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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Supreme Court Rules Race Cannot Be A Specific Basis For Admission To Colleges And Universities; Former Trump Campaign Official Cooperating With Special Counsel In 2023 Election Interfering Probe; Top Trump Campaign Aide Susie Wiles Met Numerous Times With Special Counsel Investigators In Documents Probe; California's Experience After Ending Affirmative Action In College Admissions; Documents Shared With CNN Suggest Missing Russian Gen. Sergey Surovikin Was A VIP Member Of Wagner Army; Company That Helped Retrieve Titan Debris: Offshore Work Has Been "Successfully Completed"; Former Parkland School Resource Officer Scot Peterson Found Not Guilty On All Counts. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 29, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Sirens warning of drone attacks, every single night, and missiles hit these kids' hometown and they are now too young to know any other way of life.

Many children there, even here in Kyiv, they sleep in apartment building hallways so they don't need to wake them up and move them to shelters.

We couldn't stop thinking about their small little sleeping bodies as we stayed up through the night for our broadcast. We looked out on this, an absolute pitch darkness, just not a pitch darkness that you want at night of peace and rest and comfort. It was one of worry and waiting and in some moments, fear.

Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The ruling is seismic, now come the aftershocks. John Berman here, in for Anderson.

Tonight, what happens now that the Supreme Court has gutted affirmative action in a decision that could profoundly change college admissions and more broadly, reshape life for millions in this country?

Also what, we are learning about the arrest in the Washington neighborhood where the Obamas live of a heavily armed man with materials to make a Molotov cocktail, who is also wanted in connection with January 6th.

Plus, what we're learning about a new cooperating witness in the January 6th probe of the former president and why he could be in a position to now say, a lot.

First, the Supreme Court's history making decision today dismantling a pillar of affirmative action, specifically college admissions. In it, the court ruled by a six to three margin that race conscious policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the 14th Amendment.

In his majority opinion, the Chief Justice writes that the programs "unavoidably employ race in a negative manner involve racial stereotyping and lack of meaningful endpoints. Those admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause."

Justices Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, and Thomas wrote separate concurrences. Justice Sotomayor wrote a blistering dissent and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson who recused herself from the Harvard case because of ties to the school wrote this in dissent on North Carolina. "With let them eat cake obliviousness today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces color blindness for all by legal fiat, but deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life."

President Biden meantime offered this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot let this decision be the last word. I want to repeat, we cannot let this decision be the last word.

While the court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for.


BERMAN: He also said this is not a normal court, but later restated that saying this court has "done more to unravel basic rights and basic decisions than any court in recent history." That said, the ruling leaves two backdoors of sorts.

One, it does not apply to military academies; and two, admissions offices can consider race as mentioned in application essays. Something though that Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent called a false promise to save face, her words. No one, she said is fooled.

CNN's Joan Biskupic was in the room where this opinion was read and where tensions between some of the justices appeared quite high. And Joan joins us now.

What was it like to be in the room, Joan? And what did you notice there?


You know, everything you just laid out was not unexpected given how conservative this court has gone and given the priority of Chief Justice John Roberts, but yet in the room in those 50 minutes of high drama, you can really feel history being made because of how they all laid it out. And, John, I think, you know that for the past four years, the justices have not taken the bench to announce decisions, so just seeing them and hearing them today, with their oral dissent from the bench included, was quite staggering.

First, Chief Justice John Roberts says directly that, you know, these policies have to be rolled back exactly for the reason you just mentioned earlier, John, that the Equal Protection Guarantee does not allow colleges and universities to classify students by race.

Chief Justice John Roberts used the word "pernicious." He said that the time had come to end them, and he brushed aside past Supreme Court rulings, saying that the time had come to let them dissolve.

Then Justice Clarence Thomas, who started his statement by saying, I rarely do this, I rarely speak aloud my separate opinion here. He started off right away, complaining about the fate of Asian-American students who could be excluded based on these practices that have tended over history to favor Blacks and Hispanic students.

And it is so interesting since Clarence Thomas, of course, is Black. He is only the second African-American who has ever sat on the Supreme Court, but he has always felt that the constitution is "colorblind" and that the Equal Protection Clause does not allow any kind of benefit, as well as harm from these programs.


And finally, probably the most dramatic reading came from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the court who said, this decision is profoundly disturbing. It is going to roll back so much progress in America.

And her bottom line message, John was, race still matters and the court was turning a blind eye to that.

BERMAN: Were they looking at each other? Could you feel the tension that was so evident in the back and forth in the writing?

BISKUPIC: That's so interesting, because I'm watching all of them. I had a front row seat to see what they're doing and just as Ketanji Brown Jackson, the very first African-American woman on the court, who you know, really lost in this dispute is looking out at spectators, tense, stone-faced, but not looking at her colleagues trying apparently to betray any emotion.

She did not -- Justice Sotomayor incorporated some of her thoughts into her dissent from the bench, but Justice Jackson said nothing. Looked straight ahead.

Now some of the other justices watched the chief and Justice Thomas as they read, looking over, but you could have heard a pin drop in that room, John, during, as I said, the nearly hour of reading.

BERMAN: Joan Biskupic, a witness to history once again. Thank you for sharing those moments with us. With us now, CNN's Laura Coates and Van Jones and with me here, Kenji Yoshino, he is the Chief Justice Earl Warren, Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU Law School.

Justice Warren wrote the unanimous opinion in Brown versus Board of Education.

Van, I just want to start with you, obviously, an historic day. What's your reaction to the ruling?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I was born in 1968. That was the year they killed Dr. King, and that's the year they killed Bobby Kennedy. Apparently, I'm the first person in my family that was born with all my rights. I'm the first person in my family that was born with a right to vote.

So apparently, one generation is enough. After 400 years of brutality, of lynching, of discrimination, of overt discrimination, one generation of trying to at least get the kids together on the campuses is enough. It's too much to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court seems like it is living on a different planet from the communities that I work in. These kids are doing all they can to try to figure out a way to get ahead and door after door gets closed on them, and the Supreme Court seems to be acting more like a super legislature that is shutting the door now on women's rights, on the rights of people of color, probably tomorrow on lesbian and gay rights.

Something is really wrong here. If you care about this country, if you care about democracy, the Supreme Court is supposed to be playing a role that respects precedent, that has some relationship to what's actually happening and that is not happening here.

Look, if you're an Asian parent tonight, you might breathe a little bit of a sigh of relief. We have to acknowledge that some Asian parents have felt their kids have to be three or four times as good. I understand their pain, but to pit Asian kids against Black and Brown kids, when so many kids at campuses like Yale where I went to, Princeton where I taught, half the White kids there, they are there for legacy. They're there just because their granddaddy was there.

My granddaddy couldn't be there. My granddaddy couldn't be there. And so to pit Black and Brown kids against Asian kids is wrong. If you want to knock down the doors of unfairness, start with the more than half of the White kids who are there just because of who their families were in the past.

Our families couldn't have gotten there in the past, and now maybe not in the future as well.

BERMAN: So Van, when Chief Justice Roberts writes, effectively, that race at Harvard and UNC was being used as a negative, he says, and as a stereotype, what's your reaction to that?

JONES: Look, first of all, as a Yalee, leave it to Harvard to screw it up for the rest of us. But that said, just because that program wasn't perfectly designed, they used that program deliberately. They picked it to knock down every other program in the country forever.

And other countries where other policies in other campuses were using other approaches. This is not just the wheels of justice. This was a deliberate strategy by a group of people who went forum shopping, they picked the perfect plaintiff, they picked the perfect program to knock down everything for everyone and that is what is going on here.

BERMAN: Laura, Richard Kahlenberg, who is a liberal Georgetown professor, we had him on earlier today with you. He spent decades studying this issue and he says, if colleges and universities factor in things like where you grew up, your zip code, your family's wealth, class, socioeconomic factors that they may end up with as much or more he says, racial diversity than the system that's been in place.

Do you buy that? A, and B, if there is as effective a way to diversify, could it be utilized? Should it be utilized?


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, his commentary revolves around the notion that race actually has a role in so many of our socioeconomic factors and that geographical location about opportunities. And so, because race has been so interwoven in all of the things that he outlined, it would hold true that considering each of those factors would have an impact on diversification with race as one component.

But it is important to keep in mind here, we've heard a lot of things today unpacking and parsing through what this opinion does. Let's begin with the bare basics here.

Affirmative action does not begin with the premise that one is not qualified and then race makes them qualified. It begins with the premise of people who are otherwise qualified, and all of the varieties that are subjectively considered by an admissions policy and process and then race is part of a holistic part of the conversation.

Similarly, too, whether you were a cellist, whether you're an athlete, whether you're a legacy, whether you are a veteran, what you would bring holistically to the place that many of the most conservative justices have called a marketplace of ideas, hence, reason all of our discussions about First Amendment and what we want our students to learn and not to be censored about.

So keep in mind that factor and now where we are today. Now, they are saying that race cannot be used, but, and there is a bit of a caveat here and the caveat is perhaps the most confusing for admissions officers across the country, and that is, you cannot consider race as a part of a factor or part of the holistic discussion about a student, but if the student should choose to discuss their identity, their lived experience, their actual race, in perhaps an admissions essay, well, then they are able to consider that. Now how does this quagmire work? Would an admissions officer have to then say, well hold on a second, they've talked about race or their personal experience, am I now forbidden because of what the Supreme Court had to say?

That's apparently why the administration has spoken out about having some type of standards to use as a guide for different educators and admissions officers. But it does really open a kind of Pandora's Box, particularly with a footnote about the military, when we know that there is a correlation between the officers' ranks, and that which who goes to a university or college setting.

And so there are a whole lot of issues here that are now going to be front and center, which will likely lead to further litigation, but mostly, this notion of the dynamic, the hypocrisy to some and the just overarching uncertainty of how this could be enforced, implemented, and followed.

BERMAN: Professor Yoshino, let me actually read the citation that Laura was just talking about there from the chief justice who wrote: "Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise. In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual, not on the basis of race."

So that's how race can play into the admissions process. Yet, any sense of how that would work? And what now colleges and universities will do with this issue?

KENJI YOSHINO, CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AT NYU LAW SCHOOL: Yes, absolutely. I think it's a really big loophole. So don't get me wrong. I think this is a hugely momentous decision. But that quote that you just read, I think suggests, you know, how applicants could still get their race on the table and have it considered.

So this goes all the way back to the oral argument when the Council for the SFFA challenging the affirmative action program was asked, what if somebody wrote on their essay that they overcame and experienced racial adversity? And the council said that would be totally fine, because that would go to the individual's character, rather than to a simple membership in the group.

And Chief Justice Roberts, in his opinion, gave that his imprimatur, and that creates a big avenue. You know, when you think about what every university is now going to do, they're all going to ask a question about have you had any kind of adversity in their life that you would like to bring before the committee? And then that will be done with a wink and a nod and savvy applicants will write you know, I had this experience overcoming racial adversity and universities will be able to take that into account.

BERMAN: Is this the last time we're going to see the issue of affirmative action before the court? YOSHINO: It is going to be endless, John. I mean, this is just the very, very beginning of it, because even the Kahlenberg stuff that you were mentioning earlier, you know, I gave you some sort of good news from the perspective of universities.

The bad news is, a lot of people are saying, oh, you can pivot to socioeconomic status or first gen, but the chief justice also said you're not allowed to do through the backdoor, what you can't do through the front door. Right?

So he made both of those statements. So he created that loophole that we were just discussing, but he also said if you were to sort of adopt the first gen program or a top 10 percent Texas-like program for the purposes of boosting racial diversity, that could be deemed to be a pretext on the part of the university and could be challenged in the court on that ground.

There is already a case in the Fourth Circuit that is perking on this and query whether or not the court will pick that up or not next term, they might want to stay away from this for a while, but these cases are going to come thick and fast now.


BERMAN: Watch this space. Professor, thank you so much for being with us. Laura and Van, thank you both so much as well.

Next, we do have breaking news. What we've been learning since the arrest in the Washington neighborhood where the Obamas live of a heavily armed man who also allegedly had the makings of a Molotov cocktail.

Also, someone talking to Jack Smith's team, someone who was close to him, close to January 6th.

Later, new reporting on documents suggesting one of Russia's top generals was a VIP member of the mercenary group who tried to march on Moscow, we asked him about it but he hasn't been seen since.


BERMAN: All right, the breaking news tonight brings a chill. Word that a heavily armed man also with materials to make a Molotov cocktail and wanted in connection with January 6th was arrested in a Washington neighborhood best known today for where former President Obama and his family live.

CNN's John Miller shares the byline on this one. He has been working with sources literally until three seconds ago on the phone while I was talking here.

So John, what are you learning right now?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So we're learning that the individual, Taylor Taranto is somebody who was on the radar, first from the January 6th case, but then live streaming at various locations in Washington.

And according to the US Capitol Police, these livestreams included numerous threats to members of Congress and other government officials, so they put out a Be On The Lookout flier.


You know, for police, DC Metro Police, Secret Service uniform division and Secret Service uniformed division while on patrol in Kalorama, which is the neighborhood where the Obamas live now, spotted the individual, identified him, stopped him. He was not far from the van which apparently, he has also been living out of since he's been in Washington it appears.

They looked in the van. They called for their bomb squad people, Washington Metro's EOD came and what they found was the materials to make Molotov cocktails, numerous empty bottles, rags, fuel, weapons, firearms.

So he is taken into custody for investigation based on the threats to members of Congress. That was from the Capitol Police.

The case now goes to the Joint Terrorism Task Force to figure out what were the Molotov cocktails for? Why was he in the neighborhood that's filled with embassies, dignitaries, and the former president of the United States? And did any of these threats that he made online crossed the line from First Amendment protected speech into threatening government officials over interstate commerce?

BERMAN: I mean, obviously, the neighborhood does stand out of where he was there. He was taken into custody based on the threats to members of Congress.

MILLER: Right. And this is where the concern emerged for the US Capitol Police, which is we've got a guy in Washington who is making threatening statements to various elected officials. We need to locate this individual and deal with the threatening language, but also investigate what else is behind it.

Of course, when they do that, and they find a vehicle with weapons and the precursors to put together incendiary devices, that's of concern.

BERMAN: But they don't know why he was there just yet.

MILLER: Right.

BERMAN: And here's the key. There were no papers or manifestos that mentioned former President Obama or anything that contained his address or threats to him directly. This is simply because Secret Service uniformed division is on patrolling that area, and they spotted him, and there is a proximity to the residence.

BERMAN: All right, thank you. We'll let you get back on the phone right now again, and find out more.

Thank you so much, John Miller. All right, also a major development as well in the larger January 6 case. Special Counsel Jack Smith has a new cooperator. This one a former senior Trump campaign official.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who's got some work to do later tonight, joins us now with the breaking news. So Kaitlan, what have you learned?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes, my colleague Zach Cohen and I have now learned that Michael Roman who is not a household name, but he was a campaign official on the Trump 2020 campaign is now cooperating with prosecutors from Jack Smith's team, not the team that is investigating the documents investigation, which, of course, we've seen playing out in Miami. This is the one into January 6 and the efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election results.

And why it matters that Mike Roman is now cooperating is that he may not have to appear before the grand jury in a formal way. He did get a subpoena earlier this year. They did seize his phone a few months ago. So two notable factors there, obviously. He could speak to them in a more informal setting.

And it is notable, because he is someone who was involved with the fake elector scheme and we know that is what Jack Smith's team has been zeroing in on in recent weeks and in inquiries they've had with certain witnesses, people they brought before the grand jury, that has been something that they've been talking about.

And this campaign aide is someone who was part of the coordination effort with advisers for the campaign, attorneys for the campaign in these seven states that Trump lost where they were trying to develop this alternate set of electors.

And so it remains to be seen what his cooperation could mean, what he could offer to Jack Smith's team. But it is notable, as we have seen, You know, we've all been talking about the documents case, but there has been quite an uptick in activity when it comes to the January 6 case, raising the question of whether or not we could see indictments soon.

BERMAN: All right, a cooperating witness for the January 6 case, it seems perhaps in the area of fake electors. What happened with Mike Roman? The January 6th committee wanted to talk to him, yes?

COLLINS: Yes. He was someone who he pled the fifth for a lot of it. He did say and make some comments to them. They asked about Rudy Giuliani a lot. Rudy Giuliani has been someone they've asked about in a lot of these interviews, as well as the other attorneys that you saw on TV at the time.

He is someone who said he would speak about how he did not talk to Rudy Giuliani before the 2020 election, but when he was asked about speaking to Giuliani after the 2020 election, he used his Fifth Amendment rights

BERMAN: That's interesting. So you have sort of a selective pleading the Fifth on certain things when you do and when you don't.

All right, stick around, because we're going to want your take on some other big angles here. The first being a significant development as you just touched on a moment ago, the documents case.

According to a source familiar with the matter, it involves a current senior campaign officials, Susie Wiles, what the former president allegedly showed her and just how frequently she has been talking to the Feds.


CNN's Paula Reid joins us now with the latest on that.

So Paula, you know, Susie Wiles, first of all, explain exactly how important she is in this and what she allegedly saw?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's go back to the indictment.

I mean, one of the most striking details in this indictment was this allegation that the former president had shown a representative from his political action committee, a classified map.

Now, that is shocking for many reasons. One, of course, is that he would show someone without a clearance a classified document, but also that this was someone close to him in his inner circle, and it raised questions about whether this person could have effectively turned on him, right, given this information to investigators.

Now a source tells CNN and Kaitlan worked on this story, along with our colleagues Kristen Holmes and Sara Murray, that this representative is Susie Wiles. She was one of his closest aides. She is effectively running his presidential campaign, his third run for the White House.

But according to our reporting, it's unclear if she is the one that revealed this information to investigators. We are told that the Trump camp was blindsided by this news. And as of now, there are no plans for her to step back from her role in the campaign.

BERMAN: Is it possible that she could be asked to testify in a trial?

REID: It's certainly possible. We know she was interviewed multiple times by special counsel investigators and we know during those interviews, she was asked if she was ever shown this map or other documents related to for example, General Mark Milley. But what we don't know is how she answered those questions.

It is unclear if they learned about this incident from her or some other way, either other evidence or another witness. So certainly possible she could testify at a trial, but unclear exactly what her story would be.

BERMAN: All right, you also have some new reporting on the Mar-a-Lago grand jury that it's still active. What more can you tell us about that?

REID: That's right. It is alive. Our colleague, Katelyn Polantz reports that they are still working down in Florida, inquiring after witnesses and investigating.

Now, it is not unheard of for a grand jury to continue its work even after an initial set of charges has been brought. We know from our team's reporting that there were a lot of loose ends, things that we knew investigators were asking about, but that didn't show up in the indictment.

For example, questions about possible gaps in surveillance footage. Also a lot of outstanding questions about these classified documents when they were up in Bedminster, New Jersey.

So at this point, it's unclear if this grand jury will bring any additional charges either against other people or against the former president or whatnot through a superseding indictment, but they're still at it.

BERMAN: All right. Paula Reid, thank you very much.

Back now, Kaitlan Collins and joining us, CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig.

Guys, first of all, a lot of new information all at once. Can you just comment, Elie on Kaitlan's reporting here? There is someone now working as a cooperating witness, which is a term I know, you know, in the January 6 case. What does that tell you? Is that indicative of how serious they are?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is, and a couple things jump out to me about the recording. First of all, there's a hard way to cooperate and an easy way.

The hard way is you get forced into the grand jury. This is the easy way. This is what we call a proffer agreement, meaning you're going to agree to meet with prosecutors and FBI agents in a conference room, you have to tell them the truth.

The only thing you can be prosecuted for is if you commit perjury. The other thing that jumps out to me is this focus on the fake electors scheme, because when we talk about an investigation for January 6, that's kind of daunting, right? You're talking about a very broad scope of conduct. Some of it could get into First Amendment issues. Was the president engaged in political rhetoric?

But the fake electoral scheme to me is the cleanest shot that prosecutors have. The argument really would be fraud, essentially. You are committing a fraud by saying these people were the electorate.

So I think it moves the ball forward on those two counts.

BERMAN: All right, moving on to the Susie Wiles issue, and Kaitlan, I just want our viewers to understand who she is and how important she is politically in this campaign? COLLINS: Well, she might be important to you because she is Pat Summerall's daughter.

BERMAN: Well, there is that, too. Pat Summerall, the famous football player and football commentator.

COLLINS: Yes. She is someone -- she is a huge political figure in Florida. She helped Trump and his past victories there in the state. She actually was someone who used to be pretty close to Governor DeSantis, but they had quite a falling out and now, she is working for Trump and for his campaign.

She is effectively running it. Her title, she is a senior adviser, but she's very close.

And the reason this makes it interesting is not only is she the representative who is noted in the filing as the political action committee representative that Trump showed this classified map of a military site to, but she works with him on a day-to-day basis.

BERMAN: That's my question, which is Elie, in theory, she would be one of the people helping Trump politically message the fact that he's under federal indictment, yet she could be a witness in the federal trial.

HONIG: It is awkward in every sense of that phrase. Friends sometimes have to testify against friends, right?


There's this, I guess, conception than if someone takes the stand, they've got it out for you, but really the best witness from a prosecution point of view is someone you can say, this person's in league with the defendant. This person has no allegiance towards us. No incentive to try to falsely incriminate the person who's on trial. If anything, it makes that person, if they tell the truth, an even more powerful witness.

BERMAN: But in theory, this would be a person on top of the list of people you cannot talk to about the case.

Yes. So there is the judge's order here that says, you know, you can't talk to people about the case. I'm sure the argument will be, I'm not talking to her about the case, I'm talking to her about politics. Really difficult to police that.

BERMAN: How did the Trump team take this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think it's a big question of the fact -- I don't think a lot of people understood that she was the person who has identified as the person that he showed the map to. I think there were questions of who it could be. There weren't a ton of people that they thought were eligible candidates, but I think some people are surprised that it's her. It's not -- there's not a ton of visibility into what was known and what was not known. I mean, I think when we talk about this recording that we've all heard now, very few people even knew about that. So it's not clear there's a small circle of top political advisors and attorneys who are really kept in the loop on the day-to-day stuff.

Most other people aren't. But to Elie's point, you know, pretty much everyone on that 84 person list or whatever of witnesses that was submitted to the Trump team are people who work all around him when he's either in New Jersey or in Mar-a-Lago. These are people in everyday facets of that form.

BERMAN: So the grand jury is still hearing from witnesses, Elie. What does that tell you? And what complications might it cause were the special counsel to want to bring additional charges?

HONIG: So the obvious top line is the investigation's continuing, but I want to add a nuance here. It is generally considered good prosecutorial practice that once you've indicted a case, you cannot keep going back to that grand jury to flesh out the charges that you've already brought against the people you've already charged.

You've lost the grand jury for that purpose. So if they're continuing to use a grand jury, again, if they're following good practice and they have been so far, that tells me that they're looking at either additional people or additional charges. If they do bring what we call a superseding indictment, basically indictment 2.0, and if they do add people or charges, we don't know.

But if they do, one of the practical consequences is they're going to reset the clock here and they're already in a bit of a race to get in ahead of the 2024 election. I'm not sure whether they'll be able to do so. We have a tentative potential trial date of December. But if they do bring additional charges, that's going to basically set the clock back to zero and may really eliminate any chance of getting this in before November.

BERMAN: All right, Elie Honig, Kaitlan Collins, our thanks to you.

You, of course, have 28 minutes to get ready for your next show. Thank you for being here now. She'll be on CNN Primetime top of the hour, talking with Democratic Senator Alex Padilla about the Supreme Court ruling today on affirmative action, which is what we will return to next with a focus on how that policy affected students in Padilla's home state of California. It ended the practice for its public universities more than 25 years ago.



BERMAN: We want to talk more tonight about the major shift in how universities will admit students after the 6-3 Supreme Court decision ending affirmative action in college admissions. Earlier, we mentioned how California ended the practice for its public schools more than 25 years ago. It was the first state to do so. Kyung Lah has more on what that experience could mean for the rest of the nation.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harvard, Yale, Columbia. Wesley Zhou shows us the rejection letters that ended his Ivy League dream.

WESLEY ZHOU, UCLA JUNIOR: I'm a straight A student, you know, 4.0 GPA, 4.68 weighted GPA.

LAH (on-camera): Did you get into any Ivy League schools?

ZHOU: Did not. I did not.

LAH (voice-over): That was Zhou when we met him two years ago. This is where we find him today, soon to be a junior at UCLA.

ZHOU: I think eliminating race in consideration would definitely be a lot fair.

LAH (on-camera): And help you?

ZHOU: And probably, yes, in some sense, would help me.

LAH (voice-over): Zhou says he was accepted to every University of California school in the state that banned affirmative action in 1996. What's happened here in California could signal the future for U.S. colleges without affirmative action.

UCLA Professor Eddie Cole says the impact was immediate.

EDDIE COLE, UCLA ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, HIGHER EDUCATION & HISTORY: As soon as that went into effect, you saw at places like Berkeley and UCLA, the black student enrollment among incoming freshmen dropped dramatically.

LAH (voice-over): By more than half at those schools across the UC system, Black and Latino enrollment fell sharply the next year without affirmative action. But in the decades to follow, the UC system still took a progressive approach to improve those numbers to mid-90s levels.

Though Black student enrollment still lags at UC Berkeley and UCLA only recently returned to mid-90s levels.

COLE: So if this decision is made in 1996, and we fast forward to 2023, nearly three decades later to say the numbers have finally improved, with the exception of Berkeley, imagine what it's going to look like on a national level. You had to think about the legacy and impact across racial groups. And why there are disparities decade after decade, despite so many policies.

NIA MCCLINTON, UCLA GRADUATE: I could very easily walk into a classroom and feel like I'm someone who doesn't belong here when that's not the truth, right?

LAH (voice-over): Nia McClinton graduated from UCLA two years ago and now works in Black Student Outreach. Without such outreach and funding, McClinton sees this.

(on-camera): Do you feel like a lot of doors were closed for black students in this country?

MCCLINTON: I'm worried that they will, so it's important to reach out and say like, this is something that is attainable for you.

LAH (voice-over): Wesley. Zhou will soon be applying for medical school. He still believes affirmative action doesn't help him, but does see the impact beyond his own academic life.

ZHOU: I will say this right, affirmative action does harm Asian Americans, but without it, it'll harm all of the minorities in the United States. So that's where I stand right now.


BERMAN: And Kyung Lah joins us now. You know, Kyung, California voters rejected a ballot proposition in 2020 that would've repealed the law that prevents the public universities from considering race in admissions. What was the discussion then? Why did it fail?

LAH: Really fascinating because you think of California as such a progressive state. But, you know, if you talk to the people who are behind the -- this proposal in 2020, they'll say maybe voters didn't quite understand the question, that the money spent in voter outreach and education may not have been enough, and that the ballot, frankly, has a lot of these propositions. It is pages long, so that could have been a factor.


But in talking to Professor Cole here, the one you saw in our story here at UCLA, he says that all of this amounts to really a missed opportunity. California, in his opinion, is simply not as progressive as the rest of the country thinks. Yes, there's San Francisco and Los Angeles, but this is a big diverse state.

And one other thing, John, there is a rising Asian population in this state, one that increasingly votes and is very divided on the issue of affirmative action. John?

BERMAN: Kyung Lah, thank you so much for that report.

Coming up, CNN has exclusively obtained documents about a Russian General who has not been seen in public since Saturday's failed revolt. They suggest he was far closer to the Mercenary Wagner group than previously known.

Our Matthew Chance is in Moscow tonight and will join us with the details.


BERMAN: CNN has exclusively obtained documents that suggest a top Russian General Sergey Surovikin, who has not been seen in public since last Saturday short live revolt was the Secret VIP member of the Mercenary Wagner Group that led the rebellion.

CNN's Matthew Chance joins us now from Moscow for more on the man nicknamed General Armageddon for his ruthless tactics. Matthew, these documents, what do they tell us about General Surovikin?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're pretty interesting because they suggest, or they tell us, or they show according to the Dossier Center, which is a Russian investigative organization that obtained these documents and then showed them exclusively to us. They showed that there is a registration document for General Surovikin that assigned him a Wagner sort of membership number, I suppose.

That membership number then appears in various other lists of people who belong to the Wagner mercenary organization. It also says it is a VIP member. It doesn't sort of indicate to us what VIP status actually means, whether that that means he's on the payroll or there's any other kind of financial benefit. There's not evidence for that.


But it does, you know, strongly imply that there is a very, very close relationship between this general and the mercenary organization that carried out that attempted military, you know, rebellion at the weekend. And, of course, it's not just General Surovikin. The Dossier Center says there are about 30 other senior military and intelligence officials from Russia who are also on that list and designated as VIP members of Wagner.

It's interesting because, you know, it was obviously, the military that is accused of allowing Wagner to get so far without resisting it in that military rebellion last weekend.

BERMAN: What do we know about General Surovikin's whereabouts?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, he's not been around. And one possibility of that is, and it's been suggested by some media outlets, although we can't confirm it, that he's been detained for questioning. Certainly, it's been over five days now since General Surovikin appeared in public, and that was when he was issuing an appeal.

It looked like a hostage video, frankly, but he was sitting there looking very pressured, appealing to Wagner not to continue with their military uprising. Since then, he hasn't been seen. There have been reports in the New York Times, in particular, suggesting that General Surovikin knew in advance about Wagner's plans to stage this military uprising.

And all that, along with these latest revelations about his close contacts and membership even of Wagner has, you know, fueled suspicion that he could some way be implicated. But again, the Kremlin are not commenting on where he is, and it's not clear at this point when he will reemerge.

BERMAN: Matthew, as always, thank you so much for your reporting.

All right, perspective now from CNN National Security Analyst Steve Hall, a former CIA Chief of Russia Operations. Steve, a document with a whole lot of names, including General Surovikin is on it as some kind of VIP member of Wagner. If you are the Kremlin Security Forces right now, what are you doing with this list?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first I'd love to know who's blurred out on that list. That would be fabulous to know. I mean, obviously, Surovikin is on the list and the FSB and the other security services will be focusing on him, but I think it's worth stepping back for a St. John and looking some context here. We're not going to do a whole Russian history thing here, but go back to Stalin's time when he did the Great Terror.

I mean, when he thought that there was stuff going on around him, he killed everybody. Literally, almost everybody, innocents, those who were plotting against him, it didn't matter. Fast forward to 20 years ago, 2003, a guy by the name of Mikhail Khodorkovsky (ph), who was a very successful oligarch, not unlike Prigozhin, who overstepped his bounds, became political, spent 10 years in jail and was exiled.

Putin knows how to do this. He has the tools to do it. He puts, you know, nerve agents in people's underwear. He shoots people in parks overseas. He has the -- I think he enjoys doing it, so he knows how to do this. The big question is, why did he not do it here?

And I think what the real reason is Ukraine. He is so in such trouble with Ukraine that you've got all the security services that you are referring to, primarily FSB, which has some significant wartime responsibilities. Everything is focused on how badly it's going in Ukraine.

So focused, as a matter of fact, that apparently he failed to do what both Stalin and even he himself 20 years ago, knows very well how to do. And that's, you know, the Ukrainians should be very pleased about this. And everybody surrounding Putin should be worried.

BERMAN: Are you saying he couldn't do a purge? And again, it was a, Sylvia, to me, the phrase famous, he couldn't do a purge now if he wanted to?

HALL: Oh, he absolutely couldn't. As a matter of fact, I sort of expect that we're going to see something like that. And that might be why we can't find Mister -- sorry, General Surovikin, at this point. And Prigozhin still hasn't appeared after he allegedly went to Belarus.

So behind the scenes, I'm sure there's lots of stuff going on. Sort of what was going on during Stalin time when people are trying to wonder or trying to figure out, am I next? And if so, what am I going to do?

BERMAN: And is that why you don't think we've seen either Surovikin or Prigozhin to leave that sense of mystery, danger even? HALL: Yes, I mean, I think that there's a lot of that double, triple think where, you know, one guy thinks that he might be next, but it turns out that that was simply a ruse to cause him to talk about the guy sitting next to him, who they were. I mean, and it's just amazing the level of, you know, byzantine politics that go on behind the scenes.

That's the way it's always been in Russia, Soviet times, Czarist times, and I think now in Putin time as well.

BERMAN: Delicate, dangerous times. Steve Hall, thank you so much for helping us understand them.

HALL: Sure.


So how much of the Titan submersible has been recovered from the sea floor? And where the investigation stands now is they try to determine why it imploded killing five deep sea explorers as they descended to the Titanic wreckage. We have a live report from Canada next.


BERMAN: The company that helped retrieve the Titan submersible from the ocean floor will hold a news conference tomorrow. The team has been working over the last several days to bring the subparts to shore. They also found, quote, "presumed human remains" of the five men who were killed when the U.S. Coast Guard says the Titans suffered a catastrophic implosion on its way to the Titanic wreck.

CNN'S Paula Newton is with us from Canada tonight. Paula, what more can you tell us about where exactly these human remains were found?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, and again, we have to say, John, given five lives were lost, this is difficult for the family, I'm sure, but also a measure of comfort in knowing that those -- what the U.S. Coast Guard says are presumed human remains were actually found within the cabin, inside that wreckage site.

You know, experts will tell you that this is consistent with the catastrophic implosion as opposed to an explosion. John, this is good for the investigation in the sense that it will more materially give information about what happened in those last moments before the five lost their lives and what exactly the timeline would have been.

And I add to that, that here in Ottawa, the Transportation Safety Board released a statement also saying that it had the data recorder from the Polar Prince. John, you'll remember the Polar Prince is the mothership to the Titan. And again, it will add valuable information as to exactly what went wrong when.

And crucially why this submersible never rose to the surface as it had fairly good safety record in terms of surfacing when communication went down. John?

BERMAN: At this point, how much of the sub has been recovered?

NEWTON: You know, an extraordinary amount. You can see the pictures that, you know, people in St. John's saw from their windows, and yet they saw this recovery team from Pelagic Research bring up very large pieces.


I mean, you can see that they are very large. In fact, one, you know, the height of what we are looking at, the actual cabin height. You can also see another piece that had cables and cords. This again will add to the investigation and add to the accuracy of the investigation, both here in Canada and in the United States.

The U.S. Coast Guard are saying their principle concern is for safety. But after that, on both sides of the border, John, there could still be a criminal investigation. And given all of those pieces of the records that you see there, this is crucial in terms of determining exactly what went wrong and if it was that carbon fiber, of that the submersible Titan was made of, that was the problem or something else entirely.

BERMAN: Paula Newton, thank you very much.

Up next, a verdict in the trial of the former school resource officer who failed to confront the Parkland mass shooter and the defendant's emotional reaction.


BERMAN: A Florida jury has found a former school resource officer not guilty on all counts for failing to protect students when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Scot Peterson wept in court as the verdict was read. He faced 11 counts in including felony, child neglect and culpable negligence.

You will remember, Peterson stayed outside during the massacre. Prosecutors accused him of ignoring his training and doing nothing in what remains the country's deadliest high school shooting ever. This is what he told reporters after the verdict.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got our life back really.

PETERSON: We've got our life back after four and a half years.


PETERSON: It's been an emotional roller coaster for so long. But don't anybody ever forget this was a massacre on February 14th. The only person to blame was that monster.


BERMAN: A father of one of the victims is outraged by Peterson's comments after the verdict.


MANUEL OLIVER, SON JOAQUIN KILLED IN PARKLAND MASS SHOOTING: I think that the right thing to do, the manly thing to do, the honest thing to do is to walk out of that room quiet. Be quiet, Mr. Attorney and Scot Peterson. Keep your mouth shut, get in your car and go to your perfect life. But don't cry in front of national TV.


BERMAN: A wrenching day and a meaningful one to so many people.

The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Kaitlan Collins starts right now.