Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Search For Answer After Sub Disaster Kills Five; Sources: Two Other Grand Jury Witnesses This Week Also Had Insight Into Fake Elector Scheme; Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), Is Interviewed About Wagner Chief Accusing Russia Of Killing His Forces; FDA Releases Draft Guidance On Trials For Psychedelics. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 23, 2023 - 17:00   ET


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: But that's it. That's Sunday morning at 09:00 a.m. Eastern time, and again at noon here on CNN. And also in that lineup on Sunday morning, I'll see you on Sunday for Inside Politics Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN. But now back to Anderson Cooper and over to Alex Marquardt in the "Situation Room."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Planned Parenthood, Naron (ph). Emily's (ph) list.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Alex Marquardt in Washington.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Anderson Cooper on the Canadian coast.

Happening now, a new mission to investigate the debris of the imploded submersible and the deaths of all five people on board. The company that owned and operated the vessel under intense scrutiny as we're learning about early warnings that the sub might be unsafe.

MARQUARDT: And also tonight, CNN's exclusive new reporting on the special counsel's January 6 investigation. Sources revealing that at least two fake Trump electors were given limited immunity in exchange for their grand jury testimony. And the chief of the Wagner private military group makes a powerful claim, accusing Russia's military leadership of killing a huge amount of its mercenary force, describing their actions as evil. We'll break down what this could mean for Russia's war in Ukraine. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COOPER: We are coming to you live from Canada in St. John's, Newfoundland. This is a key staging ground for the investigation of the deadly submersible disaster. Many critical questions remain unanswered as a new mission is underway to search and map the debris field. CNN Jason Carroll is in Boston, where the Coast Guard confirmed the subs implosion a little over 24 hours ago.

Jason, a lot of people certainly looking for answers. Still a lot of questions. Where does the investigation stand right now? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson. Well, I can tell you that Canada's Transportation Safety Board announced today that it has launched an investigation into what happened. This as there are more questions about the safety of that vessel.


CARROLL (voice-over): These are some of the first images of the remotely operated vehicles which found portions of the Titan's hall and continue tonight on a new mission to search and map the debris site. The ROVs will continue searching for more evidence of the accident. The submersible lost contact with the ship on the surface one hour and 45 minutes into its descent on Sunday.

DAVID GALLO, SENIOR ADVISER STRATEGIC INITIATIVE, RMS TITANIC INC.: The other thing that I heard was that PH had contacted the surfer ship and said there was a problem. We're dropping weights and surfacing immediately. Now, I can't verify that, but that to meant something really happened very quickly.

CARROLL (voice-over): OceanGate did not comment when asked about what Gallo had heard. One senior Navy official telling CNN it was on that same day, Sunday, naval equipment detected an acoustic signature consistent with an implosion in the area where the Titan went missing. But sound of the implosion was determined to be not definitive.

DAVID GOVE, U.S. NAVY MASTER DIVER (RET.): If it wasn't definitive, they didn't report it because they were under scrutiny from different elements of the press and they wanted to see if there were survivors underwater.

CARROLL (voice-over): So the search continued, a massive international undertaking by sea and air. The public never told of what the Navy had found until the Wall Street Journal broke the development late Thursday. But it appears word leaked among the small ocean exploring community as early as Monday. That's when Titanic director and deep sea-explorer in his own right, James Cameron, says heard about a noise consistent with an implosion.

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR, "TITANIC": I got on the horn again with some other people and got confirmation that there was some kind of loud noise consistent with an implosion event. That seemed to me enough confirmation that I let all of my inner circle of people know that we had lost our comrades.

CARROLL (voice-over): Cameron has taken 33 dives to the Titanic wreckage and says he and others warned OceanGate, the company that created the Titan, about the safety of the vessel.

CAMERON: The entire deep submergence community, actually or not the entire community, but a large number of them got together to write a letter to OceanGate, the company, and say, we believe that this could lead to catastrophe.

CARROLL (voice-over): Deep sea experts questioned the lack of testing of the vessel and the integrity of materials used to make the whole. OceanGate's co-founder, who left the company in 2013, cautioned against rushing to judgment.

GUILLERMO SOHNLEIN. CO-FOUNDER, OCEANGATE: There are teams on site that are still going to be collecting data for the next few days. weeks, maybe months. And it's going to be a long time before we know exactly what happened down there.

CARROLL (voice-over): Today, a somber scene in St. John's, Newfoundland, where the Titan's mothership, Port of Prince, departed for its journey. The flag had half-staff, flowers left at The Docks to remember the five souls lost on board, including noted Ocean explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet.


JOHN PASCHALL, STEPSON OF PAUL-HENRI NARGEOLET: He was this big, lovable guy who's a prankster, but he cared so much about his family and everything he did, you know, in life. I guess I was so fortunate to have him for so many years.


CARROLL: And Anderson, it should also be noted that Lloyd's Register, this is a company that Certifies Marine Vessels says that it declined a request from OceanGate to certify it back in 2019, although the company did not say why they declined to work with OceanGate. Anderson.

COOPER: Jason Carroll, appreciate. That's an interesting development. I want to go now to CNN's Veronica Miracle in Seattle, Washington, near where the company that owned and operated the submersible's headquartered.

Veronica, CNN has been taking a closer look, we all have, at OceanGate and some of its marketing material, which included an emphasis on safety. What was the reality of the case?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've been speaking with former OceanGate employees all week about some of the concerns. They talked to us about the design choices and the material choices that they said were and they knew were experimental and controversial as they were developing the Titan. They said they got a lot of pushback from the submersible community over the years, and so they knew that there were a lot of concerns.

We actually have a letter from 2018 from the Marine Technology Society that specifically addresses this and specifically addresses some of the marketing materials. They were concerned that OceanGate's marketing materials advertised the Titan as meeting or exceeding safety standards. And this group argued that OceanGate was not following safety protocols, saying, quote, "Your representation is at minimum misleading to the public and breaches an industrywide professional code of conduct we all endeavor to uphold."

Now, employees did describe the late Stockton Rush as an innovator and a visionary, but the marketing materials that we have also reviewed seem to be quite prophetic now. Here's a video of Rush speaking to students. Take a listen.


STOCKTON RUSH, CEO, OCEANGATE: That's the key element on any expedition is you've got to be thinking, what could go wrong? What can I do to mitigate that risk? And then something always bites you that you didn't expect and you just got to roll the punches.


MIRACLE: And Anderson, one of the former employees that we spoke with said that he raised concerns that OceanGate could potentially be breaking the law when it came to Coast Guard inspections. Rush apparently dismissed those concerns, and that employee says that he resigned in 2017. And then a separate lawsuit involving a different employee claimed that he was wrongfully terminated for raising safety concerns about the testing of the Titan, and that lawsuit was settled and dismissed back in 2018. Anderson.

COOPER: Veronica Miracle in Seattle, thanks very much.

Joining me now is retired Navy Captain Mark Matthews. He worked in submarine and deep ocean search and recovery operations.

I appreciate you being with us. I know you worked on sub design, how unusual was the cylindrical shape of this vessel and the choice of carbon fiber for the material? All of it was clearly designed to get more people paying passengers inside this vehicle able to make these trips.

CAPT. MARK MATTHEWS (RET.), U.S. NAVY: Right, Anderson. So, you know, anytime you go start a design on a submersible, it kind of focuses on capacity delivery. What's your mission? How deep are you trying to go? What payload are you taking with you?

And how long are you trying to stay there? And that's going to kind of define your volume, the volume that the inhabitants are going to be in, it's going to define the capacity of your life support systems. And the depth is certainly going to define the whole material. Now, as you add more and more people, you need to shift away from the ideal shape, which is a sphere to a cylinder, and it's all designed to really withstand the high pressures of that environment.

At the depth of 12,500 feet, you're dealing with about 380 atmospheres of pressure. That's the equivalent of an adult male rhinoceros standing on every inch of that submersible trying to crush it. So it's very important that you design it right.

Now, one of the things that works against you is, you know, the bigger it is, the more volume it takes up, the heavier the hull needs to be. And what the sweet spot in the design you're really trying to shoot for is kind of a neutral buoyancy where the vessel will just stay where it is in the water column that neither rise nor sink. You should have some ability to bring on a little more weight to descend, a little less weight to ascend, and then, you know, if an emergency happens or if there's a casualty, you need to be able to drop ballast and shoot to the surface without power. And so that's why you see these jettisonable weights and all those other, you know, design features.


COOPER: This vehicle, obviously, was reused -- this vehicle was obviously reused a number of times, and you're about to talk about the use of the carbon fiber. I talked to James Cameron last night who talked about the possibility of it beginning to delaminate over time. Do you think that's possible? And given the profile of this company, would that be something that they could actually test for every time? Because I understand even a, you know, a small microscopic leak, you know, half the diameter of a human hair could be catastrophic.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I mean, if you think about the immense pressure that these vessels are under, any minute flaw in the fabrication or any developed flaw in the system, it could be a point of extreme vulnerability and could lead to an implosion. We typically use titanium, we typically use high yield strength steel when we're designing these submersible hulls, because we -- they're strong. We know how -- you know, we worked with them for years, we know how they behave over time, we know how to maintain them. Carbon fiber is, you know, innovative, it is new. We haven't really built that history of operations in this application.

So, you know, how do we quickly learn its modes of failure? Is it going to fail after a certain number of cycles? Maybe. How do we develop that expertise other than through putting it into accelerated test programs that are expensive and time consuming before you try and feel something, you know, that's what I would be doing if I was trying to build experience with carbon fiber in this application.

COOPER: And that's a really important point because, you know, the idea of accelerated testing and putting it through that sort of testing is essential, really. I know, you know, this company was talking about the importance of innovation, and it seems like though they were innovating while paying passengers were on board, and had they gone through the years of testing or even accelerated testing, which is obviously costly and would mean not getting paying passengers out there, this could have been avoided, don't you think?

MATTHEWS: Certainly. And you know, that kind of highlights the importance of these classification societies. I get it, I've been a project manager fielding a new system that is different than the older systems. And I know that it can be difficult to get things accredited or certified for use. I understand that. But what that does, that independent organization gives you a separate set of eyeballs checking your design, checking your test protocol to make sure that you've got what we in the Navy would refer to as maximum reasonable assurance, that the hull is going to behave as it's designed to, that the system is going to be able to return to the surface with its occupants safe.

COOPER: Captain Mark Matthews, I really appreciate your time, sir. Thank you so much.

Alex, back to you. MARQUARDT: Thanks, Anderson.

And coming up, what the special counsel is doing to move the Trump January 6 investigation forward. Stand by for our exclusive reporting on the immunity offer he's giving some key witnesses.



MARQUARDT: There is new evidence tonight that the special counsel's investigation of Donald Trump and the January 6 investigation is heating up. CNN has exclusive new reporting on key grand jury witnesses and how prosecutors secured their testimony. CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz is here with the details.

So, Katelyn, two Republican fake electors have now been given limited immunity in this January 6 probe. What more are you learning?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So these are two people who went to the grand jury last week. They are two men from Nevada who were those fake electors, those people who signed those documents saying Donald Trump won Nevada, our electoral votes are cast for him when he actually hadn't won Nevada and the Biden electors were the rightful electors. And when they went to the grand jury, they had already been people that told other investigators, including Congress, that they were going to take the Fifth Amendment, they weren't going to answer any questions. And so when they went to the grand jury recently, the prosecutors from the special counsel's team were ready for it, they were unwilling to budge on this and they said, we're going to compel you to testify. We're going to immunize you so that we can question you about this.

And they were asked, and they did answer about what they remembered from the fake electoral scheme in Nevada. They talked about a Trump campaign attorney there, another man involved in politics who was talking to the fake electors and working on that effort there. So it's part of a lot of grand jury activity that really seems to be kicking up right now in this fake electors probe.

MARQUARDT: And you are being told that prosecutors are taking a real interest in what Trump said and did, his words and his actions after the election in November of 2020.

POLANTZ: Absolutely. And we know that has been part of this same or apparently same grand jury investigation because people like Mike Pence, the vice president, were compelled to testify about interactions directly with Donald Trump. And so there's a big question right now of what is the arc of this fake electors investigation? It was something prosecutors first tried to get information about a full year ago appeared to go dormant.

Now, there's all this grand jury push around not just these two guys from Nevada, but some other witnesses who have knowledge of that fake electoral scheme across the country. How does that fit in to a larger investigation and possible charges if they do arise? Do they go the whole way to Trump and people very close to him in the campaign?


MARQUARDT: More terrific reporting from you and the team. Katelyn Polantz, thanks very much.

I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen.

Norm, thanks so much for joining us. Does this new reporting from Katelyn and the others suggest that the special counsel could be getting closer to charging decisions in this investigation?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Alex, it does. We know that these fake electoral certificates have been the subject of attention, part of an effort allegedly to overturn the election have been found by a federal judge by a preponderance of the evidence to be part of a larger alleged scheme. And we know that the January 6 committee made criminal referrals. Now it seems as if Jack Smith is on the case and this flurry of effort could suggest that charging decisions may be near.

MARQUARDT: And Norm, we've also learned that prosecutors are taking an interest in members of Trump's post-election legal team. And given everything that we know now, what kind of charges do you think are in play here?

EISEN: Well, that federal judge in California, that case involved one of those members of the post-election team, John Eastman, CNN is reporting interest in Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, among others. The charges that have been talked about include a conspiracy to defraud the United States. Alex, passing phony electoral certificates can be analogized to passing counterfeit money. It's just you can't have an electoral certificate saying one person won the presidency when in fact another did.

Also possible obstruction of an official proceeding in Congress because these electoral certificates, and remember, this was pushed by these lawyers allegedly. These electoral certificates were part of the pattern of behavior that led to January 6. So, those kinds of charges are a very real possibility, but we'll have to see how far up the chain it goes.

MARQUARDT: All right, Norm Eisen, thanks as always for breaking that down for us. Appreciate it.

And up next, we will turn back to the submersible disaster and the specific areas of interest for investigators. Efforts to explain what went wrong now underway on multiple fronts.



COOPER: We're back live on Canada on the coast of Newfoundland and we're following intensifying efforts to determine why the Titans submersible imploded killing the five people on board. Tom Foreman is taking a closer look. Tom, talk about some of the key points of engineering that investigator is going to be looking at.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the things we've been talking about all day, Anderson, and that is the carbon fiber body of this craft. The carbon fiber is the main tube back here that you see. Carbon fiber is generally considered to be 10 times as strong as steel. It's used in airplanes and aircraft and cars and sports equipment, all sorts of things, because it is lightweight and very, very strong.

However, I spoke to two different professors, one in material science, one in aerospace engineering at the Esteem Georgia Tech, and they both said carbon fiber is a great material, but in this circumstance, there are key questions. One, reporting that originally it was supposed to be seven inches thick. In this case, it ended up five inches thick. That is what the reporting has shown. That they say could be a big issue at this depth.

The repeated up and down, the pressure, depressure, pressure, depressure from all the trips it took and the saturation from the water, does that affect the carbon fiber? No, but it could affect the laminate, the epoxy, the glue that holds it together. Then you could have delamination, and that could lead to a catastrophe. So they'll look at the carbon fiber.

Beyond that, what are they going to look at they're going to look absolutely at the seals between the titanium front and the titanium back to the carbon fiber. Was there some interaction there or some weakness there, if they can discover it in the wreckage? Beyond that, right up here, big thing, the window in the front of this, they made a big deal in this company that this is a nice, spacious window, you can see a lot through, and they were very proud of it. Listen to what Stockton Rush said about this window.


RUSH: It's acrylic plexiglass.


RUSH: Yes. And it is seven inches thick. It weighs about 80 pounds. And when we go to the Titanic, it will squeeze in about three quarters of an inch. It's just the form of -- the acrylic is great because it squeezes in, and before it cracks or fails, it starts to crackle. And so you get a huge warning if it's going to fail.


FOREMAN: That is also an alarm for many of the experts out there. The idea that you use the crackling of the window as a failsafe system to get back to the surface.

So, some key areas to look at. And then, of course, Anderson, front to back from all the pieces they gather, they also have to look for wild cards. What if it's something that we haven't even discussed here, nobody's even thought of yet? They'll look for clues for any of that, but the more pieces they gather, the better chance they'll have of putting it all together again and maybe getting some answers. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Tom Foreman, I appreciate it. That's really a helpful look.

Joining us right now with their insights, Retired Navy Captain Alfred McLaren, an explorer himself who is friends with one of the victims, and Rachel Lance, a biomedical engineer who studied sub disasters. I appreciate both of you being with us.

Captain McLaren, I saw you said that you were angry as hell about this and that it didn't have to happen. Can you just talk about that?

CAPT. ALFRED MCLAREN (RET.), U.S. NAVY: Exactly. I mean, Anderson, we could see two or three years ago when this thing was being developed and advertised, certainly, you know, I'm a member of the Explorers Club. I had at least a former president. I had at least three people asked me what I thought about diving on it. I said, absolutely not. Don't do it.

And I explained to them just what I was hearing a few minutes ago the uncertainty of using that carbon fiber. But more than that, I was more concerned of the ceiling of that with the Titanic domes and then that big dome, much greater in diameter and lesser thickness than you encountered in other submersibles. There's thousands of ways water could have gotten in there. And I was sort of interested in that last bit there where the CEO was talking about the benefits of as you get deeper, why it squeezes in there nicely. That's fine until you start decreasing depth. What happens then? So implosion --

COOPER: Rachel the carbon composite --

MCLAREN: -- possibility from the very start.

COOPER: Yes. Rachel, talk about that a little bit, because that carbon composite I talked to James Cameron about this a lot last night and how it reacts in salt water and the repeated use and the delamination of it. Why is that such an issue?

RACHEL LANCE, AUTHOR, "IN THE WAVES": It's such an issue because it really affects the overall strength of the material. So that repeated use and the delamination that occurs in salt water is why this vessel was able to pass a pressure test once but ultimately failed. And what happens is that salt water causes what we call galvanic currents to occur. So, essentially, the salt in the water facilitates the movement of electrons, and the glue, the epoxy between these layers of carbon fiber starts to break down in the face of it.

And this tends to happen anywhere the carbon fiber edges are exposed or anywhere it meets another surface, because that really encourages those currents to occur. But more importantly, this is a known effect. This has been studied and published about for a long time. And people do use things like carbon fiber and fiberglass in pressure vessels, but these vessels typically needed to be pressure tested more often, and they typically have additional safety measures, and they almost always fail way earlier than a comparable steel structure.

COOPER: Well, Rachel, what would testing, you know, testing it more often, you know, this was only done, you know, done seasonally. So if they had done -- if they tested between each use, would that be possible? Would that have detected something? I mean, how rigorous kind of testing does it need to be?

LANCE: It depends on if you're doing it properly. So when done properly, that kind of hydrostatic testing tests the vessel, the pressure vessel to larger pressure differentials than will actually occur in the actual real life use. And so what that does is it provides for a margin of safety. Typically, it goes to roughly about five-thirds. So if you're overpressuring it in that safer, tasked environment with no people inside, then you have some certainty that the vessel is going to be able to reach the pressures that you actually intend to use it at, because you've already exceeded that.

To be clear, though, in this case, the choice of carbon fiber for a life support system of this magnitude that was going to these kind of depths is, in my opinion, always inappropriate, regardless of frequency of testing.

COOPER: Yes. We're hearing that more and more from a lot of people. Captain McLaren, I know you were good friends with P.H. Nargeolet. What was he like? I mean he just sounds like an extraordinary -- I mean, he's had an extraordinary career.

MCLAREN: Well, he's, you know, he was -- he is the true explorer undersea expert. You know, now, I had dinner with him in New York City just six weeks ago, and I asked him about he was still diving Titanic. I thought he was still using the French Nautil. And he told me he'd made 47 dives on Titanic now and then. When he told me he was working with OceanGate, I was shocked. And unfortunately, I was sitting there with eight of the people, and I didn't get the chance because he was sort of three people down for me. PH, what the hell are you doing?

Well, thinking about it now, you know, there are some people that particularly archaeologists, they get fixed on certain sites, particularly Egyptologists, for instance, and they go back again and again and again. And he had a passion for Titanic. It was a locust of everything for him. I think he could return, just keep going forever. And this particular vessel is the only thing available.


I'd like to just jump back to the pressure hull again. It's really interesting to me that the pieces found down there are all kinds of little pieces, rather than, let's say you had a leak somewhere, instead of finding slabs of the carbon fiber. That to me is very, very interesting, very interesting.

COOPER: I appreciate that.

LANCE: I'd like to jump in there.

COOPER: Captain Alfred McLaren. I appreciate your expertise. And -- I can't actually, can I just -- I have to get a break in. But, Rachel, I really appreciate your expertise. It's fascinating to hear from you. Thank you so much. Want to go back to Alex in Washington?


And just ahead, evil must be stopped. That ominous warning from the notorious Wagner mercenary chief, not directed to Ukraine, but at Russia's own Defense Ministry. We'll bring you inside the provocative war of words. That's next.



MARQUARDT: Russian warlord and the head of the private Wagner mercenary army, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is now making an extraordinary accusation against Russia's Ministry of Defense. In a rant, he claims that the Russian military targeted and killed a, quote, huge amount of his Wagner forces. CNN's Matthew Chance is in Kyiv with more. Matthew, this is an extraordinary tirade from Prigozhin. What more is he saying and how is the Kremlin responding?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, I mean, I think the Kremlin are bracing themselves to what happens next, because it's much more than just a rant. Because what Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the sort of notorious Wagner mercenary group, is now saying is that he's going to attack members of the Russian military in retaliation for what he says was a deadly strike against his own paramilitary fighters in a sort of forest base where they were camped out.

Following the alleged attack, and we can't independently verify that it took place, of course, Prigozhin took to the airwaves calling on Wagner fighters to stage a march of justice, in his words, against the Russian army, against what he called evil doing. Take a look.


CHANCE (voice-over): These are the chaotic scenes posted by the Wagner mercenary group. What they say is their forest camp struck by the Russian military. In a clearing, trees appear to have been smashed, some with fabric strewn from their branches. Through a gash in the soil, a fire burns in what appears to be a destroyed bunker. There are gruesome images, too, of a corpse in the undergrowth, as well as severed body parts. The Russian Defense Ministry denies any role in this, but a furious Wagner leader is vowing revenge.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, HEAD OF THE WAGNER PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY (through translator): Those who destroyed our guys today, along with tens of thousands of lives of Russian soldiers, will be punished. I ask no one to put up any resistance. Justice for the troops will be restored, and then justice for all of Russia.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's a threat of violence now posing a major challenge to the authority of President Putin. The Kremlin says all necessary measures are being taken. And now the Russian security service has opened a criminal case into what they say is a call for armed rebellion. Patience with the constant infighting appears to have run out.

The Wagner chief, whose mercenaries have played a key role in the fighting, has long been at odds with Russia's military command, accusing them repeatedly of mishandling the conflict. The increasingly outspoken figure is now accusing the Russian Defense Ministry of tricking the country into an unprovoked war back in February last year.

PRIGOZHIN (through translator): On February 24th, nothing extraordinary happened. But the Ministry of Defense was trying to deceive the public, to deceive the President and say that there was insane aggression on the part of Ukraine and that they were going to attack us together with NATO. The war was not needed in order to return Russian citizens to our bosom and not needed in order to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.

CHANCE (voice-over): On the face of it, the remarks are aimed at this man, Sergei Shoigu, Russia's defense minister, with whom Prigozhin has a long standing rivalry. But it's President Putin who's most closely associated with his special military operation in Ukraine. Any criticism of it seems like a jab at his decision, dangerous, potentially, in a country where dissent is rarely tolerated.


CHANCE: Well, Alex, events moving very quickly inside Russia, it's difficult to get a handle on exactly where we are. We know that within the past few minutes, Russian state television has interrupted its programming to deliver a message saying that the words of Yevgeny Prigozhin about the military operation and about the call of a march and all that kind of stuff do not correspond with reality. Prosecutors, not just the FSB, but criminal prosecutors in the country as well, have started preparing charges against Prigozhin, saying that his actions will be given proper legal assessment. So it seems that the authorities now are closing ranks and preparing to deal with, in whatever way they see fit, this Wagner mercenary leader. Alex?


MARQUARDT: Yes, just extraordinary developments. Matthew, we know that you will be watching closely. Matthew Chance in the Ukrainian capital, thank you very much.

Joining us now to discuss this is a Democrat from Colorado, Congress Jason Crow. He serves on the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I want to go to what Matthew was just talking about, this really extraordinary war of words between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin. It really is an escalation. You have Prigozhin accusing Russia's military of this deadly strike on his mercenaries, of carrying out an attack on his own troops. And now we have the FSB opening a criminal investigation. President Putin, we are told, has been briefed. What's your take on this? REP. JASON CROW (D-CO), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, Alex, it's certainly a mess for Putin, there's no doubt about that. But, you know, when you have a military or an armed force that's comprised of paid mercenaries, convicts that have been swiped out of prisons, people that have been literally kidnapped off the streets of Russia, impressed into military service, and you cobble that together and give people five days of military training and slap a uniform on them and give them a rifle, this is what you get, right?

Putin went into this war thinking he was going to dominate Ukraine. He vastly misunderstood the Ukrainian people and their pride and their love of country. He was wrong there. And now 60 percent of his military is destroyed. So he's in a really tough position right now, but it's a position of his own making.

MARQUARDT: I know it's early, Congressman, but have you gotten any kind of briefing on this and what sense do you have of what this could mean for Russia's war in Ukraine?

CROW: Well, not on the most recent developments, but I have been closely tracking the Wagner Group and its operations, not just in Ukraine, but around the world, particularly of interest is the impact of Wagner on Africa. They're very prevalent throughout Africa, including Western Africa and Central Africa, where they run mines, where they do a lot of for profit operations, and they've cozied up to a lot of the governments in that region.

So I'm going to keep a close eye on the impact of this now kind of burgeoning conflict between Putin, Putin loyalists and Prigozhin, and the impact that it might have worldwide on stability, particularly in Africa.

COOPER: Congressman, we only have a couple of moments left, but I want to get your sense of where the counter offensive stands. We have some Western sources telling us that it's falling short of expectations. Ukraine pushing back on that. How well do you think Ukraine is doing?

CROW: I think Ukraine is doing really well. Listen, this is a long term battle. One thing that I learned in war, I did three combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. No single day is just positive. One day is just different from the next. The Ukrainians know what they need to do. They have incredible will to fight. We've given them the tools to do so. We have to give them the time to actually execute. There's going to be setbacks from time to time. There always are in wars like this. But I believe firmly in the power of the Ukrainian people, and we have to continue to stand by them.

MARQUARDT: Yes, it's going to be a very long slog. Congressman Jason Crow, thank you very much.

CROW: Thank you.


MARQUARDT: And coming up, doctors could be one step closer to prescribing psychedelics to their patients. We'll discuss the FDA's draft guidance on clinical trials with an expert in the field. That's next. Stick around.


MARQUARDT: Psychedelics such as magic mushrooms and LSD may be one step closer to mainstream therapeutic treatment. Today, the Food and Drug Administration released draft guidance for researchers investigating the drugs. They say it shows -- they show the drugs show initial promise in treating people battling health mental disorders, psychiatric, excuse me, psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins, Matthew Wayne Johnson joins us now. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us on this fascinating subject.

We are talking about the classic psychedelics. I believe that's the way the FDA frames them, LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, to treat things like PTSD, substance abuse, anxiety, conditions like that. There's been a lot of studying over the years, decades even, how much concrete science exists proving that these drugs can be an effective treatment?

MATTHEW WAYNE JOHNSON, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES, JOHNS HOPKINS: Well, we're not quite at the final stage where any of these drugs have passed phase three trials yet, where FDA has. That's the step that the FDA needs to look at to say yay or nay, whether it's going to be approved for straight up treatment outside of research. We're closest there with MDMA as a field for PTSD. Those two phase three studies are done. FDA hasn't -- they haven't submitted those data to the FDA, but that could be coming within the next year or so.

And then psilocybin is so called magic mushrooms. The compound in that is probably just a couple of years behind that for the treatment of depression and various forms of addiction. But there are a good number of emerging modest size trials at this point, typically what you would call phase two trials that are all -- that are showing pretty impressive effects with large improvements for a number of these really intractable disorders.

MARQUARDT: You know very well that there are fears. There are major concerns around these. Lots of medications have all kinds of side effects. We know that these drugs, for example, can cause things like mood swings, cognitive changes. Of course, they also have hallucinatory effects. How do you balance the known risks of these drugs with the potential therapeutic rewards?

JOHNSON: It's all about understanding what those particular risks are, and then, importantly, what we can do to minimize those risks. And I've made this a focus of my career going back to 2008, where I published recommended safety guidelines for doing research with these compounds. So that brings some of these well-known risks, you know, that you get sometimes out in the wild where people are using it, you know, on their own and it addresses them.


So, for example, people aren't doing it by themselves. They're being monitored, they're being screened because there are certain conditions for which it might be dangerous to give psychedelic drugs, and then people are followed up in case someone has an adverse long term reaction, will have the ability to detect that.

MARQUARDT: Well, it is a fascinating field, and clearly there is lots more research being done. Professor Matthew Wayne Johnson, thank you very much for coming on tonight.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

MARQUARDT: And coming up, new reaction to CNN's exclusive reporting on potentially crucial testimony in the special counsel investigation of Donald Trump and January 6th.