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White House Medical Unit Accused Of Loose Control Over Medications; Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower On Meeting With House Dems; D.A's Office Says Genealogy Sites Helped Crack Golden State Killer Case; Could Marijuana Be The Solution To The Opioid Crisis? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:36] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: New allegations against the White House Medical Unit headed up by Dr. Ronny Jackson. Former and current employees describe a casual culture of dispensing prescription medications.

M.J. Lee is live in Washington with a CNN exclusive now. M.J., what did you learn?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, there has been so much focus on Ronny Jackson lately and the White House Medical Unit that he is the head of.

Well, here's what we're learning right now.

Five former and current employees who have worked for Jackson at the Medical Unit tell CNN that there is a grab and go culture there when it comes to medication. Everyone from mid-level staffers to the most senior officials could get their hands on prescription drugs without being examined by a doctor first.

They could casually pick up Ambien -- this is that powerful sleeping aid -- not just for themselves but even for their children ahead of an official White House trip. And sometimes, we're told that prescriptions were written for someone other than the person that the medication was for.

Now, the staffers told us that this seemed to be to protect the privacy of the actual patient and that these practices, we are told, were all endorsed by Jackson himself.

And the folks who spoke with us, all anonymously, said the fact that the medication was handed out privately -- relative casually, rather, meant that there was something of a scrambling to account for the missing meds.

Now, we did reach out to Ronny Jackson for this story -- he didn't respond.

But when Jackson withdrew his nomination V.A. secretary yesterday, you'll remember, he said the allegations made against him were completely false and fabricated and that he always adhered to the highest ethical standards, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, M.J., the loose control of these prescription drugs -- what kind of medication are we talking about?

LEE: Well, two pills that we've been hearing a lot about lately are Ambien and Provigil. This is a sleeping pill and then, the other pill that helps you stay awake.

Let me just share two quick examples.

We are told that one well-known Obama official was leaving the administration and he went to the Medical Unit to get some Provigil. Now, this person, we're told, was given around 20 Provigil pills and it was treated as a kind of parting gift for that official.

Now, a second example. One Obama White House staffer went into the clinic and demanded that he needed Z-Paks for himself and his wife. A Z-Pak is a strong antibiotic that treats infections.

Now, the doctor there at the time rejected this request and said you need to first get an exam because there are cardiac issues that can come from taking Z-Paks.

Now, that White House staffer got frustrated and responded basically, Dr. Jackson said I can just pick it up and I don't have to be seen. Now, they eventually, we're told, were handed the Z-Pak without an exam.

Now, these allegations date back to the Obama administration Alisyn, and some say continued into the Trump administration as well.

CAMEROTA: So, M.J., what is next for Dr. Jackson? How has the White House responded to whether or not he's going to keep his job there?

LEE: Yes. Well, first of all, I'll say the White House did not respond to a request for comment.

And as for whether Jackson can stay in his job -- look, the allegations that have come out against him are definitely troubling. There is a ton of scrutiny on his past conduct right now. He holds a very important job of not just running this Medical Unit but also as the president's physician.

But he's clearly very well-liked by Trump. He, remember, had good things to say about him the past couple of days even when he was really under fire, so we'll see what happens.

But again, these headlines about Jackson are very, very troubling.

CAMEROTA: OK, M.J. It's really interesting to hear your reporting that goes deeper on all of this. Thank you for sharing that.

OK, let's get over to Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you very much. The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower who revealed his former company's improper use of data from millions of Facebook users appeared this week before Congress. He told a group of Democrats in the House that Steve Bannon ordered the staff to study ways to suppress Democratic voter turnout and test messaging that dealt with Vladimir Putin.

His name is Christopher Wylie, as I just said, and he is here now to discuss this with us. It's good to have you.


CUOMO: One interesting political point here. You say -- I say, Democratic lawmakers. No Republicans in the room at all?

WYLIE: They didn't -- they decided not to show up.

CUOMO: And how did you read that?

WYLIE: I'm disappointed. I flew across the Atlantic. I mean, I'm Canadian but I live in Britain.

[07:35:00] And I flew across the Atlantic to help American lawmakers understand what's happened at Cambridge Analytica and more broadly, to talk about some of the security issues that have been -- that have emerged from what this company was doing.

That's a nonpartisan issue. You know, I'm not taking sides here and I think it's unfortunate that they decided to, you know, focus on Diamond and Silk rather than talking about real substantive issues that affect the national security of the United States.

CUOMO: Well, we'll deal with that in a later segment with Congressman Steve King, but I get the parallel that you're drawing.

So let's lay all this out, OK?

WYLIE: Sure.

CUOMO: What did you see in your time there that gave you concern about wrongdoing?

WYLIE: Well, I saw a lot of things that definitely concerned me. I think, first of all, the primary story that's being reported.

The misappropriated Facebook data, I think is genuinely concerning and it has exposed a lot of issues in relation to privacy concerns and the security concerns of this data and how it can be misused by foreign actors in American elections.

I think looking at, more broadly, the relationships that the company, Cambridge Analytica, had with various other Russian actors.

You had Dr. Kogan, who is the professor who managed the Facebook harvesting program, going to Russia. He was working on Russian research projects in Russia on online trolling which is concerning given the amount of online trolling that you saw in the American election.

And also, this is a company that was in close contact with Lukoil which is the second-largest oil company in Russia, talking about psychological profiling, talking about data harvesting. Revealing the fact that we had this very large -- we had amassed this very large data set on Americans and made it -- made it -- made it known to a company that has formal information sharing agreements with the FSB.

So I think that that's concerning.

I think also when you look at some of the message testing that was done --

CUOMO: The message testing -- you're talking about what Bannon was trying to test out in terms of softening up support -- core support for their opponents.

WYLIE: So, message testing is where you -- where you look at different issues that you may want to run on in the campaign and you test the response and you figure out who is interested in it and who isn't.

Some of the message testing that Cambridge Analytica did, even in 2014 -- so well before the 2016 presidential election -- involved testing opinions on Vladimir Putin, testing opinions on Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe.

Vladimir Putin was the only foreign leader that this company tested as --

CUOMO: As far as you know.

WYLIE: Well, as -- at least when I was there that was true. During the extent that I was there he was the only foreign leader that we had tested at the time that I was there. And for me, that's concerning.

I think that when you -- when you look at what happened in the American election and you look at the current investigation into Russian interference, this is a company that was making a lot of noise about data. It -- the algorithms and the data sets that it had amassed would have been incredibly useful to a foreign agent if they were so inclined to use it.

And so, the reason why I'm here is to talk to both Congress and law enforcement to make it -- to hand over evidence and hopefully, the investigation can proceed from that.

CUOMO: So what Facebook did and did not do and what they should do in the future, let's put that aside. It's important --

WYLIE: Sure.

CUOMO: -- don't get me wrong. You could argue it is the most important but it's not where you're most relevant to this political discussion, so we'll save that for another day.

WYLIE: Sure.

CUOMO: We're not leaving that issue alone. I promise you that.

However, let's test your credibility. So I want to give you the opportunity to stand by what you submit.

WYLIE: Sure.

CUOMO: The criticism is this was 2014. That's when you were there. You weren't there during any process of the campaign.

How could you know what was done or not done that was right or wrong in the election of 2016? Fair criticism?

WYLIE: Well, let me just make it clear.

I haven't claimed to know definitively what has happened during the 2016 cycle. I -- you know, I didn't work on the Trump campaign and so I haven't actually made any of those claims.

What I have provided is the evidence of what I saw during the creation and foundation of this company and also the general strategy that this company embarked on. And when you look at some of the message testing that was done, a lot of the narratives of the Trump campaign were things that were being tested by this company in 2014.

CUOMO: But as you know or may have come to learn --


CUOMO: -- oppo research and message testing is not unusual in political campaigns. It is part of the practice of political science to figure out where is their strength and how can we diminish it, where is our strength and how we can boost it?

Isn't that what was going on at Cambridge?

WYLIE: Yes and no.

I think what is unusual is why this company would be testing views on Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe and Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin wasn't running in the American election but for some reason, he was a significant point of interest in some of the research.

[07:40:13] So that isn't standard opposition research and so -- and I'm not -- I'm not making any claims one way or the other as to how that was used in 2016. But what I'm saying is that, to me, creates a reasonable suspicion that should be investigated and that's why I'm here, so that an investigation can proceed.

CUOMO: Understood, but I'm saying the suggestion that Bannon was trying to find ways to soften up support for Hillary Clinton -- if he was you could argue that's really part of the job of running a campaign. That's why I draw the distinction. Professor Kogan says you laid out the terms of the services that he would provide there so that whatever he was doing you must have been fine with because you gave him, basically, his job description.

Is that fair?

WYLIE: So, I've actually been quite open about this. So if you look at the testimony that I had at the British Parliament, I laid out what my role was with the company.

I haven't -- I haven't hid from the fact that I played a foundational role in setting up Cambridge Analytica. I supervised this project.

One of the reasons why I am whistleblowing is because I think that some of the mistakes that I have made should be corrected and that more broadly, how this company got set up I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about it because I was there and I saw it, and I played a role in it.

CUOMO: Was your intent when you were laying out the specs with Kogan to get information from people like me that you should not have?

WYLIE: The intent was to get a large amount of data quickly. One of the things that Steve Bannon wanted was to have a data set ready for the midterms in 2014, which gave several months -- only several months, you know.

But in terms of -- in terms of my own responsibility in that project, I have accepted my share of responsibility.

And let me just make clear, like I was the one who went to authorities about it. I handed over all of the evidence to the authorities. I reported well before the story was made public. I worked with the British authorities to start their investigation.

It wasn't Dr. Kogan, it wasn't Cambridge Analytica, and it certainly wasn't Facebook.

CUOMO: Christopher Wylie, I appreciate you coming on to discuss these issues and being tested on the same because that's the way we vet these situations.

WYLIE: Sure.

CUOMO: And there's more for this conversation to go forward. We'll try to include you in that.

WYLIE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Thanks for being with us -- Alisyn.


Get ready to spend more for your Amazon Prime membership. Why the company is hiking the price while it rakes in big profits, next.


[07:46:13] CAMEROTA: All right, we have some breaking royal baby news.

Kensington Palace announcing the name of Prince William and Kate Middleton's new prince. It's Louis Arthur Charles, OK?

The name Louis honors Prince Philip's uncle who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979. And Charles, of course, is in honor of Prince Charles.

Now, oddsmakers were predicting Albert, Arthur or Philip as likely first names. But no, it is Louis.

CUOMO: All right, to all of you out there, did you hear about the significant cracked serial killer case? Suspected Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo is scheduled to be arraigned today as we learn how police cracked this decades-old case.

They never thought they would catch this guy. The Sacramento D.A.'s office is revealing that they matched crime scene DNA -- you ready for this --


CUOMO: -- to a relative's DNA profile on a genealogy Website.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

CUOMO: Actually, multiple ones. And then, they linked DeAngelo using discarded DNA samples collected from his home.

It's unclear which Websites they used. Four major sites contacted by CNN, including Ancestry, 23andMe, they deny having any connection to the case.

DeAngelo is accused of killing 12 people and raping more than 50 women in the seventies and eighties.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's remarkable. So, I mean, we know that technology helps crack these cold cases and now, genealogy. I mean, obviously, DNA. But the proliferation of all these genealogy sites --

CUOMO: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- you see commercials for, I can't believe that it has cracked this cold case. That's just remarkable.

CUOMO: Right. And, I mean, look, you worked at "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED" -- I mean, so you get the odds of breaking this kind of case -- so small.

I have been following this case for -- I tried at "20/20" so many times to do updates -- we'd get rumors -- but they couldn't do it.

Now, something interesting. 23andMe and, so many of us love those sites. Why wouldn't they jump at the chance to be connected? My suggestion is they don't want to chill people from going to the site for concern of how the information's being used.


CUOMO: And so that's an interesting sidebar on this.

CAMEROTA: Oh, absolutely. No, this is a brave new world. I mean, in terms of privacy versus how it's used in different hands. It's really intriguing.

CUOMO: But it just shows for the families of victims out there, there really is always hope. You never know what they'll come up with.

If they got the right guy here, that's huge.

CAMEROTA: That is beautiful, OK.

Time now for "CNN Money Now."

You will soon pay more for your Amazon Prime. Amazon is hiking the price of its membership in the first -- the first time in four years. What's up?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes, you know what? They're going to bump this up here to help pay for their costs here.

They're going to bump it up by about $20 to $119 a year next month for new members. If you're already a member, it will hit renewals in June.

There are more than 100 million Prime members who bought five billion items on Amazon last year.

Amazon raising prices to offset its rising costs. You know, it's making big investments in fulfillment centers and original programming.

Those expenses are why many predicted amazon's profit would shrink in the first three months of the year. Guess what? Instead, profits doubled to $1.6 billion -- that's huge.

And that's just for delivering -- not just for delivering packages. The surprise surge is thanks to Amazon's Cloud and ad businesses.

Amazon shares jumped seven percent after hours, inching here toward a record high. That stock, you guys, is up 30 percent this year. Compare that to the broad S&P 500 -- that's down one percent this year, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Christine. Thank you very much for that business update.

Now we need to get to a story that is so important. The opioid crisis in the U.S. is, of course, ruining so many Americans' lives.

But, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has found something that could help addicts. He shares this new research, next.


[07:54:13] CAMEROTA: About five years ago, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta began exploring the effects of medical marijuana in his award-winning special report "WEED."

The newest edition, "WEED 4: POT VS. PILLS" airs this Sunday. In it, Sanjay explores whether the opioid crisis could be greatly alleviated by wider use of medical marijuana.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred and fifteen Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. More than car accidents, breast cancer or guns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Literally, everyone we know knows somebody who has died of an overdose.

GUPTA: And, two and a half million Americans are currently struggling with opioid addiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suicide is a constant thought.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: People need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out.

[07:55:05] GUPTA: A solution, some believe, is this -- cannabis.


CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now is Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, great to see you.

GUPTA (on camera): Thank you.

CAMEROTA: What's the connection between marijuana and opioid abuse?

GUPTA: I believe that it can treat the underlying pain that people usually take opioids for in the first place.

CAMEROTA: You think pot can?

GUPTA: I think pot can.

I think it can treat the withdrawal. One of the reasons people can't quit opioids is because they have these withdrawal symptoms which is very similar to the sort of chemotherapy symptoms people have with cancer patients.

And this can -- we know it can treat that. It can treat these withdrawal symptoms the same way -- the same mechanism.

And the most interesting thing to me Alisyn -- the thing I sort of learned while making this documentary was that opioids change your brain. They change your brain and they do it quickly. That's what people mean when they say that it's a brain disease.

And it changes a very specific part of the brain. If you continue to take opioids that part of your brain doesn't heal. Research now shows CBD, which is a component of marijuana -- cannabis -- can heal that part of the brain.

CAMEROTA: Is that right?

GUPTA: Yes. It can help treat the underlying brain disease that's fueling the addiction.

CAMEROTA: I didn't know it was reversible.

GUPTA: I didn't either, and this is -- some of what I'm talking about is happening in real time. This is research that is happening right now.

If you had to design something -- design a substance to know though that could lead us out of this opioid epidemic it would probably look very much like cannabis.

CAMEROTA: Now, you didn't always feel this way about marijuana. You were skeptical even about the medicinal uses --

GUPTA: That's right.

CAMEROTA: -- of it. So how -- describe your evolution.

GUPTA: I think several years ago -- you know, I wrote about this for various magazines. I wrote a big article in "Time" magazine nine years ago basically saying I'm not impressed with the medicinal research on this.

I think what I came to understand Alisyn, and I think it's the larger message here, is that most of the funding for marijuana research in this country was funding for studies designed to look for harm. In fact, 96 percent of the studies that we looked at, their question was how does marijuana cause harm?

Only a single-digit percentage of studies actually looked at benefits.

So if you looked at it from macro point of view, you would say does it cause cancer, does it cause addiction, does it cause all these other problems, you wouldn't be particularly impressed.

I started to look at non-federally-funded labs and I started to leave the country and look at other places -- other countries that are doing this research for a long time, and a different picture started to emerge.

And it became clear from some of these researchers I was talking to not only could this be a medicine, there are times when it could be a medicine when nothing else had worked. When everything else had failed this could come in and rescue.

CAMEROTA: So when you just heard Jeff Sessions there in our piece say, you know, I think people need to take an aspirin and tough it out --

GUPTA: Look, you know, I feel very strongly about this, Alisyn. You know, we're in the middle of this opioid epidemic. It is the worst self-inflicted epidemic in our history. Tens of thousands of people dying.

I mean, you know, it has plateaued our life expectancy in the United States. All the great things we do in medicine and then to try and push back the frontiers, those are all being totally obviated by this self-inflicted epidemic.

Taking a couple of aspirin and toughing it out, it's just -- it's a disconnect with what's happening out there. Not to mention that if you start taking opioids because you get a prescription, within a few days your brain changes.


GUPTA: The idea of telling people to just say no is egregious according to the researchers I talked to. It's just not possible and we understand that better than ever. So there has to be something done about this epidemic.

CAMEROTA: We have got to figure out what to do about it. I don't know a family that hasn't been touched. We have to find our way out of this epidemic.

GUPTA: I completely agree. I completely agree. Tens of thousands of lives.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, thank you so much for sharing your research with us. Can't wait to see it.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So tune in this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern for Sanjay's CNN special report "WEED 4: POT VS. PILLS" -- Chris.

CUOMO: It does sound like a superhero film -- I have to be honest.

All right, we are following a lot of news on this Friday. What do you say? Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, April 27th, 8:00 in the east.

We do have breaking news.

A historic peace summit and a commitment from Kim Jong Un and South Korea's president to end the Korean War officially. They vow to reunify the two countries and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

CUOMO: All right. No question it is an extraordinary moment. This all playing out in the South-controlled territory of the DMZ. Remember, you know, this happened in July 27th of 1953. It's an

armistice. There's no peace, it was just a ceasefire.

And this is the first time that a North Korean leader has set foot there in six decades.

President Trump praising the moment on Twitter. He's preparing for his own meeting with Kim that's going to happen sometime soon.

Let's begin with CNN's Christiane Amanpour live in Seoul, South Korea with the breaking details.

What are the geopolitical angles? How is it being received in the streets?