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First Charges Filed in Mueller Investigation; More Details on the Niger Attack That Killed U.S. Soldiers; Interview with Representative Brendan Boyle; Two Former Opioid Addicts Helped by Kratom Plant; Aired 1-2p ET

Aired October 28, 2017 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:38] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, and thanks so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The White House says no comment following the news first on CNN that the first charges had been filed in the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion with Donald Trump's campaign, as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

A federal judge has ordered the charges remain sealed, but sources tell CNN anyone could be taken into custody as soon as Monday. Still unclear who could be charged or the possible charges.

All of this unfolding with President Trump at his golf club in Virginia right now. Our correspondents and expert analysts are standing by to break it all down for us. We begin with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who helped break this story along with CNN reporter Karen Scannell.

All right. Shimon, you first. What are the expectations?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So the expectations so far from everything that we know from sources that we've talked to that it will be possibly as soon as Monday that we learn of these charges, that we learn of who exactly was indicted and what charges they face.

We do expect some activity, some law enforcement activity on Monday. And then at some point during the day, court activity, arraignments perhaps, presentments of these people or person that were indicted.

You know, keep in mind, all this is sealed. This was ordered sealed by a judge after a grand -- after the grand jury handed down the indictments here in Washington, D.C. so now we're just waiting on word of who exactly these charges pertain to and what will happen in the coming days.

Keep in mind, Fred, that we have talked to attorneys associated with some of the people who have been under investigation in this case and so far none have been notified or have been told based on the ones that we've talked to that their clients are facing charges. WHITFIELD: And Karen, no comment from the White House or the

president, you know, I guess has not spoken any more except the White House has just said, you know, no comment. So what can be I guess revealed from what we do know about these sealed indictments?

KAREN SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: There's little that we can really dive into at this point of what will be in the indictments and who will be charged and what the charges will be, and what the elements of those alleged crimes are.

It's not surprising the White House is declining to comment since it lacks some of the specific details of what the allegations will be. But I think we'll probably see a lot more activity on Monday once it becomes clear who has been charged, what the allegations are and who may be implicated by what the charges are at that point. I think we expect these to be the first charges in this investigation, probably not the last ones.

WHITFIELD: So, Shimon, when might the people involved, if it's a person or people who would be charged actually find out?

PROKUPECZ: Well, some may not know until Monday morning. Sometimes in situations where there are surrenders, the lawyers for the individuals are told a day after or even in some cases are told as soon as their clients are indicted. Sometimes shortly thereafter they're notified, hey, you know, we would like your clients to surrender tomorrow.

You know, we did expect maybe that would happen on Friday at some time that the lawyers would be called and told have your clients surrender on Monday. But so far from everyone that we've talked to that has not happened. So it's kind of still a mystery to all of us who was indicted.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, Karen Scannell, thanks so much.

All right. Let's go now to CNN's Boris Sanchez for response from the White House. We know no comment, what else?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, no comment from the White House, no public events for the president today. He's now spending his 85th day as president at a property that bears the Trump name. He's over at Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Virginia. Expected back at the White House later this afternoon.

The president is typically very active on Twitter over the weekend. And he has sent out some tweets today, though focusing on Jimmy Carter and the GDP.

[13:05:04] Not really talking about the Mueller investigation, though he did mention Russia in a tweet last night, linking to a "New York Post" report that somehow Hillary Clinton is involved in news stories about Russian interference in the election.

So at least it is on his mind and it is one example of what some are saying is the president trying to muddy the waters when it comes to this special investigation and the national conversation about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Here's CNN political analyst and former "Washington Post" reporter Carl Bernstein making that case.


CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What we've seen all week, though, is once again the president of the United States, instead of encouraging this special counsel to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation and what happened and what Russia did and whether or not there were any members of his entourage, Trump's entourage, involved in encouraging the Russians to interfere, the president of the United States has sought to muddy the waters by once again making Hillary Clinton the issue instead of the conduct of the president himself and those around him.


SANCHEZ: And the president certainly has been zeroing in on Hillary Clinton this week. Multiple times making references to new allegations that during her time as secretary of state, she took Russian bribes in exchange for favorable uranium deals. The president demanding that an FBI informant related to the case testify, which has been approved. Beyond that, he's also demanding that the State Department now release any e-mails that are still unsealed remaining from Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state.

And then separately, he's also made the case that the Mueller investigation is now getting too expensive for taxpayers. So though no official comment from the White House, what is on the president's mind is pretty clear -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, at the White House, thanks so much.

All right, lots to discuss. Joining me right now, CNN contributors Salena Zito, CNN political analyst Brian Karem, and CNN legal analyst Page Pate who is a constitutional attorney.

Good to see you all.


WHITFIELD: All right, so, Brian, you know, these indictments, we don't know if it's one or if it's multiple people. But how is the White House potentially bracing itself?

KAREM: Well, we'll probably see a few more tweets from the president blaming Hillary for it all. I've seen sore losers. I've never seen such a sore winner. The simple fact of the matter is the president has never admitted that he's done anything wrong while he's been in office. This administration muddying the waters is too kind, it obfuscates everything that is done by anyone else and tries to steer you clear of anything resembling of facts. That's why they call us fake news because we're giving them the facts and he doesn't want to hear them.

So I would anticipate that coming out of the White House there will be no direct comment about any of the allegations, but we will hear indirectly that it's all Hillary's fault or Obama's fault or someone else's fault, and then if he takes on the issue of the investigation, he'll take it on, head on, by saying that it's fake news. That's what I would anticipate seeing in the future anyway.

WHITFIELD: And then, Page, the first charge or charges, how much of it will be an indicator of where the investigation overall may be going?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it could tell us a lot, but not just the charge but how the indictment is drafted. There's no standard form for an indictment. Some prosecutors simply put in the charges and the defendant and that's it. Other prosecutors want to tell a story. They want to go into the facts. This is how the crime is allegedly committed and spell it all out in a five-page or 10-page, I've seen 50-page indictments.

So we don't know how long this indictment is. We don't know whether it's bare bones, here are the allegations, this is what they're charged with, or if we're going to get a flavor of the entire investigation so potentially we could learn a lot on Monday.

WHITFIELD: And so, Salena, you know, collusion is not a charge. But there is circumstances that the investigators are looking into. Is there a hope that these first set of charges might help unravel that mystery?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, I think that's a really important point. I think, as Page said, Monday will be sort of give us the -- a grain of understanding what the whole bag of wheat's going to look like, right? We're going to have a much better understanding of where this is going, whose connected to it. Right now, we're sort of like Agatha Christie and we're on Orient Express.

We can't really figure out what's happening at this moment. And it's sort of this big mystery. But Monday, I think will be this great indicator as to what path Mueller is taking, where he sees this going, and it will probably snowball from there.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, this follows or at least the first charges now follows a very long string of whether it was candidate Trump, President Trump, people surrounding him who were all saying there's nothing to any of this. Here's a reminder.


[13:10:10] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who are try to meddle in the election?


TRUMP: So there has been absolutely no collusion. It's been stated that they have no collusion.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABS NEWS: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?


TRUMP: There was no collusion between us and Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?


TRUMP: In the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction.


WHITFIELD: And so, Page, if the indictments reveal that any number of them were wrong or were flat-out lying, does that now redirect the investigation in any way?

PAGE: Well, it could, Fred. I mean, the initial focus of course was on Russia's ties to the Trump campaign or interference in the U.S. election. But Mueller also has the authority to investigate anything that kind of arises out of that. So while they're undergoing their investigation, they're interviewing a lot of witnesses. They're listening to what we see in the media and what we're reporting in the media.

If people are making false statements to government investigators, that's a separate crime. If people are -- or redirecting witness, trying to influence witnesses improperly, that's a separate crime. If people are destroying e-mails, documents, that's a separate crime. So it's not just collusion, which itself is not a crime, but it's the whole enterprise. Whether this was done legally or illegally. And I think that's ultimately where these special counsel --

KAREM: It's an old story.

WHITFIELD: And, Brian, how much is at stake overall for the White House and how much of that is predicated on what is revealed on Monday?

KAREM: Well, it's all at stake for the White House of course. And it's -- like I said, it's an old story. It's what brought Nixon down. It's not the crime, it's the cover-up. It's what gave Clinton trouble. It's not the crime, it's the cover-up. And so I would anticipate what happens on Monday will determine their actions and their actions are going to be, if they're past action is any indication of future action, they're going to deny that they've done anything wrong. They're going to obfuscate the facts and direct this in a different manner, to look at something, blue smoke and mirrors, don't look at the guy behind the curtain, don't believe your lying eyes, believe me. And they're going to continue that all the way until they fall off the cliff.

And I wouldn't anticipate that any of that has changed because it hasn't already. They've been better off at the very beginning saying look, you know, there was a mistake, it was made, here it is, it's over and done with. But they haven't done that. And as facts continue to show, they have a problem, a very serious problem, and they're not dealing with it other than telling us not to look at it, and that's no way to deal with your problem.

WHITFIELD: And Salena, how much of this is going to be an obstacle, whatever, you know, is unveiled on Monday? How much of an obstacle will this be for this president to try to get anything legislatively done by the year's end?

ZITO: Well, it all depends on how he handles it. So if you look at Andrew Jackson or Andrew Johnson in the 1860s, he was able to get nothing done after his impeachment problem. But if you take a look at Bill Clinton, he did a very effective job with Lanny Davis and every day saying I'm just going about the business of the American people. And he was still able to accomplish things.

And it's sort of all up to the president and how he takes this on. He can -- you know, he is known to be a fighter. So he has that ability to be able to just put his head down and keep working or he can be really angry and, you know, and sort of alienate both parties and nothing gets done.

KAREM: He'll do both.

ZITO: That's -- you know, that's the great unknown right now.


KAREM: Yes, he'll do both. You'll see him get angry. You'll see him try to -- like he says, he's a counterpuncher. And like you said before he likes to walk into a deal and punch somebody and then talk with them. I think he'll try every arrow in his quiver. And it all depends on whether or not he's able to actually talk to anyone after this comes out, whatever happens, and see if he can work with people.

But if there's any indication of the trouble he's going to have working with Congress, you already have members of his own party advocating the throne so to speak. They're retiring and not running for reelection. He's trying to reshape the GOP in his own image. And I don't think that's going to be very successful if these indictments come down and they show that there's a problem with the presidency.

He'll only be successful if he is exonerated. So he is going to have a tough row to hoe either way it goes. And I think you'll see right -- as you were saying, you're going to see anger, you're going to see resentment, you're going to see him trying to work with people. It all depends. It's going to be, you know, another Circus Maximus at the White House.

[13:15:07] WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to leave it right there.

Brian Karem, Salena Zito, Page Pate, thanks so much.

PAGE: Thank you.

ZITO: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, a doomsday scenario from one of the Senate's leading Republicans if the GOP fails to pass its tax reform plan.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think all of us realize that if we fail on taxes, that's the end of the Republican Party's governing majority in 2018.


WHITFIELD: And new details about the deadly ambush in Niger that left four American soldiers dead. What we're learning about why they were there and how they got separated when heavily armed militants attacked their convoy.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We'll continue to follow the big story this hour.

A federal grand jury approves the first charges in Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And we could see any person charged taken into custody as early as Monday.

[13:20:07] Let's discuss this with Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor. He's in Los Angeles. And Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor joining us from Las Vegas.

All right. Good to see you both. So this grant jury, according to Politico, customarily, you know, meets on Friday, so that might explain the decision on a Friday, but then, Avery, why not immediately unseal or act on these indictments?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, they want to pick up the individuals who are indicted. And this is going to be a fast process.

What's so interesting Fredricka, and I think it's fascinating, this entire week we heard wild political rhetoric about who's responsible for opposition research and everything else. Now we have five months of plotting, grinding, interviews, records and so it's the opposite. It is very serious, nonpartisan.

And what's going to happen is I think they have the person in custody right now. And I think we're going to see not collusion but originally we're going to see I think obstruction charges and then it's going to go from there. A start of an engine on the track. It's a big deal.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So, Richard, let's go through some of the sequence of events. We know there have been lots of interviews, but what likely would lead up to an indictment of this caliber for at least one person?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, we don't know the caliber of the indictment, Fred. I mean, it's all speculation right now. And in a court of law, under the rules of evidence, speculation is an objection, they don't allow it. But we're going to take that road.


WHITFIELD: But there's something there --

HERMAN: You may not have this unsealed --

WHITFIELD: -- to elicit at least one indictment.

HERMAN: You may not see it unsealed on Monday. Indictments are sealed all the time, Fred. And I don't know how this leaked that it was an indictment that was sealed. The record shows sealed record. It doesn't say sealed indictment. So it may be unsealed on Monday. It may be unsealed six months from now. It may not be Monday.

Indictments are superseded all the time. They're added, they're amended. We don't know what's coming down here, Fred. It may not even come next week. And if it does come, so you want to look at the school of thought on this?


HERMAN: For the Manafort and the Flynn grand juries have been around the longest, so you would think maybe they're the ones that are going to come down. And not on collusion but probably, you know, failure to register as a federal -- as a foreign agent. That's the cleanest one. But, you know, I think there's been a lot of pressure on Mueller to bring something and this looks like the easiest of them.

But, again, Fred, please, it may not come on Monday, it may come six months from now. Got to sit back on this. And it will not be dispositive. Whatever it is. And an indictment is not a conviction. It's an allegation only.


WHITFIELD: That's what it is, Fred..

FRIEDMAN: Well, of course.

WHITFIELD: Right, it's just one door opening to the next, you know, phase. So then, Avery, then -- all right, so if it's unsealed Monday, if it's unsealed six months from now, who does the unsealing and what would happen next?

FRIEDMAN: Well, if the grand jury -- the court is involved, there's an order by the court that compels the sealing of it. I think what happened is some reporters saw Mueller staff there in the D.C. federal court, certain assumptions were made. But I think it is unsealed on Monday. And again, what's very important is that this isn't screwing around. These aren't wild allegations. This is grinding work.

And I think where I'm in agreement is that a lot of the problems that some of the campaign officials had was failing to register, failing to identify the dual roles of campaign official work and lobbying for a foreign government. That's where the problem is. And I agree. I think that's the easiest way for a grand jury to indict. I think that's what we're going to see up front. And that's what's going to happen here. I don't think there's going to be any delay in unsealing this.

WHITFIELD: And so, Richard, legal counsel for the White House, how clued in to any of this would they be?

HERMAN: Well, you know, you would think the Department of Justice basically approved this indictment. So to the extent that there's an open channel of information and communication, they may be able to get some information about it.

But, Fred, if you're going to be indicted, usually as a defendant and defendant's counsel, you know what's coming down. And Mueller's team has already told Manafort they intend on indicting him, it's not a shock there. But you know, the fact that it came down on a Friday, they could have arrested people Friday night. They could have arrested them today or over the weekend.

FRIEDMAN: I agree. That's right.

HERMAN: If they're going to go that route. It's not necessarily here's a phone call, bring your client in. No, they'll send agents to the house and arrest the person. So --

WHITFIELD: Right. Because there will always be concerns about flight risk. Someone, you know --


HERMAN: That's what it is, flight risk and destruction of evidence. Absolutely, Fred.



WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, gentlemen. Avery, Richard, appreciate it.

[13:25:04] HERMAN: Honey and tea, Fred. Honey and tea.

FRIEDMAN: That's right. WHITFIELD: I know, I'm trying. I'm nursing that right now. It

doesn't seem to be working.

FRIEDMAN: You're doing great. You're powering through it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, guys. Appreciate it.

FRIEDMAN: Have a good weekend.

WHITFIELD: All right, you too.

Coming up next, new details out of Niger where four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush. What happened in the moments leading up to the attack.

Plus, Nikki Haley speaks exclusively to CNN on the rising threat coming from the region.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: If they don't listen to the voices of their people, conflict will erupt, extremism will happen, and the United States will have to deal with it.



[13:30:13] WHITFIELD: During a visit to Africa, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke exclusively with CNN's Elise Labott on the deadly ambush in Niger and the rising threat of terrorism in the region.


HALEY: What you have to look at is these African countries and all countries, if they take care of their people, if they respect the voices of their people, then you get true democracy. If they don't listen to the voices of their people, conflict will erupt. Extremism will happen. And the United States will have to deal with it. This is all about making sure we don't get to that point.


WHITFIELD: This comes as new details emerge about what exactly happened during the Niger ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers. We're now learning that during the firefight, the 12-member Green Beret-led team became separated into two groups and attempted to mount a counterattack.

A source tells us as the battle continued, the first group lost communication with the second group, which included at least some of the four U.S. soldiers who were killed.

CNN's Ryan Browne has been following the details.

Ryan, what more are you learning?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Fred, we've been talking to our sources in the military. Both in the region and here in Washington. And we're learning a little bit more exactly what happened during this chaotic firefight that took place during a mission where the U.S. forces expected to not encounter the enemy. There was no plans to engage in combat. But they found themselves in combat during this ambush.

Some 50 ISIS fighters immediately disabling one of their vehicles. They were split into two groups. They lost communication with one another. They were fighting a much better armed opponent. The ISIS fighters had rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, heavy machine guns. The U.S. personnel and their Nigerien allies were equipped with mostly light weapons. Yet they attempted to mount a counterattack. Managed to kill about 20 ISIS fighters during this firefight despite facing a more heavily armed force.

And, again, but there are still some questions that remain unanswered. This loss of communication between the two groups could be why there was some uncertainty about whether or not the four soldiers were killed or missing. We're now told that the White House was initially told that all four soldiers were missing at one point. The military later revising that to three killed and one missing.

That one missing soldier of course being sergeant La David Johnson who was missing for about 48 hours before his body was recovered. The investigation being led by a two-star general really trying to drill down to find out exactly how he could have been missing for that amount of time -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Browne, thank you so much.

Republicans eager for a win turn their attention to tax reform. But after narrowly passing a budget, is there trouble ahead for their plan to overhaul the tax code? The nightmare scenario one Republican is laying out if the GOP fails. That's next.


[13:37:30] WHITFIELD: All right, now that Congress has passed the GOP budget, Republicans are setting their sights on the next big hurdle, tax reform. So far there are vague details coming out on what could be axed and added to the bill, but we'll know more on Wednesday perhaps. That's when the plan is expected to be formally unveiled.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, who voted no on the GOP budget proposal.

Congressman, good to see you. Why did you vote no?

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: All right, thank you. Well, very simply, Fredricka, this is the billionaire's budget. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that 80 percent of the benefit goes to the richest 1 percent. So that's the first reason. But the second reason is that this is not a tax cut for everybody. 50 million Americans will see a tax increase. Those are mostly middle class and working class families that live in areas like mine in suburban Philadelphia who take advantage of deducting state and local income tax as well as the personal exemptions for children.

WHITFIELD: So what do you want to see? Or do you even advocate a tax reform plan?

BOYLE: I do. I favor tax reform, but it should be based off the way it happened last time in 1986 when it truly was bipartisan. You had President Reagan, you had Senator Bradley in the Senate, a solid number of both Republicans and Democrats voting for it. A tax reform that ends loopholes --

WHITFIELD: So what would you want in it?

BOYLE: Yes. Well, specifically, if you were to end a few loopholes, for example, I introduced along with a colleague Jan Schakowsky something called the Patriot Employer Act. Right now companies that ship jobs overseas are able to actually deduct the interest and deduct the expenses of shipping jobs overseas.

I would like to see that deduction eliminated. I would like to see other loopholes closed that would allow us to reduce the rates. And you do that by broadening the base.

This tax policy by the Republican Party does nothing for middle class and working families. In fact, for 50 million of them, it will increase their taxes.

WHITFIELD: And so possibly by Wednesday, more we'll hear details because right now there's been just a lot of vagaries on it. Also this week we saw strong economic numbers, a 3 percent hike in GDP last quarter. This comes as sources familiar with the matter say Trump is leaning towards Jerome Powell as the next chairman for the Federal Reserve.

What do you see in that? Do you think Janet Yellen should stay or would that come with great risk if the president were to name someone new?

[13:40:08] BOYLE: Yes. I've always thought that it -- the system that we've had over a century now which is largely Congress and the political side stays out of the Fed and the decisions that the Fed makes. There have been some efforts in recent years to try to breach that wall. I think our system works best with an independent Fed. So I -- my view really is to stay out of that and to just hope that you have someone who recognizes that if you do raise interest rates or raise interest rates too high, that will have a real effect on families that have not felt the benefit of this now nine-year economic expansion.

WHITFIELD: You're a Democrat but one always has to kind of size up the competition. Right? And, you know, Republican Senator Graham had these choice words, you know, for the future of the Republican Party if they were to lose the majority. Just take a listen.


GRAHAM: Well, I think all of us realize that if we fail on taxes, that's the end of the Republican Party's governing majority in 2018. We'll lose the House, probably lose ground in the Senate. I can't imagine how he could be successful with Nancy Pelosi running the House. They'd try to impeach him pretty quick and it would be just one constant investigation after another. So it's important that we pass tax reform in a meaningful way. If we don't, that's probably the end of the Republican Party as we know it.


WHITFIELD: Do you agree with that rather do-or-die scenario?

BOYLE: Well, I hope Lindsey is right that Democrats take over the House and take over the Senate if they failed to pass tax reform. But what that comment tells me is that Republican members are under an enormous amount of pressure to pass something, anything even if it's not in the best interest of the American people.

I fear that a plan that is unveiled Wednesday will look a lot like what we've already heard is in the plan. It's a plan that does not work for most middle class families. And that there'll be a lot of political pressure on Republicans to pass it just because of the reasons that Lindsey outlined because they want to keep their majority.

WHITFIELD: And then this past week, we've seen two Republicans, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, rebuke President Trump. You tweeted that you hope this is a wake-up call for the GOP. Is it?

BOYLE: Well, time will tell. I have to tell you that when Senator Flake took to the Senate floor, I was on my way to another meeting. I actually delayed that for 20 minutes to watch his entire speech. I would encourage all of Americans -- all Americans to go on YouTube and take a look at it. I thought it was pretty courageous.

It's a shame, though, that there are so few Republicans in Congress who are willing to say in public what many of them say in private. They know that what Senator Flake said in his speech is right. And I hope that he will inspire many of his Republican colleagues to show the same sort of courage that he exhibited.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Brendan Boyle, thanks for your time.

BOYLE: All right, feel better.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

Still to come, President Trump declares the nation's opioid crisis a public health emergency. For many Americans, this may not be enough. The unorthodox new treatment one family is turning to, next.


[13:47:56] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Every day in this country, more than 90 Americans die from overdosing on opioids. This week, President Trump took a long anticipated action to combat this epidemic. But instead of declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency, the president declared it a public health emergency.

That's an important distinction because no extra federal funds will be automatically provided to address the issue. This comes as some addicts are turning to a little known plant called kratom.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with two sisters who use this plant to battle their addiction.


PATRICIA SLEVIN, FORMER OPIATE USER: Everything hurts, you're sick, you're nauseous, throwing up, diarrhea. Your will to live is gone.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Withdrawal from opiate drugs. Many will tell you that you continue to use because after a while it's no longer about getting high. It's to chase away the feeling you're about to die.

For Patricia Slevin, it all started four years ago with abdominal pain and a prescription for Dilaudid. It was the first time in her life she had ever taken an opiate.

SLEVIN: They upped the dose and it just kept to the point where I was taking a very high dose of pain meds. I had to get on pain management.

LISA VINSON, FORMER OPIATE USER: Every month they say how are you, and I say, well, it's not really helping as much. I'm still in a lot of pain. OK. We'll add this to it, this pill and then this patch.

GUPTA: Lisa Vinson, Patricia's younger sister, also had abdominal pain. Over the past 10 years she's had five operations including a hysterectomy and yes, she also had lots and lots of narcotics.

VINSON: I was torn between not being able to care for my family or, OK, I can take care of them if I just take some more pills.

GUPTA: Within months two sisters, Lisa and Patricia, were both addicted to opioid painkillers. But things would soon turn even more desperate for Patricia.

[13:50:04] SLEVIN: Every time they would give me more my body just get immune to it. If I didn't have it I would get sick, sick, real sick.

GUPTA (on camera): So what did you do?

SLEVIN: There was a guy that I worked with, his wife had Dilaudid but she didn't like them and she didn't take them so he would sell me what she had so that I ran out then I still have some.

GUPTA (voice-over): But one day that same guy didn't have any pills and offered up a cheaper alternative, heroin. SLEVIN: And the rest, as they say, is history. It just went downhill

from there.

VINSON: She called asking for money for more heroin and I told her I will not send you money for drugs. I will not. But I will buy you kratom.

GUPTA: Kratom. Around the world, kratom, an herb, has been used for centuries to help people manage pain, but also for the withdrawal from opium. Lisa knew from personal experience.

VINSON: The reason I started taking it was because I didn't want to withdraw. I had no idea that it was going to help me with the pain like it did.

CHRISTOPHER MCCURDY, MEDICINAL CHEMIST: We definitely believe that this could be a solution to or part of a solution to the opioid crisis that we're currently in.

GUPTA: Christopher McCurdy is a medicinal chemist. He's also one of just a handful of scientists in America studying the Southeast Asia plant.

MCCURDY: I don't see anything that rivals or even comes close to the ability for this plant to serve as a potential treatment.

GUPTA: And yet, in the U.S., it is banned in six states and the DEA considers it a drug of concern over worries of potential addiction and even some reported deaths. According to McCurdy, that concern is because kratom is not regulated and has been mixed with other drugs.

MCCURDY: Definitely there needs to be regulatory measures put into place with this plant material, but there is a huge wealth of anecdotal evidence out there and some scientific that there is definite medical potential for this plant.

GUPTA: For something so promising, you may be wondering why others including big companies haven't investigated it. Part of the problem, it is a plant and that means no one can patent it.

MCCURDY: There is no financial incentive for any drug company to really pursue developing this into a drug.

GUPTA (on camera): How does the future look for you now, you, your family? All your teenage kids that you have.

VINSON: Right. It looks beautiful. I have hope.

GUPTA: How confident are you that you won't go back to heroin?

SLEVIN: Never fully confident. Never fully confident.

GUPTA: Right.

SLEVIN: It's a powerful -- it's a powerful drug, but I think as long as I have kratom, as long as I can get it, me, personally, I'll never go back.

GUPTA: So you may be asking yourself, is this too good to be true after watching that. And the answer is we don't know. We don't know enough about kratom yet. We know that it's been used for hundreds of years in other countries. That the scientific community is starting to pay more attention to it, but it has to be investigated more.

As you saw, six states have basically outlawed it. Concerns about addiction, concerns about withdrawal. But basically, you've got to keep in mind that this stuff is still a supplement. It's still an herb. It's not regulated. So if you go to the store and you buy this stuff, you got to make sure it's kratom. You got to make sure that you're getting the right dosing. And you got to make sure it's not mixed with something else.

Those aren't guarantees you can get right now. But again, there's buzz about this. And the idea that an herb, that a plant, could help address such a big problem as opioid addiction, you can imagine that's got a lot of people's attention.


WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. Stay with us.


[13:58:07] WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump invited a group of trick-or-treaters to the Oval Office to celebrate Halloween a little early on Friday. And here they are. Children of White House Press Corps members. About a dozen of them surrounding the desk, dressed up like superheroes and princesses. And witches, too. Wow. The president handed out candy and a few questions.


TRUMP: You going to grow up to be like your parents? Don't answer. It can only get me in trouble, that question. This is from the White House. See what that says? Who likes this? And you have no weight problems. That's the good news. Right? So how does the press treat you? I bet you get treated better than the press than anybody in the world, right? Huh? I think so. Hi.


WHITFIELD: Yes, weight problems. You know, the press. Questions you usually ask young tykes like that. Apparently the media jabs and the parenting jokes, well, guess what, it didn't go so well. According to some media reports, one little girl actually got rather nervous and even started crying.

Meantime there is more. The White House's big Halloween party will be happening on Monday when the president and first lady welcome students from more than 20 schools from the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area. And hopefully they will be all smiles and lots of fun. All right. On an all-new episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN," last time,

Anthony Bourdain was in Sri Lanka, there was a cultural war going on. Well, this week he returns to see how the culture and the food have changed.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN": So it's been eight or nine years since I've been to this beautiful country filled with lovely people, incredible food, Sri Lanka.