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Paralyzed Man Able To Walk Again With Brain And Spine Implants; Navy Probe Finds "Hell Week" Puts SEAL Candidates At Risk; Officer Leaves Lasting Legacy After Being Murdered In Uniform. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 26, 2023 - 07:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I know you've been working on similar things. This is really building on some of your previous work.

The fact that you've figured out a way to basically get injured section here in his body and that there were even signs of neurological recovery, were you expecting it to be quite this effective?

GREGOIRE COURTINE, SPINAL CORD SPECIALIST AND NEUROSCIENTIST, SWISS FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (via Webex by Cisco): Certainly, it has been a very long journey from the rats, the monkeys, to the first test in humans, and finally, this breakthrough. And we are hopeful that it will be effective. But on day one, Gert-Jan being able to think about a movement and see that movement very natural and free, he essentially walked on foot.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Can you speak, Jocelyne, to why it works and if it can work for many people, or was this a unique situation?

JOCELYNE BLOCH, NEUROSCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF LAUSANNE, NEUROSURGEON, SWISS FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, PLACED IMPLANT ENABLING PARALYZED MAN TO WALK (via Webex by Cisco): No, I don't think it's a unique situation. He's the first. He's the test pilot, but I'm sure it's going to work in other patients.

So it works because his brain is intact and the part of the spinal cord that is controlling the leg movement is also intact. So we can put electronics above the region of the brain that is controlling leg movement and the region of the spinal cord that is controlling movements and we could then link them. So in all the patients who have these intact regions, we could apply the same.

HILL: How widespread could this be in terms of how widespread could its usage be, Gregoire? How many -- how many patients could potentially be impacted?

COURTINE: We are really at the very beginning in a sense. Remember the pacemaker 50 years ago? People were working (INAUDIBLE) next to them -- a little bit of what you see in the picture currently. But the key is the medical company didn't get to (INAUDIBLE) everything by this technology so it can really be used by everyone who needs it across the world in the future.

HARLOW: Jocelyne, were you there when he walked for the first time? Did you get to see it?

BLOCH: Yes, I was there. And I must say that I did not -- when I was there just for the first day when we were programming the stimulator with the brain implant, I felt that he would only execute slight movements at the very beginning. But he was so fast that the very first day we asked him to stand up and to do a few steps and it worked.

And all the team was not here, unfortunately. They thought it would happen later. And so, we were all in tears.

HILL: Wow. I can only imagine. We can see your face light up as you're talking about it as well -- the smile we see on both of your faces.

So this, right now, is really for lower body, as I understand it -- not necessarily for someone who may have been paralyzed with something on their upper body. But could that -- could it be amended perhaps to help some of those folks?

BLOCH: There is certainly a strategy that we will now apply in the future. We have obtained the authorization to do it in cervical spinal cord injured patients -- quadriplegics who cannot move the arm. And we exactly apply the same strategy -- brain implants and cervical stimulation in order to improve the hand movements. And we are pretty sure that a bit of improvement of hand movement would be a lot of gain in their future and in their ability to be independent.

HARLOW: We know that Gert-Jan can also walk short distances without the device if he uses crutches. How can that be possible? That seems like a miracle.

COURTINE: (INAUDIBLE) unexpected discovery that this digital bridge. By linking the brain and the spinal cord with this, like, many active training promoted the growth of new nerve connection. So today, Gert- Jan can really have access to muscles that were previously paralyzed for so many years. And we have exposed this mechanism of basically, the reorganization of the central nervous system in (INAUDIBLE).

So it is very exciting because it's not only a system that permitted you to walk, it's also a digital repair of the spinal cord.

HARLOW: A digital repair of the spinal cord. It is remarkable. Congratulations to you both. I think you're going to really change so many lives. We appreciate you joining us this morning.

COURTINE: I just hope that (INAUDIBLE) will still be alive to see this.


COURTINE: Thank you so much for the invitation.

HARLOW: You're so right. We're thinking of him, of course, today. Thank you both.

BLOCH: Thank you.

COURTINE: OK, thank you.

HILL: This year's graduating class at the University of Massachusetts Boston got more than their diplomas yesterday. Commencement speaker and chief executive of Granite Telecommunication, Rob Hale, surprised the grads with some cold hard cash. Take a look.




ROB HALE, CEO, GRANITE TELECOMMUNICATIONS: For us, the greatest joys we've had in our life have been the gift of giving, so each of you is getting $1,000 cash right now.

GRADUATES: (Cheering).

HALE: As I mentioned, you're getting $1,000. The first $500 is for you. It's a celebration of all you have done to be here today. You're leaders -- celebrate. The second $500 is a gift for you to give to somebody or somebody else, or another organization who could use it more than you.

GRADUATES: (Cheering).


HILL: I think that may be my favorite part of that message.

So each graduate, as you just heard there, who walked across the stage, they actually got two envelopes. So they have that $500 that was a gift, as you see. The other one labeled "Give". Twenty-five hundred undergraduates there -- that gift amounted to $2.5 million.


HILL: Forbes estimates Hale has a $5 billion fortune.

HARLOW: And doing great with it --

HILL: Yes.

HARLOW: -- in that respect.

HILL: I love that. And I love that message of paying it forward and helping someone else out.

HARLOW: One hundred percent.

HILL: A nice feel-good Friday moment for you.

HARLOW: Exactly.

Now this. New developments in the federal investigation of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez reports that investigators are looking into whether he received expensive gifts, including a Mercedes and a luxury apartment. The senator denying any wrongdoing. We do have more details on that ahead.

HILL: Plus, a Navy SEAL candidate who died just hours after completing a brutal part of the training course known as Hell Week last year -- a new Navy investigation has now been released. What it found and what changes it's led to.



HARLOW: This morning, a new highly critical report details how the notoriously brutal Navy SEAL selection course known as Hell Week has left several candidates injured and one dead. Kyle Mullen died last year -- you'll remember that -- just eight hours after completing the grueling training and undergoing a medical check, which found he suffered respiratory issues.

Mullen's mother said the total lack of proper medical care means she will never see her son again -- listen.


REGINA MULLEN, SON DIED AFTER NAVY SEAL TRAINING: They had opportunities to save my son and he's dead because they didn't treat him. No mother should feel my pain that I have right now. My son is dead and never coming back.


HARLOW: Natasha Bertrand joins us now. What does this report say about Hell Week, and are things going to change?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Poppy, it's a really scathing report issued just about this -- the basically inadequate medical screenings and totally uninformed medical staff that were overseeing Hell Week, which is a notoriously brutal training exercise that Navy SEAL candidates undergo.

And essentially, what the report said is that it was poorly organized, poorly integrated, and poorly led -- the course was -- and that it put candidates, quote, "at significant risk."

Now, there will be some, potentially, accountability for some of the people that were overseeing this course and that perhaps did not impose the kind of medical screenings and just basic checks that would have been required perhaps to keep someone like Kyle Mullen alive. And those screenings and those potentially accountability will be taken against 10 people but that's still under investigation.

But look, Kyle Mullen died even after his symptoms were made aware to his classmates and to other people who were training with him. He was coughing up orangish, kind of reddish blood, essentially, and his symptoms were not even transmitted to the Navy medical center because the medical staff that were overseeing the course were just completely uninformed, according to this investigation.

And while candidates going through Hell Week are normally given a form of penicillin at the beginning of the course to reduce the chance of bacterial pneumonia, which is it appears if what Kyle Mullen had -- he was not given that penicillin because apparently, there was a shortage of it before the course began.

And so, just a lot of questions here about why there was this inadequate screening. Why this was inadequate -- you know, just basic medical care.

And there will be some overhaul of the system. Candidates now are going to be required to undergo medical screening every 24 hours. They will have to recover in a center afterwards. And more importantly, there will be a competent medical officer overseeing all of this throughout the entire course, Poppy.

HARLOW: And aside from those changes, which sound like 101 -- like they should have been doing that all along -- has the Navy responded?

BERTRAND: Yes. So we do have a statement here from Rear Admiral Keith Davids who is the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command. At the conclusion of the investigation he said that "Our effectiveness as the Navy's Maritime Special Operations Force necessitates demanding high- risk training, but while rigorous and intensely demanding, our training must be conducted with an unwavering commitment to safety and methodical precision."

So again, just really emphasizing there that there needs to be some kind of risk management. These candidates can't just be left alone if they are experiencing these symptoms, Poppy.

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you for the reporting from the Pentagon this morning.

HILL: A young cop in Chicago who dedicated her life to protecting the city she loved killed in uniform. Well, now her family, friends, and co-workers are remembering her as someone who went beyond the call of duty to help the people of her community.

CNN's Ryan Young has her story.


DIONNE MHOON, AREANAH PRESTON'S MOTHER: Nothing but God that keeps me going. I am heartbroken.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a beautiful smile and a bright future ahead 24-year-old Chicago police officer Areanah Preston was considered a homegrown Chicago talent. In early May, she died wearing the uniform she loved.

MHOON: She loved Chicago. She loved everything about Chicago. She engaged with everybody.


YOUNG (voice-over): Her mom says Officer Preston was a dynamic woman who wanted to be the change her city needed.

MHOON: And loving, family-oriented, and just wanted to see good in everything and everybody. Me and my husband were very proud of her. I would say every time she walked out the door in the uniform I was proud because it was something I said for her not to do and she did it, and she loved it.

YOUNG (voice-over): On May 6, Officer Preston was returning home from her shift when four teenagers approached and tried to rob her while Preston was still in uniform. The young officer bravely fought back but was shot and killed. She was found lying in her front yard.

Chicago Officers Desean Lee and Jessica Scott thought of Areanah like a sister.

OFFICER DESEAN LEE, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: What could we have done differently to make sure she got home safely?

YOUNG (voice-over): Officer Scott had been with her less than an hour before the attack happened.

OFFICER JESSICA SCOTT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: I just left you and 42 minutes later you're gone. Like, I'll never talk to you again. I'll never see you again. You know, the impact that it has made for us as officers and more importantly, the impact of her family.

You know, she's 24, so ambitious, so smart, so beautiful, so funny. Everything that you would want your daughter to be, your sister to be. She epitomized that. She was that and so much more.

YOUNG (voice-over): Hundreds gathered in Chicago last week for the fallen officer's funeral -- a procession of fellow officers lining the streets, following her casket to the church.

Since Areanah's tragic death her mother, Dionne Mhoon, hasn't stopped pushing to keep her daughter's name alive. Last week, walking in college graduate Areanah was supposed to walk in, receiving her daughter's diploma from a master's program at Loyola University's School of Law in Chicago.

And the heartbroken mother made sure to show up at court to see the four teens captured and charged in connection with her daughter's murder.

MHOON: I stand before you guys today as a mother -- a heartbroken mother. A mother that's full of anger, rage.

YOUNG (voice-over): That anger felt across the city of Chicago.

LORI LIGHTFOOT, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR: We dream of raising Black girls who see the world in all of its nuances and equip themselves to make a difference. And Areanah chose to change the world through wearing the badge and protecting and serving her beloved city.

YOUNG (voice-over): Chicago's police department having to move on now without one of their finest young officers protecting their city.

SCOTT: In CPD, we say be the change. She was the change. She absolutely was. She did the thing that was different.


HILL: Quite a life to honor.

Well, sources say negotiators are closer to an agreement on the debt ceiling. Just days to go now until that catastrophic default. I spoke with several business owners about how that would impact them.

HARLOW: Also, a Republican-led committee in Texas is recommending articles of impeachment against the state's Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton. We'll tell you why ahead.



HARLOW: Well, this morning, sources tell CNN the White House and Republican negotiators are moving closer to a deal to avoid a potential default by next Thursday, but there is a lot of work to be done and time is running low. Concern is growing, especially among some business owners, many of whom will be directly affected. I talked to them.


HARLOW: And joining us now, four small business owners to talk about how a potential default would affect them personally, their employees, and what it means for them writ large.

Rosemary Swierk is the founder and president of Direct Steel and Construction, which builds about a dozen government buildings a year.

Andrea Karns is vice president of sales and marketing at Karns Quality Foods, a third-generation family-owned grocery store chain in Pennsylvania.

Brendan McCluskey is the owner of Trident Builders, a construction firm in Baltimore. About 60 percent of their business is -- business is federal contracts.

And also joining us is Jonathan Graf, of Graf Consulting -- a behavioral specialist. His income mostly comes from Medicaid for his work with children and adults in crisis.

So, guys, thank you so much for joining us this morning. I appreciate it.

What happens if we default on June first? ROSEMARY SWIERK, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, DIRECT STEEL AND CONSTRUCTION: Let's say there is a government shutdown. For our federal projects, just for instance, that would take the federal government representatives off the project, which would shut down our project. Then the decision is how long -- and then we can't submit for payment and receive payment.

HARLOW: So this isn't about a government shutdown, but this is about if we default and what that means for the economy. How would that affect your business, Rosemary?

SWIERK: So we're -- if we don't have receivables coming in and our projects aren't moving forward, how do we move forward with that project?

But it also has, much to your point, a lot of ancillary issues. Increased interest rates, right? So on a private side it's -- we've already seen a pullback in the quality and -- quality of leads because of the rising interest rates. An additional rise in interest rates even pulls it back that much more. The ability to get loans. The lines of credit is tightening up.

It has --


SWIERK: -- huge implications on businesses.

HARLOW: Brendan, what about you because you just -- your company just began work I believe in the last week or so on a federal building in Baltimore. That's been in the works since last year. What happens to a project like that if we default?


BRENDAN MCCLUSKEY, OWNER, TRIDENT BUILDERS, LLC: I don't know. I feel as if I don't know what's going to happen and that's where I really get frustrated with this general situation is that we're just introducing a lot of uncertainty here.

We've been dealing with the pandemic. We've been dealing with worker shortages. We've been dealing with supply chain issues. We are now dealing with inflation, right, and rising interest rates, and access to capital. Why are we introducing the potential of a default on top of all that?

I would probably (audio gap). It's just kind of like grin and bear it and build the project out, and then hope that I get paid at some point. Otherwise, I've got to kind of carry that burden in terms of like (audio gap) my savings.

So a default now would basically probably not hurt me as much right now but it would kill my project pipeline and my ability going into '24 and even '25. So I just look at this entire episode as being frankly grossly irresponsible and dangerous. HARLOW: Andrea, you are a third-generation grocery shop owner. You've got 1,200 employees. And the people you service is everyone. People who would be directly impacted in terms of government payments if we have a default.

Can you just speak to that -- how you're preparing for that?

ANDREA KARNS, SALES AND MARKETING VICE PRESIDENT, KARNS QUALITY FOODS: Certainly. What you said is a hundred percent correct. We service everyone in the community, so we have SNAP recipients, we have veterans, we have individuals on Social Security, we have federal employees.

In looking at how that would affect us as a retailer and how it will affect the community, we're not just talking about those shoppers because when they spend less we have less ability to purchase from the local farmers. We have less ability to purchase from our wholesaler. So that ripple effect really stretches out.

So many folks are already struggling to fill their pantry, fill their refrigerator, their freezer, so that uncertainty -- that unknown definitely starts to creep into their everyday thoughts and wondering what's going to happen, when is it going to happen, and how is it going to impact me.

HARLOW: Jonathan, you're a behavioral specialist so a lot of your income as I understand it, right, is tied to Medicaid. And what would a default mean for you guys?

JONATHAN GRAF, GRAF CONSULTING: Well, yes. I mean, that -- I like to say exactly what has been by the others on this panel and that is the uncertainty and the unknown. And in human service the entire system really is built on Medicaid services so there is no plan B.

And in my job I support people who are in crisis who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. So this unknown piece, if it affects Medicaid -- if there are deep cuts -- if the faucet turns off our entire system just stops.

And so small business owners like myself -- yes, we would absolutely lose our jobs because I'm a Medicaid provider so I bill Medicaid. Because the folks who need these services most can't afford them to private pay, so they require services. And so, yes, it impacts us as small businesses.

It also impacts the folks that we support because they pay their room and board with Medicaid. And so it's going to not just disrupt their lives but it's catastrophic for them as well.

HARLOW: Very quickly, if you each could, what is your message to Washington? They have a week left to get this done, Rosemary.

SWIERK: Right. I think it would be -- you know, we've already battled the worst economic conditions my generation has ever known. The last thing we need is more economic uncertainty.

HARLOW: Andrea?

KARNS: Certainly. So when you look at the government, their job at the end of the day is to protect the -- protect the citizens of the United States. That's what I'm asking them to do. You know, we all work with individuals that we don't always see eye-to-eye with. That being said, push those -- push those items aside and find a resolution to avoid this situation.

HARLOW: Brendan?

MCCLUSKEY: Politicians often talk about how small businesses are the bedrock of the national economy. And I think it's just quite dangerous, irresponsible, and it doesn't reflect at all upon America.

HARLOW: Jonathan, finally, your message to Washington?

GRAF: Supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities isn't a partisan issue. We help the most vulnerable folks in society. So I'm hoping that Washington thinks about their own family members and their own community and realize that you know what, folks aren't pawns.

HARLOW: Hopefully, Congress is listening. Thank you, guys.

MCCLUSKEY: Thank you for the platform.


HARLOW: That's who I really care about hearing from.

HILL: Yes.

HARLOW: I mean, the lawmakers make the decisions. We care about that. But, like, this is who it's affecting when you don't have a deal.

HILL: I agree with you and I think on so many levels, right, it's this current issue that we're dealing with. But across the board, it makes you wonder what we hear from people all the time when we talk to them.


HILL: Are those in Washington really hearing them?

HARLOW: Well, hopefully, they're watching.

HILL: Let's hope so.

HARLOW: OK, the final hour of CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

Well, good morning. Happy Friday, everyone. Maybe a long weekend for you. My husband told me -- he was, like, I don't have to work today. I was, like, what, what --

HILL: Well, that must be nice.

HARLOW: -- what, what?

HILL: Sinisa, enjoy your day.

HARLOW: I was like you can go to the grocery store. You can hem my pants and go to the dry cleaner. Let's see how much happens.

HILL: Oh, he does tailoring?



HARLOW: I want him to.