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Opioid Epidemic Emergency; GOP Civil War; Puerto Rico Response; Officer Saves Lives in Houston; Trump Wanted Gag Order Lifted. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired October 27, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Psychiatric hospitals. I can't tell you, what a ground shift this is going to be, because in my state alone, we have seven to 900 empty beds that could be filled by the poor, Medicaid recipients, who need this treatment and can't get it right now because the federal government won't pay their share. Now they will. That's a big change.

And also talking yesterday about requiring doctors to get continuing medical education. Do you know now, a doctor can get a license from the DEA to write these prescriptions for opioids and never be educated about how people get addicted or, if they get addicted, how to treat them. This is outrageous.

This -- we have 175 people a day dying. We have a 9/11 every two and a half weeks. Think about this, if -- if that was happening -- if a terrorists organization was killing 175 Americans a day on our soil, what would we spend to make it stop? That's what's got to start right now. The Congress has got to get serious about it. I think the president showed yesterday they have a partner in him. A lot of work to do, but we're very excited about issuing our final report next week.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And it does come next week. And it's wonderful that this is being done in a bipartisan way. And I think it's wonderful that the national discussion is at the level it is and it lets us talk about things, not as Democrat or Republican, just as whether or not they're good or bad ideas. And your report is coming out next week.

Curious, the president seemed to focus a lot on -- on just saying no. Don't start. And, obviously, if it were that simple, you know, we wouldn't have the problem we have. And you've talked to so many people here, is just say no effective?

CHRISTIE: Well, not just say no, but it is what -- how you teach people about what's happening. Four out of every five new heroin addicts in this country start with prescription opioids.

BERMAN: Right.

CHRISTIE: So what we need to start telling young people is, just because it's in your parent's medicine cabinet doesn't mean it's safe for you. Just because a doctor tells you it's OK doesn't mean it's OK. And just because they give you 30 pills doesn't mean you have to take them, all right. So that's why in our state we've reduced initial prescriptions down to five days so they're not laying around.

National Take Back Day is tomorrow, where you can bring back your drugs that you haven't used and deposit them safely at police stations and fire departments all across this country. So I think just say no has to be expanded.

And what it has to be is, what does that means? And it means that in a doctor's office is where this epidemic started in America and we need young people to understand that it's not safe just because it's a pill, not because you didn't get it from a dealer or on the street and you're not injecting it. It is just as dangerous if not more for you.


CHRISTIE: So expand that message and make it much more broader -- much broader and much more understandable to young people.

CAMEROTA: And doctors need to take responsibility for not prescribing all those (INAUDIBLE).

CHRISTIE: Absolutely. This -- and, Alisyn, this is so awful. We consume 85 percent of all the opioids in the world in this country. We're the most medicated country in the world, and it's unnecessary. And what it's led to now is this 64,000 deaths last year. This is the medical crisis of our time. This is the AIDS epidemic of our generation, but even worse.

And the other thing I don't understand is, why aren't people marching? I'm old enough to remember the marches for -- by AIDS patients and the people who cared about that issue in Washington, in state capitals, demanding action. These families need to be supported and that's what this commission is all about.


All right, let's talk politics while we have you.

CHRISTIE: Sure. You got it.

CAMEROTA: OK. GOP unity on a scale of one to ten, what do you give it?

CHRISTIE: Five. Five. You know, I think we're unified on a lot of issues, but we're not unified on how to approach those issues. And if you're not unified on both, you're not going to get things done.

And I think that's the big frustration that people expressed to me and that, quite frankly, I have as somebody who's worked hard to elect 34 Republican governors across the country. We're a Republican House. We're a Republican Senate. I spent more time on the road, as you know, raising money and campaigning for folks, and now I want to see results.

I want to see tax reform. I want to see infrastructure built. I want to see these things done. And we're not unified in how to go about this. And if we're not, we're going to pay a price at the polls in 2018.

BERMAN: The president says there's great unity, that we don't understand how much unity there is. There's a love fest. He's getting multiple standing ovation, he says.

CHRISTIE: It's good that you get standing ovations when you're president. And I'm sure that happened. But, you know what, he's right that we're unified on the issues. We're unified on the things we believe in, in general. But we are not yet unified on how to get from point A to point B. Governing is about getting things done, touchdowns in the end zone, and we haven't proven that yet.

CAMEROTA: So it is the five year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. I can't believe actually that it's been five years.


CAMEROTA: So the president's hurricane response to all of these last three, what do you grade it?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I give him a B plus. And I -- and here's why. First of all, in Texas -- I think, part of it is you see the difference between the condition of the states or territories when the storm hit. In Texas, you had pretty solid infrastructure, a pretty good level of experience in dealing with storms coming in, and I think so far an above average response in Texas.

Florida, an excellence response. Why? Really experienced. Infrastructure really resilient. A governor who has gone through this before and a state infrastructure that has.

[08:35:04] Puerto Rico, an infrastructure that was already crumbling, and an island that was bankrupt. Not just functionally bankrupt, but actually bankrupt.

When a storm comes into a place like that, there's no infrastructure. So what the government is -- the federal government's doing now is taking everything there. They have to -- we have to rebuild roads. I had a state department of transportation that had money to help rebuild roads in Sandy that we lost. In Puerto Rico, they haven't. And so --

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, what about the water and food issues? I mean why wasn't that faster in Puerto Rico?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, my understanding, from talking to the homeland security adviser in the White House and to Governor Rossello, who I've spoken to frequently, is that there was plenty of water and food at the docks. They couldn't get them to people. And the big part of that was the destruction of roads outside San Juan. So you had to start to airlift all of that stuff. It's a much less efficient way of doing it and you lose a lot of stuff in the process.

I mean I've been through this. Everybody can second guess this stuff. And -- and we deserve to be second guessed. We're in a position of responsibility. But this is a lot harder than it looks and the resources have been brought to bear. Now, this is what Congress and the president got to decide, will they rebuild Puerto Rico completely because that's what they're going to have to do. There's no money there.

BERMAN: I will say -- you -- 74 percent of the island is still without power. And having watched you for years I have a sense, if you were governor of Puerto Rico, you would not put up with 74 percent of the island being without power (INAUDIBLE)?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I'm glad I'm glad I'm not the governor of Puerto Rico because that infrastructure was brutal. And let's remember this too. When -- we had 2.8 million households in New Jersey -- which is almost every household in New Jersey -- without power for about two weeks in Super Storm Sandy. But we were at a spot where I was calling governors who were having their folks drive their trucks from all these different places. I know some people had some fun with the idea of the president saying this is an island and it's surrounded by water and all the rest of it.

But really the practical problem was, I -- I sent more people to Puerto Rico than any state. We sent 1,100 people, National Guard and state police there, all Sandy-experienced people. What -- the reports they're getting back to me are, there's -- there's no way to get people on the island. We had to wait for flights forever because the air traffic control system has been down and compromised.


CHRISTIE: So there were some practical things in Puerto Rico that didn't exist in Sandy.

But I will tell you is, that I think the governor is taking the right approach. I've spoken to him. He's getting smarter every day about this issue, because you do. I did during Sandy. He's doing it now. And his relationship with the White House is really good. And they trust him.

So I think you're going to see this getting more and more rapid. But part of it is, you've got to take what you get in terms of the condition of the place that got damaged.


CHRISTIE: And it's pretty bad.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what's next for you.


CAMEROTA: January 16th is your last day as governor.


CAMEROTA: What are you going to do next?

CHRISTIE: Don't know. You know, I haven't spent a lot of time working on it yet, because I've got a lot of things to do still as governor. But I know I'm going to go back to the private sector for the first time in 16 years.

CAMEROTA: Well, we did see you on a different morning show this morning doing the weather. Do you have weatherman ambitions?

CHRISTIE: You know, I do not have weatherman ambitions in me, but I'm a -- but I'm a flexible, fun guy, so I -- you know, so I like to go -- you know, I like to play along with others nicely. So I did the weather this morning someplace else.

But, no, I -- what I hope to do is go to the private sector. I -- we have two more children, ages 17 and 14, to put through college. Our two older ones are already through. So I've got some wood to chop still.

BERMAN: That's right.


CHRISTIE: You know, I have some wood to chop still. And, you know, after 16 years in government, it's probably time for me to go back to the private sector and recharge my batteries a little bit that way.

BERMAN: Did your campaign pay for the -- pay Fusion GPS to do any research on Donald Trump or go --

CHRISTIE: We did not. No. We didn't do any of that.

BERMAN: So Rubio says no. You say no.

CHRISTIE: We -- we didn't have enough money to do that, unfortunately.

BERMAN: Right.

CHRISTIE: But, no, we didn't do any of that.

CAMEROTA: You say you're a fun, flexible guy. We have an interpretive dance routine that we're interested in you doing.

CHRISTIE: Well, I'd be happy to do it. Listen, I did dad dancing for Father's Day on Jimmy Fallon with him. So, Alisyn, listen, here's the deal I'll make with you.


CHRISTIE: If you and I are going to do the interpretive dance, you know --

CAMEROTA: You're in?



CHRISTIE: I'm in. I'll do it. BERMAN: Two kids that need to go to college. You're willing to do anything. I know the feeling.

CHRISTIE: Well, at this point, listen, seriously, why not? You know, for hire. You know, you can hang a sign around youself. It will be really nice.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome. Governor, great to see.

CHRISTIE: Thank you both for having me. Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

All right, a Houston police officer saves hundreds in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. How he hit a private struggle and went "Beyond the Call of Duty."

BERMAN: But, first, a programing note. Tonight at 9:00 p.m. on the new HNL series, "Inside with Chris Cuomo," bodies are piling up near the border town of Laredo, Texas. Chris talks to the lone medical examiner. Just one in the area. Take a look at this.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What medical examiners do just fascinates people. Why do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's morbid curiosity. It's just the same reason people like to watch horror movies, which I do not. It's that curiosity of fear.

CUOMO: So, wait a minute. You look at scenes on a regular basis --


CUOMO: That are horrific by definition.


[08:40:02] CUOMO: And yet you will not watch horror movies?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because that's the unknown. To me, this is not. I know this. I know that that patient on my table is not going to reach up and grab me.



BERMAN: A Houston police officer enduring a very personal battle as he saved hundreds of people hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Stephanie Elam tells us how he went "Beyond the Call of Duty." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Hurricane Harvey dropped a deluge of water of Houston --

OFFICER NORBERT RAMON, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: And the rain just kept coming down. I mean coming down.

ELAM: Police Officer Norbert Ramon headed to the only station he could get to, Lake Patrol right on Lake Houston.

N. RAMON: Just seemed like apocalypse. I mean it just -- it was unreal.

ELAM: With floodwaters engulfing neighborhoods, Lak Patrol took to its boats, skirting trees, bridges and sunken cars to whisk people to safety.

N. RAMON: They wanted to bring everything with them, you know, and you can only tell them to bring so much.

ELAM: Working 12-hour shifts, Officer Ramon was in and out of water helping to rescue people.

N. RAMON: You know what sticks in my head is those children. I mean you'd see different emotions.

ELAM (on camera): How many people do you think you helped rescue?

N. RAMON: God, I don't know, 200, 300 easily.

SGT. EPI GARZA, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: He never showed no signs of him having anything wrong with him.

ELAM (voice-over): What's wrong with Officer Ramon is stage four colon cancer, which has spread to his liver and lungs. Diagnosed in March 2016, Ramon gets chemotherapy every two weeks, a constant reminder of his battle.

N. RAMON: I'm out there in the street, then I've got to leave half a day to, you know, go out there and do that. And it's just -- as long as I'm with these guys, you know, they keep me going, you know.

OFFICER ALVIN STEELMAN, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: My respect level for him is beyond explanation.

ELAM: Teamed up for boat rescues, Alvin Steelman had no clue about Ramon's health crisis until after the water receded.

STEELMAN: He's not looking for sympathy. He just wants to be part of the team. And he was. He did everything everyone else did.

GARZA: For three days of his life, he was in a world where he didn't have to think about it. He was really happy helping people.

ELAM: In fact, Ramon was in no pain. CINDY RAMON, OFFICER RAMON'S WIFE: He's a police officer first and

then it's cancer.

ELAM: His wife of 13 years, however, was concerned. He sent her this picture while on the murky water to let her know he was all right.

C. RAMON: I was worried about him because energy wise I didn't know how it would affect him. But at the same token, I knew there's nothing I could say or do that was going to hold him back.

N. RAMON: I just wanted to go out there and do it like -- like I don't even have it.

ELAM: A man rescuing others from the brink, while in a battle for his own life.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Houston.


CAMEROTA: That's a beautiful story.

[08:45:01] All right, here's another one. If you've got a garage full of used sports equipment, those soccer balls that your kids used to use or the rackets from that time you thought you'd take up tennis -- I think they're talking to me -- this week's CNN hero has found a creative way to give those forgotten sports items new life. Meet Max Levitt.


MAX LEVITT, CNN HERO: A lot of kids learn the importance of work ethic on the sports field.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, there we go. Good job! Both of you. Do it again.

LEVITT: Sports were the most important part of my childhood. I thought that was a given for kids to play sports. But so many kids can't afford to play sports. There's millions of dollars of sports equipment that is not being put to use. That is either being thrown away or wasting away in garages. And I thought, why don't we just create a food bank for sports equipment.


CAMEROTA: Well, to see how Max's equipment is really making a difference, you can go to And, don't forget, next week the top ten CNN heroes of 2017 will be revealed.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump's unusual push. Was the president out of line in directing his senior staff to ask the Justice Department to lift a gag order on an FBI informant? We'll ask a Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:50:04] CAMEROTA: President Trump's counselor, Kellyanne Conway, confirming to us on NEW DAY that the president did want the Justice Department to lift a gag ordered on that FBI informant who played a critical role in the sale of a uranium company to the Russians under President Obama. Listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is not unusual for a president to weigh in. This president, as you saw from everything from the JFK files to this particular ongoing investigation, Alisyn, for transparency. And he believes, as many others do, frankly, that the FBI informant should be free to say what he knows.

CAMEROTA: OK. Joining us now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Great to have you here in studio, senator.

So are you comfortable with the president pressing for this FBI informant to appear in front of your committee?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: What's so striking about the president again intervening in the Department of Justice is, it's part of a pattern of politicization of the Department of Justice. He fired Jim Comey. He's interviewing U.S. attorney candidates in the southern district of New York, where he has property, and where there are investigations into money laundering by his associates. So this kind of interference in the Department of Justice is deeply troubling to me.

CAMEROTA: So not illegal but disturbing. They're supposed to act independently?

BLUMENTHAL: There were rules in the wake of the Nixon improprieties that presidents would not interfere or intervene in ongoing investigations, or potential judgements about informants keeping confidential and so forth because they are necessary to protect people who are doing investigations. And those norms now seem to be violated.

CAMEROTA: So what do you do about that?

BLUMENTHAL: I think that our investigations ongoing now into political interference in firing Jim Comey and various other possible obstruction of justice by the president in the Russian meddling investigation and collusion with will produce information very important to the American people and they'll make some judgments.

CAMEROTA: Are you interested in talking to that FBI informant about the uranium deal?

BLUMENTHAL: I would be interested in talking to anyone and having people come before our committee, in public, under oath. I think that's the way investigations --

CAMEROTA: But do you still have questions about the uranium deal?

BLUMENTHAL: The uranium deal is now pretty much history. The investigation was closed. If there's new information that's worthy of investigation, I want to know about it.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that is confusing is that Kellyanne Conway says this is about transparency. We want to know what happened. But correct me if I'm wrong, the Department of Justice didn't let two top FBI officials testify in front of your department about the James Comey firing that they had special information about. So the transparency seems to have a double standard.

BLUMENTHAL: The transparency may well have a double standard. That's the danger of political interference in these judgements by the Department of Justice. They ought to be made on the merits and the public has a right to know.

But the uranium deal, the gag order on informants in some ways are distractions, purposely thrown out by the White House because what's really important here is the report by the intelligence community, irrefutable, undisputed, that the Russians attacked our democracy. And that's what the investigation ought to concern insofar as the Trump campaign may have colluded with it and now the president himself may have obstructed the investigation.

CAMEROTA: That brings us to the infamous Russian dossier that was designed by, we now know, political opponents to dig up whatever dirt or compromising information they could on then Donald Trump.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, John Podesta, campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton have all said they didn't know that her campaign or the DNC had paid for part of this dossier. Do you believe them?

BLUMENTHAL: Whether they did or not, again, this issue looks like another distraction. But if there's information about their knowing, maybe that ought to become public as well.

What I believe is that there was a dossier. It had salacious and unverified information about Donald Trump. But unlike the Cambridge Analytica approach to WikiLeaks, it wasn't to solicit information from a foreign power, namely Russia.

CAMEROTA: Right, but Kellyanne Conway, you know, says that it's still a foreign entity if this British military intelligence officer, that's a foreign person. So is this apple and apples?

BLUMENTHAL: It's opposition research. The question is, was it solicited from the Russians? Is it relevant to Russian meddling in our democracy. If it is, it ought to become part of this investigation. If not, my hope is that the Judiciary Committee will focus on the potential collusion by Americans with the Russians because if the Russians aren't made to pay a price for their disinformation and hacking and interference in our democratic process, they'll do it again. In fact, they're probably planning right now how to do it in 2018.

[08:50:25] CAMEROTA: On that note, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks so much for being in studio with us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow today, because John is slacking, is going to pick up after this very quick break. Have a great weekend.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

[08:59:48] We begin with the line that presidents are not supposed to cross, but it was crossed by President Trump. Two sources now tell CNN, the White House was a powerful force behind this week's decision by the Justice Department to lift a gag order to allow an undercover informant to cooperate with the congressional probe of a deal involving U.S. sales of uranium in 2010.