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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Supreme Court Blocks Student Loan Forgiveness Plan, Limits LGBTQ Protections in Major Rulings; Consequential Decisions Expose High Court Tensions; Secret Report On Sexual Assault At Coast Guard Academy Kept Hidden For Years; Ukrainian Military Intelligence Chief Claims Russia's FSB Plotting To Assassinate Prigozhin. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 30, 2023 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: This woman appealing to Putin as he desperately needs their support to continue this 16-month war here in Ukraine, where so many of their husbands, sons, fathers are dying.

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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening.

The Supreme Court closes one door to debt relief for millions of student borrowers. President Biden tries to open another.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

Tonight, the case that pits a chief executive against the chief justice in a string of big decisions this week, including one today on LGBTQ protections in the First Amendment, now pitting some of the justices against one another.

Also tonight, a CNN exclusive: The shocking details from a report on sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy that went unreleased for years.

Plus, a week after leading a failed rebellion that sent him into exile, where is Wagner leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin? And is Russian intelligence now gunning for him?

First tonight, President Biden is vowing to work around a Supreme Court decision blocking his plan to forgive some $400 billion in student debt taken on by tens of millions of Americans. This is the latest from the Supreme Court that has now reshaped the constitutional landscape on abortion, affirmative action, and today, on how much leeway a president has to carry out legislation, and that would be less of it.

In a six to three decision, the court holding that President Biden could not interpret a provision of a post 9/11 law to cancel student loan repayments.

Chief Justice Roberts writing that something this significant required clear approval by Congress, so the president announced a detour.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will ground this new approach in a different law than my original plan. The so-called Higher Education Act that will allow Secretary Cardona who was with me today to compromise, waive, or release loans under certain circumstances.

This new path is legally sound. It is going to take longer, and in my view, it is the best path that remains to providing for as many borrowers as possible with debt relief.


BERMAN: Now, whether that flies legally or not remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is just like yesterday's affirmative action decision, this one exposed tensions within the court.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan suggested that the true overreach here was by her conservative colleagues pushing the court: "Beyond its proper limited role in our nation's jurisprudence." The same tension is apparent and today's other six-three decision that a web designer on religious freedom grounds could refuse to create pages for same sex weddings, and we're going to have a bit more on this later tonight on what appear to be the growing strains within the court between the justices.

First, CNN's Joan Biskupic with more on this consequential day in court. Joan, let's start with the case of the Christian website designer in Colorado. What exactly did the court rule here?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure, John, and you're right, first of all, two things you're right about, framing this whole thing is the chief justice against the chief executive, John Roberts had a really big term. He was a winner in many, many cases.

But let's start with the one that generated most of the tensions right at the top of the court's public proceedings today in the courtroom where they split as Justice Neil Gorsuch read the opinion that ruled for a woman who was a website designer who wants to do weddings websites but does not want to serve same sex couples.

She says that the message of a same sex couple wedding conflicts with her Christian values that she believes marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Now this whole case comes against the backdrop of Colorado's public accommodations law that says that businesses that are open to the public cannot discriminate based on race, sex, and sexual orientation.

So this woman Laurie Smith, brought a case trying to ensure that she would not fall victim to the law if she essentially hung out a sign saying same sex couples need not apply, and the justices by that six- three division that you talked about right at the top of your opening, John, bore out in the courtroom as Justice Gorsuch really stressed that this was about not discrimination, but about free speech.

He likened the kind of action that could be taken by Colorado here to state action against children who wanted to fight saying the Pledge of Allegiance or saluting the flag.


He went back to those kinds of free speech cases and he said the First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons that are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.

Now, dissenters, and as you know, Sonia Sotomayor spoke for the dissenters quite passionately this morning at the Supreme Court, she said, this is the first time the Supreme Court was going to allow a business to discriminate against a set of customers based on any kind of characteristic -- here, it would be sexual orientation -- but she warned that there could one day be extended to other kinds of protected classes, perhaps interracial couples.

And she also, John, talked about the trend in the country right now, of states trying to restrict what people -- you know, what goes on with LGBTQ activities, and she said, this is the absolute wrong time for the Supreme Court to be sending a signal that would allow more discrimination rather than protection for gay rights -- John.

BERMAN: And the president's student loan forgiveness program. Why exactly did the court say it was striking it down?

BISKUPIC: Okay. As you know, the secretary of Education had relied on a 2003 law, a law that was passed in the wake of 9/11 that would allow the Secretary of Education to waive certain loan repayment requirements for emergencies. But what the chief said was that the secretary of Education took this law much further than it was allowed to. He even used the phrase "sleight of hand" as he denigrated the Biden administration's legal arguments.

And he essentially said that it is not a matter of -- it is not a question of whether something should be done, it is a question of who has the authority to do it.

Now, this was another one that drew a sharp rebuke right there in the courtroom, this time from Justice Elena Kagan, who said, you know, this is part of the conservative majority's effort to crack down on agency activities, protections for the environment, protections for public health and welfare, and in this case, to give some relief, in another national emergency the wake of COVID to some 40 million borrowers.

And she said, you know what the real takeaway here is? She didn't mince any words. The real takeaway here is that there is one group that wants to be the decision maker on policy and that is this conservative supermajority -- John.

BERMAN: Joan Biskupic, you were in the room.


BERMAN: Thank you for sharing the details with us. Really appreciate it.


BERMAN: So it is another big night for legal analysts and political commentators. With us for that, CNN's Elie Honig, Van Jones, and Adam Kinzinger.

Elie, I want to start with the newest news since we are a news show, after all. The Supreme Court strikes down President Biden's student loan forgiveness program. So this afternoon, he comes out and says, I have another way.

Given that Chief Justice John Roberts basically said, you can't do something this big without a specific congressional approval. How likely is it that this end run will work?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I admire the persistence, but I think it is very unlikely that this succeeds as a matter of law.

Important to understand first. The decision that came out today was not the Supreme Court deciding whether student loan forgiveness is good policy, bad policy fair, unfair, something in the middle.

The decision today was that the president exceeded congressional authorization. Like Joan said, the first student loan plan, which has now been struck down was based on a 2003 law called the Heroes Act that said in times of national emergency, the secretary of Education through the president can issue certain loan modifications or waivers, and Chief Justice Roberts said, if you're going to spend $400 billion, you need much more specific congressional authorization than that.

Now, what President Biden has said he's going to do is use a different law, but it is similar really in the way it works. It gives the Department of Education authority to make certain modifications. But again, let's play this out. If they're going to try to do this again, it's going to take several months to put the new plan in place. It's going to be challenged up through the courts, and then it's going to come back to the exact same court barring some unforeseen developments.

So I think it's very unlikely that they reach a different result.

BERMAN: And again, Chief Justice John Roberts, specifically said it was the extent of the president's action, so if he tries to do anything to a similar extent without specific approval, then you would expect some serious challenges.

Van, I want to shift to Colorado here, and I want to play something the plaintiff in the Colorado case told Laura Coates last year.


LORIE SMITH, PLAINTIFF IN COLORADO CASE: My case is not only about me and my artwork, but also protecting the LGBT artists or graphic designer who should not be forced to create custom artwork that opposes same sex marriage.


BERMAN: So Van, you can -- I want you to address that and also broaden it out if you want. I mean, the Supreme Court said this is about free speech, expressive action. The right not to do a specific expressive action. Your take.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My take is, it is really sad because why do we have public accommodation laws in this country? It is because when my parents were growing up, we didn't have those laws. And so we had a book in my grandmother's house that said, okay, if we go on a road trip, here is a hotel that will let us stay there, but these won't. Here is a gas station that will let us have gas.

Can you imagine living in a world where people could say, because of religious reasons, by the way, in the south, they were religiously commanded to separate the races, that was -- it was religiously demanded. You're a good Christian if you believe in segregation.

And so the First Amendment, their religious rights meant, we couldn't where we wanted to go. We weren't free.

And the government said, you know what? That's wrong. If you're going to open yourself up for business, you've got to open up for everybody and that is what public accommodations law means.

We have now had the Supreme Court say it is okay for businesses to say, because of my religious beliefs, I can turn you away at the door. I don't have to serve you. I can humiliate you in front of your children. I can send you away, and Supreme Court says that's fine with us.

It is a horrible day in this country. It is a huge step back.

I cannot imagine what people who are waiting now for a floodgate of other businesses to throw up the same signs. You're not welcome. You're not welcome. You're not welcome. And that's what this is about.

You can't hide behind the First Amendment. You can't use First Amendment language to conceal bigotry. That was done to my family for generations. It was a religious argument.

And so if you don't believe that somebody could lock me out of the store, because they believe that God separated the races, you cannot accept a company turning away someone else. And by the way, she can say whatever she wants to, but if she wants to open her doors and say she is open for business, in America, that means you've got to be open for business to everybody.

BERMAN: Congressman? ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, yes. I mean, look, I'm sympathetic to that argument. And when it comes to the what's next? When it comes to comparing the south, you know, and believing that God said, separate the races, I understand that.

In this limited thing, I'm also sympathetic to the fact that this woman felt it violated her religious beliefs. By the way, there's other web designers that can do that kind of design. So I understand both sides of this.

The thing I get concerned with, the First Amendment isn't there to protect the religious arguments we agree with. It is not there to protect the speech that we agree with. It is actually there to protect the stuff we don't agree with, because that's what's in danger.

So I don't have a definitive kind of opinion on this at the moment, because I can really see both sides to this. I'll let the Supreme Court speak for that.

BERMAN: I think, Van and I'll let Elie weigh in here on what the chief justice is saying here, Gorsuch in this case, was saying here is that this website designer would have to open its doors to a same sex couple, just the website designer would not have to expressively act, would not have to take the action of making a cake for a same sex marriage. Elie, is that what Gorsuch would say?

HONIG: For the website?


HONIG: The website in this story. Yes, and one of the questions is, is the conduct here that is being vended or sold, is that -- does that include expression? Does that include some artistic sentiment in it? And they batted that back and forth here and concluded that yes, it does.

And there is a distinction drawn between, can you deny service to these people? No. It was actually stipulated that that's not what the plaintiff was asking here, but can this web designer decline to make a website with that content in it? The court said yes.

It is really a balance between First Amendment free speech and non- discrimination and the court came out this way.

JONES: You know, what's ridiculous about this whole thing? The reason why we're saying if, if, if because this is a hypothetical website by a hypothetical company, concerned about a hypothetical wedding with a hypothetical --

The Supreme Court went so far beyond its normal mandate. This woman should not have standing in a normal situation. We are supposed to have an actual case in controversy. She has an actual website, you have an actual person who actually wanted -- none of that is even here.

This is a made up case. This is completely made up and it got in front of the Supreme Court because the Supreme Court is that desperate to weaponize First Amendment language and religious liberty.

And by the way, as a Christian, nobody is more passionate about religious liberty than myself, but I can't use my religious convictions to run over your rights to be a part of this country and run over your rights of public accommodation.

In a multiracial democracy, that is the balance and the Supreme Court went out of its way with a made up case with no actual website and no actual a couple and no actual wedding to take away the dignity of the LGBT community and it's wrong.

BERMAN: Congressman, on the student loan case. You agree with the court that President Biden went too far. Why?


KINZINGER: Look, if you want to -- if you want to forgive student loans, that's great. I don't know if it's good policy, but you have to go through Congress with that. That is a $400 billion impact to the federal debt. It's not a decision a president can make a loan, and I worry about the slippery slope of that.

And people may say, well, look, Congress is inept. Trust me. I know that, right? They may say Congress will never forgive student loan debt, probably not in the current makeup. But that's why we have elections. That's why we have campaign issues.

The president went way too far in unilaterally declaring this as policy. I think he knows it. He knows that, particularly after the Supreme Court spoke. It doesn't mean I disagree with the policy of student loan forgiveness. I think there are merits to it, but you can't do it unilaterally.

And I'll tell you, as much as I have fought, you know, the expansion of federal government under President Trump, too, I have to be fair in both of these.

BERMAN: And I've I got to give Elie the last word, and it's got to be 20 seconds or less, and I know you'll respect this. Has the court laid down a marker here for how much power it intends to use?

HONIG: Yes, they intend to expand their power exactly for the reason Van said. Both of these cases, arguably, the plaintiffs did not have standing. The court said we're going to hear it anyway. They're asserting their power, I think in an unprecedented manner.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, Adam Kinzinger, and Van Jones, thank you all very much. Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Next, the fault lines growing within the court as the majority rolls out seismic decisions. Legendary court watcher and reporter, Nina Totenberg joins us.

And later, the CIA's former top guy on Russia and his take on the growing intrigue surrounding rebellion leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin and his whereabouts and what Vladimir Putin might have in store for him. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: Wherever you come down on recent Supreme Court decisions, there is no denying how significant they have been to so many and as we mentioned at the top, they have come hand in hand with biting words and dissenting opinions.

This includes thinly veiled accusations, such as Justice Kagan's today that her more conservative colleagues now indulge in the kind of judicial activism they once decried.

Few people know more about the court and its inner dynamics than NPR legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg who joins us now.

Nina, great to have you here.

In his majority opinion striking down the student debt relief plan, Chief Justice Roberts said "Reasonable minds may disagree with our analysis. In fact, at least three do. We do not mistake this plainly heartfelt this agreement for disparagement. It is important that the public not be misled either. Any such misperception would be harmful to this institution or a country."

How unusual is that kind of statement?

NINA TOTENBERG, SUPREME COURT, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I actually I've never read anything like it in a Supreme Court opinion. I've seen plenty of opinions where they go at each other and go at each other hard and you expect that. These are important issues and people have strongly felt views.

And either Justice Kagan somehow got to him, got under his skin or that more likely, that is a message to the public.

Now that we're actually -- have public sessions in the Supreme Court where people can announce their dissents, which they didn't do from since December of 2019, until this year, because last year, they didn't have "public sessions."

So the building wasn't open, so they abandoned the idea last year of announcing opinions, which incidentally, ensured that the dissenters who very much in the Dobbs abortion case wanted to descend orally could not do that.

So this is, I think, much more a message that his words are a message to the public. Listen, we are not really at each other's throats.

BERMAN: Is he wish casting, though, in this case? I mean, are they at each other's throats?

TOTENBERG: I don't think they're at each other's throats, and I do think that the strong words in these opinions are not a typical, but what I do think is that the court is not a bunch of happy campers, that the conservative majority is within its own ranks divided with a lot of people vying for the position of somehow the ideological leader and they all think that there -- if you look in the affirmative action case, there were four opinions on the side of the majority.

The chief justice's, okay, that's a big deal, and then three other conservatives, if I'm remembering this right, also had concurring opinions in which they wanted to tell the world what they thought and two of them spoke from the bench, I think.

It has been a long day and a long week.

BERMAN: No, no. It has been a very long day. Look, it has been a historic day and a historic week with a lot going on.

You know, you told Anderson back in April that these justices "don't particularly get along very well at the moment" and that is that showing. Well, how exactly is it showing and do you still feel that way?

TOTENBERG: I still feel that way, but I think the court is very much missing two people at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum who were friends, real friends, genuine friends and that is Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And Justice Scalia had without a doubt, of anybody I've ever known, the best sense of humor and could tell a joke or make a funny remark better than anybody else.

And by doing that he was able often to defuse situations, so that even in the worst days, like when the court upheld rule for gay marriage, I think it was a day or two later, the people who had disagreed were having dinner together.

That doesn't -- I think, that is not the situation in this court and Justice Ginsburg was very much a sort of suck it up and get it done person, and I'm not sure that there is that sense of we need to, as a group, get it done. I think the Chief Justice certainly feels that, but he can't seem to make it happen.

BERMAN: Well, that's why I was asking if he was just wish casting with his statement in that opinion today. So what happens this summer? I mean, is there like a Supreme Court barbecue? Does everyone gather at --

TOTENBERG: No, they are all fleeing, if they haven't fled already.


I mean, most of them are leaving town to teach courses in Europe, to see family and friends, to give speeches and be professors, you know, and teach students as I said, but they do it in the most lovely of places, and some of them will actually have a real vacation, which they genuinely need.

BERMAN: But is there any effort amongst them to get together to sort of -- you know, we do retreats -- corporate retreats, or people at companies do, trust falls and the like, is there any effort to soothe some of these tensions?

TOTENBERG : Look, they meet every week for a conference. They have lunch together. I don't know how often they have lunch together anymore. I just think that that's not going to happen.

BERMAN: Nina Totenberg, great to see you tonight. Thank you so much for all your hard work, especially this week.

TOTENBERG : Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up, a secret report on a decade's long history of ignoring or covering up allegations of sexual abuse at the US Coast Guard Academy that Congress never saw until CNN started making inquiries.

We have an exclusive report next.


BERMAN: On its website, the US Coast Guard Academy promises to develop officers with "character." Its mission in part, to graduate young men and women with a "high sense of honor."

But the results of a secret investigation into alleged sexual abuse at the Academy exclusively obtained by CNN reveal a decade's long history of ignoring or covering up accusations of rape, assaults, and other serious misconduct.

What's more, the Coast Guard kept this report secret for nearly four years and only came clean to Congress this month after inquiries by Pamela Brown. She has more.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The multi-year investigation was called Operation Fouled Anchor, and uncovered history of rapes and assaults at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that were ignored or even covered up by high ranking officials.

But Coast Guard officials have kept the investigation secret since 2019 and never released the report. Only approaching Congress this month after CNN asked about it. During the investigation, the Coast Guard found evidence of dozens of cases of sexual assault, even though they only looked into a specific timeframe from the late 80s to 2006, overlooking many years when other assaults had been reported.

A report on the investigation found suspected attackers were not criminally investigated. Punishments if they happened, were sometimes as minor as extra homework. Victims sometimes face punishment for fraternization or lewd acts.

Many suspects went on to have successful military careers while victims were sometimes kicked out of the academy. For those who stayed, it could be just as difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sexually assaulted three times. It was completely toxic and devastating to my sense of self and left lifelong damages to my physical, mental health.

BROWN (voice-over): This young woman is a recent cadet. She graduated in 2022 and says the Coast Guard culture has not changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Coast Guard Academy employs reinforces and cultivates a system that that thrives on the trauma and pain of women and minorities. It's designed for their failure.

BROWN (voice-over): The Coast Guard secret investigation revealed that female cadets describe survival tactics they had to use while at the academy. They would rig their doors to make it hard to get in prop rifles against the door, or utilize a trash can.

And that cadets were hesitant to report for a fear that as female cadets, they wouldn't be taken seriously. One woman described a fraternity of male cadets that hated women and didn't think women should be in the Coast Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You realize that if you say something, you are blacklisted because now you're the girl who cried wolf.

BROWN (on-camera): Even if it really happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if it really happened.

BROWN (on-camera): It sounds like from what you've described, the survivors are the ones who are punished and those accused of sexual assault go on to to thrive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. When cadets get in trouble, there is this intense shame, this group shaming.

BROWN (voice-over): The Coast Guard did investigate one of this victim's assault, but told her they didn't find enough evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was 17, I needed my mom, I needed so many to stand up for me in those moments and it just -- it broke me.

BROWN (voice-over): Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Tammy Baldwin sent a letter Friday to the head of the Coast Guard that called the information, quote, "disturbing" and demanded answers. They committed to pursuing full accountability for perpetrators and investing in meaningful support for survivors.


BERMAN: And I'm joined now by CNN Anchor and Chief Investigative Correspondent Pamela Brown. Pam, what does the Coast Guard have to say about all this?

BROWN: Well, John, after CNN's report was first published this morning, the Coast Guard sent us a statement apologizing about the mistakes made in the fouled anchor investigation. Saying that, "The Coast Guard fully recognizes that by not having taken appropriate action at the time of the sexual assaults, the Coast Guard may have further traumatized the victims, delayed access to their care and recovery, and prevented some cases from being referred to the military justice system for appropriate accountability. The Coast Guard owns this failure and apologizes to each of the victims and their loved ones".

And I will tell you, our colleagues on the investigative team, Blake Ellis, Melanie Hicken, Audrey Ash, were going to stay on this story as it unfolds. John?

BERMAN: Getting answers because of the questions that you and your team are asking.

Pamela Brown, great to have you. Thank you so much.

BROWN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Just ahead, according to Ukrainian military intelligence, Russia's secretive FSB is plotting to kill Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Mercenary Wagner Group, who led a short-lived rebellion in Russia last week. So where is he?



BERMAN: Even the White House says it does not know the current whereabouts of the man who led last week's short-lived rebellion in Russia. And Ukraine's, military intelligence chief says that Russia's FSB, the successor agency to the KGB is plotting to kill Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Quoting him now from an interview, quote, "We are aware that the FSB was charged with the task to assassinate him. Will they be successful in doing that? We'll see with time".

We're joined now by CNN National Security Analyst, Steve Hall, a former CIA Chief of Russia Operations. Steve, I mean, how likely is it that the FSB knows exactly where Prigozhin is? And if they wanted to kill him, how hard would it be for them to do it?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I would say that this analytical statement by the Ukrainian military intelligence is not a huge stretch. It's not a particularly bad analytical position. If I were a betting man, I think Prigozhin's in some significant trouble, you know, threats (ph) from the FSB to begin with.

You know, the FSB is extremely good. They'll be able to find him. They know how to kill people. We've seen that many times before. For me, the big question is, why now? I mean, this -- if they were going to kill him, the time to have done it would have been before he caused all of the difficulties that he has caused.

And, of course, the FSB is the -- are the ones who are responsible. It's the organization that is responsible for informing the president, in this case Putin, and those close to him that something is a mess. And either they did that and he ignored it, unlikely, or they failed to see it. And so, you know, yes, it's kind of obvious now that they would want to get rid of him, but why not two, three weeks ago they would have saved themselves. A lot of trouble had they done it then.

BERMAN: What's keeping Prigozhin alive? If he is still alive, we haven't seen the guy.

HALL: Yes, this is another thing is, is that we just don't know, you know, what's going to -- there's so little information right now, and of course, this is what the Russian -- one of the things the Russians are really good at is putting question marks above these guys.


So, Prigozhin, you know, the rumor is everybody's saying that he's, you know, happy and healthy. Maybe not so happy, but he's in Belarus someplace. Thanks to the intervention of President Lukashenko.

We haven't seen Surovikin either, another guy who, there's a lot of question marks over. In a sense, though, this plays into what I think the Kremlin is trying to do, which is, you know, if they do the expected, if they go ahead and kill these guys, then everybody's like, OK, well, that's predictable, and now that's over, and we're past that.

By keeping some questions out there, I think it keeps people that Putin is still unsure about on edge, and perhaps they will make a mistake, which will then put them on the list to be gotten rid of as well. So there's some housekeeping that needs to be done.

BERMAN: Yes. I was just going to ask about keeping his internal house in order. Who are the people that Putin is most concerned about now?

HALL: It's hard to say because of the nature of how difficult it is to predict what's going on inside the Kremlin. I think we all probably remember the days when, you know, we were looking at how many guys were on top of Lenin's tomb and people who were marching by, and that gave us an idea as to what was going on.

It's still very, very hard to know what's going on inside the Kremlin. But, obviously, the people who have the most power and who are closest to Putin are the ones who, ironically, are not only the ones who would be called upon to take care of problems, but also the ones who pose the greatest danger.

So the head of the FSB, the head of the other security services, even the senior military guys, I think, are at risk. And, yes, he's got to do something, whether Putin does, whether or not it's a Stalin-like purge of everybody, or whether it's something more modulated than that, we'll just have to see.

BERMAN: It is fascinating how history sometimes seems to repeat itself. Steve Hall, great to have you here. I suspect we'll be talking soon about some of this. HALL: Thanks. I bet so.

BERMAN: Now to two stories of rebellion inside Russia, the short-lived insurrection we were discussing, and a voice of protest whose story we brought you earlier this year. The reporting tonight from CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two Russians in exile, one, a student with a rebellious tattoo.


BELL (voice-over): The other, an insurrectionist warlord. Only one of them is on the run on terrorism charges.

Meet 20 year old Olesya Krivtsova. Her alleged crime, an antiwar social media post last year that led to a conviction and her escape to Europe. Now in Norway, as she looks for work, she was glued to the images coming out of Russia over the weekend.

OLESYA KRIVTSOVA, EXILED RUSSIAN STUDENT (through translator): I watched it nonstop. I followed this justice march all day. I wondered how it would end. And I really wanted to see in person how Prigozhin was taken to the pretrial detention center.

BELL (voice-over): Pretrial detention centers are well known to Olesya, but that's not where Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin ended up, heading instead to Belarus, where Putin ally, Alexander Lukashenko offered him refuge.

ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUS PRESIDENT (through translator): I also realized there was a harsh decision taken to destroy. I suggested Putin not to hurry. Let's talk with Prigozhin with his commanders.

BELL (voice-over): No such help for Olesya as she fled Russia, prizing off her own electronic bracelet on the way to the border.

CNN first brought you her story earlier this year. She'd just arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, after fleeing her home in northern Russia. Taking very little but a reminder of the cost of her freedom. The reason she was made an example of, she says, is there are many ordinary Russians like her.

KRIVTSOVA (through translator): Every day we see the people are put in jail for the post on the Internet. But a person who is guilty of killing 20 people, 14 people according to the official version, and they tell him, you can go to Belarus. Every time I think about it, I get angry.

BELL (voice-over): But there is only one Prigozhin, even if Vladimir Putin never named him as he addressed the failed insurrection.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): What we are facing now is treason, unreasonable ambitions and personal interests led to treachery, state treason, and betrayal of one's own people.

BELL (voice-over): The man behind an insurrection facing no charges at all.

KRIVTSOVA (through translator): There is no law and no justice in Russia. It's just all one big act of insanity and hatred.

BELL (voice-over): Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BERMAN: Coming up, an unsettling scene in Southern California. What is happening to hundreds of sea lions and other marine life there? We'll take you along on the rescue missions and reveal the likely culprit. That's next.



BERMAN: This 4th of July weekend, beachgoers in Southern California are being warned about sick and dying sea lions and dolphins. For weeks now, at times there have been as many as 60 reports an hour of sea animals in danger.

CNN's David Culver went out with the marine rescue team and explained what's likely behind the deadly threat.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 08:00 a.m. and they're already playing catch up. These marine wildlife rescuers inundated with calls for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two animals, one sicker than the other one. One's way up the beach and there's one by the tideline.

ADAM FOX, MARINE MAMMAL CARE CENTER RESCUE WORKER: The beach itself over here has been narrowing, so it's a little dicey sometimes.

CULVER (voice-over): We go along with wildlife rescuer Adam Fox. He's been saving sea lions for nearly 15 years. What he's seen on Southern California beaches since late May is unprecedented.

FOX: Is there anyone there that potentially assist us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lifeguard there.

FOX: OK, great. Thank you.

CULVER (voice-over): As we get closer, we spot one of the sea lions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like she's having a seizure right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we'll do is just be very gentle with her, get those flipper pits in, and I'm going to flip her to you. Three, two, one.


CULVER (on-camera): They obviously were able to rescue one, but you can see behind us another one that didn't survive. I mean, it's just heartbreaking seeing this.

(voice-over): The cause sits just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean. Out here, scientists say a massive bloom of toxic algae is growing, stretching some 200 miles from Santa Barbara south to San Diego, and forecast it to get worse.

JOHN WARNER, CEO, MARINE MAMMAL CARE CENTER: The ocean temperature is projected to be its warmest over the next five years. That's the recipe for these blooms to become more intense.

CULVER (voice-over): Smaller sea creatures feed on the toxic algae. They, in turn, are eaten by larger mammals like dolphins and sea lions. These algal blooms have happened before, but this year, scientists warn that the concentration of toxins in this bloom, forecasted in red, is leading to potentially record deaths of marine life.

(on-camera): Experts liken this to waves of a tsunami washing over local beaches, with even more sea lions and dolphins showing symptoms.

(voice-over): The dolphins lifeless once they hit the shore. The sea lions beached and suffering from seizures and paralysis.

WARNER: People who have called in because they've seen animals out on the beach and they've described it as the ocean, sort of coughing up death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to report a sea lion seems to be foaming at the mouth and looks like it's in some distress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one's really, really on his way out. His eyes are closed and it just shallow breathing. That's so sad.

CULVER (voice-over): All of it weighs on rescuers like Adam.

FOX: Sorry. I just know from working in the colonies how incredible the animals are. So they deserve respect.

CULVER (voice-over): Respect, this team shows through care, unloading the seizing sea lion for Dr. Lauren Palmer to begin treatment. Dr. Palmer's not had a day off in months. Her desperate patients keeping her busy.

DR. LAUREN PALMER, MARINE MAMMAL CARE CENTER: Big breath. She seems a little bit more comfortable.

CULVER (voice-over): There's no guaranteed cure. The meds and fluids can help flush the toxins out. But if the toxins take hold, the brain damage is irreversible, causing erratic and aggressive behavior, including towards people who get too close. Off to the side, we notice this pup fighting for survival. Desperate for milk and nurturing that only his mother can provide. She's sedated as her body fights off the toxins.

PALMER: She might deliver a healthy life pup, but doesn't nurse, doesn't lactate, doesn't pay attention to it.

CULVER (voice-over): The Marine Mammal Care Center had 40 sea lions this time last year. Today, they're caring for three times that number.

WARNER: We ordered fish for the whole year based upon what we would normally see it and have gone through the entire 150,000 pounds this month.

CULVER (voice-over): So overwhelming, they've had to accommodate overflow in the parking lot.

WARNER: And that's put strains on our personnel. We have one veterinarian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it only going to get worse?

PALMER: They used to call it an unusual mortality event. And, unfortunately, they're frequent enough now that they no longer call them unusual because they're not.

CULVER (voice-over): Relentless and expected to intensify. Possibly devastating generations of sea lions like this pup, just seven days old. He may not make it.


CULVER: Normally, John, in a story like this, we'd want to show you the release of the healthy rehabilitated sea lions. The problem is, not only is that toxic algal bloom still out there, but it's also growing. And so folks who are treating those sea lions can't yet release them, at risk of them being reinfected as soon as they're back out into the ocean. And so that further complicates this situation and really overwhelms those efforts to take care of those animals. John?

BERMAN: David, what a story. It really is so sad. Thank you.

Next, a welcome change of pace. Our Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten on Apple. Now a $3 trillion company. That's trillion with a T. And the $64,000 question, how well would you have done if you had bought shares in it years ago? That, and how Apple's wealth stacks up against some pretty good sized countries.



BERMAN: Apple has made Wall Street history. Apple stock ended trading today at a record market value of $3 trillion, the only company to ever reach that mark. Our Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten joins us now with more. So, Harry, if you were smart enough --


BERMAN: -- maybe lucky enough --


BERMAN: -- to invest in Apple, like 20 years ago --


BERMAN: -- how much would you have made?

ENTEN: You know, I have some tissues here that I'd like to use right now to wipe. Just so sad. If you had invested, say, $10,000 20 years ago, you know how much that be worth today?

BERMAN: How much?

ENTEN: $6.7 million.

BERMAN: No. Really?

ENTEN: Yes. Yes. This is so upsetting. You know, I -- my father asked me when I was young, you know, what stock did I want to invest in the late 90s? And I said Microsoft. I was so close. I was so close. I should have said Apple, even just a few dollars worth. Oh, my God.

You know, what is something like 67,000 percent? I mean, it's just unbelievable how much it's changed and how lucky those people were who invested it.

BERMAN: I feel like your take on it, though what I feel mostly is disappointment --


BERMAN: -- and failure --


BERMAN: -- in this case. All right, I mean, look, how many people have Apple devices? Ask the guy with two phones in his hands right now.

ENTEN: Yes, you know, I think this is the big reason why, you know, Apple stock has gone so high, right? It's the creation of the iPhone. You know, 20 years ago, 0 percent of Americans had an iPhone. You know what it's up to now of U.S. adults? It's nearly 50 percent. Look at it. It's 44 percent of Americans who now own an iPhone. It's just gone through the roof.

BERMAN: Harry Enten for the record, is not one of them. Talk to me exactly about how much $3 trillion is in 30 seconds or less. ENTEN: Yes. The GDP of some countries, right, that is less than $3 trillion, think of this, Canada is one. France is another one. Italy is another one where the GDP for 2022 was less. Get that, less than $3 trillion. So that is how much Apple is worth. It's worth more than countries are, John.

BERMAN: So Apple could be a permanent member on the National Security Council at the U.N. at least GDP.


BERMAN: We're indicative of that. Harry Enten, thank you for being with us so much. Great to see you tonight.

ENTEN: Nice to see you, sir.

BERMAN: One quick programming note, Anderson and his team are dedicating a special hour on the submersible underwater tragedy. The recovery effort in the dangers of deep sea exploration. The Whole Story airs Sunday night at 8:00, only on CNN.

The news continues. CNN Primetime with Kaitlan Collins starts now.