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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Biden Invokes Legacy of WW2 Heroes to Call on Americans to Protect Democracy; Former Trump Chief of Staff Pleads Not Guilty to Election Subversion Charges in Arizona; New Polls Show Trump Tying Or Leading Biden In VA, AZ, NV: Three States Biden Won In 2020; Scientists Still Encouraged By Promise Of Psychedelic Drugs As Therapeutics Despite FDA Advisers Voting Against First MDMA Therapy To Treat PTSD. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 07, 2024 - 20:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes. I think that's the thing. There are so many threats. They have to plan for everything. They have to be right to keep everyone safe and it is quite a tall order.

John Miller, thank you so much for taking us inside of that. It was really fascinating to see what they have underway there. Appreciate it.


KEILAR: Thank you so much for joining us tonight. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Erin Burnett and AC360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, two candidates, two worldviews and how increasingly the stark differences between them over core American principles truly are different from any other presidential race. Keeping them honest.

Also tonight, new figures detailing just how many millions of dollars in gifts Supreme Court justices have received over the years, and which serving justice raked in most of it.

Later, in the wake of an FDA panel rejecting the use of MDMA ecstasy to treat post-traumatic stress, my 60 MINUTES reporting on research into psychedelics in treating serious mental illness.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight, keeping them honest, with a matter of fact, not opinion, about the Democratic and Republican candidates for president. Whatever else you might think of them, and whoever you plan on voting for in November, President Biden and former President Trump see the world as differently, one from another, as any two modern day candidates have.

What's more, their differences are not trivial. They touched on decades of bipartisan consensus about the way American democracy and foreign policy works. And lately, the contrast between the two is increasingly on display from campaign rallies to courthouses to cable news, and today, a World War II monument to American Army Rangers who fought and died on D-Day 80 years ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We talk about democracy, American democracy, we often talk about the ideals of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. What we don't talk about is how hard it is. How many ways we're asked to walk away, how many instincts are to walk away. The most natural instinct is to walk away - to be selfish, to force our will upon others, to seize power, never give it up. American democracy asks the hardest of things - to believe that we're a part of something bigger than ourselves.


COOPER: President Biden today at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, saying what even a decade ago would neither have been especially remarkable nor freighted with the kind of meaning it carries now. The difference is context. Today, that perfectly unremarkable tribute to self- sacrifice landed hard on the heels of the former president, again suggesting in a clip that was released last night that the entire federal justice system be deployed to avenge one individual, himself.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, revenge does take time, I will say that.


TRUMP: And sometimes revenge can be justified, Phil, I have to be honest.

MCGRAW: No ...

TRUMP: Sometimes it can't.


COOPER: That was the answer to Phil McGraw's attempt to do what Sean Hannity also failed to do the night before, namely get Donald Trump to stop talking so openly about seeking revenge. It hasn't worked. And just yesterday, the former president also called for members of the House January 6th Committee to be indicted.

Reaction, it appears, to his former strategist, Steve Bannon, being ordered to prison for defying a lawful subpoena from that committee. The same Steve Bannon, who received a presidential pardon while being accused of bilking money from Trump supporters, claiming it would go to build a wall on the border during the final days of the Trump administration.

President Biden, by contrast, just reaffirmed a commitment not to pardon his only surviving son, Hunter, who's on trial on gun charges. In his tribute to the Army Rangers today, President Biden also invoked Vladimir Putin's aggression and NATO's joint response.


BIDEN: They stood against Hitler's aggression. Does anyone doubt that they would want America to stand up against Putin's aggression here in Europe today? They stormed the beaches alongside their allies. Does anyone believe these Rangers would want America to go it alone today?


COOPER: Well, for more than seven decades since the end of the Second World War, the bipartisan answer to whether the United States should go it alone in the world has always been no. And outside the fringes, Democratic and Republican support for NATO has been, if not a given, then certainly the vast consensus. So in that, nothing President Biden said today would even raise an eyebrow, except again, by contrast.


TRUMP: One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, "Well, sir, if we don't pay and were attacked by Russia, will you protect us?" I said, "You didn't pay? You're delinquent?" He said, "Yes." "Let's say that happened. No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want."


COOPER: A perspective now from Garrett Graff, his remarkable new book just out is "When the Sea Came Alive: An Oral History of D-Day." Also joining us, Amanda Carpenter, who served as communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz and is now editor of Protect Democracy, which describes itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit group working to prevent authoritarianism.


Garrett, let's start with you, and how do you think President Biden did trying to kind of capture the stakes of the allied D-Day invasion and the lessons that applies to today?

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "WHEN THE SEA CAME ALIVE: AN ORAL HISTORY OF D- DAY": Yes. I think you're absolutely right. The - part of what is so remarkable about today is how unremarkable President Biden's speech would have been in any other context. I mean, you could have almost switched his text with President Reagan's text in 1984, which was sort of the original Pointe du Hoc speech that raised D-Day from sort of history into legend about American democracy in the fight in World War II.

And the fact is, though, that I don't think at any major anniversary of D-Day, democracy has ever felt as fragile or as fraught as it does now, both home and abroad.

COOPER: Amanda, I mean, President Biden and former President Trump obviously have very different visions of America's engagement with the world. Why do you think Trump's message of isolationism resonates so with Republicans today, even as President Biden delivers, I mean, to Garrett's point, essentially the same message that, you know, Ronald Reagan delivered in Normandy?

AMANDA CARPENTER, EDITOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: I mean, this really starts with the disturbing trend in the American right of warming relations towards Russia. I mean, that is a huge part of this. And I just got to say, like, you know, watching Biden's speech, along with that, I watched a lot of videos of the heroes' welcome that our veterans received there from our American allies.

And events like this don't exist without strong American partnerships with those allies. And then my mind went towards, well, what does this look like if President Trump had won a second term? Of course, there would have been the anniversary. Of course, there would have been some kind of commemoration. But would there be NATO? Would there be Ukraine? Would there be President Zelenskyy?

Donald Trump is very clear about the direction that he wants to take the country. His closest advisers, I'm thinking of, his national security adviser, John Bolton said that he's very - became extremely close to walking away from NATO during the first term. And so, like, how do we keep the traditions alive if we have a leader that is willing to walk away from that?

Our veterans won't be received that way. Our allies in Ukraine, I mean, they may not even exist. I mean, that is - like Garrett was talking about, how perilous and threatened the stakes of this feel. And it's because it absolutely is real.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Garrett, does Trump's obsession with revenge, I mean, I guess, I don't know, think obsession, his sort of continued talking about revenge against his perceived opponents, have any comparison in presidential history, I mean, running as retribution?

GRAFF: Oh, absolutely not. I mean, we've - the rhetoric that we see from the president in the way that he wants to weaponize the Justice Department against his enemies, that sort of undermine the sort of basic legitimacy of the justice system, you know, use the courts against his political enemies is so far ...

COOPER: Which is so ...

GRAFF: ... outside of the American political tradition.

COOPER: Which is so interesting, which is why the Republicans are using all these terms about weaponization of the Justice Department against the former president, because that is exactly what the former president is talking about doing.

GRAFF: Yes. And I think it's sort of part of the challenge of Donald Trump, which is, you know, he views the whole world as corrupt as he views his own personal motives. And so he sort of assumes everyone else out there is as corrupt as he is. I mean, you look at what he has said about American veterans, you know, that sort of, you know, the losers who get killed in war, you know.

COOPER: What's in it for them (INAUDIBLE) ...

GRAFF: You know, what's in it for them? And, you know, what stands out in these Normandy celebrations is, you know, this is the last passing of the greatest generation. And, you know, this is a generation that fought and preserved Western democracy and freedom in World War II at huge personal cost to themselves. You know, the Rangers who scaled that hundred foot cliff at Pointe du Hoc on June 6, 1944.

You know, President Trump just can't imagine the mindset and the courage and sacrifice that would come with an action like that.

COOPER: Yes. And Amanda, you know, Georgia - former Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who's a staunch conservative, said last month that he's supporting Biden. He wrote an op-ed and he said, quote, "Unlike Trump, I've belonged to the GOP my entire life. This November, I'm voting for a decent person I disagree with on policy over a criminal defendant without a moral compass."

Why is that rationale so unappealing to so many Republicans? Because for so long, moral character, we heard that from evangelicals, we heard that from Republicans.


I mean, that was supposedly the guidepost.

CARPENTER: Yes. I mean, listen, the partisanship divides in our country run deep and they strike at the core identity of Republican voters. It is very hard for people to cross that barrier and say I am going to vote for a Democratic president. What I think the key is probably this election is find a way for Republicans to preserve that Republican identity and find a way to get there. And I think there's a lot of issues where, you know, people like Geoff Duncan talking about issues of morality can say this goes outside partisanship.

I mean, right now we're talking about the rise of the authoritarian American right in the context of World War II. I was really happy to see an op-ed written by Senate or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday in The New York Times talking about, quote, "Some vocal corners of the American right are trying to resurrect the discredited brand of pre-war isolationism and deny the basic value of the alliance system that has kept the pre-war peace."

I mean, those are pretty strong words from Mitch McConnell and trying to put distance between this isolationist, authoritarian fringe of the party and saying this is outside of tradition. This does not keep America safe. And so I think it's, again, extremely hard for people to say I'm giving up on the Republican Party. But you see a lot of opportunities for agreement when it comes to moral issues and protecting the Western alliance.

COOPER: And yet Sen. McConnell has said he is supporting the former president.

Amanda Carpenter, thank you. Garrett Graff as well, thank you.

And now an update on Mark Meadows, who served as the former president's chief of staff on January 6th. What he did in that capacity has now landed him in court again. First, it was in Georgia, along with the former president. Today in Arizona, where he's charged with conspiring to overturn 2020 Election results.

His old boss is described in this new indictment as Unindicted Coconspirator 1, a former president of the United States who spread false claims of election fraud following the 2020 Election. More from CNN's Nick Watt.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, could you state your name, please?



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A virtual appearance in an Arizona court this morning facing nine felony counts of conspiracy, forgery and fraudulent schemes because prosecutors say Meadows schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency. How did he go from this chief of staff to the most powerful man on earth to this?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you fail to appear for court without good cause, a warrant could issue for your arrest.


WATT (voice over): He's indicted, along with other Trump acolytes, including Rudy Giuliani, lawyers John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Christina Bobb, as well as advisers Boris Epshteyn and Michael Roman. Also, Arizona's 11 so-called fake electors. State lawmakers and Republican operatives who gathered in Phoenix December 14th 2020, pledging ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For President Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida.


WATT (voice over): But Joe Biden had won the state, thus winning their state's 11 electoral votes. They also sent the fake pro-Trump electoral certificates to Washington.

Those fake electors hoped, prosecutors say, to encourage Vice President Mike Pence not to certify Biden's victory on January 6th 2021. According to the indictment, Meadows worked with members of the Trump campaign to coordinate and implement the false Republican electors votes in Arizona and six other states and was involved in the many efforts to keep Unindicted Coconspirator 1 in power despite his defeat at the polls.

Unindicted Coconspirator 1 is, of course, Donald Trump, and that broad fake elector scheme plays a significant part in the federal indictment filed against him over the January 6th capital insurrection.

The Arizona election was tight. Biden won by just about 10,000 votes. Trump's supporters filed numerous lawsuits that all came to naught and later mounted an exhaustive audit of the Maricopa County vote that found no significant fraud.

Then in 2023, a Democratic state attorney general took office in Arizona.


KRIS MAYES, ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will not allow American democracy to be undermined. It's too important.


WATT (voice over): Kris Mayes succeeded a Republican who investigated the unfounded allegations that fraud had benefited Biden, but not the fake electors. The Mayes' office investigation led to a grand jury indicting Meadows et al in April, and today, confirmation that Meadows will fight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Counsel, do you have a reading?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Your Honor, we do and enter a plea of not guilty.




WATT (on camera): And Rudy Giuliani also indicted over here in Arizona. He's proved a pretty tricky customer. It took Arizona officials about three weeks to track him down to serve him with the summons. Eventually, they tracked him on his live streams and served him as he was coming out of his 80th birthday party in Palm Beach, Florida.

Then when it came time for his hearing, Giuliani called in about an hour late, called the process a complete embarrassment to the American legal system, said it's a completely political case. The judge actually threatened to mute Giuliani.

Now, unlike the other 17 indicted people in this case, Giuliani has been asked to post a bond. He was given 30 days to actually go physically to Arizona for processing and to post that $10,000 bond. He hasn't showed up so far, and he's got 12 or 13 days left before he will miss that deadline.

COOPER: Nick Watt, thanks very much.

WATT: Of course, he might actually go, but anyway.

COOPER: We'll see. Nick, thank you.

Next, following the money in the form of millions of dollars of gifts and fancy trips given to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, we'll get reaction from a former federal judge about the highest court in the land where the standard rules on ethics just don't apply.

Also tonight, new polling from key battleground states in New York Times columnist Frank Bruni on Democrats who he believes have their head in the sand about them.



COOPER: New financial disclosures from the Supreme Court today and new questions for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. As you know, he's already facing criticism for not recusing himself from the former president's January 6th immunity appeal, despite his wife's connection to the effort to overturn the 2020 Election.

Today, he submitted a revised disclosure filing revealing additional luxury travel to Indonesia and to Bohemian Grove, a secretive VIP retreat in the California Woods, all paid for by conservative billionaire friend Harlan Crow. Reporting from ProPublica first revealed some of the gifts that he got, and all of this coming on the heels of a report from a watchdog group, Fix the Court, identifying Justice Thomas as by far the biggest gift recipient on the court to the tune of more than $4 million worth over the last 20 years.

Joining us is former Obama White House ethics czar Norm Eisen and former federal judge Nancy Gertner.

So Judge Gertner, you've been critical of Justice Thomas. What do you make of him just now officially disclosing those trips paid for by Harlan Crow? I mean, does that make the situation any better?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: It's too little - well, it makes it somewhat better, but it's still too little too late. I mean, here I have to sort of pause. Federal judges have a decent salary and you're not supposed to accept gifts without disclosing - without their being disclosed so that people know who are supporting you, know who's funding you, so he did disclose that.

But the larger picture is still disturbing. Judges, for example, could not accept speaking fees. I traveled around the world and I would give speeches for free. And you are not supposed to accept honorarium. There was an effort to change that in 2000, and it was actually called the "Keep Scalia on the Bench" bill by some lawmakers. And it was defeated because people didn't want judges to get money from private sources that would then cast doubt on their impartiality.

So essentially, what Thomas has done is effectively bypassed, done an end run around that so that he could get these lavish trips that really is so outstrips every other justice, so outstrips every other judge. Essentially, that's what kept him on the bench. He could then have a lifestyle that was supported by others.

And who the others are is an open question and their impact on him is an open question. But it's a complete end run around all of the rules.

COOPER: And Norm, we should point out, Justice Thomas, you know, he's big on talking about how he just loves to travel around in his RV and stay in, you know, trailer parks. That's clearly not, you know, what he's been doing in Bohemian Grove and in Bali and all these places paid for by others.

Norm, I mean, Justice Alito, who's obviously been criticized for failing to disclose luxury travel paid for by a billionaire with interest before the court, told The Wall Street Journal last year that Congress has no power to impose new ethics or disclosure rules on the court.

He said, quote, "I know this is a controversial view, but I'm willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court, period," end quote. Is he right?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's wrong, Anderson. It's contrary to the fundamental American idea that our nation was founded on. We didn't want certain individuals like King George III, who we overthrew to be above the law. Judges are subject to checks and balances and to federal law like anybody else. No wonder the Supreme Court is in an ethics crisis. The combination of these enormous amounts of luxury travel by Justice Thomas, also involving Justice Alito, the second largest recipient of gifts over that same period of time.

And their spouses' conduct that raises questions about their ability to sit on cases, they should have recused from those cases. When I was the ethics czar in the White House, I wouldn't allow, even if the rules permitted it, I wouldn't allow White House staff to take these kinds of luxury vacations because of the appearance it creates of exploiting official action. The givers of these gifts have ideological or business issues before the court. It's absolutely outrageous and unacceptable, and Justice Alito is not above the law.

COOPER: Judge Gertner, as we mentioned, the Supreme Court watchdog group Fix the Court, they released an estimate of the number of gifts justices have received, their total value over the last two decades. According to the group's data, of the nearly $5 million in gifts that justices have received, more than $4 million of it went to Justice Thomas. That's incredible.


GERTNER: Well, that's what I'm saying. He - the judicial pay is regulated. Judicial conduct is regulated. This is a completely unregulated, you know, supporting of this justice, which up until recently, he kept out of public view, but I'm more concerned even just about the fact of it. Happy that he disclosed it, but the fact of it is really, in my view, in violation of the laws.

By the way, the law's already on the book. Justice Alito is simply wrong. The disclosure laws are legislation. The bar on honorarium is legislation. Congress could regulate. They're just choosing not to.

COOPER: Judge Gertner and Norm Eisen, thank you.

Still to come, new polls suggest that a convicted felon does have a significant shot at winning back the White House. I'll talk with The New York Times' Frank Bruni, whose latest column criticizes Democrats who think it can't happen.



COOPER: New polls from Fox News conducted in the days after the former president was found guilty in this federal hush money trial show him leading or tying President Biden in key battleground states, including three won by Biden in 2020. Most conspicuously, Biden and Trump are both at 48 percent in Virginia, which Biden won by 10 points back in 2020.

In Arizona, which Biden narrowly won, he's trailing 46 percent to the former president's, 51 percent. And in Nevada, another close wind by Biden. He trails a similar 45 percent to the former president's 50 percent. Both leads are within the margin of error.

The former president's appeal to voters, despite obvious questions about his character, is the subject of this recent column by the New York Times' Frank Bruni. He writes, "I'm routinely gobsmacked by how many people, including influential Democrats, tell me that they can't imagine a victory by Donald Trump in November. I'm even more astounded by their reasoning."

Frank Bruni joins us now. What is their reasoning that they can't imagine this?

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: They can't imagine it because basically they think Trump is so awful, right?


BRUNI: I mean --

COOPER: I feel like I've heard that argument before --

BRUNI: I think I heard it in 2016, didn't you?


BRUNI: I mean, that's the thing, I mean, you could call this idealism or you could call it amnesia, right? People seem to know, granted, Trump has been saying things that I think are even more awful if you can quantify or qualify these things. You know, I mean, the vermin, the poisoning, the bloodstream.

I mean, now he's kind of threatening essentially here is proxies are threatening to jail. You know, his political opponents. He is worse by degrees. But this notion of people that when all is said and done, when the chips are down, when the weight of the decision hits them, Americans are not going to --

COOPER: When it's a binary choice --

BRUNI: Right, right.

COOPER: -- written on, you know, on a screen --

BRUNI: Yes, they're not going to be able to, you know, metaphorically pull the lever for Trump. I think that is dangerous complacency to think that.

COOPER: Yes. There's no evidence that, I mean, that is not proven to be the case. I mean, people look at, you know, well, Biden won back in, you know, 2020. He won -- it was incredibly narrow in the states that matter in the Electoral College.


COOPER: We're talking about, you know, tens of thousands of votes.

BRUNI: If you took a certain cluster of states, there were about 45,000 votes that if they'd gone a different way, would have made it a tie in the Electoral College. Even though Biden won by about 7 million votes in the popular count --

COOPER: Right.

BRUNI: -- which, of course, doesn't matter. But also remember in 2020, we were mid pandemic, right? I think that really hurt Trump. In 2020, Biden was the candidate of change because Trump was the status quo now.

COOPER: Right.

BRUNI: Now, weirdly, because he's been president, Trump is the candidate for change.

COOPER: That's interesting.


COOPER: You wrote that in the article and it did, you know, I started thinking about that a lot. It does to many people feel like Trump is the new person on the scene and there's sort of an amnesia about some of the, you know, the mishigas that went on.

BRUNI: Yes, no, I mean, he had his four years and how much did your life really change, right? But if you want to turn the page, Biden is the page, right? And that's a big problem for him. Also, if you are, and so many Democrats are, and I understand, and so many independents, and so many never Trump Republicans, if you are attuned to the awfulness of Donald Trump, and I find him quite awful, it's easy to forget what a deeply unpopular President Joe Biden is.

His approval ratings are awful. It's easy to turn away from the fact that he's 81 years old and he wears those years not particularly well. That, to me, shouldn't matter nearly as much as his values, as his policy prescriptions, as that sort of thing. But for a lot of voters, it's really unsettling to vote for someone who seems sometimes as unsteady to them as Biden does.

COOPER: There's also obviously, you know, there's the war in -- the Israel-Hamas war. You hear from a lot of Democratic voters or younger voters talk about, well, maybe sitting it out or a third party candidate.

BRUNI: When people talk about sitting it out, does that drive you as crazy as it drives me?

COOPER: I don't understand the logic of it. I mean, just from a rational, logical standpoint, I don't understand.

BRUNI: You have to have a preference. I mean, and in this case, I would say to them, listen to these two men very carefully. Listen to what they said today. You were just talking about this earlier in the show.

Listen to them, think about their values, ask yourself who is going to be a better steward of American democracy despite his faults. You know, and then tell me whether you really want to sit it out or not.

COOPER: It is -- do you think -- you know, that was the other argument, I think there were many Democrats who were kind of thinking, OK, well, some of these court cases are going to come and obviously now it's clear there's not going to be any other court case.

BRUNI: No other court cases. And I think Donald Trump is one of the luckiest men alive. I mean, he caught such a lucky break of all of the cases of all four of the cases. This was the offense that seemed the most minor. This is the one that it is easiest for his allies and enablers to argue didn't need to be prosecuted.

And so, I mean, I wrote this right after the verdict. I don't think these 34 felony counts are going to change much --

COOPER: And I'm also --

BRUNI: -- if it is not fluff (ph) into your world.

COOPER: I'm also not sure it's a lucky break. He has been afforded due process as any criminal -- as much as any criminal defendant ever has and has used that very effectively through his counsel --

BRUNI: That's -- yes.

COOPER: -- I mean, and had judges, he's had some luck with judges. But Frank Bruni, thank you so much. Appreciate it. BRUNI: Thank you.


COOPER: Just ahead, an FDA advisory committee voted overwhelmingly against the use of drug ecstasy or MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress. We'll tell you why and explore how some researchers are hoping psychedelic drugs might help improve mental health.


COOPER: This week, an FDA advisory committee voted overwhelmingly against the use of a drug called MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The FDA has final say whether the treatment will be approved, but the vote is a big setback.

One member of the committee who voted against approving MDMA said he believes it's premature at this moment to authorize the drug, but also said, quote, "I think this is a really exciting treatment. I'm really encouraged by the results to date." There are a number of studies being done on potentially exciting treatments for mental health issues.


Several years ago, I reported for CBS's 60 Minutes on studies being done with psychedelics, in particular psilocybin, a powerful mind altering substance that may have potential in the treatment of depression, anxiety, even addiction. We want to show you that 60 Minutes report now, and we should note that one of the researchers in it, Roland Griffiths, died in October at the age of 77 after a diagnosis of colon cancer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People ask me, you want to do it again? I said, hell no. I don't want to do that again.

COOPER: It was really that bad?

CARINE MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, it was awful. The entire time, other than the very end and the very beginning, I was crying.

COOPER (voice-over): Carine McLaughlin is talking about the hallucinogenic experience she had here at Johns Hopkins University after being given a large dose of psilocybin. The psychedelic agent in magic mushrooms as part of an ongoing clinical trial.

ROLAND GRIFFITHS: We tell people that their experiences may vary from very positive to transcendent and lovely to literally hell realm experiences.

COOPER: Hell realm?

GRIFFITHS: As frightening an experience as you have ever had in your life. COOPER (voice-over): That's scientist Roland Griffiths. For nearly two decades now, he and his colleague Matthew Johnson have been giving what they call "heroic doses" of psilocybin to more than 350 volunteers, many struggling with addiction, depression and anxiety.

COOPER: Can you tell who is going to have a bad experience? Who's going to have a transcendent experience?

GRIFFITHS: Our ability to predict that is almost none at all.

COOPER: Really.

MATTHEW JOHNSON: And about a third will -- at our -- at a high dose say that they have something like that, what folks would call a bad trip. But most of those folks will actually say that that was key to the experience.

COOPER (voice-over): Carine McLaughlin was a smoker for 46 years and said she tried everything to quit before being given psilocybin at Johns Hopkins last year. Psilocybin itself is non-addictive.

COOPER: Do you remember what, like specifically what you were seeing or?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. The ceiling of this room were clouds, like, heavy rain clouds and gradually they were lowering. And I thought I was going to suffocate from the clouds.

COOPER (voice-over): That was more than a year ago. She says she hasn't smoked since. The study she took part in is still ongoing, but in an earlier small study of just 15 long term smokers, 80 percent had quit six months after taking psilocybin. That's double the rate of any over the counter smoking secession product.

GRIFFITHS: They've come to a profound shift of worldview, essentially a shift in sense of self that I think --

COOPER: They see their life in a different way?

GRIFFITHS: Their world view changes and they are less identified with that self-narrative. People might use the term ego and that creates this sense of freedom.

COOPER (voice-over): And not just with smokers.

JON KOSTAKOPOULOS: Beer, usually, cocktails, usually, vodka, sodas, tequila sodas, scotch and sodas.

COOPER (voice-over): Jon Kostakopoulos was drinking a staggering 20 cocktails a night and had been warned he was slowly killing himself when he decided to enroll in another psilocybin trial at New York University. During one psilocybin session, he was flooded with powerful feelings and images from his past.

KOSTAKOPOULOS: Stuff would come up that I haven't thought of since they happened. COOPER: So old memories that you hadn't even remembered came back to you?

KOSTAKOPOULOS: I felt, you know, a lot of shame and embarrassment throughout one of the sessions about my drinking and how bad I felt for my parents to put up with all of this.

COOPER (voice-over): He took psilocybin in 2016. He says he hasn't had a drink since.

COOPER: Do you ever have a day where you wake up and you're like, man, I wish I could have a vodka right now, or a beer?


COOPER: Not at all?

KOSTAKOPOULOS: Not at all. Which is the craziest thing, because that was my favorite thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to lie back, put the eye shade on, and the headphones, and let the music carry you now.

COOPER (voice-over): Using psychedelic drugs in therapy is not new. There were hundreds of scientific studies done on a similar compound, LSD, in the 1950s and 60s. It was tested on more than 40, 000 people, some in controlled therapeutic settings like this one. But there were also abuses. The U.S. military and CIA experimented with LSD sometimes without patient's knowledge.

Fear over rampant drug use and the spread of the counterculture movement, not to mention Harvard professor Timothy Leary urging people to turn on, tune in, and drop out, led to a clamp down.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This nation faces a major crisis in terms of the increasing use of drugs, particularly among our young people.

COOPER (voice-over): In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, and nearly all scientific research in the U.S. into the effects of psychedelics on people stopped. It wasn't until 2000 that scientist Roland Griffiths won FDA approval to study psilocybin.


GRIFFITHS: This whole area of research has been in the deep freeze for 25 or 30 years. And so as a scientist, sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle.

COOPER: And once you saw results --

GRIFFITHS: Yes, the red light started flashing. This is extraordinarily interesting. It's unprecedented. And the capacity of the human organism to change. It just was astounding.

COOPER: It sounds like you are endorsing this for everybody.

GRIFFITHS: Yes, let's be really clear on that. We are very aware of the risks and would not recommend that people simply go out and do this.

COOPER (voice-over): Griffiths and Johnson screen out people with psychotic disorders or with close relatives who have had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Study volunteers at Johns Hopkins are given weeks of intensive counseling before and after the six-hour psilocybin experience.

The psilocybin is given in a carefully controlled setting one to three times. To date, they say, there's not been a single serious adverse outcome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I'm going to tuck you in.

COOPER (voice-over): We were told we couldn't record anyone participating in the study while they were on psilocybin because it might impact their experience. But we were shown how it begins without the psilocybin.



COOPER (voice-over): You lay on a couch with a blindfold to shut out distractions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put the headphones on.

COOPER (voice-over): And headphones playing a mix of choral and classical music. A psychedelic soundtrack with a trained guide, Mary Cosimano, watching over you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so give me your hand. So I'm going to take your hand.

COOPER (voice-over): Everything is done the same way it was for the LSD experiments scientists conducted in the 1950s and 60s. Some of the most dramatic results have been with terminal cancer patients struggling with anxiety and paralyzing depression.

KERRY PAPPAS: I start seeing the colors and the geometric designs and it's like oh this is so cool and how lovely and then boom. Visions began.

COOPER (voice-over): Kerry Pappas was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in 2013. During her psilocybin session, she found herself trapped in a nightmare her mind created.

PAPPAS: An ancient, prehistoric, barren land. And there's these men with pickaxes, just slamming on the rocks. So --

COOPER: And this felt absolutely real to you? PAPPAS: Absolutely real. I was being shown the truth of reality. Life is meaningless. We have no purpose. And then I look and I'm still like a witness, a beautiful, shimmering, bright jewel. And then it was sound and it was booming, booming, booming right here, right now.

COOPER: That was being said.

PAPPAS: Yes. You are alive right here, right now, because that's all you have. And that is my mantra to this day.

MICHAEL POLLAN: It seemed so implausible to me that a single experience caused by a molecule, right, ingested in your body could transform your outlook on something as profound as death. That's kind of amazing.

COOPER (voice-over): Author Michael Pollan wrote about the psilocybin studies in a bestselling book called, "How to Change Your Mind." As part of his research, he tried psilocybin himself with the help of an underground guide.

COOPER: The kind of things that cancer patients were saying, like, "I touched the face of God." You were skeptical about when you hear phrases like that?

POLLAN: Yes. Or "Love is the most important thing in the universe." When someone tells me that, I was like, "yes, OK."

COOPER: So you don't go for some of the phrases that are used?

POLLAN: No, it makes -- gives me the willies as a writer. And I really struggle with that because during one of my experiences, I came to the earth shattering conclusion that love is the most important thing in the universe, but it's that's Hallmark card stuff, right? And so --

COOPER: And yet, while you were on it, and afterward --

POLLAN: Was profoundly true. And it is profoundly true. Guess what?

COOPER: There's a reason it's on a Hallmark card.

POLLAN: There is a reason. And one of the things psychedelics do is they peel away all those essentially protective levels of irony and cynicism that we acquire as we get older. And you're back to those kind of, Oh my God, I forgot all about love.

COOPER (voice-over): Pollan said he also experienced what the researchers describe as ego loss or identity loss. The quieting of the constant voice we all have in our heads.

POLLAN: I did have this experience of seeing my ego burst into a little cloud of post it notes. I know, it sounds crazy.

COOPER: And what are you without an ego?

POLLAN: You're -- you got to be there.


COOPER (voice-over): Researchers believe that sensation of identity loss occurs because psilocybin quiets these two areas of the brain that normally communicate with each other. They're part of a region called the default mode network, and it's especially active when we're thinking about ourselves and our lives.

POLLAN: And it's where you connect what happens in your life to the story of who you are.

COOPER: We all develop a story --

POLLAN: Right.

COOPER: -- over time about it.

POLLAN: Over time.

COOPER: What our past was like and who we are --

POLLAN: What kind of person we are, how we react, and that the fact is that interesting things happen when the self goes quiet in the brain including this rewiring that happens.

COOPER (voice-over): To see that rewiring, Johns Hopkins scientist Matthew Johnson showed us this representational chart of brain activity. The circle on the left shows normal communication between parts of the brain. On the right, what happens on psilocybin. There's an explosion of connections, or crosstalk, between areas of the brain that don't normally communicate.

COOPER: The difference is just startling.


COOPER: Is that why people are having experiences of seeing, you know, repressed memories, or past memories, or people who have died or?

JOHNSON: That's what we think. And even the perceptual effects, sometimes the synesthesia, like the seeing sound.

COOPER: People see sound?

JOHNSON: Yes, sometimes.

COOPER: I don't even know what that means.

JOHNSON: Right. Yes. It's --

COOPER: Right. Yes.


POLLAN: Maybe the ego is one character among many in your mind. And you don't necessarily have to listen to that voice that's chattering at you and criticizing you and telling you what to do. And that's very freeing.

COOPER (voice-over): It was certainly freeing for Kerry Pappas though her cancer has now spread to her brain, her crippling anxiety about death is gone.

PAPPAS: Yes, it's amazing. I mean, I feel like death doesn't frighten me. Living doesn't frighten me. I don't frighten me. This frightens me.

COOPER: This interview frightens you, but death doesn't?


COOPER (voice-over): It turns out most of the 51 cancer patients in the Johns Hopkins study experienced significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety after trying psilocybin. Two-thirds of them rated their psilocybin sessions as among the most meaningful experiences of their lives. For some, it was on par with the birth of their children.

PAPPAS: To this day, it evolves in me.

COOPER: It's still alive in you.

PALLAS: It's still absolutely alive in me.

COOPER: Does it make you happier?

PALLAS: Yes, and I don't necessarily use the word happy. Comfortable, like comfortable. I mean, I've suffered from anxiety my whole life. I'm comfortable. That to me, OK, I can die, I'm comfortable. I mean, it's huge. It's huge.


COOPER: That's the report for 60 Minutes.

Still to come, Pat Sajak retires as the host of Wheel of Fortune after more than four decades on the job. Here's goodbye message to fans. Plus, Harry Enten joins me with details on his record setting career next.



COOPER: Tonight, Pat Sajak spun the wheel one last time on Wheel of Fortune after 41 years as the host. He's 77 now. He plans to do other projects. The role is serving behind the scenes as a consultant for the show. This means the famous duo, Pat and Vanna, won't be on camera together each night. But don't worry, she is staying and will still be revealing the letters.

Ryan Seacrest will be the new host next season. Tonight, before signing off for the last time, here's what Pat Sajak told viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAT SAJAK, RETIRING AS "WHEEL OF FORTUNE" HOST: It's been an incredible privilege to be invited into millions of homes, night after night, year after year, decade after decade. And I've always felt that the privilege came with the responsibility to keep this daily half hour a safe place for family fun.

No social issues, no politics, nothing embarrassing I hope, just a game. But gradually it became more than that. A place where kids learn their letters, where people from other countries hone their English skills, where families came together, along with friends and neighbors and entire generations. What an honor to have played even a small part in all that.

Thank you for allowing me into your lives.


COOPER: Well, it's the end of an era.

Harry Enten joins me now with more in Pat Sajak's legendary career. He's the long -- is he really the longest running game show host?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, at least -- yes, absolutely. At least currently right now. I think the only two could be up there would be like a Bob Barker with the Price is Right, who was only there for, I think, like 35 years.

And obviously Alex Trebek, who was, I think, with Jeopardy for a little over 36 or 37 years. So yes, he's absolutely up there. And, you know, what's so truly remarkable about him is just how much money they awarded on that show while he was there. We're talking $250 million. Look how many puzzles there were.

There were 50,000 puzzles. You can put a number to anything, Anderson. I got you right now.

COOPER: You were up all night counting those puzzles.

ENTEN: I was literally watching the show over and over and over again.

COOPER: I understand you've got a Wheel of Fortune puzzle for me, one that was apparently notoriously difficult.


COOPER: I'm a Jeopardy guy, so I haven't --

ENTEN: I think I'm a Jeopardy guy, too. I prefer facts. I can't really play Hangman --


ENTEN: -- particularly well. But, you know, sometimes we think these puzzles are so easy standing at home.

COOPER: No. ENTEN: But, you know, we're going to have a puzzle for you.


ENTEN: And then we'll show you how difficult, guys, how difficult this puzzle was for these folks to solve. Guys?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another feather in your hat. Another feather in your lap. Another feather --

COOPER: This is for real?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- in your map.

ENTEN: OK. Mr. Cooper --


ENTEN: Mr. Cooper, I know that you are a Jeopardy fan --

COOPER: OK, yes.

ENTEN: -- but can you get this puzzle and prove to us that you can do Wheel of Fortune, please, for the love of God.

COOPER: It's another feather in your cap.

ENTEN: Yes! See, I know you're a Jeopardy guy, but I feel like you could go on Wheel of Fortune. Maybe Ryan Seacrest can invite you on on the celebrity edition. Maybe we can do a joint team together?

COOPER: No, I don't think so.

ENTEN: Aw, I thought we were coming together.

COOPER: But I think Ryan Seacrest can do a great job.

ENTEN: I hope so as well, but at least Vanna White will be there for some content.

COOPER: Which I'm very excited about.

ENTEN: Yes, absolutely.


Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Pat Sajak, wish you the best. Vanna White, so happy you're staying. Have a great weekend. The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.