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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Judge: Trump's Right To Free Speech Is Not Absolute; US Attorney Leading Hunter Biden Criminal Probe Named Special Counsel After Plea Talks Break Down; Hawaii Wildfires Death Toll Rises To 67: Officials Say Lahaina Fire Is Not Yet Contained; Hawaii Wildfires Death Toll Rises To 67; Famous Rock-N-Roll Artist Loses Lifetime Of Work In Hawaii Wildfire; Preliminary Estimate: Maui Wildfires Cause More Than $1.3 Billion In Residential Property Damage; Hawaii Misjudged The Dangers Of Wildfires Despite Years Of Warning, Records Show; Popular Two-Term IA Gov. Reynolds Staying Neutral In GOP Presidential Race For Now; Trump, DeSantis To Attend Iowa State Fair Tomorrow. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 11, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Of course, he was arrested last month in connection with three murders. They're awaiting an order to get direct DNA from him, but he is already the prime suspect in a fourth as they continue on investigations in New York and several other states.
Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 begins right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right, tonight on 360: So much for lazy summer days. Two major legal developments.
In the first big moment of the election subversion case, Judge Tanya Chutkan warns Donald Trump to watch what he says and lets him know, to her, he is just another defendant.
Also a special counsel named in the Hunter Biden case with orders to investigate the president's son and others. The question now, who are those others?
Plus, we are live in Maui where the death toll just rose sharply. Some especially powerful new video is coming in which we will bring to you along with exclusive reporting on how Hawaiian officials may have underestimated the risk of a tragedy like this, and missed key opportunities to prevent it.
Good evening, everyone, John Berman here, in for Anderson.
And we begin with what we learned today about how Judge Tanya Chutkan intends to handle what could be the most important trial this country has ever seen, and perhaps the most singular criminal defendant ever.
Someone who was held and is right now running to reclaim the highest office in the land. And on top of that, he is Donald Trump.
The venue, as you know, was a hearing on how he and his legal team may handle evidence, some of it is sensitive that prosecutors will be turning over to them specifically what they are allowed to make public.
And on that, Judge Chutkan granted some though not all of what each side was asking on. The former president himself, though, who has been talking and at times ranting about the case about her, about the special counsel, she was unequivocal. To her, he is not a former president or a presidential candidate. He is first and foremost a defendant, which he also made clear comes with certain restrictions including what he can say and post online.
What she did not say was when on this already crowded calendar, the case will be tried. The government wants January, Team Trump wants after the election. Earlier tonight on "The Situation Room," one legal expert told Wolf that given Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg's reported openness to postponing his March trial, late March looked interesting to him.
As for what happened today, CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now.
Jessica, walk us through what the judge laid out today with the protective order.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. You know, this isn't actually as broad of a protective order as the prosecution wanted, but it still does restrict Trump and his team from publicly disclosing the so-called sensitive information that is handed over to them during the discovery process.
This is sensitive information that includes grand jury process information, also information about search warrants, and this protective order, it also governs how Trump can get access to this information.
So for example, when he is not with his attorneys, he can't have his phone or any recording device when he views this information. And John, there was a lot of it.
Prosecutor said today at the hearing, they're prepared to hand over 11.6 million pages of documents, that also includes recordings of witness interviews that Trump also will not be able to share or post on social media and the judge, John, she said she'll be scrutinizing everything that Trump's team does say on social media and on media outlets.
BERMAN: So Jessica, what else did the judge say about the proverbial elephant in the room, which is, you know, Donald Trump is not just a former president, but he is the Republican front runner in the current election.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, she actually addressed this repeatedly. And she put it bluntly, she said, even though Trump is a political candidate, she said in her words, he still has to yield to the administration of justice.
So she said if that means that his political speech has to be somewhat limited, that's just how it's going to be. Judge Chutkan said that Trump -- she put it bluntly -- does not have the absolute right to free speech as a criminal defendant. So he has to play by the rules here, she said, to make sure the jury pool isn't tainted, and to make sure witnesses are not intimidated.
BERMAN: What about the timeline? Did the judge tip her hand at all?
SCHNEIDER: Yes, she is signaling repeatedly here throughout this process that she is ready to move quickly in this case, and she said that the danger to tainting the jury pool is really a big reason here and she warned Trump, she said him and his team, she said the more comments you guys make about this case, the greater chance that she will have to order a quick start to this trial to ensure a fair jury pool.
And John, you mentioned that, you know, the special counsel's team has already proposed that January 2nd start date. Trump's team actually needs to put in a filing next week to propose their possible start date, likely like you said, they won't want to start until after the election.
BERMAN: Yes, sometime the day after never, perhaps, for the Trump Team.
Jessica Schneider, great to see you tonight. Thank you so much.
BERMAN: With us now, CNN chief correspondent, Kaitlan Collins who anchors "THE SOURCE" at the top of the next hour; CNN legal analyst, Norm Eisen, former counsel to House Democrats during Trump's first impeachment trial; also, Jeremy Fogel, former federal judge for California's northern district. He currently is the executive director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute.
So Kaitlan, I know that the judge, Judge Chutkan ruled specifically on some procedural issues, but she also really did tip her hand about her overall attitude toward Donald Trump.
You know, he's a defendant here. So how is the Trump team processing that?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, this is the first time that they were in the room in front of her; before, it had been a magistrate judge. This is the first time they were actually in front of Judge Chutkan who, of course, Trump has been attacking, his allies had been attacking. They've suggested they may ask for her to recuse herself. Now, they're in the room with her.
And she made very clearly, she is not treating him as a former president or a 2024 candidate, but as a criminal defendant. And essentially, as they were trying to make arguments about him being on the campaign trail, she was noting, you know, that's basically his day job, like any other defendant. BERMAN: I thought that was one of the most telling comments she made, it is your day job.
COLLINS: Yes, the whole thing was really just it shed a lot of light on what the next few months could look like here and how she is going to proceed on this and that is kind of what we've been looking for.
We did it with Judge Channon. Judge Chutkan obviously looking to see what is going to be her style here, because that will really determine the date, the scope of this.
I mean, this is a pretty routine thing asking for this protective order. It's not a gag order. She actually did amend it to go with what Trump's team wanted on a part of it about sensitive materials. But this just shows you that there are going to be so many battles like this going forward.
BERMAN: So Norm, Ambassador Eisen here, sensitive material restricting Donald Trump, what he can say about sensitive material, which are materials containing personally identifying information, what does that look like in practice for someone like Donald Trump?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, John, it's five,, six categories of materials that they've designated as sensitive. And what that looks like, it's grand jury materials, it's the key evidence really that they're going to use to prove the case against Donald Trump. They are legally required to provide that to him.
And in practice, what that means is, his lawyers will show him the most important information, they will talk to him about it. They are probably not just going to leave him in a room to read, he'll be able to react to them.
But here is the danger, the red line, if some of that information is trapped in his brain that isn't otherwise public, and then he lets it out in whole or in part in a social media posting, in a speech at one of his rallies when he is talking to journalists, that is where they're going to go to court and say, hey, Donald Trump has breached this order.
And there is depending on how often he does it, there's potentially very serious penalties for that. So with an undisciplined individual like Trump, there is danger that it is breached and danger of those penalties.
BERMAN: Okay, Judge Fogel, what happens then if Donald Trump does cross one of those red lines, what options are available to Judge Chutkan.
JEREMY FOGEL, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE FOR CALIFORNIA'S NORTHERN DISTRICT: Well, I think most judges in a situation like this would use what people would recognize as progressive discipline. If it happens once, they would try to understand why it happened and what the motivation was, whether it was inadvertent or intentional, or even if it was a violation. If it happens repeatedly, then it becomes more intensive an inquiry. You also have to look at what the nature of the breach is. If it's something that's really critical, like witness intimidation, or revealing information, which is clearly confidential, and defendant knows that it's confidential, that's pretty serious, that affects the integrity of the process.
What the judge is trying to do here, I think, is balance. Mr. Trump's rights as a defendant and every defendant has the same rights to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. She is trying to balance those rights against the need for the integrity of the process to prevent things like confidential information being leaked, jury pools being tainted, witnesses being dissuaded or intimidated. That is the balance she is trying to strike.
And so if a defendant does something that is particularly egregious, or if they do things over and over again that are clearly prohibited, the judge has the option of imposing sanctions. Sanctions could be a fine.
The most extreme sanction could be revocation of release, the defendant could go to jail. I think the chances of that happening are very remote at this point, but it really depends how things play out.
BERMAN: You know, Kaitlan, I want to go back to this day job comment when Judge Chutkan said that running for president is Donald Trump's day job.
She also said to the defense counsel, you were conflating what your client needs to do to defend himself and what he wants to do politically.
So do you think that Donald Trump and his defense team that they understand and/or care about that distinction?
COLLINS: I think the point of frustration that we saw from John Lauro, Trump's defense attorney was over Mike Pence. Obviously, he is at the center of the January 6 investigation. And John Lauro had kind of raised this idea of Mike Pence being on the debate stage and Trump defending himself and the judge really dismissed that.
She did not even -- she did not say that that was -- she said that it was giving her more concern that he was raising that kind of a point that it was alleviating her concerns. And so I think that is something that you could potentially see.
And going back to, you know, what information does he learn from these documents? I mean, they could get transcripts and everything. And what does he say publicly? And I think that is where the issue is going to be, because I mean, he could very well be on the debate stage with Mike Pence.
I mean, he has been attacking Mike Pence, pushing back on his claims that he asked him to overturn the constitution. And so I think that is where the intersection of this could be. But his attorney, I mean, they were very frustrated, they seemed at those points in the hearing.
BERMAN: One other way to look at that day job comment, Ambassador Eisen, is that, you know, if the Iowa caucuses are your day job, there's nothing special about the Iowa caucuses. So between that comment and saying, literally, if this guy keeps on speaking out, I'm going to have to start the trial more quickly. How do you think she is disposed to plan the trial date?
EISEN: She is going to set this trial down on the calendar in the first part of 2024. That's clear. Number one, there's a legal presumption under the Speedy Trial Act, 70 days, that would give us October. The government is already allowing more time.
Number two, she said that she cannot and will not factor in the effect on political campaigns, John. That means she is going to treat him like any other defendant who has a day job. And then that comment, the more inflammatory remarks there are, the faster I'll schedule this trial because of the potential effect on the jury pool. Who makes more inflammatory comments than Donald Trump?
All indications are that we are going to see this trial, I think probably the first of the major criminal trials of Donald Trump that will take place.
BERMAN: Ambassador Eisen, Kaitlan Collins, Judge Fogel, thank you all for being with us.
And a quick reminder, Kaitlan's guest at the top of the hour is Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden's attorney for his take on today's other big legal news, the naming of a special counsel in the Hunter Biden probe and what it could signal about prospects of a trial. We'll take that up next. That interview between Caitlin and Abbe will be fascinating.
Also breaking news out of Maui, the death toll climbing steeply tonight. A Federal Public Health Emergency just declared. We have new images from the scene which we will bring you along with new reporting on what may have been missed -- missed opportunities to prevent this growing tragedy.
BERMAN: Republican lawmakers today got what they've been long been asking for, if not as quickly as they wanted. Hunter Biden got a heap more to worry about. And the longtime Trump appointed federal prosecutor who has been investigating the president's son, he got a new title, Special Counsel David Weiss.
What's more, quite literally, he asked for it. Here to explain CNN's Sara Murray.
Sara, what more do we know about why Attorney General Garland decided to elevate David Weiss to special counsel?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, frankly, there aren't a lot of straight answers on this right now. I mean, we saw Merrick Garland give this press conference earlier today where he cited the extraordinary circumstances around this case. And of course, the president's son being investigated is extraordinary. But this has been going on for five years. And he said David Weiss just came to him earlier this week, and requested this special counsel designation.
Of course, we saw a couple of weeks ago, there was a plea deal for Hunter Biden that went sideways where he was essentially going to get slapped with some tax misdemeanor charges that he would plead guilty to, and have this diversion program to avoid a gun charge, but that still doesn't fully explain why at this point in the game Weiss wants the full powers of a special counsel, although it would allow him to bring charges in any venue he wants, not just Delaware, where he is the US attorney.
BERMAN: What is exactly the new special counsel saying about the status of the Hunter Biden case? Because as you said, he was minutes away. I mean, Hunter Biden, at one point a few weeks ago, it seemed was perhaps minutes away from completing this plea deal.
MURRAY: Yes, and then things again, spectacularly fell apart. And what we learned in court filings today is the newly designated special counsel, David Weiss, essentially saying behind the scenes, they have not been able to reach a new plea agreement with Hunter Biden's team, and so Weiss plans to go to trial. And in order to do that, he's not going to do that in Delaware, he wants to do that in one of these other jurisdictions, likely DC or California where crimes were committed or where Hunter Biden has been residing.
But as you know, John, once you're designated special counsel, you have more powers, you can investigate essentially anything that comes up in your investigation. So there has to be some concern, I would imagine on the part of Hunter Biden's team about this potentially ballooning as it goes on.
BERMAN: Sara Murray, thank you very much.
Perspective now from CNN contributor and Biden biographer, Evan Osnos, author of "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run and What Matters Now." Also with us, CNN political commentator, Ashley Allison, who served on the 2020 Biden campaign; and defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.
So Shan, how big is this news, the appointment of the special counsel and maybe even bigger, the fact that that plea deal negotiations have collapsed?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, substantively, John, it shouldn't change things really.
I mean, Sara was pointing out, they have been investigating this case for a half decade. It is hard to imagine there is some surprise that just come up.
It is a little bit puzzling what Garland has done here. I mean, he could have appointed the special counsel from day one if he wanted to do that. It's just not clear what has changed here. And actually, interestingly, the better designation would have been to make him a special attorney under the DOJ regs, which also gives him the ability to go to other venues.
Usually a special counsel is someone chosen from outside DOJ, former DOJ or because you want the point to be an appearance of impartiality. So, like John Durham who Barr installed as a special counsel, Weiss is also a current DOJ employee, so that's not the normal pick, so it's pretty puzzling actually what is going on. It seems very disorganized.
BERMAN: Well, the main reason we were told at least why he did it now is because David Weiss for the first time, we think, asked for it.
Evan, you know, President Biden is obviously running for re-election right now. How hard is this going to be for him not to address this on the campaign trail?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, John, you know, just sort of his nature, his habit, over the decades has been when he's facing a personal or political challenge or a setback, he talks about it. he talks about it out loud.
I mean, it's his kind of response to a lot of things. He talks to the public. They'll talk to columnists and authors. And this is a case where his instincts essentially are not allowed. You know, he has been vigilant about not talking about this case in anything but the most personal terms, just talking about the fact that he supports his son who's gone through a difficult period.
And as the president often says, he has put it behind him.
The reality is, you're going to see him draw a brighter line between making those kinds of sort of personal statements as a father and not wading into the questions of criminal justice in the same way that he hasn't waded into the questions of criminal justice around his opponent, Donald Trump, that's a line that he has to be vigilant about not crossing.
BERMAN: Yes. You know, he says he's given Garland and the special counsel, now a special counsel all the latitude they want. He has also been very supportive of Hunter Biden, you know, as his son throughout this.
Ashley, you know, congressional Republicans, many of whom had been calling for a special counsel are now criticizing the appointment of US Attorney, David Weiss, as special counsel. What do you think is driving this?
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the challenge with Republicans is they continue to move the field goal. So they say they want something, then they get it, and then it's not good enough. The reason why I think they're doing that, though, is because their 2024 political strategy is to sow doubt in the American public about the value of our institutions and they were able to do that, in my belief without credibility, but they were doing that before there was an equal special counsel on both sides.
So now that the Department of Justice has said, fine, if there is a question that maybe Weiss has not, even though there has been no indication from the attorney that Weiss has had any issue with being able to run the investigation the way he wanted it to be, if making him a special counsel gives people that comfort, that kind of takes the wind out of the Republican sails and that strategy.
And so they continue to go and say it's insufficient, it is not enough, when in reality, that was what the original ask was.
BERMAN: It is worth noting, also, David Weiss was a Trump appointee who was a holdover from the Trump administration.
Shan, I want to go back again, to the notion that at one point a few weeks ago, Hunter Biden's team reasonably thought they were minutes away from this being over. How do you get from there to here? And is this a failure of a defense strategy?
WU: I don't think it's a failure of a defense strategy. I think you have to put the blame on the prosecution here. That plea deal, there's an ambiguity as you know, about what was really covered for Hunter Biden, would he still be exposed in the future?
Ambiguity would have been good for the defense, because if they tried to charge him later, they could say, hey, this violates the plea deal. It's the prosecution that needed to make sure they were very clear about what they were doing and they weren't able to answer the judge's inquiries about that, and that's why it collapsed.
Now it places Hunter Biden in difficult position, certainly, because it looks like they're amping up potential other charges to try to force him into pleading.
The issue here though is he's begging to plead. His defense team seems to want to take a plea deal, and it's just unclear what is really going to be holding that up.
And so again, I really think this is an example of DOJ not having gotten their ducks in order, and they could have done that.
BERMAN: Evan, how hard will it be do you think for the Biden team to come up with a strategy to deal with this?
OSNOS: You know, part of the reason they're in this moment, in this predicament is that if you go back to the period, we are talking about 2014-2015 when Hunter Biden was sort of embarking on these business activities, and really kind of unraveling personally, that was a time when some of his advisors didn't feel that they could talk to the vice president about it.
It is a very sensitive issue personally, but that is a different period now, and obviously, I think internally, they're going to be having some candid conversations about what is the political strategy about how do you be clear about your responsibilities as a father and supporting your son, while also not playing into what Ashley so rightly described, as this effort to try to create an equivalence on the Republican side by saying that their candidate is engulfed in investigations.
But today, we have to remind ourselves John, there has been no evidence that any of the business activities or anything that Hunter Biden was involved in benefited Joe Biden or that he did anything to advance those processes by using the powers of government, that's the key bottom line.
BERMAN: Ashley, with just a few seconds left here, do you hear from any Democrats who are getting nervous about this?
ALLISON: No, I mean, just like Donald Trump's indictments actually increases polling numbers, I don't think it will actually have a detrimental effect on Joe Biden because the reality is, is that this case is not about Joe Biden, it is about his son and a father is allowed to love their son.
BERMAN: Evan Osnos, Ashley Allison, Shan Wu, thank you all very much.
The breaking news out of Hawaii: The death toll has now risen to 67. We're going to take you the hard hit town of Lahaina next.
BERMAN: The fires on Maui tonight became the state of Hawaii's deadliest natural disaster. In the last hour, the death toll rose again, 67 now confirmed dead.
The government says that the fire "is not yet contained." One of the hardest hit towns of course Lahaina.
CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir made it there by boat. This is his report.
EDDY GARCIA, FARMER, MAUI RESIDENT: The trees that you guys see behind you right here, this was all from the tornado that came through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's crazy.
GARCIA: Now, we've never even seen a tornado in Hawaii.
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a place so familiar with weather extremes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, it's crazy.
WEIR (voice over): Maui locals have never seen anything like the firestorm that obliterated Lahaina.
DANIEL GOLDBERG, BOAT CAPTAIN: It can start in a little like smolder and smoke, and we're like, the house had survived and now there's a little brush fire and then within like five minutes, the whole thing was engulfed just right off the frame.
WEIR (on camera): Really?
GOLDBERG: There's nobody there to put anything out.
WEIR: We're just pulling into Lahaina now, just getting our first glimpse at this town after hearing these nightmarish stories and it is worse than you can imagine.
It looks like a World War Two set, like a bomb went off here. There's just utter scorched devastation everywhere, melted boats in the harbor.
(voice-over): What was once the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii, and one of the most well preserved towns in the nation is ash, including Bill Wyland's famous art gallery. And he says he escaped the flames on his Harley Davidson, riding around evacuees trapped between fire and ocean.
BILL WYLAND, ART GALLERY OWNER: Had I took the car and said a motorcycle, I plugged in with everybody else jumping in the water. It was -- I mean, it was flames were shooting over the top, coming out. I didn't even want to look behind me because I knew they were behind me.
WEIR (on-camera): And there's nowhere to go. You're pinned between just the --
WYLAND: Just pinned and that's what happened.
WEIR (on-camera): -- fire and the ocean.
WYLAND: That's what happened to all the people, I think, is all those cars that were waiting for someone to move in front of them. No one was moving anywhere. You were dead in the water.
WEIR (on-camera): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all jumped in the ocean.
WYLAND: They all jumped in the ocean and a lot of them didn't make it, from what I heard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
WEIR (on-camera): I'm sure if the winds were 80 miles an hour, the surf must have been --
WYLAND: Just that. There was diesel fuel floating in the water as well.
WEIR (on-camera): Oh God.
WYLAND: And the Coast Guard couldn't come in too far because of the reefs, and a lot of the people can't swim that far. And then a couple of people died of smoke inhalation as well. They were just inundated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know a lady that stood in the water for 8 hours.
WEIR (on-camera): This is the historic Banyan tree, 150-year-old majestic tree at the center of Lahaina town. It looks like it may have survived. It needs water desperately to survive right now. But for the locals who are coming down and looking at the damage, this is such a sign of hope that maybe their iconic tree will have lived when so much else is gone here.
But the history can never be replaced. Right here, this is the first hotel in Hawaii. The Pioneer Hotel, Pioneer Theater. It's completely gone. Right over here was the library. It's just now a stone shell of scorched. Blocks around Front Street there Fleetwood's -- Mick Fleetwood of the band Fleetwood Mac. His place is gutted out with flames. It's just unrecognizable.
One of the most charming, beloved port cities anywhere in the world is just scorched like a bomb went off.
(voice-over): Farmer Eddy Garcia lost a small fortune in crop damage, but now is bracing for much bigger losses.
EDDY GARCIA, FARMER, MAUI RESIDENT: My God. Like, when I was down there early, there were uncles and people I know in the street, dead. People were trying to get to the end of the street. You can tell by where the cars that were parked. They say hundreds of people jumped in the water.
WEIR (on-camera): You personally lost crops? Like, what is that?
GARCIA: I lost nothing compared to what people lost. I lost farm stuff and food and whatever, tiny little things compared to what people lost. People lost their family, they lost their houses. Everything we've seen, all the landmarks, everything that we've seen for years, history, it's all gone.
BERMAN: It's all gone. And Bill Weir joins me now. Bill, authorities announced residents of West Maui will be allowed back in the area today. You know, what are you seeing and what have residents done without access to their homes?
WEIR: Well, it's certainly ramped up the uncertainty and fear of the worst. People looking for proof of life of family members, but this is what it looks like since they opened up Lahaina. Now, to residents, long, miles long line of cars here. And this sort of sheds a light on the difficulty of the evacuation when the grass was burning.
Over here, we've got a sample of what was the fuel of this fire. Invasive grasses in what was years, years generations ago, tropical forest here, but with those massive winds turning this into a blowtorch, bringing down power lines like this, blocking roads, you had this sort of gridlock. It's one lesson learned, John, but they're really, really preparing for the worst when it comes to the fatality count right now. We've seen this in higher disasters. When you don't have information, people fear the worst. A lot of people turn up OK. We'll hope that's the case right now.
But folks here are bracing for this not only to be the deadliest fire in Hawaii history, but the deadliest in American history, which is 85 in paradise back in 2018.
BERMAN: Well, let's hope it doesn't get there. Bill Weir, thank you very much for all your work.
Behind every house and storefront burn, there is, of course, a story. A family who lost a home full of memories, a business owner whose years of hard work literally went up in flames. And my next guest suffered that loss.
Iconic artist Ruby Mazur, best known for this, the first "Mouth and Tongue" ever created for the Rolling Stones, which was featured prominently on the "Tumbling Dice" record sleeve back in 1971. He was about to open a new gallery on Front Street in Lahaina. A hundred of his paintings were lost. And Ruby joins me now.
Ruby, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. And we're so sorry for everything you've lost. Can you explain what happened Tuesday when the fires began? I know you were at home in a different community in Maui. Your sons were at your gallery on Front Street in Lahaina preparing for its grand opening, right?
RUBY MAZUR, ICONIC ARTIST, LOST ART GALLERY ON FRONT STREET: Correct. Yes. It was -- we've been waiting for this Maui location, which was right next to Fleetwoods. And when we found it, we moved the gallery from Waikiki over to Maui. So we shipped over 100 paintings here. I live up in Kula Upcountry.
And my three sons have been working in the track lighting and the painting and the building and the furniture and hanging the paintings. And we decided, OK, we're going to be ready Tuesday for the grand opening. And Monday night they were in the gallery and people were coming in already and saying, oh, I want to buy this, I want to buy this.
And my son said, you know what? My dad's going to be here tomorrow night. You bought from him before. He would love to say hello to you and wish you happiness and whatever. Come back tomorrow for the grand opening. And they said, no, we want to buy it now. And he said, no, no, no tomorrow. So they said, OK.
And the next day, I was up in my house and the winds were like 100 miles per hour and I have a 150 pound master who could barely walk. And my sons called and said, dad, it's really getting bad. And I said, well, better come on back here because it's not looking good here either. And they came up. They tried to get out of Lahaina. And they were closing down the road because of the flames. And they got out. Like, it was a miracle they got out. They came up to my house and they saw all the furniture on my deck. Everything was being thrown around like toothpicks. And they go, dad, we got to go now.
And I said, you know what? If it's going to be really bad, let's get a hotel room. Not one hotel had a room available, nothing. We were calling 15 hotels, not one room. So my other son said, you know what, let's get a U-Haul. I said, OK. We got two U-Hauls. We went to Walmart, bought blow up beds, and then we had four dogs in the car.
We bought two blow up beds, blankets, sheets, pillows, bottles of water, and we took the two U-Hauls to the parking lot of the airport to sleep there. And the next thing we knew, Lahaina was gone. Lahaina was completely gone. My lifelong work of 50 years painting rock stars, gone.
And I've been having calls from people, collectors from all over the world. And last night, one collector called back and she said, Ruby, this painting we bought from you a couple of years ago, we paid a lot of money for it. We'd like to send it back to you so you could sell it and get some money. People are amazing.
BERMAN: Ruby, I can't imagine what it's like for you now. When you saw the images of Front Street, you know, not just your gallery in ruins, but all your artwork gone, what went through your mind?
MAZUR: Well, John, I just beat cancer for the third time. I had bladder cancer. I had a brain tumor. They gave me six months to live. And this last year, I had a bout with throat cancer. So I figured if I could beat cancer three times, nothing could take me down.
And then losing my life's work and almost losing my three sons on Front Street, it's a lot to take. A lot to take. And a little ray of sunshine was I went up the back road today to see if my house was in ashes as well. And I pulled up around the corner, and it was smoky and stinky from the fire. And there was my house standing.
It did not burn down amongst all those burnt and down trees and power lines, and my house is still there.
BERMAN: We wish you all the best. I know that so many of your fans will rally around you in this time in need. So all the best to you, Ruby. To you and your family, be well.
MAZUR: John, thank you very much.
BERMAN: One final and terribly important note here, how to help. You can find out all the information in one place at cnn.com/impact. Again. That's cnn.com/impact.
Coming up with a record breaking death toll, questions are mounting on could more have been done to prevent this disaster? And were there warning signs that were missed? CNN's investigative unit digs into that next.
BERMAN: As the death toll rises to 67 and the full scope of the destruction in Hawaii continues to come into focus, questions are emerging about not just what can be done to prevent the next tragedy, but could any more have been done to prevent this one?
A report released last year shows that officials in Hawaii underestimated the deadly threat of wildfires. Meantime, Maui County report from 2021 acknowledged that while the number of acres consumed by wildfires had spiked, that the funds to fight them were, quote, inadequate.
Here's CNN's Chief Investigative Correspondent Pamela Brown with more.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN is learning Hawaii officials underestimated the risk of wildfires in a recent report, even as other documents show official knew they lacked resources to prevent and fight fires.
ABBY FRAZIER, CLIMATOLOGIST, CLARK UNIV.: We had advanced notice coming into the summer. This week, the winds, the low humidity and the fuels, any ignition would have sparked a pretty big fire and that's exactly what we saw.
BROWN (voice-over): In a state report out just last year ranking natural disasters, Hawaii officials classified the wildfire risk to human life as low in this color coded chart. The assessment, though, coming years after Hurricane Lane fanned the flames of fires in Hawaii ravaging Maui and Oahu in 2018. That perfect storm of conditions highlighted the threat and how unprepared officials in Hawaii were dealing with such a disaster.
With a county report in 2021 noting Hurricane Lane made small fires swell and stretch public safety resources, with strong winds, grounding air support. That storm should have been a wakeup call, according to this planning document from Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency.
Other state and local documents show Hawaii lagged behind in preparedness for the devastating wildfires playing out now that have killed more than 50 people, left countless people missing and triggered widespread evacuations. A cruel deja vu for some residents.
MARK STEFL, LOST HOME TO FIRE TWICE: About four years ago, we had another hurricane and we lost our house in a fire. Rebuilt, and what happened yesterday is killing me right now. We just lost our house again twice in four years.
BROWN (voice-over): A 2021 report also makes the troubling point that despite the increasing number of wildfires, fire prevention was given, quote, "short shrift" in a strategic plan from Maui County's Department of Fire and Safety. The plan also included, quote, "nothing about what can and should be done to prevent fires", which it called "a significant oversight".
FRAZIER: Given how catastrophic this event was, I think there will be a lot of pressure on the state and other organizations to improve their fire prevention actions that they're taking statewide.
BROWN (voice-over): The increase in fires in Hawaii comes as Maui has faced increasing drought conditions in recent years, contributing to warnings like this in a May webinar from Nani Barretto with the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization.
NANI BARRETTO, HAWAII WILDFIRE MANAGEMENT ORG.: Hawaii has a big wildfire problem. We are on par with the most fire prone states in the western continental U.S. The impacts of fire are broad and long lasting.
BROWN (voice-over): Now residents like Mart Stefl are left to rebuild again as the threat of future disasters looms with no clear plan in place.
STEFL: I mean, I know what I need to do. We've done it before. It sucks.
BROWN: Well, John, it's still unclear whether additional preparation and mitigation could have reduced the amount of devastation and damage we've seen from these Lahaina wildfires given its speed and intensity. As for responsibility, the governor of Hawaii tells CNN responsibility falls on all of us. John?
BERMAN: All right, Pam Brown, thank you very much.
Iowa presidential politics next, and Republican candidates search for the biggest as yet elusive endorsement there.
BERMAN: Former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are scheduled to attend the Iowa State fair tomorrow. DeSantis tells Iowans at a campaign stop today he expects to bring a lot of the state lawmakers to the fair who have endorsed him. This comes days after sources told CNN that the former president is expected to bring several Republican congressmen from Florida who endorsed him over DeSantis, their governor.
The biggest possible Republican endorsement in Iowa has stayed on the sidelines, though, that is popular two-term governor Kim Reynolds. Our Jeff Zeleny is in Iowa with that story.
GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R), IOWA: Fresher.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome. JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Kim Reynolds reveling in the Iowa State fair and the Republican presidential race. He's at the center of both, rolling out a welcome mat to a parade of candidates five months before the Iowa caucuses ring the opening bell of the 2024 campaign.
(on-camera): This is kind of a metaphor for all the candidates in the race.
REYNOLDS: It is kind of, right, yes, yes, yes. Get them to participate --
ZELENY: There you go.
REYNOLDS: -- and do what they need to do and have some fun with it.
ZELENY (voice-over): She's showering all Republican hopefuls with attention, sizing up the field along the way, but staying neutral, at least for now.
REYNOLDS: It's really important that they feel that they have kind of a fair shot, and they're welcome here in Iowa, and I want Iowans to have the chance to interact with them.
ZELENY (on-camera): If you're not ruling out potentially an endorsement at the end?
REYNOLDS: We'll see. I mean, I don't think you should ever say -- never say, never, never. You know, I just wait and see what happens. But I've made it clear, you know, I'm probably looking at neutral, especially at the beginning of this. It's naturally going to start to narrow, and then we'll take a look at, you know, where it's at. So it's early for that.
ZELENY (voice-over): Reynolds wants Republicans to find the strongest candidate to win back the White House. She believes the race is far from settled.
REYNOLDS: It's so early. People are paying so much attention to the national polls, and I can tell you, it's just not reflective of kind of what I'm hearing from Iowans as I'm traveling around.
ZELENY (voice-over): Do you think there could be surprises over the next five or six months?
REYNOLDS: There's always surprises. It's just -- that's part of the process. I can't think of one caucus where there hasn't been, you know, a surprise.
ZELENY (voice-over): For months, she's been hosting the Republican hopefuls and basking in their accolades.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The best governor in the entire country, Kim Reynolds.
ZELENY (voice-over): She invited the candidates to join her on stage at the fair. All said yes, except former President Donald Trump. He is been lashing out, taking credit for Reynolds' election and attacking her for not supporting him. Reynolds, Iowa's first female governor, smiled and took exception to that.
REYNOLDS: It's actually Iowans who made the decision to elect me in a really tough year. 2018 was not a good year for Republicans. I squeaked by.
ZELENY (voice-over): The 2018 midterms were, in part, a referendum on Trump. Last year, she won reelection by nearly 19 points and is remarkably popular among Republicans. Trump's attacks on her are now part of an ad for DeSantis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And instead of looking to America's future, Trump is busy attacking Republican governors.
ZELENY (voice-over): Her once close relationship with Trump has grown more complicated.
(on-camera): Do you think Republicans are wrong to see him as the inevitable nominee?
REYNOLDS: Well, I just said I think it's early. Our job is not to pick the winner necessarily, but to start to narrow the field. And that's really what the caucus has done.
ZELENY: And the former president is arriving here at the fair tomorrow as the frontrunner in this race. There is no doubt about that. But as the governor said there, she believes it's early. She believes that voters do have an open mind.
And, John, I can tell you talking to many of them here this week at the fair and for the last several months, there are many Republicans who are looking to turn a page. Of course, Trump has many true supporters as well. But five months before the Iowa caucuses, history will tell that there might be surprises, as the governor said.
So Trump here tomorrow, DeSantis as well. Other candidates too, John. So this race is heating up, and voters are starting to pay attention. John?
BERMAN: You will be watching. Jeff Zeleny, great to have you there. Thank you.
We'll be right back.
BERMAN: That does it for us. The news continues with Kaitlan Collins and "THE SOURCE".