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Special Counsel Mueller Issues Sealed Indictments in Russia Investigation; Government Releases Documents Concerning JFK Assassination; Ambassador Nikki Haley Warns of Terrorist Activity in Africa; President Trump Declares Mass Opioid Addiction National Emergency; Two Women and their Dogs Rescued after Five Months Lost at Sea. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired October 28, 2017 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: -- incredible food, Sri Lanka. Last time I was here, let's put it this way, you couldn't see too much of the place. We're here in the middle of one of the most vicious, unrestrained conflicts you could imagine. Well, the war is over. What is Sri Lanka like now?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, find out when you tune in to "Parts Unknown" tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. on CNN.

The next hour of the Newsroom starts right now.

Hello, again, everyone. Thank you very much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The White House says no comment following the news first on CNN that the first charges have been filed in the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion with Donald Trump's campaign, as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

A federal judge has ordered the charges remain sealed, but sources tell CNN anyone could be taken into custody as soon as Monday. It's still unclear who could be charged or the possible charges. All of this unfolding with President Trump at his golf club in Virginia right now. Our correspondents and expert analysts are standing by to dive in on all of this. We begin now with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who helped break the story. So Shimon, what can we expect in these possible charges?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So we expect perhaps maybe over the course of the next few days we will get some insight into what these charges are and who exactly was charged. It could be more than one person. We know from the sources that we've talked to that indictments were handed up on Friday, that charges were filed with the court here in Washington, D.C. We believe this comes after the grand jury voted on the charges. The charges are now sealed, which is standard practice in grand jury investigations, so therefore none of this is public now. And even the fact that we know this much is sort of hard to come by. So all we know right now is that we expect that there could be

movement as early as Monday. Perhaps people will be taken into custody or someone will surrender. And then we will have court on Monday. The people or the person will go before a judge here in Washington, D.C., to hear the charges, and then the legal process will begin.

So far from all the attorneys that we've talked to who are associated with some of the people who are being investigated have either not called us back, and the few that we have talked to have said their clients have not been asked to surrender yet. And they have not been told if their clients are the ones that are facing the charges. So all that is still a mystery. And tight now it appears that Monday will be the big day. But again, that could change. Again, all of this is always subject to change depending on what the special counsel decides to do.

WHITFIELD: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.

Let's go to CNN's Boris Sanchez now for response from the White House. Boris, the big no comment follows what some are calling an apparent attempt to -- it's been a week of trying to divert attention off the investigation. But overall, how is the White House trying to handle it today?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, there's no comment from the White House so far on these revelations coming from Robert Mueller's special investigation. The president hasn't tweeted about the special investigation today. But yesterday he did put out a tweet that alluded to the multiple investigations looking into potential ties between his campaign, certain officials in his campaign, and Russia. The president tweeting out, quote, "It is now most commonly agreed after many months of costly looking that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with H.C.," Hillary Clinton, of course.

This tweet isn't exactly accurate, Fred. None of the investigations, whether in the House, the Senate, or Robert Mueller's investigation have led to any definitive conclusions. In fact in Mueller's case, we're now learning that charges are set to be filed.

Beyond that, the president is again focusing on his adversary during the 2016 election during a week where House Republicans announced that they were launching an investigation into the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia that happened while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. The president is now alleging that Clinton was bribed by Russian officials in order to make that sale.

[14:05:03] And one step further, CNN has learned that the president was pushing staffers to work with the Department of Justice to allow an FBI informant to testify about that case. So it's clear that while many are focusing on the Russia investigation, the president is focusing on a bit of a different investigation. Some are saying he is trying to muddy the waters. Here is political analyst Carl Bernstein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What we've seen all week, though, is once again the president of the United States instead of encouraging this special counsel to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation and what happened and what Russia did and whether or not there were any members of his entourage, Trump's entourage, involved in encouraging the Russians to interfere, the president of the United States has sought to muddy the waters by once again making Hillary Clinton the issue instead of the conduct of the president himself and those around him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: As you mentioned earlier, the president spending the day at Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Virginia, the 85th day that the president is spending as president at a property that bears the Trump name. No public events on the schedule today, but we'll see if he tweets something out or perhaps says something to pool cameras as they get close.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks very much.

Let's talk more about all of this with CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, historian and Princeton professor, with me CNN global affairs analyst and online news director for "The New Yorker" David Rohde, and Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst who was special counsel to then- assistant attorney general Robert Mueller. Good to see you all.

So Michael, from you, how big of a deal is this? And does it matter more if this was -- if these indictments are related to financial matters versus political matters?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So it's a big deal. We just don't know how big a deal it is until the indictment is unsealed. It could go two ways. It could go that you have an indictment of someone on a matter collateral to the core collusion conspiracy inquiry, or you could have somebody that's relevant and directly related to the core collusion conspiracy.

Either way, it's significant. If you say hypothetically a Paul Manafort or General Flynn is indicted for personal business relationships related to Ukraine or Turkey and the failure to report that on taxes, one might say, well, that's not the president's worry. That's their personal business worry. But it tells you that Mueller is looking at private business affairs, and that "The New York Times" interview the president gave that said he has a red line around personal business affairs is something that Mueller is not respecting. So that might send a signal to the Cohens and to the Trumps and to the Kushners that they are not off the hook on their personal business dealings.

Of course, if it goes directly to the relationship between any of these parties and Russia, that's a much more significant body blow to the ecosystem that is the Trump investigation because it does say that Mueller believes there is something to these allegations of collusion or conspiracy or an effort to defraud the Federal Election Commission. And that will be something that will make everybody in the entire orbit nervous.

WHITFIELD: And David, in your view, who in Donald Trump's orbit should be nervous now?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I would agree. I would -- Paul Manafort potentially, just given his many years of lobbying and large sums that he made in different foreign countries, did he report everything correctly. And then Michael Flynn, there's a real question about some of Flynn's communications. There was one communication with Ambassador Kislyak during the transition between administrations.

And the point there, one of the theories is that if there are charges against those two, is this an effort to pressure them to cooperate with Mueller's investigation, because in the end, it's going to be, as it always is with these investigations, what did the president know when. It has to be President Trump himself being involved in collusion for this to threaten him, I think, in terms of his presidency.

WHITFIELD: Julian, the president right now is at his golf club in Virginia. A no comment coming from the White House. Thus far in nine months of office, no giant legislative wins. The president has been optimistic about tax reform. Regardless of what is indicted and what the charge is, what is at stake for the president and the presidency as a result of now-sealed documents soon to be unsealed as early as Monday?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think politically it's very important. President Trump is a storyteller and this week he has been telling a story about Hillary Clinton. He's been telling a story that the investigations are coming to an end. And he was really spinning this tale to try to end this in some ways.

[14:10:13] And Robert Mueller just told a different story. And we'll find out the details on Monday, but I think you can already sense how it halted that. And politically it comes at an important moment. He's gearing up for tax reform. You have Republicans like Senator Flake publicly attacking him. So this is harmful. It's not going to bring him down at this point, but I do think it undercuts the direction he was pushing the political dynamics this week.

WHITFIELD: And David, it undercuts the message. We just heard as early as yesterday with the White House press secretary, who was adamant, you know, that there is nothing there in any of this. Just listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president wants to see this completed. We think that we are continuing to see day in, day out as this investigation moves to completion that, the same as it started, there's still no evidence of collusion between the president and anyone. If any collusion took place, it would be between the DNC and the Clintons. And I think we're starting to now see that all of the things that the Democrats had accused this president of doing they were actually guilty of themselves. And I think that's a really big problem that should be certainly looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So David, was this the president trying to get ahead of what they believed was likely imminent?

ROHDE: Possibly. I just think, frankly, a lot of the claims by the White House spokesperson as just not true, A. And so even if there's just criminal indictments, let's say of Paul Manafort, it certainly doesn't help the presidency and President Trump's momentum if his former campaign manager is indicted of committing a crime. That's extraordinary just in and of itself. So that just creates more turmoil.

I agree with Julian, it hurts him politically at an important time. He's feuding with senators. Why take risks on a tax reform vote if you're a senator with a president who feuds with you and a president whose former aides are under criminal indictment?

WHITFIELD: Michael, does it need to be a relatively big catch, your first indictment, first out of the gate in this giant web cast very wide type of investigation?

ZELDIN: Prosecutors have different points of view on this. Some believe that the best way to proceed in a big, multifaceted investigation such as this is to start with a very small fish and work your way up the food chain. Others believe that it's important to make a first major splash with a big target to let everybody know how serious you are. And there's no right or wrong way here. And either way it proceeds, whether it's a big fish, a Manafort or a Flynn, or a small fish, I think the point is that Mueller is active, that there is no common agreement despite the White House's press statement that this is an investigation that's going nowhere. Just to the contrary. And we'll have to see where Mueller takes it. But I think that everyone has to know from an indictment that Mueller is a person to be reckoned with, if they didn't know that already, and that nobody sits comfortably out of his line of sight.

WHITFIELD: All right, Michael Zeldin, David Rohde, thank you. Julian Zelizer, thank you as well. See you again in a moment.

Still ahead, ambushed and separated, new details emerge over the ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. troops and what happened in the moments after.

And combing through the JFK files, why the release of thousands of documents is not quieting all the conspiracy theories.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:17:53] WHITFIELD: We're learning new details about what happened during the ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers. A Nigerian soldier who was on the scene after the ambush spoke exclusively to CNN, saying wounded Nigerian soldiers told him they were outnumbered and outgunned, and the ambush forced the convoy to split up. But what surprised the soldier the most -- the U.S. troops only had

one heavy machine gun, no body armor, and were wearing t-shirts and baseball caps. All of this as senior military officials are still sorting out what led to the attack. Intelligence sources tell CNN the attack was likely a target of opportunity rather than a preplanned operation. Here now is CNN correspondent David McKenzie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New details coming out of this deadly ambush that happened here in Niger earlier this month. U.S. officials saying that a small group of American Special Forces were separated from the rest of that convoy during that fire-fight where a superior force of ISIS linked militants attacked the U.S. and Nigerian soldiers.

Those separated soldiers weren't able to maintain communications with the group according to U.S. officials. Several of the American soldiers, they say, got out of their vehicle to try and outflank the attacking forces. Certainly a horrific scene that must have unfolded. The Nigerian soldier we spoke to who arrived on the scene shortly after the ambush said American and Nigerian forces were standing back to back, ready to fight to the end. Two intelligence sources I spoke to in the region say that it's unlikely this was a premeditated attack on American forces, but rather that it was possibly a target of opportunity given the strength of these groups that are loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda and ISIS in the region. And this is why American officials say U.S. soldiers are on the ground here in Niger to try to and stamp out the threat of terror before it gets uncontrolled.

David McKenzie, CNN, Niger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[14:20:00] WHITFIELD: All right, we'll have more on that as we learn details from our reporting in the field.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was on a three-nation tour in Africa this week. She spoke exclusively with CNN's Elise Labott on the rising threat of terrorism in the region. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: You know, it's so important that everybody not just talk about the Middle East and how we have to be careful of the Middle East. You see the actions that the administration has taken in the Middle East is all because we want to deal with the situation there so we don't have to deal with it in the United States.

It is the same thing for Africa. We have to deal with the situation here on the ground so that we're not dealing with it in the United States. What you have to look at is these African countries and all countries, if they take care of their people, if they respect the voices of their people, then you get true democracy. If they don't listen to the voices of their people, conflict will erupt, extremism will happen, and the United States will have to deal with it. This is all about making sure we don't get to that.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: What if Secretary Tillerson says, I've had enough, I've done what I need to do, and the president says, "Nikki, I need you"?

HALEY: I've made it very clear that I'm happy in New York.

LABOTT: You wouldn't take it?

HALYE: I wouldn't take it.

LABOTT: Is it because you don't like the drama in Washington? You said that recently that it's a lot of drama, and you're able to do your role.

HALEY: I want to be where I'm most effective. And I think what I've been able to do is be effective by communicating U.S. strength. Be effective by going to these areas on the ground and trying to resolve conflict. Being effective by really supporting what the president is trying to do. That's what I'm focused on.

And I think that this is a role that has worked out well for me, and this is a role that I think has worked out well for the president. And so I'm going to do the best job I can. That's what I've always done is try and give everything I've got to the role and to support the administration as long as I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Ahead in the CNN newsroom, a promise of full disclosure. What Donald Trump is OW saying about the JFK files that were not released.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:26:38] WHITFIELD: Anyone disappointed that not all of the Kennedy assassination files got released this week, not to worry. President Trump tweeted this yesterday, saying, quote, "After a strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA, and other agencies, I will be releasing all JFK files other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living. I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency, and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest."

Now to the nearly 3,000 secret documents that did get released, CNN's Tom Foreman is combing through.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a critical question in the testimony of a CIA official. Was Lee Harvey Oswald an agent? But the answer is cut off, leaving another tantalizing hint of conspiracy with no conclusion. The new JFK files are full of them. For example, along with notes about CIA plots to kill Cuba's Fidel

Castro with a poison pill or an exploding seashell, there is an intercepted conversation between two Cuban spies. One says Oswald must have a good shot. The other, oh, he was quite good. I knew him. Another file describes a phone call weeks before the assassination between a KGB agent in Mexico and Oswald who is speaking broken Russian and asking, "Anything new concerning the telegram to Washington?"

The Soviets themselves thought Oswald had help. A source saying they believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ultra-right in the United States, an apparent stab at the man who took over for Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson.

But still another file has a former CIA director saying, "President Johnson used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated president Diem, the leader of South Vietnam." Plenty of new details for old theories, sure, but --

PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": The big secrets that we've been looking for, if they're anywhere, they're in the documents we have not yet seen.

FOREMAN: Yet on and on, the conspiratorial talk rolls. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover even noting just after Oswald's death, "We received a call in our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald." It all seems tied to this very early Hoover memo noting the story of the investigation needed to be told well and quickly so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.

And yet the uproar over these newly released documents and those still being kept secret proves even after more than 50 years the public is still not entirely convinced.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: I want to bring in political analyst and historian Julian Zelizer to talk more about all of this. So Julian, in your view, what's been the most revealing thing about the files uncovered?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, some of it was the disorganization and chaos in the days leading up to and following the assassination. So the memo you just played where we learned that Hoover knew someone was out to kill Oswald or had information about this and they failed to stop it, that's really interesting.

[14:30:02] There's a lot of interesting documents. We knew this was happening, but about all the efforts to kill Castro and to cause all kind of chaos in Cuba, that's interesting to read. So there's some good nuggets and good material filling out how much they were tracking Lee Harvey Oswald in the months leading up to the assassination. There's no smoking gun, though. There's no evidence from what I've seen so far of a conspiracy.

WHITFIELD: And what about this alleged Cuban intel officer saying that he actually knew Oswald?

ZELIZER: Yes. So we know some of this already. This had not all been unseen. And there was information -- there's another memo that the CIA was tracking him in New Orleans, and they lost him. There's the memo saying that he's a good shot. But, again, that doesn't tell us much more about whether anyone was surrounding Oswald, which is the real question. Was he working with anyone, not did he know people, not did he come into contact with them, was he working with any of them? And that's not what the memos are saying thus far.

WHITFIELD: And this release has been complicated by the demand for transparency. Yet the intelligence agencies need to protect living agents and sources. The president even tweeting that, you know, he will eventually release all the files minus names and addresses, et cetera. Is this an important thing, you know, that the president release everything, but, of course, protecting any people who might be living?

ZELIZER: I really think it's important. This was one of the most critical moments in American history, the assassination of the president in 1963. And we really should have everything this is out there, especially given all of these fears and concerns about conspiracy. It's like the document with the interview where the CIA director is asked was he an agent. There's nothing more. So people wonder, is there more. It doesn't mean anything. And so as long as there's not material that people have seen, those suspicions continue.

The time has come to release all of this, and we should know as much as we can about that key moment in the cold war, that key moment in American presidential history.

WHITFIELD: Are there any conspiracy theories that you believe will finally be put to rest?

ZELIZER: Probably not. The thing about conspiracy theories is you can't really put them to rest. It's not often about the data. It's about the ideas and the feelings. And all these documents have all the potential conspiracies people were talking about at the time. Whether this was about the coup against the South Vietnamese government, whether it was the Soviets. And so as soon as people read that, they'll say you see, even though none of those say that actually happened, people were speculating in a time of crisis.

WHITFIELD: Sure. All right, Julian Zelizer, thank you so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Ahead, still ahead, overcoming a deadly addiction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You feel such a strong urge that you can't stop while we talk? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. There's nothing that would stop me.

That's how bad it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Wow, our Gary Tuchman looking at the struggles some opioid addicts face in Boston as the Trump administration steps up the fight against the drug epidemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:37:34] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Americans on the front lines of the opioid crisis will have more resources for their fight now that President Trump has declared the epidemic a public health emergency. Medical experts say the move will put a much-needed spotlight on the problem and lead to a boost in government grant funding.

The need is great. According to the CDC, from 2000 to 2015 the number of overdose deaths quadrupled. More than half a million lost lives with opioids blamed in a majority of the cases. CNN's Gary Tuchman took to the streets of Boston and met two young people who are locked in a hellish battle to overcome their opioid addiction. And we warn you, some of the images may be disturbing to some viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To most people, this is a neighborhood south of downtown Boston. To others, it's a living hell.

BILLY, OPIOID ADDICT: I'm a junkie. I've been shooting heroin for 16 years. I'm homeless. I live on the sidewalk. This is my life.

MEGAN, OPIOID ADDICT: I didn't grow up thinking I was going to be a heroin addict. This isn't exactly what I want to be.

TUCHMAN: What are your hopes and dreams?

MEGAN: To get sober, to have a family. I at one point I thought I was going to, and I lost the love of my life. We both overdosed, and when I woke up he was dead.

TUCHMAN: Billy is 31-years-old. He has a five-year-old son. He wants to be a tattoo artist someday. But even while we talked, he was looking for a vein.

Is it possible for you to stop shooting the heroin while we talk? Are you --

BILLY: If I had gotten it in me, it would be. But --

TUCHMAN: But that's what I'm wondering, like you feel such a strong urge that you can't stop while we talk?

BILLY: Yes. Yes. There's nothing that would stop me. That's how bad it gets.

TUCHMAN: Megan also lives on the streets and the sidewalks.

You're about to reach your 30th birthday. And how long have you been addicted to heroin?

MEGAN: Since 19.

TUCHMAN: And how did you start first time?

MEGAN: It was pills, then pills became expensive, hard to get. And heroin was just extremely easy to get and a lot cheaper.

TUCHMAN: Like Megan, the gateway to heroin for Billy was also pain pills. He was 13 years old when he started.

[14:40:00] BILLY: I was already using prescription pills. I liked the way it felt. I found out heroin was cheaper than the pills, and it was more intense. So I began sniffing heroin. And then I found out shooting it was the next step from there. And I would save money and went right to shooting it. First time I shot it, I fell in love with it. It was like -- the only way I can explain it is like I met God.

TUCHMAN: Billy and Megan are joined in their opioid devotion with scores of other people who gather on the street. That happens to be near a hospital, methadone clinics, and shelters, people who want to help. Forty miles up the road in the small city of Gloucester, Massachusetts, police will not arrest you if you come to the police station with opioids looking for help. The strategy of help, not handcuffs, started here and spread throughout the country. But after a much-publicized and encouraging start, the police chief here is facing a stark reality -- things are not getting better.

CHIEF JOHN MCCARTHY, GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS, POLICE: We've seen an increase in fentanyl. Fentanyl is a drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin.

TUCHMAN: Like heroin, fentanyl is an opioid. Even a tiny dose of it can be lethal. Craig uses fentanyl. Like everyone we've met on the street, he wants to stop, but says he can't.

CRAIG, OPIOID ADDICT: I'm addicted to opioids.

TUCHMAN: So what do you do in the streets? What kind of opiates?

CRAIG: The thing is all the opiates right now is fentanyl. So everybody's dying.

TUCHMAN: It's about to start pouring here in Boston. These people who can't live without their pills and their needles will be sleeping in dirt that will turn into mud.

Are you afraid you're going to die from this?

BILLY: I know I'm going to die from this.

TUCHMAN: Are you afraid you're going to die from this? MEGAN: Not really afraid. Honestly, sometimes it just seems easier.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And sadly, Billy and Megan's stories are not unique. The CDC estimates in 2015, 828,000 Americans 12 years or older used heroin in the previous year. And more than 12 million misused prescription drugs.

Joining me from New York, John Brogan, an addiction counselor and a former opioid addict. He also created the recovery program that Governor Chris Christie adopted for his state of New Jersey. John, good to see you. So from your personal experience both as someone who battled addiction and someone now who is counseling addicts, how would you describe the scope of the epidemic?

JOHN BROGAN, ADDICTION COUNSELOR: It's huge. I just want to correct one thing. We are peer recovery specialists. It's much different from counseling. It's a form of counseling.

But just to take those three examples you had on the streets of Boston -- our recovery specialists partnered up with Ocean County prosecutor Joe Coronato, Governor McGreevey and Governor Christie. And we'll go out right into the streets and guide those individuals into a form of recovery and track them long term. That's the short version of it.

The scope of this problem is beyond anything we can look at. The further you look under the hood of the layers of this disease and this scourge, as everyone is calling it, the deeper and deeper you get. Kids are dying at a rapid rate. And they're touching families. Kids of kids are dying. Grandparents are raising grandchildren. So literally it's one addict at a time that we're touching these souls and helping them get on the right path.

WHITFIELD: So then what are you hoping from the president's declaration and commitment of stamping out, making a dent in the opioid crisis?

BROGAN: The first thing that the president did was lift the I and D exclusion, which was that age-old 1965 Medicaid reimbursement to treatment centers. Medicaid reimburses very little as it is. There's different theories as to why it wasn't lifted sooner. But like Governor Christie stated the other day, it's going to open up to so many more beds which will allow so many more addicts to get into treatment. Now it's going to be left up to the treatment centers to want to take them in at that low reimbursement rate.

WHITFIELD: So New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie chairs the Trump administration commission on opioid abuse. Here's what he had to say about the crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: We have 175 people a day dying. We have a 9/11 every 2.5 weeks. Think about this -- if that was happening, if a terrorist organization was killing 175 Americans a day on our soil, what would we spend to make it stop?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: But on the spending question, you know, President Trump's declaration doesn't immediately direct federal funding to the crisis which would have been the case if he had declared a national disaster and tapped into FEMA money. So instead his declaration will shift federal grants toward the crisis and expand treatment in rural areas. Do you like that idea?

[14:45:11] BROGAN: It depends. You really have to dig down on this. If they're going to draw from the FEMA money, there might not be any FEMA money left due to the hurricanes and everything that's been going on with the natural disasters. So I think it's a step in the right direction. I think Governor Christie was spot on in these things come in blocks. We have to move in blocks and slowly because each block that you open up opens up another door to more issues.

There's no one more than me or our organization that wants to get out there and start helping everyone as much as we can. This year alone, we have 111 deaths. That's down last year from 211. So there's some dents that are being made, but each block has to be looked at very slowly and executed properly because there's so many different layers to this.

WHITFIELD: So the numbers are astounding. Last year more than 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. That's more than the number of those died in Vietnam and Iraq wars combined. There are some people who say you can't truly get a handle on the crisis until you address the stigma surrounding the addiction, countering the notion that addicts are somehow to blame for their addiction. How do you go about doing that?

BROGAN: I mean, I usually stay away from that one. You know, people look at me now and they're like, there's no way he was an addict. Addicts come in all forms. It's not a decision. We didn't choose to be this way. At my bottom, it was, you know, I wanted out of this life, just like those three individuals that you showed before.

But the hope was that these individuals grabbed me in my lowest moment and pulled me to the other side with a vision of hope and showing me a design for living that works every single day. And that was really the hope, you know, that we got to pull everyone from. The stigma, it's always going to be there. It's really none of my business what other people are thinking about me. And we have to keep it there and just keep moving forward with helping everyone that needs the help.

WHITFIELD: All right, John Brogan, clearly you're doing extraordinary work, and to share your own personal story is also very inspirational. Thank you very much.

BROGAN: Fredricka, if you could please get us the information on those three individuals in Boston so we could get it to our affiliates up there and hopefully get them off the streets and into some help, that would be great.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure we can do that. All right, thanks so much.

BROGAN: Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So much more straight ahead in the Newsroom. But first, a neurologist in Boston has a rare condition that allows him to actually feel his patients' pain. He's using it to help others. Here's his story in this week's "Turning Points."

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DR. JOEL SALINAS, NEUROLOGIST: Just follow my finger with your eyes without moving your head. I am Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Since I was a kid, I always had the sense there was something different or odd about me.

Keep it there for a little bit.

I remember watching cartoons as a kid. I would watch Wile E. Coyote and feel like, he gets hit by a truck, I get hit by a truck. I first learned about synesthesia condition during my first year in medical school. Two out of 100 people have what's called mirror touch synesthesia. It is a glitch in my brain's wiring where I feel physically on my body what I see other people feeling. So for example, if you are gasping for air, I feel like I'm gasping for air. If you're having a panic attack, I feel like I'm having a panic attack.

Growing up, I always felt motivated to help relieve some of that suffering. When I see a new type of patient in the hospital, that experience can be really distressing because I feel like it's happening to me.

Don't let me pull.

But in that response, I have to kind of ground myself in my own physical body. I get to be a part of some of this pain and suffering, as well, and I think as a part of that the patients get to be a little less alone. That means a lot in medicine.

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[14:53:00] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Two sailors and their dogs have been rescued after spending nearly five month adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Here's CNN's Dan Simon with their story.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it was supposed to be an amazing adventure between friends and their dogs, but about a month into it, they hit turbulence. And when their boat was badly mangled, they thought they would never be found.

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SIMON: Two friends and their dogs rescued at sea. Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava along with their dogs Zeus and Valentine had been stranded for nearly five months.

JENNIFER APPEL, RESCUED AT SEA: When I saw the gray boat on the edge of the horizon, my heart leapt because I knew that we were about to be saved, because I honestly believed we were going to die within the next 24 hours.

SIMON: It all began on May 3rd, a planned voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti. But a few weeks in, they were run into bad weather, crippling the boat, the mast and engine broken. Veering badly off course, daily distress calls were useless. They were too far for anyone to hear. But at one point, they did have some company -- sharks.

[14:55:04] APPEL: I went stairs with the boys, and we basically laid huddled on the floor. And I told them not to bark because the sharks could hear us breathing. They could smell us.

SIMON: Even in despair and a hopeless feeling of never being found, there were some bright spots.

TASHA FUIAVA, RESCUED AT SEA: There are different sunrises and sunsets every day. You're alive. You're fed. You have water. The boys are happy. And there's love.

SIMON: And then a miraculous sudden break. A Taiwanese fishing vessel spotted their boat and contacted the U.S. Coast Guard. The pair discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan, thousands of miles away from Tahiti. The USS Ashland reaching them on Wednesday morning. They'll stay on board until the vessel's next port of call.

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SIMON: Thanks to a year's worth of dry goods including oatmeal and pasta, they were able to survive. Thankfully they also had a water purifier. But the bottom line is the forethought to bring more supplies than what they thought they needed was how they were able to live. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Pretty amazing. Dan Simon, thank you so much.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. The CNN Newsroom continues with Ana Cabrera after this.

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