one of the bases he voted for was a provision that may get pulled out of it. he may have to find another basis. i agree with the idea that chief
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justice roberts wants to keep the court as unpredictable as possible. he'll be in an interesting position. >> no question. that's a good the point. he had this public disagreement with trump months ago saying trump said there are obama and trump judges. >> very unusual step to the supreme court justice to say so. chief justice roberts doesn't have want the roberts court to be known historically as when the court became an ideological divide. >> this has enormous implications. this affects 52 some odd million americans. thank you very much for walking us through it. democrats are on capitol hill right now to talk about next steps following what we know of the mueller report. joining me now is sunlin live on capitol hill. time to move on? democrats at least in private, many seem to be saying that as
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well. what do you hear coming out of the discussions today? >> reporter: that's right. it's certainly an important moment, jim, for house democrats. ma they are meeting behind closed doors. this is the first time they'll gather the house democratic caucus in the wake of the mueller report. as they continue to grapple with the question of how aggressive should we be on the probes on capitol hill. what investigations should keep up. it comes at a time we are trying to caputo liesz, put pressure on democrats like adam schiff, the chairman of the house intelligence committee facing calls to step down. manu raju caught up with him yesterday and he says the investigation will go on. >> the investigation has always focused on counter-intelligence issues. that is, is the president or anyone around him compromised in some way. that work has to go on.
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>> schiff also said he's willing to accept the conclusion from the mueller report that didn't charge trump or his campaign officials with conspiracy with the russians. he emphasized at this point that his probe, his counter-intelligence probe, he believes is different. he had this to say about the attorney general. >> you have an attorney general who applied for the job by talking down any potential obstruction conviction or indictment. he's now done the job he applied for which is attempt to exonerate mr. trump when mr. mueller said no exoneration was in order. that ought to concern people that someone was hand-picked for the purpose and executed the purpose. >> so as some of the probes do continue up here on capitol hill, it certainly is a big message that house democratic leadership is facing.
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how much political capital in essence do they spend on the investigations. how much do they push forward. it seems the message from house leadership is clear. in the wake of the mueller report, nancy pelosi telling the leadership team on the hill last night they should essentially not focus on the mueller probe. they should keep focusing on legislative priorities. that's the message she'll be delivering in this room in a few minutes. >> a lot of patience, thinning among democratic voter. now we discuss with the cofounder of the beat d.c. tiffany, thanks for joining us. let's talk about the politics for a moment. democrats are feeling this. we have to think about something else besides the mueller investigation. do you think that's undue pressure? >> i don't look at it through the lens of partisan politics.
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i think we are talking about an attack on our democracy. it's baffling to me to hear people say we need to move on from people who claim to be such patriots yet are saying let's not investigate whether our country has been compromised. that doesn't make sense. what we have is the president's hand picked attorney general. congress absolutely should press to see barr or mueller's report. their job is to do the work on behalf of the american people. his summary doesn't erase what we have seen with our own eyes. we know vladimir putin went african american e-mails to help elect this president. for some reason donald trump doesn't want to acknowledge that and lauds prize -- praise on vladimir putin every chance he gets. he has a multi-million dollar reason to do it. the moscow tower. i don't think it erases the facts and evidence laid out
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before the american people. >> what we know of the mueller report is clear. it says russia interfered in the election to help donald trump. that's not in question. it was also clear saying that the president did not in the view of mueller at least find sufficient evidence to find he cooperated or conspired with russia. from a political perspective -- and i will throw this up. when voters going into 2018 talking about the issues they cared about most, the russian investigation is way down. that was before the mueller report was out. weeks before it was out. i wonder if politically democrats look at that and say we better start to focus on something else. infrastructure, prescription drug prices. other issues that were voting issues in the midterms. >> you're saying what the mueller report is. i haven't seen it. we certainly heard barr's summary on it. you're saying that suggests democrats can't walk and chew gum at the same time. we are coming up on another
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election. if the suggestion is democrats should forget it and only focus on the issues that's ridiculous. the fact there is a question that democrats can't talk policy and protect our democracy is just one that's not right. senator kamala harris unveiled a policy advocating for a teacher pay increase. elizabeth warren has one of the most comprehensive policy packages in the democratic field. yet all of these people are capable of pursuing actions to make sure the very system that makes america a democracy isn't attacked again. >> listen, i get that argument. but these are lawmakers who've got to be elected. you have to have more than a dozen candidates running in 2020. when they go to town halls they are not asked about the russia investigation. i wonder if there is a silver lining here speaking in purely political terms for democrats
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that they can now in effect abandon the impeachment question and focus on the legislative priorities. >> i don't buy into the narrative. it's a right wing talking point that the media adopts. >> this is coming from democrats, too. you heard sunlin say nancy pelosi is talking about a focus on the agenda. it is not a media talking point. it is spoken openly about. >> even with nancy pelosi that's not to suggest you cannot pursue business on behalf of the american people. what the american people are asking about at town halls doesn't dictate what happens in the halls of congress. we know there is a lot of minutia in government maybe the average person trying to pay their mortgage, worry about health care, et cetera, may not be thinking about. in 2016 we weren't talking about russia attacking the democracy. i don't think it would be wise this time to ignore what
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happened in the past. we think the american people don't care about it. that's simply not true. there are a lot of policy issues democrats are talking about. the aforementioned things i brought up today. that doesn't take away from protecting our democracy. i don't understand this agenda to say they shouldn't focus on that. >> i didn't obviously -- >> not you, but people are saying that. >> i hear you. intelligence agents say russia may attack again in 2020. may be attacking again already. it is good to have you on. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> democratic backlash after the pentagon has now ok'd the transfer of $1 billion to start trux constructi construction of a new wall. we'll have the latest. he says he just didn't do it. but lawyer michael avenatti known for representing stormy daniels is facing charges he himself tried to shake down nike
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for millions. we have the latest on that case. plus the president slammed the late senator john mccain for handing the russia dossier over to the fbi. guess who told him to hand it over? senator lindsey graham. behr presents: tough as walls. ♪ avenue g. ♪ that's some great paint. ♪ that's some great paint. behr ultra, a top-rated interior and exterior paint. paint, prime, protect - all in one. now that's some great paint! find it exclusively at the home depot. with retirement planning and advice for what you need today and tomorrow. because when you're with fidelity, there's nothing to stop you from moving forward.
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the pentagon is moving forward with president trump's desired border wall saying it authorized $1 billion already for the wall construction. the decision drawing objections from lawmakers. barbara starr joins me now. i believe you are the first to report the story. what are you learning? >> it was last night when acting defense secretary patrick shanahan informed capitol hill that $1 billion essentially in unused military pay. another personnel account would be transferred to the effort on the border that this part of the effort is specifically aimed at trying to control drug smuggling routes.
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this will be 57 miles of border fencing, improvements, road improvements in texas and arizona. under the plan between the pentagon and the department of homeland security. but already it is drawing fire from democrats. shanahan will actually be on capitol hill testifying in just under an hour on the house side. so perhaps we'll see a few fireworks there. democrats on capitol hill are objecting to this. they think this is not the way to go. they are concerned that there will be even more money transferred from things like military construction projects, the roadiness and training will be hurt and things they believe the military needs to be funded won't be funded because it will be transferred to the border projects. we'll see in a short time how the acting defense secretary plans to defend this program in the face of congressional opposition. >> barbara starr, thank you for
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being on top of it. joining me is ryan fitzpatrick. he serves on the foreign affairs committee. thank you for your time. >> good morning. >> let's start on barbara starr's reporting regarding funding from the pentagon. you broke ranks in february joining democratic colleagues in opposing the president's emergency declaration decision, declaration. should the president be able to unilaterally move funds from the pentagon including unused military pay to fund his border wall? >> i don't think so. that's what the resolution was about. i think there were 13 republicans who joined in the resolution. we agree with the need for border security. i want to be clear on that. we need to separate out the need for border security with how we get there. there are constitutional concerns here. the message i shared with my colleagues is be careful of the precedent you are setting here. if you take that position on this issue, be prepared to be
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consistent on the same issue of title 50 when a future administration takes action on this issue. >> are you saying the president in effect is breaking with the constitution here by overriding congressional authority to determine how money is spent. >> the constitutional question will be decided by the courts. what my view is this is a matter for the legislative branch to deal with. we tried to get it through the last congress. we included a bill on border security funding. it has to go through the legislative branch and not the usurpation of legislative authority by the executive branch. >> this is not the first time the president has gone to the pentagon for help at the border. deployed thousands of active u.s. military forces along the border. now we are hearing from the top commander of the u.s. marine
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corps. he warned secretary shanahan that the decision to send troops to the border pose an unacceptable risk to marine corps combat readiness and solvency. you yourself, a law enforcement veteran here, is the president making our country less safe by, in effect, using the troops down at the border? >> i wouldn't say that. the deployment of the troops is a separate issue. >> the marine commandant says it directly. >> listen, i personally would defer to the military experts. i felt the same way about general mattis. the issue of border security funding is separate from the deployment of troops issue. i think any elected official particularly on issues of military readiness ought to defer to the experts. i believe that. >> let me move now to the results of the mueller investigation or at least what we know so far based on bill
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barr's summary. a clear answer as far as we know on the collusion issue. mueller found evidence of possible obstruction of justice by the president and on the other side as well. he didn't make a decision himself. does it concern you and should it concern the american people the special counsel found at least some evidence that the president of the united states attempted to hinder the investigation? >> that's why the report ought to be made public. made that clear. i was one of two republicans to cosponsor legislation to protect the special counsel. bob mueller was my boss at the fbi. he's incredibly competent. he did a great job with the investigation. that's why the report ought to be made public. now that the investigation has been completed. 40 of my former colleagues at the fbi engaged in this investigation. now it is time for congress to exercise our oversight role. not to perpetuate this but to
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round out the edges of the investigation and answer unanswered questions. >> could one of the questions be because it's an open question as to whether robert mueller, the special counsel, was asking bill barr to make the decision on whether obstruction of justice was committed or congress has spoken to legal experts including veterans of previous independent counsel investigations who say they believe it is congress's decision there. congress can look at the evidence and make its own judgment. would you be willing as a republican to make the judgment? >> the decision on whether or not a crime was committed is made by the department of justice by special prosecutors not by elected officials. we have an administrative oversight role. we have to be clear on that. the special counsel and the doj make prosecution decisions. >> as you know as well as me with your experience in law enforcement, you know that the president is a special case.
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the special counsel law was written in such a way to take that decision out of the presidential chain of command in effect to allow an independent special counsel to look at it and allow congress as well to weigh this as it does, for instance, with bill clinton. it is not entirely a prosecutorial decision. many argue it is a political decision by elected members of congress. >> you have to separate out the special counsel if from the independent prosecutor. special counsel is in the chain of command in the attorney general's office for the department of justice. it is important to separate the two. we are not allowed to do that legally. but we have an oversight role to play which is why the report ought to come out. i'm a believer in the truth and transparency and also finality. that's what the american people want. they want the truth to come out. the report to be released.
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they have to wrap it up. >> broad support and in the house as well. 422-0 was the vote, think, to make the report public. congressman fitzpatrick, enjoyed having you on. >> thank you, jim. there is heavy fire overnight as israel launched retaliatory strikes against hamas targets and attempted a cease-fire going nowhere. look at those pictures. we are moments from the opening bell on wall street. investigators will be looking at a check on the health of the economy. ♪ you should be mad they gave this guy a promotion. you should be mad at forced camaraderie.
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tensions are boiling on the israel/gaza border. israel launched counter attacks overnight after a home near tel aviv was struck by a gaza rocket. i know that can be dangerous place, phil. what have you seen overnight? >> reporter: jim, it's been pretty violent through the night. that was the intention really. benjamin netanyahu arrived back in israel from his shortened visit to the u.s. he went straight to the defense ministry. he's been looking to next steps. he addressed via satellite the apac conference in the u.s. and declared this the biggest operation, the greatest use of force against hamas since israel for the war in 2014.
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now dozens of targets were hit by israel. it was designed to send a powerful statement to hamas and indeed to israelis more generally as well. we know from an israeli government source the israeli prime minister initially rejected the use of targets by the israeli defense force and said he wanted more substantial targets and approved each of them. israel struck key buildings connected to hamas including intelligence and the office of the political leader of hamas. while that was going on, more than 60 short-range rockets were fired from gaza into israel in the surrounding territory. fortunately there were no casualties. after the violent night it is the key question next is has israel made the point? there is a political context. parliamentary elections just two weeks away.
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benjamin netanyahu fighting to stay in government. he's aware his opponents have been criticizing him significantly saying the latest escalation was the result of the fact that benjamin netanyahu has been on hamas in the recent past. >> good to know the political implications. thank you very much. president trump has slammed the late senator john mccain for passing the steele dossier to the fbi. now one of the president's allies says he told mccain to hand over the document. we'll have more. as you get old. but prevagen helps your brain with an ingredient originally discovered... in jellyfish. in clinical trials, prevagen has been shown to improve short-term memory. prevagen. healthier brain. better life.
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lindsey graham says it was
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he who advised john mccain to give the steele dossier to the fbi. he told the president because he felt the need to defend mccain after president trump made repeated attacks against the late senator. trump blaming mccain for fanning the flames of the mueller investigation. quite a statement from lindsey graham in part because lately he's been attacking the russia investigation including the steele dossier's part it played in the initiation of the investigation. >> that's right. it was a remarkable statement from lindsey graham yesterday. he admitted that he actually was the one who told his friend john mccain to turn this document over to the fbi. he said yesterday, quote, i told the president it was not john mccain. i know because john mccain showed me the dossier. i told him the only thing i knew to do with it. it could be a bunch of garbage. it could be true. who knows? turn it over to somebody whose
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job it is to find these things out. of course that came after a week that the president had really attacked senator mccain and some republicans were coming to the aide of trying to convince the president to stop going forward with that. lindsey graham, a close friend of the president and also a close friend of the late senator mccain. he basically said he felt it was his responsibility to tell the president, look, i directed lindsey graham to make this decision. you should stop attacking him for it. of course lindsey graham didn't absolve some people on mccain's staff for what they might have done with the dossier. he did try to convince the president this was not john mccain's fault. >> lauren fox, good to have you on the hill. thank you. joining us to discuss it further, the white house reporter for "the washington post." josh, this was interesting. he gave a long on-camera briefing, senator graham and didn't talk about this.
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and then made this comment. he's a cagey politician. was it intentional not to say it on camera and say it off camera to get it out there softly? >> senator graham is in a difficult predicament. he talks to the president several times a week. probably one of his closest allies in the senate. has bipartiseen advising him onn policy and other issues. john mccain was one of his closest friends, his best friend in life. the president is attacking john mccain relentlessly. lindsey graham and mitch mcconnell and others have pleaded with the president to say, please stop. he won't do it. none of their rebukes worked. lindsey graham is trying to convince the president, hey, senator mccain isn't as bad as you think he is. but those efforts have gone nowhere so far. >> not at all. this is happening as graham is using his new chairman ship of
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the senate judiciary committee to investigate the start of the russia probe including the role the steele dossier played. >> senator graham said he'll be a bulldog for investigating the investigators. president trump told his legal team and allies on the hill he wants to see his foes investigated. wants to see people who in his mind precipitated this long investigation brought to justice. there is no desire from the white house to move on and turn the page. there is a sense of vengeance in the air if you talk with people in the white house. lindsey graham plays a key role in that. he'll be the person who would summon many people to the hill to testify. he could put out subpoenas, drive a lot of the scrutiny. how much he goes through with it remains to be seen. as you know, he's up for re-election in south carolina which is a deeply red state that loves president trump. putting himself close to the president is not a bad strategy in any way. >> a sense of vengeance in the air. on another topic, the mueller
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report, of course out or the summary at least. now the question of how much the public will see and mitch mcconnell blocking an effort by democrats in the senate to make it public. what are the chances that he changes tact on this? >> my understanding is no one in the white house has seen the report yet. rudy giuliani hasn't. the president's lawyers. the president said publicly he wants it out. but attorney general bill barr and others at doj are looking through privileged material, grand jury material. it is unclear how many they'll release. we saw a letter yesterday from many committee chairmen asking for the report to be released publicly. the president now says he wants to see the report released. but to be clear, he's not aware of everything in it. you would imagine the white house would want -- in fact, his lawyers told me they want a briefing before it was released publicly. >> mcconnell said to give the special counsel and doj more time to complete their review
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and keep in mind that on the other side in the house, 422-0. all the republicans included voted to release this. can mcconnell continue to stand in the way after he gives the doj time? >> mcconnell is a man who by all accounts of his allies and people who watch him closely who follows the lead of his conference. if members of the conference want it released you could see him moving a little bit here. the public sentiment on this is overwhelmingly in favor of releasing the report. the investigation went on and on for almost two years. the public said by and large a number of public polls they want to see it. mcconnell is not always influenced by public polls. he's more influenced by the inside politics of the caucus. but there will be a heavy push to make the report public. >> there's never been a poll he likes, mitch mcconnell. makes a lot of decisions against
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the celebity rate attorney michael michael saying he will be fully exonerated. at the time the charges were filed in manhattan prosecutors in los angeles charged him with wire and bank fraud. avenatti is out on bail now.
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tell us exactly what he is accused of doing and how to extort this money from nike. >> it is a stunning development for michael avenatti being charged by new york prosecutors with attempting to extort nearly $20 million from nike and prosecutors in los angeles have charged him with wire fraud and bank fraud for embezzling more than a million dollars from one of his clients to pay his personal expenses and for using phony tax returns to get $4 million in loans from a bank. the action took place in new york when prosecutors and fbi agents arrested avenatti on the streets of manhattan as part of what they said was an old fashioned shake down. prosecutors say that avenatti and an unnamed co conspirator threatened nike saying they would disclose damaging information on the eve of the company's corporate earnings potentially wiping billions of
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dollars from the company's market cap if they weren't hired to conduct an internal investigation and paid more than $25 million. nike's attorneys when avenatti came to them brought it to the attention of the prosecutors in manhattan. they began recording avenatti on video and audio and that cull miinated in the arrest yesterday. avenatti was arrested around 12:30 yesterday. he was presented in court last night and released on $300,000 bond with limited travel and has had his pass ports removed and cannot be in contact with the unnamed co-conspirator. >> that is amazing corporate blackmail. you mentioned the unnamed co-conspirator. we know that was mark garados, a prominent lawyer, as well. >> a source familiar with the investigation told cnn that the unnamed co-conspirator is a well
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known attorney who represents a lot of celebrities. he also was a cnn contributor. as of yesterday he is no longer one. he has not been charged with wrong doing in this complaint and he has not responded to cnn's request for comment. >> good to have you on the story. thank you. a major pharmaceutical company is accused of aggressively marketing opioids and helping fuel the nationwide prescription drug epidemic, the deadly one that settled a historic lawsuit. it's big. details are coming up. we want your sandwich to arrive freaky fresh®, so we only deliver within 5 minutes of our stores. and not... farther. ...he's new. order at jimmyjohns.com. because sandwich.
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dr. sanjay gupta has been following the opioid crisis. this is what one of 1,600 states and communities around the country suing purdue pharma. is this a model for other settlements? >> that is the big question. this is the first settlement. a lot of people have been paying attention to this. oklahoma filing this lawsuit. there has been a settlement reached. we will get details this afternoon. the real question is what about the more than thousand other lawsuits from states and various cities. oklahoma had more prescriptions written for some of these opioids than citizens in the state. what this lawsuit really resolves around is the deceptive marketing. the question was, had purdue overstate the wbenefits of thei medications and understate the risks? this is a settlement so we will
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not hear from purdue as part of this. that is the allegation and the concerns. that really centers around most of the lawsuits around the country overstating benefits and calling addiction more of a pseudoaddiction, that addiction wasn't real. it was a pseudoaddiction and that's what has been the subject of all these discussions now. >> the details of this are just fascinating down playing the risks, overplaying how hard it would be to get addicted to the drugs. purdue pharma facing all these lawsuits. there is talk of bankruptcy now. >> i think one of the things that has come up is a company that has made billions of dollars on these drugs now potentially filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. part of that could be a strategic move which i guess helps them consolidate these various lawsuits, as well. the settlement, i should point out, jim, makes it so that we will not hear from purdue pharma. we will not hear an admission of
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this overstating of benefits and understating of risks. we're not going to hear from the family at the center of purdue pharma. that's one of the objectives i imagine for the settlement. there are two other pharmaceutical companies. those lawsuits may still proceed. we don't know of settlements or agreements with those companies yet. those hearings were scheduled. >> so many settlements whether pharmaceutical companies or banks. you settle but you don't admit guilt. dr. sanjay gupta, thanks for staying on top of it. very good tuesday morning to you. i'm jim sciutto in new york. in a stunning reversal, the trump administration says the entire affordable care act, obamacare should be struck down
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in the process possibly eliminating the health care coverage of millions, 52 million americans. the justice department had previously argued that portions of president obama's signature health care law should stand. it now says it agrees with a federal judge in texas that it should be done away with entirely. this has an effect on lots of people in this country. let's discuss with a former federal prosecutor. first of all, this is a big change for this administration which was arguing really making another argument before and now it is saying forget about that. we want to go against the entire law. how difficult is it to make that transition? >> it's very unusual. typically, federal laws are defended by the justice department. in other words, there is often challenges to the constitutionality of laws and the justice department spends a lot of time and resources defending the constitutionality of our .

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