Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Ukraine: Russian Aircraft Bombed School with 90 Civilians Inside; American and Other Volunteers Join Fight in Front Lines; Abortion Rights in Jeopardy; FDA Chief: Misinformation The "Leading Cause Of Death" In U.S.; J&J Vaccine Use Limited Over Concerns About Clotting Disorder; Whistleblower Warned FDA About Baby Formula Safety Issues Months Before They Were Recalled; Three American Tourists Found Dead At Resort In The Bahamas. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 07, 2022 - 18:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Under heavy fire, hundreds of civilians still stuck cowering in fear under the steel plant.

This is the last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The Russians violated the promise of a truce and did not allow the evacuation of civilians.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST (voice over): Dr. Biden visited a school where Ukrainian children have been absorbed by the education system in Romania.

DR. JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It is nice to see you all working together.

BROWN (voice over): New video of wanted Corrections officer Vicky White helping authorities piece together what happened before she allegedly helped inmate Casey White escape.

RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY SHERIFF: The vehicle that we were looking for had been located in Williamson County, Tennessee. We know what direction they went, but right now we're trying to canvass the area for any witnesses.

BROWN (voice over): The White House now warning a COVID wave this fall and winter could infect as many as a hundred million Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we are doing everything we can to prepare for that if that search were to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandals Resort as that company releases a statement and they confirmed that three of their guests died while they were at their Emerald Bay Resort in Exuma. There is no foul play suspected.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM on

this Saturday, and we begin this hour with breaking news out of Ukraine in what early reports describe as a catastrophic strike on defenseless civilians hiding in a school.

Ukrainian officials say a Russian warplane bombed the school in the Luhansk region. That is in far eastern Ukraine right near the Russian border. Some 90 people are believed to have been inside.

Nearly the entire village was taking shelter because the area is only about seven miles from the frontlines. The story is breaking, details are just coming in. Of course, we will update you when we know more.

But let's go right to CNN's Scott McLean. He is in Lviv. Scott, what is the latest on the school shelter strike?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pam. Yes, so the information that we have is according to the military, the head of the regional military administration of the Luhansk region, who says that the Russians fought with unarmed civilians today when they dropped this bomb on this school in this small village in Eastern Ukraine, as you mentioned, seven miles west of the frontlines.

Ninety people were thought to have been taking shelter there, simply because there was no other good place to go. Most of the other shelters had been bombed out or were not available. Thirty people are thought to have been pulled out of the rubble according to that official, though, judging by the pictures, it is amazing that anyone could have survived that frankly.

Now that official said that most everyone had left the village already, and so it was just the people who are remaining there who were taking shelter, as I said, 90 people. The village is not far from Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, those city names you might have heard of, because there has been heavy fighting there recently as the Russians tried to push their way through the frontlines.

This strike, of course is going to bring back memories of that theater bombing in Mariupol in mid-March where 300-plus people were killed, most of them women and children who were sheltering underneath of that theater. The word "children" was even spelled out on the pavement in Russian there in hopes of being spared from the Russian bombs.

Now, this particular village, Bilohorivka has been taking shelling for weeks now. So, a lot of people as I mentioned got out. Officials there had managed to get 49 people evacuated successfully about a little under two weeks ago. They were taken by train to Western Ukraine. Forty nine people, eight children, but clearly as we know from today, not everyone got out and the people who were left may well have been the victim of this bombing.

BROWN: Just beyond awful. Thank you so much, Scott.

And now to a glimmer of good news coming from one of the bleakest sites of Russia's war on Ukraine, the last of the trapped women, children, and elderly civilians have been evacuated from the steel complex in Mariupol. That's according to Ukraine's government.

As you know, if you've been following this story, they had spent weeks huddled in ruins enduring relentless shelling and facing desperate shortages of food, water, and medicine.

A short time ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is working to evacuate the military medics and the wounded next. He says he would like a diplomatic option to remove all of his military from there.

And in the northeast, Ukraine is reporting a first. It says Russia has destroyed several bridges to slow down Ukraine's counter offensives.


BROWN: C.I.A. Director, Bill Burns, is now warning that this second phase of the war may be even more dangerous given Vladimir Putin's mindset.


WILLIAM BURNS, C.I.A. DIRECTOR: He is in a frame of mind in which he doesn't believe he can afford to lose. I think he is convinced right now that doubling down, still will enable him to make progress.


BROWN: Let's bring in retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons. So you just heard there a few minutes ago, a few seconds ago, we heard C.I.A. Director Bill Burns, warning that Putin is desperate and that the second phase of the war may be even more dangerous. Do you agree with that assessment?

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET), U.S. ARMY: Good evening, Pamela. Thanks for having me.

I do. I think the question is, what does he mobilize? Does he mobilize reserves coming from Russia? These are poorly trained former conscripts that literally are driving cabs right now in Moscow, and might find themselves inside of Ukraine inside of a tank and, frankly, a target for the Ukraine military.

But I do think that he does feel that it will be more or less, bring a lot more troops to the battlefield, because he has already committed about 60 percent of his forces, and he has not had any success.

When you're blowing bridges in retreat like that, you're not putting yourself in position to go on any counteroffensive anytime soon. Maybe he's going to give up the battle in the east and try to hold that and refocus on some other way. But we're going to find out probably May 9th, exactly what he does. If he brings up more troops, we've got to be really concerned.

BROWN: Right. Because if you look at it as a whole, right, connect the dots, I mean, just tonight, Russia dropped the bomb on a school filled with innocent civilians. Russia also says, I mean, sorry, Ukraine says that Russia has fired cruise missiles on the port city of Odessa in the northeast. As we just talked about, it has blown up bridges to stall a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

So when you look at the big picture, is this Russia doubling down right now?

LYONS: Yes, Pamela, that attack in Luhansk is really disgraceful because attacking with air just over the border, the Russian military really isn't even flying. They don't dare fly deep into Ukraine, because they know they don't own that air airspace still.

But the second issue is Odessa. That is a really critical city that must be kept, a city of a million people, and I think there is no question that the Ukraine general staff is figuring out how they're going to defend it.

I think the key is going to be Moldova, frankly, and I think we're going to start pouring equipment into Moldova eventually, look to possibly even take the Russian separatists that are in Moldova. There is a small group there that control a certain area, and likely use that as the umbrella to defend Odessa because what Russia will do is attack it from the air with cruise missiles, with artillery, and then try to just pound away at it like we've seen them do with these other cities and try to destroy it, and they must do everything to save that city.

BROWN: Given the fight ahead for the Ukrainians, I'm going to ask you to take a look at this, $150 million in additional arms for Ukraine -- artillery rounds, counter artillery, radars, jamming equipment, as well as more field equipment and spare parts. Is this the right equipment in your view? Or is it time to consider heavier military hardware?

LYONS: Well, a heavier military hardware will come from the $20 billion package that the President has proposed to Congress. So let's hope that gets through. But this right here will be very effective.

The radar in particular counter battery, that's what it is going to take with regard to fighting Russian artillery. The artillery that we've sent there already, already has a greater range than Russia has. It already has better mobility than Russia has, and we've seen I think in Kherson and Kharkiv that they've got an advantage right now not making sure that artillery is not coming back in that city.

So every single time Russia fires an artillery around, it has a return address, and the kind of equipment we're sending is going to allow us to look where that artillery came from and fire back on it. So, they just have to coordinate all these fires.

BROWN: You know, we're talking about everything the U.S. has sent to the Ukrainians. On Friday, I interviewed State Department spokesman Ned Price and I asked him if he is concerned that Russia will view the U.S. as a co-combatant given all of this help it has given including Intelligence that has helped sink a Russian ship and kill its generals. Here's what he said.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: I think the Russians know that we have been very clear that any effort to intimidate, to wage aggression against NATO, against any NATO ally would be met with a strong response. But we're going to continue to do what we have found to be effective and more importantly, what our Ukrainian partners have found to be effective.


BROWN: Do you have concern that Russia will retaliate stronger against the U.S. for its role?

LYONS: I'd like to see what exactly that would be. The Intelligence we're providing is exactly the example of American soft kinetic -- non kinetic power, I am sorry to Ukraine.


LYONS: Admiral Kirby said the other day that there is so much information that they're trying to sift through already.

The drones, I think, are providing more information that is real time. I think that the Intelligence we're providing is more strategic, it's more overview of things, likely where command and control centers are. Those have easy footprints that can be picked out with antennas, heat signatures and the like.

But again, where would they strike? They're likely going to go after some of these NATO convoys that are across the border that the Ukraine military has taken over. So, I think they've got to be concerned about those. They don't have a lot of success hitting moving targets. They're going to go after railheads as well.

But if they actually strike out against United States, I think that might be a bridge too far for Russia.

BROWN: All right, Major Mike Lyons, thank you very much.

And it's not just Ukrainians fighting this war, CNN's Isa Soares has the story of international fighters, including Americans who have joined the fight.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For weeks now, these volunteer fighters have been defending a country that is not theirs.

DOC, VOLUNTEER FIGHTER IN UKRAINE: I saw on the news, just like everybody else, the atrocities that the Russians were committing. That's the reason why I came.

SOARES (voice over): The two Americans and a Canadian who prefer we identify them by their nicknames, tell me that from their experiences with one particular unit, the Ukrainian forces they have been fighting alongside on the frontlines are ill-equipped and cut off from resources.

RAT, VOLUNTEER FIGHTER IN UKRAINE: Specifically NATO munitions, in terms of anti-tank weapons, as well as artillery, like howitzers, tanks.

SOARES (on camera): So heavy --

RAT: Or even like MRAP type vehicles, anything like that. It's nowhere in the front.

SOARES (voice over): Doc, Rat, and Shadow say they have fought near Kyiv and in the east in the Kharkiv region, where Russian troops has strengthened their presence.

RAT: So they would push here, send troops, a massive column on the main road, push them here.

SOARES (voice over): This video film by them shows the challenging terrain.

RAT: It's just fields as far as the eye can see, with nothing but open ground and next to zero concealment.

SOARES (voice over): A battle ground that without the right equipment can be deadly.

The former Canadian Armed Forces Sergeant tells me --

SHADOW, VOLUNTEER FIGHTER IN UKRAINE: It's a miracle, straight up miracle that we are still alive.

DOC: You basically have to be a tank or artillery or an aircraft right now to fight in the eastern front.

SOARES (voice over): So far, the U.S. has approved more than $3 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, including thousands of Javelin stinger missiles and other critical weapons, equipment that these former U.S. Marines say they haven't seen.

DOC: The stuff from these packages need to get to the front.

SOARES (voice over): So much so thing they are being teased about it.

RAT: We would have guys coming up to us with Google Translate. Where are the Howitzers? Where's Biden's help? Or where is NATO's help?

SOARES (voice over): Last month, the Pentagon said military gear and equipment was getting to Ukraine between 24 and 48 hours after it was shipped, but the U.S. was transferring it to Ukrainian hands and not dictating how fast they get it to the frontline or what unit gets them.

These fighters had just one glimpse of one frontline, but they're not alone in thinking that Ukraine's military remains desperately outgunned. RAT: Both parts, it is -- one side has nothing and it is doing

everything they can, and then the other side has everything and they are too afraid to do anything with that.

SOARES (voice over): Despite the challenges of the battlefield, Doc and Rat are returning to the frontline moved by Ukraine's fighting spirit.

DOC: The Ukrainians are giving it their all and they're doing it every single day, every single minute, every single hour.

SHADOW: They are not part of NATO --

SOARES (voice over): Shadow, meanwhile, staying away from the frontlines in Lviv learning he is going to be a father.

Camaraderie and a common cause as they fight for freedom in a foreign land.

Isa Soares CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


BROWN: And CNN reached out to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry for comment on the claims of the foreign fighters featured in the story, the claims that military aid is not reaching the frontlines of the northeast of Ukraine. We have yet to receive a response.

But this week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. weapons being provided are being put to quote "very good use."

Heads up for you now in our big exclusive interview coming up this hour, F.D.A. commissioner Robert Califf, I'll ask him about tainted baby formula and why he thinks misinformation is the biggest killer in America.

Also ahead, CNN has just gotten new images of the patrol car Vicky White was driving when she took a murder suspect from jail last week in Alabama.

Meantime, mystery in paradise, how the three American tourists ended up dead in the Bahamas.

And First Lady Jill Biden hearing the heartbreaking stories firsthand as she meets with Ukrainian refugees.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BROWN: New tonight, CNN has just obtained new images of the patrol car that Corrections officer Vicky White was driving when she took inmate Casey White from the Fort Lauderdale County Jail in Alabama last week -- Lauderdale I should say. The vehicle was found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot.

Vicky White's jail keys radio and handcuffs were found inside.

The two left the jail on Friday, April 29th, Vicky White said she was taking the murder suspect to a mental health evaluation. Well, they have not been seen since.

Earlier this evening, Sheriff Rick Singleton talked about the second car the pair used, but quickly abandoned.



RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY SHERIFF: Well, I mean, obviously someone either assisted them or they stole a vehicle up in that area. I know they've been checking to see for any stolen reports, I've not been advised, if they have discovered any stolen vehicle reports in that area that day or not. But if they even left on foot or someone had to give them a ride, of course, at that time, the BOLO from law enforcement had not been put out because we weren't even aware at that time that they were missing.


BROWN: U.S. Marshals releasing this depiction of their height difference, look at this, he is six nine, she is five, five. Quite the difference there.

Authorities are also releasing images of what Vicky White could look like if she cut or dyed her hair. Tips are coming in from all over the United States.

Well, today, protesters across the U.S. rallied against the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Here are just some of the cities people marched through -- Atlanta, Chicago, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Washington, D.C. continues to be a major hotspot. Activists have gathered for days outside the Supreme Court, an eight foot tall metal fence was erected around it to keep people out.

And if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe versus Wade, abortion would be instantly banned in 13 states. This information comes from the Guttmacher Institute. As you see right here on the map the states and the gold on this map, they have what's called trigger bands. Those are laws that would take effect the moment Roe is overturned, if that happens.

Oklahoma's Governor signed a trigger bill into law just last month.


GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): These issues belong to the states and other states may do things differently. But in Oklahoma, I represent all four million Oklahomans, they overwhelmingly -- overwhelmingly do not support abortions in the State of Oklahoma.


BROWN: It's a different situation in these 16 states and the District of Columbia in purple on this map. You see they have laws protecting abortion rights that would stand regardless of the Supreme Court's ruling.


GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): I think you've heard a lot about what's coming out of the Supreme Court in a preliminary ruling that looks like they may be on the edge of ending a woman's right to choose in ending a Roe v. Wade. That's not going to happen in the State of Connecticut, not as long as I'm here. No politicians are going to get between you and your doctor, you make the choice.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Access to reproductive health is legal in this state. I want to remind all Californians, regardless of what you're seeing on the nightly news, the crosscurrents of that debate.


BROWN: And here's a look at abortion laws around the world. We wanted to broaden out and give you a bigger picture. These countries in purple, there are different gestational limits, but abortion is legal.

You can see this includes most of the developed world including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, even China and Russia. And now in orange, these are the countries that have banned abortion. It is as you can see a much smaller list, and it includes Egypt, Honduras, Iraq, and the Philippines. Now, most have had abortion bans in place for decades.

For the record, only three countries have rolled back abortion rights in the past 26 years -- El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Poland. Margaret Harpin is a legal adviser for the Center for reproductive rights. She told AXIOS that "The rollback of abortion rights has come in countries where 'democracies have eroded.'" And California's Democratic governor says he has taken notice of that trend as well.


NEWSOM: At a time when countries around the world are expanding liberties, expanding freedoms, expanding rights, here we are in the United States of America about to roll back rights.


BROWN: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM, a dire estimate from the Biden administration on how many Americans could get COVID this fall or winter if Congress doesn't act.

Plus, the F.D.A. is putting strict limits on who can get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Coming up, I'm going to be talking about that with the head of the Food and Drug Administration. You're not going to want to miss this interview. We have so many

topics to discuss. He joins us live up next and we'll be right back.



BROWN: When the C.D.C. ranked the leading causes of death in the U.S. for 2020, they went like this: Heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, accidents, stroke. But my next guest says something else is killing us -- misinformation.

Dr. Robert Califf is Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Califf, thank you so much for being here with us for our exclusive interview I might add.

Let's get right to it. Why do you think misinformation is now the leading cause of death in the U.S.?

DR. ROBERT CALIFF, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: First of all, thanks for having me on, and I am glad to be able to talk about such an important and critical topic.

I have to acknowledge there is no way to quantify this, so I can't say you know the numbers come out just like we would, heart disease or cancer, but let's look at it. You know we're in a country now which is sitting in a low general life expectancy.


So we're now living on average five years shorter than the average of other high income countries. Now, of course, these are all based on estimates, but this is quite disturbing. And as you correctly pointed out, let's look at the causes of death. As you correctly said, heart disease, cancer, COVID, much of this is common chronic disease that we know a lot about how to treat.

Now, of course, COVID, the situation as we know that if you're vaccinated and up to date with your vaccinations, you have a 90 percent reduction in the risk of death. And then if you are unlucky enough to get infected or unfortunate enough, another 90 percent reduction in death with the antivirals, which are now available, so almost no one in this country should be dying from COVID if we were up to date on our vaccinations and got appropriate antiviral treatment.

What has concerned me for a long time before the pandemic is that we're seeing this reduction in life expectancy from common diseases like heart disease, I'm a cardiologist by training ...

BROWN: Right.

CALIFF: ... we know so much about what to do to prevent bad outcomes from heart disease. But somehow the messages, the reliable, truthful messages are not getting across and it's being washed out by a lot of misinformation, which is leading people to make bad choices that are unfortunate for their health. BROWN: Yes. From my perspective, as a journalist, committed to the

truth that is certainly very concerning to see that. I do want to ask you, though, about the FDA pulling back emergency use authorization for the J&J vaccine because of a rate of the - the rare, I should say, blood clotting side effect. Nearly 70 million doses have already been administered, should its use have been limited sooner or even not authorized at all, given the data that we have now?

CALIFF: Of course, when the emergency use authorization was first granted, we didn't have the data that we have now. So I don't think that's really an issue and this is quite rare. So if there were no other vaccines, this would be a great choice. It's a highly effective vaccine with this rare side effect. But since the other vaccines that are available do not have the same rate of side effect, they're preferable.

And the other key factor for people to keep in mind is that these complications occur early in the course. So people that have already been vaccinated and are a few months out are in the clear and shouldn't worry about this. What we really should be worried about is getting the boosters that we need to stay up to date so that with the new variants that we have, we don't have unnecessary deaths and hospitalizations.

BROWN: Well, I'm going to talk to you about the boosters because that's in a lot of people's minds right now as well as we look to the future, because the White House is predicting that the U.S. could see as many as a hundred million COVID cases this fall and winter if Congress doesn't agree on more funding to mitigate the spread. What do you think about that? I mean, do you share that dire prediction? And given what we're hearing from the White House, who do you think will need to be eligible for additional COVID shots in the fall?

CALIFF: Well, as I think a lot of people know we are seeing an uptick right now in the number of infections across the country. We're not yet seeing much of an uptick in death and hospitalization, but there's a lag that usually occurs. And so we're quite concerned even about the summer, particularly in the areas of the country where vaccinations rates are not so high, people are not so much up to date.

And then in the following winter, we're very concerned, most of the predictors, the people who make these predictions, do anticipate that unless we do something, we'll see a significant surge in the winter, people are inside and this is a respiratory virus, which is transmitted. We're going to look carefully at the vaccination that's needed. We had an advisory committee meeting a few weeks ago. And sometime in the next month or two, we'll be looking carefully at the composition and the recommendations for vaccination in the fall.

A consideration is that it might be at the same time as the flu vaccine campaign that we have every year, take the vaccine then and also recommend the COVID vaccine.

BROWN: So ...

CALIFF: And none of this is decided. We'll hear from the advisory committee and then make decisions about what to do.

BROWN: So potentially an annual COVID vaccine. We'll wait, though, to hear more from the FDA and whether a decision is made. I want to ask you about vaccines in young kids. Moderna submitted its EUA for vaccines for kids under six.


Dr Fauci said the FDA might wait on Pfizer's application before considering it for authorization, what is the timeline for getting a COVID-19 vaccine for the youngest age group?

CALIFF: Well, I have two grandkids under age six, so I personally know about this, in addition to my professional responsibilities. We're not going to hold up one vaccine for another, that's not in our plans. It's well known that Moderna has applied for EUA and we're looking at a rolling submission. So we're already looking at the information. It's not quite complete yet.

But as soon as we're able to fully assess the safety and efficacy, we'll make a decision. I wish I could tell you the timeline, but we never know what we're going to find until we look at dataset. Remember that the FDA performs a service for the country and the world by independently analyzing the data separately from the company involved so that we are sure that we have the facts before we make a decision, but we're going to move as quickly as we possibly can and we'll keep people up to date.

BROWN: So no projections at this point, right?

CALIFF: I think it's not smart of us to give timelines when we don't know exactly what the timeline will be.

BROWN: Okay.

CALIFF: But plenty of people have a plan about how long it's taken with other EUAs and it's not too far away.

BROWN: All right.

CALIFF: I think we'll move quickly on this.

BROWN: All right. We'll be right back. Dr. Robert Califf, stay with us, more to discuss on the other side of the break.



BROWN: Back with me now, Dr. Robert Califf, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Califf, I want to ask you, first off, about the current recalls on baby formula. The baby formula that was manufactured at that plant in Michigan. And I'm curious, why did it take so long to stop production and has the problem been fixed? CALIFF: Well, when there's an issue in a plant dealing with food, we

need to do a thorough investigation. The problem is real and that we completely understand it or at least enough to make the decision about the recall. And so we worked as diligently as we could remembering that there are a lot of situations in which the supply of the product is absolutely essential. And so you have to be really careful about when you recall something versus trying to fix a problem with quality in the plan.

And clearly there was a problem with quality in the plan, which we worked through. And now you know, it's - the work is ongoing to bring the plant up to speed. In the meanwhile, we've been working with all the manufacturers to make sure there is a supply of infant formula. And that's not an easy (inaudible) completely get under control, but I think we're doing pretty well with it.

BROWN: Yes. Where are you on that? Because if you could just explain a little bit more about working with these other plants and trying to ramp up production, because this is impacting so many families right now. As a mom, I can't imagine being concerned about being able to feed my child.

CALIFF: We're very concerned about it and understand that it should be of concern to moms and dads and grandparents like me. We want this to get fixed. So I will divide this into two categories, the general infant formula category, the use of infant formula is actually up since the recall and we're bring - the other manufacturers are providing more supply.

But we do also understand that there are regional variations that occur when you have a supply chain issue like this and it hasn't been perfect. But I do think it's under pretty good control at this point.

One thing to point out is that a lot of work was done because of COVID. Remember, when the shelves were bare at times and systems were put into place that enable us to have a much better handle on the overall supply chain and that's turned out to be very useful.

But very importantly, there are some children, not a large number, but very importantly, children with metabolic diseases, where if they don't get the special formula, it can be a really serious issue for their health and that's where we spent a huge amount of energy, working with the manufacturers to make sure that those children are supplied with the formula that they need to prevent serious illness.

BROWN: Right.

CALIFF: And we've done well with that, but it's something that we have to continue to work on.

BROWN: Okay. I want to ask you about this op-ed that was done in February from Senators Joe Manchin and Mike Braun. And in this op-ed they said the FDA hasn't 'done enough to address the drug epidemic ravaging our nation'. They called your nomination a 'insult' and called what they claim to be your 'significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry'. They also railed on the FDA for approving more opioids during your first tenure rather than pulling them from the shelves to help the staggering number of opioid-related overdoses.


How do you respond to that?

CALIFF: Well, it's not time to give a totally complete response, but I'll just say I'm doing all that I can and so as the FDA. We have an extensive list of things that we're working on and actions that we're taking. I do want to call the country's attention to something that's really grown in the last five years, and that is, mail order, synthetic, very high does opioids, fentanyl, and also methamphetamine that's very much on the rise.

You're going to hear a lot more about that in the next couple of months. But we literally have dozens of actions that we're going to be taking over the next several months, and I'd welcome the chance to come back and talk in detail about this issue. Over a hundred thousand Americans have died from overdoses in the last 12 months and this is not something that we can take lightly. So the senators are right, we should pay a lot of attention to them.

BROWN: But I'm wondering if you want to respond to their allegations of conflict of interest, given your ties to pharmaceutical companies, what do you say to that?

CALIFF: I've never worked with the pharmaceutical industry on opioids. I've worked a lot with government to do clinical trials on opioids and I've been the chairman of the board of an opioid treatment center in Dayton, Ohio. So I think they're all based in that allegation. I think it has no merit. But judge me by my actions and I'll be happy to talk with you about it more.

BROWN: Well, we would love to have you back on the show to cover more on the opioid epidemic. It is such a serious problem. And I would love to do a deeper dive with you on that next time. Dr. Robert Califf, Thank you very much.

CALIFF: Thank you.

BROWN: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Still ahead, three American tourists found dead at a luxury resort in the Bahamas. An investigation is underway tonight, what we're learning up next.



BROWN: We're just getting new details now on a deadly mystery in the Bahamas. Three American tourists found dead at a luxury resort on Great Exuma Island. A fourth American had to be airlifted to a hospital in Nassau. CNN's Polo Sandoval is following this for us. What a mystery this is. Do you have any updates, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It really is puzzling, Pamela. These were two American couples on vacation in the Bahamas and now three people are dead. And as you point out, a fourth is hospitalized. I did speak to police commissioner Paul Rolle with the Royal Bahamas Police to ask if they have any indication when it comes to a - to causes of death. He says at this point, it is still too soon to say. Autopsies need to happen to determine that.

But they do have very key finding here so far and that is that they have ruled out foul play that investigators have found no signs of any kind of trauma on those bodies, so that's certainly key. Here's a background, investigators were initially called out to Sandals' Emerald Bay Resort in Exuma yesterday morning after the staff had reported that they discovered the body of a man in one of their villas and they then discovered two additional bodies, a man and a woman in a second villa.

Investigators saying that they showed signs of convulsion and here - this is what kind of adds to the puzzling nature of this. The Police Commissioner telling me that that couple had complained about feelings of nausea and vomiting the day before they were found dead that they turned to a local medical facility, were treated and then sent back to their resort. Again, at the date before they were found dead.

A fourth person, a woman was found at that first villa. She's the one that's currently hospitalized right now. Now, in terms of what Sandals Resort has said, they released a statement this weekend writing that a health emergency was initially reported and following our protocols we immediately alerted emergency medical professionals and relevant local authorities. The company then goes on to write that they are currently supporting both the investigation as well as the guests' families in every way possible. They also couldn't disclose much more because of privacy reasons.

But in terms of what's happening right now, Pamela, the Commissioner telling me that the U.S. embassy Nassau together with the local tourism ministry basically working together with police to positively identify these three Americans, reach out to their families and then they hope that they can proceed with the performing of those autopsies. And that all will hopefully provide those crucial clues as they tried to get a better idea of what actually took place here yesterday. But again, the key findings so far ruling out foul play after those three Americans found dead at a Bahamas resort.

BROWN: The mystery continues. I know you'll keep us updated on the very latest. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

Well, it is now Mother's Day in Slovakia, which borders Ukraine, First Lady Jill Biden is there this weekend offering comfort to some of the nearly 400,000 Ukrainian war refugees in that country. They are just a fraction of the more than 5.5 million people forced to escape Ukraine in hopes of survival.

And some sad news into us just now, the country singer songwriter Mickey Gilley has died at age 86. He had a remarkable 17 number of records and his career got a huge crossover bump with the 1980 film Urban Cowboy. The movie popularized his massive Texas bar which he called the world's biggest honky tonk and its famous mechanical bull. He's (inaudible) by among others, his cousin, rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis.


You are in the CNN NEWSROOM where we are following breaking news coming in tonight to CNN, a busy Saturday night for us, Russia stands accused of dropping a bomb on a school where dozens of people were taking shelter. We're going to take you there when we come back.



BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, the top stories, pictures from Eastern Ukraine show a school in ruins.