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Russian Generals Accuse Wagner Leader Of Attempting Coup; New Trial Date Is Set For Classified Documents Case Against Donald Trump. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired June 23, 2023 - 23:00   ET



IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, part of the challenge here is you can't really tell whether or not these forces are Russian Ministry of Defense forces or whether they are Wagner mercenary forces, but certainly their posture is aggressive. In some cases, we can see these soldiers prone position on the streets, kind of deploying around military buildings while there are ordinary Russian civilians standing next to them in shorts and T-shirts.

Certainly, there is a very dramatic power struggle taking place right now. You've had one of Russia's most senior military commanders, General Surovikin, who's come out on camera urging Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries to submit to Russian law, to lay down their arms, and saying basically, we are brothers in arms. We have fought on the battlefields of Ukraine. Do not do this, stop before it's too late.

So, there is clearly some kind of collision that is taking place right now. And Prigozhin is openly accusing the Russian defense ministry, the Russian defense minister himself, and the top general in the Russian military of genocide against the Russian people. And he wants to bring them to justice, he says. This is so dramatic. I do not know how this will unfold in the coming hours.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, Ivan, that's what's happening in the Rostov region, which you've just explained. Then there's also stuff happening in Moscow. There are military -- we've seen video of military vehicles on the streets of Moscow. The Kremlin is reportedly cordoned off. So, what does that mean?

WATSON: That to me looks like the center of power in Russia being fortified against potential threats. We have not seen any signs of any instability in Moscow itself right now. Ukraine and its borders and where the Wagner mercenary forces were deployed, it's at least, on a good day, a 15-hour drive from there, from Rostov, for example, all the way up to Moscow. But it's clear that there are checkpoints being set up, that there are efforts to try to stop whatever movement could be trying to come up from the south of the country.

And let's try to keep in mind what the Wagner mercenary group is. This is a force, again, of mercenaries that has recruited from the penal system, from the prisons around Russia, and sent them into battle for months now, predominantly around the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. They were pulled out of there in the last month or so. The Russian Defense Ministry had issued an order that said that all mercenary groups had to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Wagner boss, Prigozhin, who is very present on social media, who has been leading basically an information campaign, propaganda campaign against the defense ministry for months now, accusing the top generals of being corrupt, of sending soldiers into battle without appropriate ammunition and weapons.

He's been building this campaign for some time, and now he's basically turned a hundred and eighty degrees against them and accused them of launching this invasion into Ukraine on false pretexts, to basically get promotions for themselves and to earn money for themselves. So, he's challenging Vladimir Putin's rationale for the war in the first place.

And all of this is coming as active combat is still taking place all over Ukraine. There have been airstrikes against the Ukrainian capital overnight. The Ukrainian military is carrying out its counteroffensives. It's been launching raids into Russian territory that have been difficult for the Russian military to stop.

So, the question is, how will the Russian security forces deal with armored, battle-hardened ranks of convicted criminals and mercenaries now charging into the Russian heartlands? It's a scenario that is, frankly, kind of mind-boggling.

CAMEROTA: Excellent question. Thank you very much, Ivan, for explaining all of that. We'll try to get some answers because we're going to bring in now CNN Military Analyst and Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton and CNN Political and National Security Analyst David Sanger.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here with us late on this Friday night to understand the breaking news and the chaos in Russia. So, let's start there, Colonel, what Ivan was just talking about. In terms of a power, well, a military struggle, is it possible for Prigozhin and his troops to actually pull off a coup against the Russian military?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, RETIRED COLONEL, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, I think it's possible, but I don't think it's likely. I think one of the key things to think about here is, you know, how well-prepared is Prigozhin to actually do this?


How much support does he have from not only the internal military forces, but the intelligence services like the FSB and other security arms that the Russian has, the police, for example, the Ministry of the Interior, all of these elements would have to be in play here for services like the FSB and other security arms that the Russian has, the police, for example, the Ministry of the Interior, all of these elements would have to be in play here for Prigozhin to be successful.

And it's unclear at this moment, at least to me, that he has that kind of support. It's possible for him to turn people, potentially, especially with the kinds of messages that he's sending. But it seems highly unlikely that he's going to penetrate the whole Kremlin web of disinformation that has so permeated the Russian media landscape up until this point.

CAMEROTA: David, Prigozhin is claiming that the Russian military attacked his location and killed, he says, he's saying, a vast number of his own Wagner group troops. Why would the Russian military do that? Is that because they've been embroiled in this power struggle? Or is that to be -- I mean, can we trust Prigozhin for saying that he was attacked by the Russian military?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, certainly, Alisyn. This has been brewing for a long time. And this has just been the latest and the biggest escalation of Mr. Prigozhin's attack on the two leading generals of the Russian military, who he's called incompetent and liars and so forth.

Whether or not they really did attack that group is -- it's hard to tell. And so far, I haven't heard any independent intelligence from the United States or allies that would support it. Doesn't mean it didn't happen. I'm sure everybody in the White House right now seems to be trying to figure this out, as well. But I think a couple of things are probably likely to emerge from all of this murkiness.

One, I agree with Colonel Leighton. I can't imagine that they could, that Prigozhin could succeed here. But he's showing deep cracks in what Putin has tried to show for the past 20 years has been unchallenged rule. Remember how upset Putin got back in the early Obama administration when he accused Hillary Clinton of interfering in elections in Russia because she said that an election was rigged and he wanted to have an overwhelming support.

Second, the Russian people who have had suspicions that this war was being conducted on false pretenses now have a Russian in their midst, one who they know well making that case. And the third thing that's happening here, I think, is that the Ukrainians must be thinking, this is great. We've gotten rid of the Wagner group, the most effective of the Russian troops.

And, the big concern, of course, for the American side is they're all watching Russia's nuclear arsenal, as we have at various other points. So far, I've heard no indication of anything moving, but that's always the big fear, what happens if you lose control?

CAMEROTA: Colonel, how does Ukraine seize on this chaos now?

LEIGHTON: Well, there are several things they can do, Alison. And as David mentioned, there are a lot of things that Ukrainians can actually look at here. One of the things that I think that they would do is perhaps, prosecute their advantage, their tactical advantage in Bakhmut, for example. That would be a major turning point potentially for the Ukrainians.

Another thing that they could do is, as the Russian forces withdraw potentially to defend against the Wagner group, they could backfill that area and take over areas that the Russians abandoned if that happens. We don't know if that's going to happen, but those are the kinds of things that the Ukrainians are going to be looking for, I'm sure, and they will probably take advantage of them as quickly as they possibly can.

CAMEROTA: David, where is Vladimir Putin in all this? I don't just mean location-wise. I mean, philosophically, who does he side with and where is he tonight?

SANGER: Well, we don't know where he is right now, or at least I certainly don't. Frequently, if he's not in Moscow, he is at one of several of his -- he's got a home he uses a lot in St. Petersburg, where he came from. He's got one in Sochi. So, there are different locations where he might be.

But it is interesting that you have not heard him speak out on this point. Now, Prigozhin is a creature of Putin. They came up together in St. Petersburg. He was famously Putin's chef. The one time I saw him, Alisyn, it was when he was making a meal for George W. Bush and Putin during a summit meeting. He then went on, of course, to run the Internet Research Agency and do the trolling that was part of the interference in the 2016 election, and then, of course, starting up the Wagner Group.

Putin has benefited from Prigozhin. His troops have been active in Syria, they've been active in Africa.


And obviously, they've saved the Russians in some parts of Ukraine. So, that's why we assume he's been tolerated until now. And I think everyone's gonna be sitting, waiting to see if Vladimir Putin comes out and says something about this.

CAMEROTA: Colonel Leighton, David Sanger, thank you both so much for your expertise. Great to have you with us tonight.

LEIGHTON: Thank you.

SANGER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We've got much more to come on our breaking news tonight. There's a chaotic situation in Russia. The Russian military is accusing the leader of the Wagner mercenaries of an attempted coup. We'll be right back.


CAMEROTA: We're back with breaking news tonight. Russian generals accused the leader of the Wagner group in Russia of calling for a coup. I want to bring in CNN National Security Analysts, Steve Hall and Juliette Kayyem right now.


Guys, thank you very much for being here. Juliette, of course, the U.S. Intel community cannot rely on the Kremlin or the Wagner Group for real information. So, what are they doing at this hour? JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL:

Well, there's a -- the intelligence community is big. So, there's gonna to be different bases. I think for our purposes right now, the most significant is gonna be military and the defense intelligence agencies.

That is because this is of relevance to us, not just because of Ukraine, but because of Russia's nuclear arsenal. And the August coup, this was the coup against Gorbachev in 1991. That was it. You know, that was it. That was a coup in which the military made assurances almost immediately to the United States that the nuclear arsenal, you know, was under control.

I don't want to scare people. It's just you worry about mistakes, right? You worry about instability. You worry about whether the processes that have protected us from even mistakes between Russia and the United States are still intact.

And so, with the defense, with a, you know, paramilitary force now coming into play, the Wagner group, that is very different than an internal Russian military taking over, say, Gorbachev. So, I think that's gonna be the primary focus for intelligence purposes and that the Ukraine issue and what's going on in Ukraine actually will be secondary to the United States' interests at this very moment as they're learning what's going on, as well.

CAMEROTA: Okay, so that's the U.S. side. Steve, you were the Former Chief of Russia Operations in the CIA. So, what's likely happening inside the Kremlin tonight?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, all indications from what's going on the streets just outside the Kremlin is they appear to be a little nervous. This is not something that they're taking lightly. I think it is interesting, quite some of your guests earlier were saying that there's not a great chance that Prigozhin, acting on his own, is going to be able to pull this off.

And I sort of agree with that point. You know, he's not gonna be able to take his soldiers and sort of march from the war zone in Ukraine up to the Kremlin and just take over or as he claims to the Ministry of Defense so that he can affect justice. But if he's smart and he has moved at pretty high circles in Moscow for a long time, he understands that if you're actually going to try to pull off some sort of coup, that you're going to need people on the inside who are at the very least not going to stop you and are gonna look the other way.

So, if that's really what he's trying to do, then he has reached out to this group that I've referred to previously as the Siloviki. These are the chiefs of the intelligence services, some of the senior military folks, some of the senior ministry of interior and police folks. If he's reached out to those folks and sort of greased the skids and said, look, we need to do something here.

Those elites might be saying, yeah, things haven't been going particularly well in Ukraine. They haven't been going particularly well for Russia. And they haven't been going particularly well for us. We've been losing our yachts and our money. And, you know, this has got to come to an end somehow. So, if he's got buy-in, if Prigozhin has buy-in from folks in Moscow, he may have a shot.

CAMEROTA: Steve, one more question for you, because we just got this into our newsroom. This is video of Russia's top commander in Ukraine, Sergey Surovikin. This is Friday night. We haven't translated it yet, but we have our information that he's urging Wagner mercenary fighters to, quote, stop and obey the will of President Vladimir Putin. So, we haven't heard from Putin, though. Well, what do you make of that, Steve?

HALL: Not a good sign. You know, if you had discipline throughout the Russian government, and if you're Putin, what you're going to tell people is, don't react to this. Don't say anything about this. Nobody talk about it. We don't want every day Russians talking about it. We want this to look like, you know, just some weird thing that's happened that Prigozhin perhaps had a little too much to drink, which has apparently happened in the past, and don't worry about it.

When you've got senior Russian military guys saying, hey, you know, Prigozhin, this is not gonna stand. You have to -- you have to stop. That shows a big, in my opinion, fissure that you got going inside the Russian government. And of course, that's critical to the Russian population, because the Russian population is constantly told by the Kremlin, hey, no matter else what you have to go through, we will guarantee your stability. This isn't looking very stable right now, and I don't think, to anybody who's following it inside of Russia.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Juliette.

KAYYEM: You know, I agree with that. And I think I want to pick up on what Steve was saying about the best case scenario is truly that this ends up being a coup that is supported internally or by Putin's people and that you don't have a big division. I don't want to just sound U.S. focused, but that's going to obviously be an interest right now that this is not just about Ukraine.


And I think that scenario is sort of the best case scenario if this is successful. I need to make clear that what we are seeing on Twitter is little pieces and what people are seeing, you know, it's the reporting on the ground that we're reporting that is gonna be the most significant in terms of how powerful tonight is, like how real is it? Because lots of people have their agendas for why they would want a certain side to win or lose. And we'll know just because it's daylight sort of what that looks like in the next couple of hours.

CAMEROTA: Juliette, does the White House need to do anything here? Does the White House need to say anything or weigh in? Or are they just sitting back and watching this unfold?

KAYYEM: Well, they're not sitting back. I mean, I mean, we know that in terms of the briefings, there'll be a couple of pieces. As I said, a lot of this is going to be run not out of the Pentagon, not for purposes of sending troops, but just because that's your -- that's your worrisome asset is just sort of what is happening. And there's a lot of, as Steve knows, there's a lot of communications at lower levels amongst military members between the two countries, regardless of what's happening on the diplomatic side.

At the State Department, you have these different pieces at the State Department, you're going to have outreach to our allies because they are equally concerned. This is -- this is -- and for Europe, it's close. So, they are -- destabilization is just never a great thing, especially when we don't know how this unfolds. And especially when the other side, you know, is this group. It's not like this is not, you know, the sort of a, you know, a populist movement. This is a -- another horrible group of people and leadership as the -- as the Russian leadership is.

And so, you will have the diplomatic outreach to have a unified front amongst the allies as we've had with Ukraine. And so, those are the different pieces. I think from the homeland front, it is just -- it's just monitoring at this stage, no reason to believe that there's any threat. There's no evidence of it whatsoever.

But as I said, destabilization is not a great thing as this moves forward very quickly. And the most important thing right now is that no one -- do anything too quickly, especially on the U.S. side. And I think President Biden is known for that. He does not do his foreign policy or national security by tweet. And we should be pretty grateful for that tonight.

CAMEROTA: Juliette, Steve, thank you both very much. Great to talk to you.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

HALL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Okay, up next. We also have breaking news in Donald Trump's classified documents criminal case. Special Counsel Jack Smith with some key filings tonight. He's requesting a new trial date.




CAMEROTA: Breaking news tonight in the classified documents case against Donald Trump. There's a new trial date. We also have a CNN exclusive in the Special Counsel's investigation into January 6th. Sources tell CNN that at least two fake electors have already received limited immunity in exchange for giving their testimony to a federal grand jury in D.C.

CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz, joins me now. Okay, that's a lot. So, tell us what we need to know.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So, Alisyn, on this proposed new trial date, trial dates are not set in stone. Already, there was one set by the judge for August, but now, tonight in a filing, the Special Counsel's office came into court and said they actually want to have the trial in December.

That's because they have a lot of business to take care of. They want to be able to argue over the classified documents used in this case, handling that appropriately. They also want to give the defense team some time to prepare. And so, they think that December will be enough time, the appropriate time, for this to go to trial. But they do also indicate that Donald Trump's team is ready to oppose that.

We don't know what date they would pick and we don't know what the judge will say ultimately. But that is -- feels like a couple months away, but it's actually a pretty quick timeline to get to trial. So, December, right now, is what they're asking for. We'll see what happens there.

CAMEROTA: Okay, so now tell us about this exclusive CNN reporting that these two fake electors have gotten limited immunity. What does that mean? Right, so this is the January 6th investigation that is also being conducted by the special counsel's office. There have been no charges related to it yet.

However, there's been a lot of grand jury activity, Alisyn, and in the past two weeks, especially, there have been a handful of people, like a half dozen people related to this fake electors scheme Donald Trump used to try and overturn Joe Biden's wins in key battleground states and particularly, two electors who previously were unwilling to tell their story, what they witnessed, who they spoke with in Donald Trump's top circles.

Those two people, both from Nevada, both fake electors, they went to the grand jury two weeks ago and they were compelled to testify. They had to share what they knew and give evidence. And then there have been other people testifying, as well. All of it put together seems to be a really aggressive stance from prosecutors that could be resulting in charges pretty soon.

CAMEROTA: Okay. And then, Katelyn, there's also prosecutors still investigating possible financial crimes tied to the millions of dollars that Donald Trump raised off of the election lies. So, what's the status there?

POLANTZ: Right, so Alisyn, my sources are telling me that there is a separate leg or a related, but kind of separate leg of the Special Counsel's investigation around the 2020 election that is looking at the possibility of financial crimes, even actions and payments that were made, well after January 6th and Donald Trump left the presidency.


But the tricky thing about this is that there could be a lot of aspects to the Special Counsel's investigation around January 6th in the 2020 election. The fake electors probe that I was just speaking about, that was something we knew they went really hard for information on, a full year ago, and then we didn't hear a lot about it until now with this grand jury activity around the fake electors.

There are other aspects of the investigation, too, like the testimony of Mike Pence, what he would have said about Donald Trump, what was happening in the White House, how it all fits together, if there will be charges around it, and exactly who would be the targets of the investigation who could be charged, including Trump himself. That is still a huge question. So, a lot of unknowns, still. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much for sorting through all of that so we don't have to. Really appreciate it. All right, I want to bring in my panel now. Former Republican Senate candidate Joe Pinion. We also have Former Democratic Congressman Max Rose, and Defense Attorney Misty Marris is back with us.

Okay. So, let's just break it down so we can separate them out. First, the classified documents. Everyone is familiar with that case. So, Walt Nauta was one of the president's body men, one of his top aides always around him, and is involved in the classified documents, moving of boxes, et cetera. So, there's now been new information that the prosecutors, I think, have given Donald Trump and Walt Nauta a list of people they cannot speak to. Does that include each other? Because they've been with each other since being indicted.

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It could. Now, see, they're co- defendants of the case, so that's a really important aspect of it. They're both facing this similar type of legal criminal liability, so they will likely be able to communicate at least through what's called a joint defense agreement to some degree, but those other, I believe it's 82 people that they have a no-contact court order.

Look, a no-contact order, very common. You want to avoid witness tampering, and it's a condition of release. Remember, neither one of them are in jail. They're released on their own recognizance. So, that is something though, 82 witnesses, we didn't see 82 names in that indictment. So, there's much more to come as this case unfolds.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, how do you see all of the various developments and where we are with the investigations, including in this political cycle?

MAX ROSE (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: So, here's the thing, I think we all can collectively agree that no one should want to see an ex-president indicted, right? It's a sad day for the country. But it's clear that Donald Trump acted recklessly. His innocence is presumed. This is the United States of America. It's a pillar. And what we need right now is to respect the process. And so, I think that's exactly what is happening here. I've received a top secret security clearance. It is an arduous process. They actually conduct interviews. If you've lived in another country, you know, it's extensive.

And that's what his defense has to go through in order to actually view these top secret documents. If this was some weaponization of government where Joe Biden was actually using the tools of government to go after his political opponent in an unfair way they wouldn't be doing something like this. So, I'm actually very encouraged to see that they are following a responsible process here and once again affirms what is so great about this country which is that we have an independent judicial system.

CAMEROTA: Is that how you see it Joe?

JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I would agree with the front portion of what the Congressman said. Look, I think that yes, anytime you have a president getting indicted criminally or civilly, it's a bad day for the country. I would also say that in the context of a presidential election or just living your everyday life, very few people find themselves better off than they were before after an indictment.

So, I think that there are many prongs here of this process. But I think if we're getting to the core crux of the matter, yeah, look, there are gonna be questions about what did the president know and did he know it. There's going to be questions about his state of mind. Americans figured out what quid pro quo was. Now, we're learning about mens rea (ph) on the fly.

But beyond that, I think, again, there is a real question about the legal process as it relates to January 6th, I think that arguably it was a misguided approach to say that you're going to just kind of select your own electors and go through that process. But I do think that, you know, at the end of the day, this process has to play itself.

CAMEROTA: But are you trusting the Special Counsel, Jack Smith?

PINION: Look, the process is going to be what the process is. I think I'm reserving judgment.

CAMEROTA: You don't have any reason not to trust him.

PINION: Look, I think that I have reason to believe that this process has not gone the way that I think it should have gone.

CAMEROTA: Such as?

PINION: Look, I think it's arguable that this case might, should not have that even brought in the first place.

CAMEROTA: But -- not the classified documents case?


PINION: Well, look, I think the classified documents case, I mean look, Ryan Lizza sat down with the former president of -- with the former attorney for President Trump who said that during his grand jury testimony, that they effectively tried to get him to breach attorney-client privilege 45 different times. So, I think at some point, right, and he also made the distinction in that interview at Ryan Lizza's between what was happening with the January 6th inquiry and what was happening with the document inquiry.

So, I just think, again, there is enough evidence from people that have effectively no real reason to lie, who do have a pretty stellar track record to say there are things happening throughout this process that give people pause, particularly because we're in this unprecedented period.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, what do you say to that? Because, you know, we hear from the Republicans that this -- that there's a two-tiered justice system, et cetera.

ROSE: Yeah, when the facts aren't on your side, you argue process. That's what you do in politics. The guy had top secret national security documents in his own possession, things associated with military plans, nuclear plans, America's vulnerabilities. And when he was asked to give them back, then when he was told to give them back, he did not respond in due course, tried to hide the documents.

So again, we have to reaffirm innocence presumed, you know, an independent process. But that is reckless behavior. And I can tell you that when I was in, when I was active duty, military, if someone did that, no matter what rank, the law would be coming down on them. When I was in Congress, if someone did that. This is a missing context.

PINION: I mean, Misty can speak to it better than I can, but again, there were plenty of documents that were returned. There was an ongoing dialogue there that was occurring. So, look, I think that we can all

CAMEROTA: No, not in any timely fashion, whatsoever. As we know, it was a year and a half. They had to subpoena the documents because he wasn't handing them over, and then the FBI had to go to his property to retrieve them.

PINION: I think as a general rule, we can say the president exhibited poor judgment. I think that we shouldn't be so cavalier with the secrets of the nation. But I also think that, again, from an optics standpoint, if you're looking at the fact that this is not the first time that we found classified documents in sock drawers, in closets, it becomes a real problem.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, but people get in trouble for that very quickly.

MARRIS: Yeah, I think huge distinction, and I would say that because what the problem is in this case, I think it's gonna fall in the obstruction charges and the willful and why I say that, and again, innocent till proven guilty, I agree, but a recording of Donald Trump himself and the testimony of his lawyers, which I agree, I get the shivers when I think about breaching my privilege, but was compelled under the crime, fraud exception.

That's where you're the most candid and you're speaking in a way that your state of mind becomes obvious. And then one more thing, everything he's saying after the fact. The most recent interview just makes me put my hands in my head, his lawyers must be losing their minds because that will all come back to haunt you in the courtroom.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. Great to talk to all of you. All right, we have more breaking news ahead. The U.S. Coast Guard will lead the investigation into the Titan submersible disaster. We have new details on that.




CAMEROTA: Okay, let's get right to CNN's Ivan Watson now for the latest on what's happening in Russia. Ivan, you've covered Russia for decades. So, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, is speaking out at this hour. What's he saying?

WATSON: Right. Well, in his latest statement, he claims that a helicopter opened fire on one of his convoys and that his forces then shot that helicopter down, destroyed it, he claims, and that it's burning in the woods on the side of the highway leading towards Moscow. Now, take some of this with a grain of salt, because he is known to embellish and exaggerate.

He has claimed earlier, accused the Russian military of firing rockets at a refinery base of his Wagner mercenary group and of killing many of his people. But this is a sign of the kind of rhetoric that we're hearing and the accusations that are being made. He goes on in this audio message to say that he and his forces, all 25,000, he claims, are all ready to die, ready to die for the Russian homeland and for the Russian people.

Now, a little bit of context here. We know that he has announced that he is going to lead a march for justice into Russia after accusing the top Russian military command of genocide against the Russian people. We have seen images on social media of armed groups, of tanks and armored personnel carriers deployed in the southern city of Rostov, a southern Russian city, which is not far from the Ukrainian border.

We have heard that the Russian government has issued, launched a criminal case against Prigozhin, accusing him of armed rebellion. And we also know that one of the most senior military commanders in the Russian military, who was believed in the past to have been close to Prigozhin himself, this is the deputy commander of the Russian Joint Forces, General Sergey Surovikin.

He came out and issued a video statement, an appeal to the fighters and commanders of this Wagner mercenary group telling them, hey, we are brothers in arms, but stop this before it's too late, basically submit to the Russian government.

[23:45:00] So, there's clearly some kind of power struggle taking place. You have got the most powerful mercenary chieftain in Russia, who was fighting on the frontlines for more than a year, now being accused openly of armed rebellion. We have had statements that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is being kept up to date about this, but we haven't heard anything firsthand from him.

I just got off the phone with a contact in Moscow, Alisyn. He was out partying in the nightclubs all night, but he says now this is all anybody is talking about in Moscow, right now, though the streets there, in his opinion, still look normal. We've heard from the governor of the Rostov region urging people to stay off the streets and to be careful. And we've heard from the governor of Moscow, the mayor of Moscow, that anti-terrorist activities are starting to take place. There are new security precautions underway right now. So, this is a tense situation, and we do not know how it will unfold.


CAMEROTA: Yes, I'm so glad you brought up Moscow because it's early morning in Moscow right now, early Saturday morning, but the streets do look calm at the moment, different than they did last night when we saw the armed vehicles going through. But as you say, the mayor of Moscow says they're taking precautions, as you say, anti-terrorist precautions, as they call them. Obviously, we will keep an eye on exactly what Moscow looks like right now. Ivan, thank you very much for all of that context.

So, more news tonight. The NTSB announcing that the U.S. Coast Guard will lead the investigation into the fatal implosion of the Titan submersible. I want to bring in now underwater forensics expert Rhonda Moniz. Rhonda, thank you so much. We really appreciate having you back tonight so that we can understand what this investigation is gonna look like. Where do you begin 12,000 feet under the sea to figure out exactly what happened?

RHONDA MONIZ, WORKED ON A PREVIOUS EXPEDITION WITH OCEAN GATE: That's a really good question, Alisyn, you know, this, I mentioned this when we spoke before. This is such a complicated operation. It really is. They're dealing with weather. This has been a really bad season for the weather up there. It's a remote location. It's 12, as you mentioned, 12,500 feet deep. There's not a lot of assets that can reach those depths and work in those depths. They need people that are highly qualified and trained to run that operation.

Where they need to start is where they've been starting. They need to map and document those debris fields as much as they possibly can while they have those work class ROVs on the ocean floor. That's what they need to do. They need to get as much information, collect as much data, document it as much as they can.

And if there's any small pieces that the ROV, they do have manipulator arms that they can collect, they can pick up some things, then they can do that. And then they'll have to come in with deep water salvage equipment following that to remove or recover the larger pieces of equipment.

CAMEROTA: But Rhonda, I mean, in terms of figuring out ever where the structural integrity was lost, if that's what happened, how will they figure out if it was in the tail or if it was in a seam or if it was in the carbon fiber? Like, how will you be able to pinpoint what happened?

MONIZ: So that's why it's so important for them to map and document the debris fields and then collect as much of what's left, small pieces, larger pieces that they'll need that deep water salvage equipment to raise the heavier pieces with. They're going to have to get everything they possibly can and do as much documentation as they can so that they can put it all together on the surface. And really, it's going to be like a puzzle. They're going to have to

try to put as much back together. That's why they need as much data as possible, reconstruct it to see where it looks like things went wrong.

CAMEROTA: Rhonda Moniz, your job is fascinating. Thank you for explaining a portion of it to us. We appreciate talking to you.

MONIZ: Thank you, Alisyn, a pleasure.

CAMEROTA: We'll be right back.




CAMEROTA: Last month, a first of its kind reunion took place in Miami Beach. The top 10 CNN heroes from 2021 and 2022 came together to receive the nonprofit training that is part of their Heroes Award and hosted by the Elevate Prize Foundation. They also took time out to help the planet and Miami's vibrant ecosystem. Here's Anderson Cooper.


UNKNOWN: We are out here in Virginia Key Beach, Miami, Florida, and we are cleaning up.

UNKNOWN: Let's do it.

UNKNOWN: We're clearing the way for hatchlings. How cool is that?

UNKNOWN: We're reintroducing native plants back into this ecosystem as a way to combat a lot of the invasive species that have come in.

UNKNOWN: My day to day is working marine mammals and rehabilitating. So, it's important to do this type of work.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Also important is the nonprofit training that helps their organizations grow stronger and their missions go even further.

UNKNOWN: We've learned about social media, financial planning, nonprofit management.


It's all been extremely helpful. Having the opportunity to learn, how to do more so that we can grow what we're doing, we can expand. And we can serve more people. It's just an opportunity that I'm so grateful for.


CAMEROTA: To see Anderson's full story on this special reunion, go to And this week at a special time, Chris Wallace talks to Senator Cory Booker and Indiana Jones himself Harrison Ford. "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace" will air tomorrow night at 8 on CNN and it's also streaming on Max.

Thank you very much for being with us tonight for all this breaking news. It is now morning in Moscow and Russians are waking up to the news that Russia's security service is accusing the Wagner group leader, Prigozhin of calling for a coup. CNN special live coverage continues right after this quick break.