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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
First Lady Biden, Nashville Mourn Six Murdered At School Shooting; Sources: NY Grand Jury Investigating Trump Will Break For Most Of April; New E-mails Show FOX News Chief Lashed Out After Correspondent Factchecked Trump's Election Lies, Warned It Was Bad For Business; FDA Approves First Over-The-Counter Version Of Opioid Overdose Antidote Narcan; CNN Traces The Path Of Fentanyl From Chinese Chemical Manufacturers To Mexican Cartels; Russian Teen Now Living In Exile After Being Charged With Terrorism For Social Media Posts Criticizing War In Ukraine; MBL Opening Day Tomorrow. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 29, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Scott writes: "This has to stop now. The audience is furious. Bad for business." Scott lashing out. And in another message saying in part: "I can't keep defending these reporters who don't understand our viewers and how to handle stories."
And then another e-mail written on Inauguration Day, Rupert Murdoch, obviously the ultimate boss of the company lays into the former President himself. In this case, the totally opposite side, Murdoch saying Trump's election lies were ".. a huge disservice to the country. Pretty much a crime."
Thank you so much for joining us. AC 360 begins now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Moments ago, a vigil for the three adults and three nine-year-olds who were murdered at the Covenant School two days ago ended in Nashville, a city still in mourning.
Tonight, it was a moment for people to gather, to console, and to remember. First Lady Jill Biden was in Nashville tonight. Earlier, she placed flowers at the Memorial for the six who were killed, three children, all nine years old -- Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of Covenant Presbyterian Churches Senior Pastor, Evelyn Dieckhaus, and William Kinney; and the adults, the head of the school, Katherine Koonce, age 60; Mike Hill who was 61, the school custodian, and Cynthia Peake, who was also 61, a substitute teacher.
A City Councilman now says he believes that Koonce may have died trying to protect the children. He says a witness told him Koonce was on a Zoom call, heard the shots and then abruptly ended the call and left the office.
Nashville's Police Chief can't confirm how she died, but did say: "I do know she was in the hallway by herself. There was a confrontation, I'm sure." So many are mourning tonight including Steven Curtis Chapman, a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter. He and his family knew Katherine Koonce very well, not just as an educator, but as a friend and a lifesaver.
After a tragic accident when Steven's daughter Maria was accidentally struck by a vehicle driven by one of his sons, Steven says that Koonce stepped into their lives in a powerful way, walking with them in their anguish and their suffering.
I'm grateful Steven Curtis Chapman could join us tonight.
Steven, I know you and your family are grieving and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us about Katherine. She sounded like such an incredible person.
The Police Chief has said, but he can't confirm it, but he says it is very possible that she was running toward the shooter. That probably doesn't surprise you given that when your family was grieving she ran toward your grief, toward your trouble.
STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN, SINGER-SONGWRITER AND FRIEND TO KATHERINE KOONCE: Yes. Absolutely. Katherine -- Miss Koonce says my boys called her, she was an amazing person and she would run, that would be like her move towards step into trouble, pain, hard things. That's why her life marked our family so significantly.
We knew her before we walked through the great tragedy of losing our youngest daughter, my sons were -- we had made a decision to have them go on the road with me, tour with me for a season, and she being an educator, the Academic Dean of the school that all my kids attended CPA, Christ Presbyterian Academy here in Nashville, she would have naturally said no, you need to, you know, do -- it's a college prep school -- go to college, get an education, but she -- the way she was, she said, I see a different story in you guys and I see it in your eyes and your heart.
And she even found a way with us to help them go on tour with me, be in my band, and do kind of homeschool tutoring with her. So when they weren't on the road, they were either in her office or at her house.
She had an unusual, amazing way with boys, you know, when it was time to, you know, close the books because -- you know, let them do their shenanigans or whatever and laugh with them. And then be stern and all of that.
So they already had an amazing relationship, and we did our whole family with her, but then when we lost our youngest daughter, Maria, in a very tragic way as the story would be our son, Will, in particular was carrying a very, very heavy weight. And through the time that she was working with them, and would continue to be so much more, my son, Caleb said, mentor, friend, confidante. I mean she was all of those things, and teacher have so much more than what they learned in books.
It's not an overstatement. We would have said this a week ago. We would have said it a month ago. We did say it all the time even before this terrible incident and this devastating thing that's happened. [20:05:08]
KOONCE: We would say Katherine Koonce is one of the people who helped save our son's life through walking with him, and yes, just caring for him and moving into as hard. And as awful as that story was for us, she just -- she ran towards it. And so yes, it would not surprise us. In fact, when we first heard what was happening, and we were huddled up, praying, crying, begging God that this wasn't even true, we knew Katherine was there. We knew that she was the head of the school and my wife even said, as much as I don't want to believe Katherine is one of those that we're hearing about, I know her well enough to know, she probably was doing everything she could to change this story, to stop this thing from happening, to talk to this person, whatever she could do, because that's just her.
COOPER: Your son, Will, posted a tribute and said in part: "This incredible woman walked by my side through the darkest time in my life and was a mentor and a friend. Give Maria (that's your daughter) a hug for me. And I can't wait to all be together again sooner than later."
And Caleb also posted a tribute, and I love what Caleb wrote. He said, "I'll be a student of your kindness forever," about Katherine.
That's such a great, great way to say it. You said that she had a supernatural power, in what way?
CHAPMAN: It was. It was really -- it was kindness and when I read those words, my son, obviously you can imagine as a dad, reading the words of both of my sons, so very proud of them and how they have stewarded their whole story and their journey and with their music and all that they're doing.
But she was, you know, those people that you encounter, if you're fortunate enough and God allows your path to cross with people that you just -- there's just something they see into your soul. And they see something that most people kind of miss and just pass by. She saw it in our daughter, Shaohannah, our first of our three adopted daughters.
Shaoey was gifted as a kindergartener. She -- Katherine Catherine saw that and said, hey, you guys, let me talk to you. She saw kind of -- and even just what most people saw, though she is a really bright student, but she just had this ability and the God gave her, I believe, to see into the heart, and the soul and the story of a student, the person that she was with, and help them steward that. I mean, I feel like that's what she helped our boys do and even our daughter, Shaohannah, just really profoundly.
COOPER: One of the things I've learned about grief, really, in the last year or two talking to people who are in it, moving through it, living with it, is that one's relationship with somebody who has died doesn't necessarily have to end. In fact, that relationship can change over time, and you can still have a relationship.
I know you said to our producer, that you hope that this is not the end of Katherine's story, and that her story will go on and I love that idea that this is not her end.
CHAPMAN: Yes, I mean, it is the hope that really connected our lives. You know, with Katherine, it's the hope that I know, fueled her life, her teaching, her vocation, but really, for her, it was a mission, and even a ministry. I knew that about her. And it was a hope that and I think it's why she could see this story in my sons, you know, and their journey. And they even said that, it's like, you know, she helped them even when they didn't believe in the story that God was writing with their lives themselves, she kind of pulled that out.
And the hope that fueled that, for her is a hope that sustained our family and our journey that we've been on still now for 14 years since we lost our daughter is the hope that this story isn't over. That is not a fairy tale. It's not wishful thinking to believe that just like God promised in Scripture, that there is a day coming when all the broken things will be made whole, when all the sad things will come on true, as you know, Gandalf told Frodo, I believe that and that's what has -- we've held on to His anchor that we've held on to, and I know it's what fueled Katherine and so I really believe it's not wishful thinking to say I know we're going to see her again. We're going to see our daughter again.
And that's the hope that keeps us moving forward.
COOPER: Steven Curtis Chapman, I really appreciate your time and I wish you continued peace and strength in your grief.
CHAPMAN: Thank you so much, Anderson. Bless you.
COOPER: Well, the trauma of mass school shootings, unfortunately familiar to my next guest, Jordan Gomes was nine just like the children at the Covenant School, Tuesday, when a mass shooter murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
I appreciate you being with us.
And you were been an advocate for making change, for something to happen. So we're speaking to you as both somebody who's been through this, but also trying to fight for change now.
Every time something like this happens, it must bring everything back.
JORDAN GOMES, SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Absolutely. And it doesn't just bring it back, I think as an advocate, who has been working in the sphere for about five or six years now, as much as every day is putting one foot in front of the other. It's impossible to hold off this feeling of hopelessness, even for just a second.
I feel it every time I opened my phone and it's a new mass shooting and I would be lying if I said that it didn't affect me, especially when I saw that it happened to children such as the Uvalde shooting, such as the Covenant shooting. COOPER: We now have seen police response on this. And, you know, there's this video of the police moving through these empty classrooms. And it really struck me watching it, not only the police did a very professional job, but just how routine this is now for an entire generation or generations of kids. They know how to go into lockdown mode. They know they've had active shooter drills, they've had lockdown drills throughout their entire time. I mean, I never had that when I was a kid in school. It's extraordinary how this has filtered into your generation and below's lives.
GOMES: Oh, absolutely. And I, honestly, speaking as someone who not just went through a school shooting, but even afterwards, still did lockdown drills, I find it disturbing, I find it disgusting and I feel that it's a symptom of a larger problem.
To me this is -- or gun violence, I should say it's not just a culture failure, but it's a policy failure. And I think it says a lot that we're expecting kids to go through these lockdown drills to know how to defend themselves in case of a school shooting, rather, so then pass meaningful legislation, which has been -- I've been a part of that fight for, you know, like I said, five or six years and it is ongoing still despite everything that happens. And yet, we still put a Band-Aid where we need much more than that, and it is just awful to see.
COOPER: Do you think people get sort of immune to this? Do you think people just sort of -- it just -- you know, it's a routine now, and everybody knows what to say and what to do. We ask the same questions and do the same stories, and then people move on.
GOMES: Oh, I mean, you know, what's the most common phrase after a school shooting happens or a mass shooting in general, even, "My thoughts and prayers are with you. God bless you. I hope you're doing well." It's something that we're so conditioned to. And I mean, it breaks my heart.
And at some point, you know, it starts to feel hollow, I think, especially when it comes from elected officials who have the power to make change who are sitting and offering us nothing but words. And I think I'm at that point where I no longer accept them. And I no longer believe them to be substantial.
And I will always appreciate those words, because I know they mean so much coming from those around me, from media such as yourself or from people all across the world, just regular average people who want to express something that is so difficult, because how can you really sit and tell someone you're sorry for a school shooting that you survived it, that you know, someone who died in it, that you were a victim yourself. You can't. It's hard.
And I don't expect people to know what to say. But I expect elected officials to act which is something that they haven't been doing, so it is an uphill battle.
COOPER: Jordan, I appreciate you being with us tonight. Thank you.
GOMES: Of course.
COOPER: Jordan Gomes.
Still to come tonight, what is going on with the grand jury investigation to the former President in New York where now the grand jury might not reconvene until later next month.
Also, new revelations in the billion dollar lawsuit against FOX News, why the FOX CEO said that factchecking President Trump was bad for business.
Plus, some hope in the fight against fentanyl.
COOPER: A source familiar with the Manhattan grand jury investigation of the former President's role in an alleged hush money scheme says the grand jury is not expected to take up the case again until later next month. Anticipation have been building that a conclusion of the proceedings was at hand in part because of the comments by the former President, which were made up, but also because the Manhattan DA had invited him to testify and that's something that seemed to signal the possible end of the investigation.
The source says the grand jury is not expected to hear the case tomorrow. They generally don't convene on Fridays and they're expected to hear other cases next week. After that, there is a planned hiatus surrounding upcoming religious holidays and spring break vacations.
We're going to get perspective now from CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, a former Assistant US Attorney and author of "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It." Also with us is former Federal prosecutor, Jessica Roth, a Professor at Cardozo School of Law here in New York.
So what is going on? Is the DA blinking on this? Is this just school holidays coming up?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So two ways to look at this and that is the question "What on earth is happening here?" On the one hand, Alvin Bragg as the DA has the power to indict this case, whenever he wants. He is not up against any legal deadline. He doesn't need anyone's approval. No one can force him to indict. No one can slow him down.
And so it may be that he is just taking more than a moment now, but some time to pause, think about it before bringing the first ever charge in history --
COOPER: Which is probably not a bad idea.
HONIG: It's not a terrible idea. Let me give him the others --
COOPER: Thinking about what he is going to do. HONIG: The other way of looking at it, though, is it doesn't look good. It doesn't signal confidence. It gives the impression that there is some hesitancy, some reluctance, maybe some question about the evidence. And by leaving it for this long, you're leaving the field wide open for Donald Trump to spin, spin, spin away, which he is already doing. Trump is already out there saying, I've been cleared, thanks to the grand jury -- not accurate, but it does leave it open for that impression.
JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I would agree that we don't know what's happening. It doesn't signal confidence. At the same time, it doesn't necessarily mean anything at all. It doesn't mean that the District Attorney is getting cold feet, as some people have suggested. It could be that he is taking a long moment to decide whether there's any additional evidence or witnesses that they want to put into the grand jury or whether they just want to get their papers ready for the motions and the blowback that they know are coming.
COOPER: But there's also plenty of reason to pause and think about the actual legal ramifications of this. And I mean, this is a novel proceeding. This is not -- not only is it a former President, but the charges themselves, if he was indicted, it is not really something that has been done a lot.
ROTH: No. And the charges that have been reported as being contemplated are novel. And I think that it is appropriate for him to take some time to make sure --
COOPER: Can you explain what -- I mean, what's novel about it?
ROTH: Well, if it's in fact a charge for falsifying business records, a charge that is a felony based on falsification with the intent to commit or conceal another felony, and that is based on a campaign finance violation under Federal laws.
COOPER: And so that the other felony would be a campaign finance violation.
ROTH: Right. That's under Federal law, right. And so that's part of what makes this so unique is that a New York felony provision for falsification of business records with intent to conceal another felony, does that work when the other felony that's essentially being hidden by the falsification is a Federal crime. That's one of the many actually novel legal issues that would have to be decided.
HONIG: Jessica is right, and the law is not good for them on that. The law in New York suggests, when we say campaign finance, we mean a New York State campaign finance violation, not a Federal violation.
But I will say this, the grand jury, and Jessica knows this, we were colleagues together, is supposed to be the easy part. There's no real opposition there, it is just the prosecutor. And if you're struggling like this -- COOPER: And a grand jury -- getting a grand jury to indict somebody is not at all different than getting an actual jury.
HONIG: It is a cake walk. All you need is a majority. Of course, in trial, you need unanimous; a grand jury, all you need is probable cause, much lower standard than unanimous.
Here is another thing. In New York State, you cannot go in front -- as a prosecutor, Jessica and I as Feds, you have the luxury of going in front of the grand jury and summarizing, you could say okay, folks, you've heard from these seven witnesses. Here are some of the things they said. Can't do that in New York State. So if you're going to let a month lapse between the end of the evidence, and now, they may not remember this.
ROTH: Yes, and the fact that you can't essentially do a summation before the grand jury helps explain why the District Attorney brought back David Pecker, essentially, as a rebuttal witness to remind the grand jurors of what they had heard from him previously, with respect to the campaign finance violation.
COOPER: So the DA doesn't do a summation at the end king of tying everything up.
COOPER: Why is that?
HONIG: It's just the rules in New York. What you do, do as a DA, and as a Federal prosecutor is you say, okay, folks, here is the draft indictment. It has three counts. Count one is this, count two is this, count three is this. What we were allowed to do as Feds will say, and let me remind you have the testimony. State level, they cannot do that. That's just the rules and practices in the State.
And this is a nuanced case. This isn't just like a bank robbery. This has to do with the fine details of the way that this payment was accounted for. And there's a he said he said element to this. So I would be worried about leaving this to the jury's memories a month from now.
COOPER: If the DA decided that this was his top priority, how quickly could he get --
ROTH: He could already have an indictment under seal at this moment and we just to put that on the table. I don't think that's likely, but he could, and he could go in tomorrow and seek the indictment. I mean, I'm sure they have it drafted already, and so it is really within his control and his decision about when he think it's ready to go forward.
HONIG: All you have to do is ask the grand jury to vote, this is -- when you get a trial date, you're at the mercy of the Judge, the calendar, the defense lawyer, but with an indictment, all he has to do is go in there and say, we're doing this case first. Folks, here's your vote. It takes an hour.
COOPER: Elie Honig, appreciate it. Jessica, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Jessica Roth.
Right now, to the latest revelations in an ongoing billion dollar lawsuit involving FOX News and Dominion Voting Systems, including what FOX's CEO said about factchecking the former President's lies about the 2020 election. I am joined now by our senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, who has been following the story from day one.
Stunning that the CEO of FOX sent in an e-mail or a text said that factchecking the former President which some FOX employees were trying to do was bad for business.
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Not something you would expect from a leader of a purported news network, right, Anderson? There's just more fallout every day from this $1.6 billion lawsuit against FOX News from Dominion Voting Systems. And now we're having new e-mails that really shed light on the pressure that FOX News was under as a business after they called the election accurately for Joe Biden.
I want to read to you an e-mail that Suzanne Scott the CEO sent another executive after a correspondent, Eric Shawn factchecked Trump's lies and a guest who went on Sean Hannity's program and spread some election lies. And she said, "This has to stop," and goes on to say, "This is a bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding. What is happening in these shows? The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business."
COOPER: I mean, it's incredible.
DARCY: It's incredible. Now, FOX News will say that this was because they fact check a guest that was spreading again these election conspiracy theories on Sean Hannity's show, but still regardless, like if a guest went on CNN and spread election conspiracy theories, it would be pretty normal, it would be expected that other anchors would then call it out and factcheck that for the audience.
COOPER: There were also e-mails about concern about viewers dropping out of their streaming services, is that right?
DARCY: Yes, well, we knew viewers left in pretty large numbers after the election when they were rebelling against FOX News. They switched over to Newsmax, which Donald Trump was telling them to do. But now we're also learning in this new e-mail that 25,000 subscribers to FOX Nation, FOX News' streaming service had also dropped. They just unsubscribed apparently, because they were so angry that FOX News had the nerve to accurately call the election for Joe Biden.
And in another e-mail that we also see, we see Dobbs' producers talking about how putting on election liars like Rudy Giuliani, like Sidney Powell was actually good for the ratings. In one e-mail, they write, "I mean, to keep this alive, we really need Rudy or Sidney," I mean, extremely stunning e-mails.
Again, just a mountain of evidence now showing the behind-the-scenes at FOX News.
COOPER: And FOX traditionally has said with these things that are released that they're cherry picking texts and quotes. What are they saying?
DARCY: That's exactly what they're saying tonight. They're saying these are more examples of Dominion cherry picking quotes to make the network look bad. They say they have good legal arguments against Dominion, and we will see what happens if this case does go to trial in a few weeks. This Judge is still -- we're still waiting to hear from the Judge whether they are going to rule on those summary judgment motions, which basically, Dominion is asking FOX to declare themselves the winner. FOX is saying we should be declared the winner without a trial. That's unlikely to happen from the legal experts I've spoken to. It's a very high bar.
So this should go to trial in a few weeks. Jury selection is set to start April 13th, and then the trial will get underway April 17th.
COOPER: All right, Oliver Darcy, appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Coming up in the next hour on "CNN Primetime," Kaitlan Collins will be joined by "The Daily Show's" Jordan Klepper, a chronicler of Trump rallies for the past many years. I don't know how he does that job. He's also a great interviewer.
Tune in to that at 9:00 PM Eastern.
Still ahead, a 360 investigation to how the killer drug, fentanyl, finds its way into America and how sellers around the globe are eluding authorities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That white building right there. That's the fentanyl lab.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As drug overdose deaths hover near record levels, today for the first time, the FDA approved an over-the-counter version of Narcan, a nasal spray which can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. According to CDC, more than one million people have died of drug overdoses over the last two decades, many due to opioids. Narcan works on opioids laced with fentanyl, but the fight to stop fentanyl from actually reaching the U.S. has proven to be a tough challenge for both the U.S. and Mexican governments.
Tonight's News (ph), David Culver traces the origins of the deadly drug and why it spread so quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S.' largest port of entry --
UNKNOWN: -- where we're going today.
CULVER (voice-over): -- also its busiest. Each day, more than 100,000 people enter the U.S. through the San Ysidro crossing, about 800 customs and border protection officers tasked with keeping the bad from seeping through this part of the border.
MARIZA MARIN, CBP SAN YSIDRO PORT DIRECTOR: Very difficult and complex job for them to -- in a matter of moments and sometimes seconds, identify whether someone presents a threat coming into the station or not.
CULVER (on camera): Among the deadliest threats, illicit fentanyl.
MARIN: So you want to feel the door to make sure it doesn't feel heavy, and there's nothing in there.
CULVER (on camera): The CBP tells us that more than half of all the fentanyl found at U.S. borders comes from ports here in San Diego. Officials say this is Ground Zero for illicit fentanyl smuggling.
MARIN: We will probably double what we saw last year within the next month or two.
CULVER (on camera): That's double the amount of fentanyl seized in all of 2022 in just the first four months of this year. But before the fentanyl even reaches the U.S. border, you need to know where it's coming from. And for that, we start not over there in Mexico but in China.
CULVER (voice over): Specifically Shijiazhuang, China, a city some 200 miles south of Beijing, known for manufacturing pharmaceutical drugs and once a major hub for fentanyl production. In May 2019, facing mounting U.S. pressure, China took a major step and banned the production and sale of all known forms of fentanyl, including any variants of the drug.
MATTHEW DONAHUE, FORMER CHIEF OF FOREIGN OPERATIONS, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: That was a big step that stopped fentanyl, fentanyl the powder coming in from China direct into the United States.
CULVER (on camera): Matt Donahue worked for the DEA for more than three decades, retiring last year as its Chief of Foreign Operations. While he says finished fentanyl is no longer flowing out of China, precursor chemicals, the ingredients to make fentanyl are.
DONAHUE: If you can get to the precursor chemicals, you're going to have less fentanyl. You have less fentanyl, you have less overdose deaths.
CULVER (voice-over): Using that same approach, in recent years, the U.S. levied new sanctions against a handful of Chinese chemical manufacturers to combat the global illicit drug trade. We looked into one of them, Hebei Atun Trading Company, accused of being involved in fentanyl precursor chemical sales. Public records show the company was dissolved in 2021, but our investigation found the same email address once listed for Hebei Atun now linked to this Chinese company, Shanxi Naipu, registered just days after Hebei Atun began to shut down. And look at Hebei Atun's Facebook page, still active. It links to Shanxi Naipu. Not to mention the Whatsapp contacts advertised for both companies, the same.
So I texted a number listed on one of Shanxi Naipu's four websites. Without even mentioning the word fentanyl, the seller Linda Wang asked if we wanted this substance, which can be used to make fentanyl. Wang then sent me this full menu of chemical products. A closer look reveals these are mostly precursors, legal to buy, but ones that chemist tell us can be used to manufacturer illicit drugs, from fentanyl to cocaine. The company offers fast delivery and safety shipping.
LOGAN PAULEY, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Door to door to USA.
CULVER (on camera): Logan Pauley is an intelligence analyst who has been investigating the flow of fentanyl precursors out of China for years. We showed him our conversation with Wang.
PAULEY: They have a warehouse in Mexico City. Wow!
CULVER (on camera): We wondered if Wang would reveal any ties to the sanctioned company. My colleagues tell me you are the same company as Hebei Atun, you are now called Shanxi Naipu Import and Export. Ha ha, yes! Smiley face. Sorry, I don't want to cheat you.
PAULEY : I think it's wild that they confirmed that they're the same company.
CULVER (voice-over): In an email responding to our request for comment, Shanxi Naipu told us we are not related at all to Hebei Atun. Adding that they bought the sanctioned company's Facebook account, email, and cell phone number in order to "attract internet traffic." They also deny selling the fentanyl precursor that they offered to us in multiple exchanges, and the company denies having any warehouses in the U.S. or Mexico, stressing that everything they sell is legal. We found hundreds of other Chinese chemical companies selling the same fentanyl precursors legally.
CULVER (on camera): I mean, does this show, do you think that U.S. sanctions aren't working or aren't effective?
PAULEY: The way in which the system is being exploited by these Chinese companies makes it hard to enforce everything.
CULVER (voice-over): Another problem, when one precursor is banned, a substitute chemical quickly takes its place.
ALEXANDRA EVANS, CHEMIST, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF FORENSIC SCIENCES: So what they're doing now is they're buying compounds that are structurally very, very similar.
CULVER (voice-over): Chemists point out the ease of creating a substitute ingredient called amassed precursor. Simply put, make one small chemical change, and it's no longer a banned precursor but a legal substitute, one that's readily available to purchase by essentially anyone with internet access.
DEA officials tell us the majority of precursors ship directly to Mexico where cartels cook up fentanyl in secret labs. We wanted to see for ourselves. Traveling into the State of Sinaloa, cartel country as some see it. We got exclusive access with the Mexican Army as they hunt for drug labs. They took us to their latest fentanyl lab bust, this unassuming home.
CULVER (on camera): That white building right there, that's the fentanyl lab.
CULVER (voice-over): The Army says they seized 270,000 pills here, all containing fentanyl. Soldiers keep watch 24x7, preserving the scenes for prosecutors and preventing cartel members from restarting production here. Despite what we saw and scenes like these, Mexico's president claims, "Here in Mexico, we do not produce fentanyl," he said, instead turning it on the U.S., essentially asking why the U.S. can't fix its own social decay, comments that immediately made headlines across the country.
China's foreign ministry points the finger in the same direction. They told us "Using china as a scapegoat will not solve the drug crisis in the United States." With U.S. drug overdoses at record levels and a relentless demand for opioids, blame shifts from one country to another. International cooperation appears increasingly unlikely.
DONAHUE: If we had Mexico actually working with us, you could actually work against precursors coming in and actually target Chinese companies from Mexico.
CULVER (voice-over): Instead, the burden falls here on the U.S. southern border where drugs continue to pour in.
CULVER (voice-over): Right there, narcotics.
CULVER (voice-over): We don't know what --
UNKNOWN: We don't know what it is yet.
CULVER (on camera): They found obviously a significant amount of drugs in the back trunk, will continue -- so, we will continue over this way and get out of their way because they're going to continue to investigate that finding.
Do you see yourself as the last line of defense?
MARIN: We are the last line of defense holding the border. But we're the first line of defense in the expansion and hold (ph) the government outreach approach. It's not just an enforcement mission. It's a humanitarian mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And David Culver is with me now. Obviously, Narcan nasal spray being available over-the-counter, that's a very positive development for the, you know, people who have overdosed.
COOPER: But getting the stuff to stop it from coming in---
CULVER: The Narcan is going after the symptom, right?
CULVER: I mean, but to get to the root of that, it's exactly what we showed you right there. It's going to the precursors, those chemical ingredients, and here's the frustrating part of all this. You look at a story like this and the investigation, and you almost feel helpless because it's so overwhelming. But there are steps that can be taken and we talked to a lot of experts in this who say, go after the individuals who are behind those companies in China, right?
Not just the company's because you see sometimes, as we pointed out in our investigation, you'll go after a company, we were questioning Shanxi Naipu for their ties with the sanctioned company, and they in response to us have said, "Oh, we started to basically dissolve any connection to that sanctioned company," and we've even noticed today, they started to pull some of their websites. The seller Linda, who we spoke with in that piece, they say she no longer works for the company.
So they try to disassociate. The other thing you can look at here is the quantities. One law enforcement officer likened it to sudafed and creation of meth, right. If you see somebody go into a store, and they buy a couple of boxes of sudafed head, not all that surprising.
They're buying 500 boxes, that's a flag. That suggests that something more suspicious is going on and deserves to be investigated. That's what has to happen from the U.S. law enforcement perspective. But ultimately, Anderson, you need international cooperation here.
COOPER: Yeah. David Culver, appreciate it. Thank you, great report. Earlier this year, we told you about a Russian teenager who was put under house arrest, labeled a terrorist, her alleged crime was criticizing Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine on social media. Well, she has now escaped and is telling her story next.
COOPER: Tonight in Ukraine, the killing in the eastern city of Bakhmut continues. Both the U.S. and Ukraine saying that Russians are suffering heavy losses in the area. Top U.S. General Mark Milley described the fighting as a slaughter fest for the Russians. The Head of Russia's Wagner Group, an oligarch who likes to dress up like a soldier and make videos of himself holding a rifle, admitted that the fight has battered them.
Earlier this year, we reported on a Russian teenager who was labeled a terrorist by Russian officials and put on house arrest for criticizing the war on social media. Olesya Krivtsova is her name. She faced up to 10 years in prison. Now she has escaped. She's out of Russia and talking to CNN'S Melissa Bell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's now a wanted fugitive escaping the law. But Olesya Krivtsova was a teenager like any other.
Olesya Krivtsova is now on Moscow's Most Wanted list, but enjoying the streets and the freedoms of the European Union. For the safety of those who helped her to get here, we've agreed not to give too much away about how she escaped.
OLESYA KRIVTSOVA, EXILED RUSSIAN STUDENT (interpreted): No one expected that the case would grow so much that the resonance would be huge.
BELL (voice-over): Krivtsova's social media was typical of her age, but some of her social posts criticizing the war in Ukraine were brought to the attention of authorities by fellow students, one of them distinguishing between snitching and patriotic denunciation.
KRIVTSOVA (interpreted): The only difference is that in Stalin's time, people disappeared for good and it wasn't clear where. Now, because of social media, almost the same thing is happening except it's very public.
BELL (voice-over): From the start, Krivtsova was made an example of. Most of the many hundreds prosecuted for anti-war activity in Russia have been charged with disseminating false information. Krivtsova was charged with terrorism instead.
BELL (on camera): Why are you so scary to them?
KRIVTSOVA (interpreted): Because I'm not the first and I won't be the last. In the era of the information war between propaganda and reality, words can get through to someone. That is why the authorities are afraid because words are the most terrible weapon.
BELL (voice-over): Krivtsova had been on her way to meeting her husband for coffee when she was arrested for the second time. She was placed under house arrest on trumped up charges. So in February, as she turned 20, she made her decision to go, taking very little.
BELL (on camera): Do you regret the posts?
KRIVTSOVA (interpreted): It's a difficult question. I lost a lot and went through a lot. My mother's tears faced with this situation. I lost my husband, grandfather and grandmother. This is a huge price for anyone.
BELL (voice-over): But Krivtsova would not be silenced, even as big brother watched. Orwell's (ph) tattooed above an image of Vladimir Putin as a spider.
KRIVTSOVA (interpreted): I think it's now my daily job to discredit the Russian Army because the Russian Army is committing crimes on the territory of Ukraine.
BELL (on camera): Tell me about this place. How it's been?
KRIVTSOVA (interpreted): Yes, the stairwell looks very Russian because the building was constructed in the USSR. It's only my second day here. I haven't had a chance yet to tidy up my new place properly, or to get my bearings around the courtyard and the surrounding area.
BELL (voice-over): But Krivtsova has already set up a new Instagram channel. A girl interrupted on her way to getting coffee, now in Lithuania, freer and intending to be louder than ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Melissa Bell joins us now. The way the war has played out in social media is pretty extraordinary. Are you seeing more young people like her speaking out online?
BELL: We are, and it does tend to be the young apparently, Anderson, that is speaking out the most loudly. Indeed, one of the human rights groups inside Russia that tracks these things, OVD-Info, reckons that of the 6,000 Russians that have been accused so far of denigrating the Russian Army, 2,000 of those relate to social media posts. And I think one of the most chilling things that you heard there is that, in the end, she was denounced by her fellow students. It's a reminder, Anderson, of just how corrosive to wider society these kinds of laws can be.
But she was really remarkable, determined to carry on and what she explained is that, essentially, a second set of charges meant -- trumped up charges meant that she would certainly be facing (inaudible). In many ways, she wasn't given much of a choice but to go. But determined despite those harrowing last few months and the uncertainties she faces in the future, to continue making that voice heard, Anderson.
COOPER: Yeah, Melissa Bell, appreciate it. Thank you. Up next, opening day tomorrow for Major League Baseball. So Harry Enten is here to teach me about something I know nothing about.
COOPER: Tomorrow is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. So, Harry Enten, our data quant is here. (LAUGHTER)
COOPER: So what happens on Opening Day? What do we do?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN'S SENIOR DATA REPORTER: The teams will start to play the baseball --
COOPER: Can they all play on the first day?
ENTEN: Not necessarily, no.
ENTEN: So you know, some teams will come out. Some will play on Opening Day. Others will wait till Friday. Some teams that play on Thursday, will have the day off on Friday, so they kind of split it up so that we're all able to enjoy baseball.
COOPER: How popular is baseball these days?
ENTEN: Yeah. So you know, I think I have a question for you. You know, I like to ask quizzes, so I'm going to put three faces up on the screen --
ENTEN: -- and I want to see if you can tell me who these three people are.
ENTEN: Do you see -- let's see if we -- there we go.
COOPER: Babe Ruth on the right.
COOPER: OK. Yeah.
ENTEN: OK, that's perfect.
ENTEN: -- because the fact is --
COOPER: Reggie Jackson, I could tell you.
ENTEN: Reggie Jackson, you could tell me.
ENTEN: One of those is a Yankee, Aaron Judge.
COOPER: There was a Reggie Bar.
ENTEN: A Reggie Bar, very good. There was a Baby Ruth Bar, although that was actually name for Grover Cleveland's daughter supposedly. So Aaron Judge is the character, the first to your left. Mike Trout in the middle.
ENTEN: Aaron Judge actually broke the all-time single season home run record for the American League last year. Mike Trout is probably the best player in the American League or all of baseball over the last 25 years.
COOPER: I know that.
ENTEN: But interestingly enough, less than 30 percent of Americans can name either Aaron Judge or Mike Trout, versus 90 percent of people who can name Babe Ruth 1945.
COOPER: See, I'm not such an outlier.
ENTEN: You're not such an outlier and that I think speaks to the problem that baseball has right now. It doesn't have really stars that people recognize. And you know, when we think about baseball, right, and we say, "OK, what's your favorite sport to watch?" Look at the trend line for baseball right now, compared to where we were say 70 years ago. Look at this, in 1948, it was 39 percent; 1960, down to 34 percent. Look at where we are now, just 11 percent of Americans.
COOPER: What is that? Is it just not the game for the times?
ENTEN: I would argue that it's not necessarily a game for the time, so I want to break it down by young people, right, 18 to 29 year olds and say, "OK, are you a fan of these given sports -- baseball?" Guess where baseball ranks. It ranks fifth. It ranks fifth. Look here. Baseball, 38 percent.
Guess what ranks above it? Soccer, e-sports, video games.
ENTEN: Younger people refer to them (ph).
COOPER: Yeah, kids love them.
ENTEN: They love them. Football, way above. I don't know. I don't really play video games. But I guess, my question to you is, do you like any of these sports that are on the screen?
ENTEN: No. Football again --
COOPER: I'm trying to like basketball because I think that looks exciting and I'm learning more about it.
ENTEN: Well, perhaps we'll come back and we'll see how your March Madness (inaudible).
COOPER: I just worry, with my kids, I feel like I need to learn this stuff because my kids, what if they turn out to like sports, and then I'm going to have to know everything about it.
ENTEN: Then you are calling Uncle Harry.
COOPER: You're going to scare them. Harry Enten, thanks very much.
ENTEN: Thank you.
COOPER: We'll be right back.
COOPER: Pope Francis will spend the next few days in a Rome hospital with a respiratory infection. The Vatican says the 86-year-old pontiff was complaining of breathing issues and went to the hospital for scheduled tests. That's when doctors discovered the infection. They say it's not related to COVID. It's unclear if the leader of the world's nearly 1.4 billion Roman Catholics will be able to lead the celebration of this weekend's Palm Sunday Mass and Holy Week ceremonies at the Vatican, leading up to Easter on April 9th.
The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Kaitlin Collins starts now.