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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Hawaii Wildfires Death Count Rises To 99; 19-Year-Old, Family Taped Escape Into Ocean From Fires; GA Courtroom Remains Open Past Closing Time As Potential Trump Indictment Vote Looms. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 14, 2023 - 20:00   ET



Hours after we left, we're told that trench network came under heavy Russian attack which they repelled, but the grind is constant and respite rare, and any advantage no matter how small urgently welcome.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, near Orikhiv, Ukraine.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And my thanks to Nick and to all of you for being with us.

AC 360 begins now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER: 360": Tonight on 360: All eyes on that courthouse in Atlanta where a grand jury is still in session tonight and the people around Donald Trump are expecting what will be the former president's fourth criminal indictment.

Also tonight, Maui, a father and son reunited after the son survived hours in the ocean while everything on shore burned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Front Street is going to look so different. That's going to be crazy.


COOPER: Good evening. Thanks very much for joining us.

5:00 PM was when the Fulton County grand jury was supposed to end day one of hearing evidence in Fani Willis' two-and-a-half year investigation into alleged election subversion by the former president. Just after 8:00 PM Eastern, and they are still at work right now. According to one Trump adviser, they expect charges to be filed "imminently."

A short time ago, former lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, who is now a CNN contributor testified, that's a video of him on his way out; he and journalist, George Chidi are thought to be among the final witnesses.

CNN's Sara Murray is at the courthouse. Sara, what's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, things are still going on in there, Anderson. As you pointed out, we are hours beyond when the courthouse normally closes around 7:15. The presiding judge this week, Judge Robert McBurney said he planned to stick around for at least another hour. So, we're waiting to see if he gives us another update.

And look, this grand jury has been busy today. We know that they have heard from a number of witnesses, including the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, former Democratic state senator, Jen Jordan; former Democratic state representative, Bee Nguyen; Gabe Sterling, who is an official in the Georgia secretary of State's office was also spotted in the courthouse today, so it is likely he testified, although they have not confirmed that yet.

So this has really been a jam packed day so far -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is it clear why the timeline of the grand jury's activity appeared to accelerate earlier today?

MURRAY: Yes. I mean, a couple of the witnesses who are supposed to appear tomorrow we're summoned in to essentially be on call to testify today. Geoff Duncan was one of those, the other one is independent journalist, George Chidi, who has essentially been tweeting updates in what appears to be the waiting area for witnesses testifying for the grand jury.

He just sent another update saying that the jury appears to be -- the grand jury appears to be chewing over what they've learned so far today and it is unclear if he is actually going to have to testify.

So I think what we're seeing is the district attorney's team moving pretty speedily through presenting a lot of this case before the grand jury and trying to determine, frankly, if they're going to be able to push the grand jury for a vote and to hand up indictments tonight or if this is going to spill over to tomorrow -- Anderson.

COOPER: So George Chidi is sitting outside, waiting to go in, not clear if he is actually going to be called. When would we get word that the grand jury has voted?

MURRAY: Well, essentially, we will get word when papers leave the room, the grand jury is meeting in and make their way into the courtroom of the presiding judge, Robert McBurney. That's how we have been expecting this to go down that the grand jury hands up their findings. It goes to the presiding judge again, Robert McBurney, who then signs off on them. That goes to the clerk's office to be stamped and processed, and then it's made public to everyone who is of course, waiting to see what this grand jury ultimately decides.

But as you pointed out, it's getting late. So they're trying to keep some of these court officials here sticking around to hold out potentially the possibility that they can get these indictments done tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: And earlier as you've just reported that the judge had indicated he would stick around for about another hour. When does that hour -- I mean, based on when he said that do we know when that hour runs out?

MURRAY: So he said that around 7:15, so presumably around 8:15, he will also probably be getting a little bit antsy, probably also pressing the district attorney's team for an update about whether they need to keep the courthouse and the courtroom open.

You know, there's a bunch of journalists who have been sitting in this judge's courtroom all day. We also have a bunch of journalists who've been sitting in the clerk's office for hours essentially waiting to see if this case is going to move tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: And if it doesn't finish tonight, does the grand jury convene tomorrow?

MURRAY: If it doesn't finish tonight, we fully expect that they will be back here tomorrow.


I mean, this grand jury's regular days for meeting are Monday and Tuesday, although they normally get out much earlier in the day. And you know, one thing we should note about how this works, Anderson is, you know, the grand jurors aren't necessarily like captives here.

If someone raised their hand as a grand juror and said, look, I really can't stick around, I have to go see my kids; or a number of them said, we really need to wrap this up for the day. That's what we would be seeing happen there.

So, it is possible that the grand jurors want to power through this case today, as much as it seems like the district attorney's team might want to.

COOPER: And what's the latest word from the former president on all of this?

MURRAY: Well, the former president has been lashing out, as you might expect all over his social media platform. He has been saying that the DA wants to indict him on ridiculous grounds. He's essentially pleading with people to tell the grand jury that he did not try to tamper with the election. He also went on to say that the DA is out to get Trump.

COOPER: All right, Sara Murray, stay with us. I want to bring in CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig. He is a former federal prosecutor, also author of "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It."

Joining us as well, CNN senior political commentator, former Republican member of the House January 6 committee, Adam Kinzinger; also Michael Moore, former US attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

Michael, why would witnesses scheduled to appear tomorrow suddenly be showing up at the courthouse today?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER US ATTORNEY: Well, I'm glad to be with all of you.

You know, there's nothing particularly unusual about a prosecutor having their schedule wrong, and it can shift. It could be that maybe the grand jury didn't have questions for somebody in as much detail as the district attorney may have expected. And so moving that schedule around, having the ability to be fluid a little bit, there is nothing unusual about that.

It is getting a little unusual, frankly, now that it's well past the typical workday and closing time of the courthouse. The documents are going to be returned in open court, meaning it is going to be an open forum there in the courthouse, just to be open.

So I don't know if she is just going to give an indictment today or if they're just trying to close up the evidence and get all of that information, then move forward with a presentment tomorrow.

COOPER: And Michael, as you know, according to Reuters, there was a document briefly posted on the Fulton County website earlier today. It listed a bunch of charges against Donald Trump. County officials dismissed any documents being circulated as unofficial, they took it down.

I assume that is just some sort of a snafu. How big a deal is it? And do the list of charges sound about right to you?

MOORE: The charges had it about right. I think it was a much bigger deal than the clerk would like to acknowledge at this point. I think it just feeds into the argument that this is not something that's being actually considered by a neutral body in the grand jury, but these are charges that the district attorney already knew she was going to get, and that's why this thing was filed as the indictment had already been returned.

So that's another reason I hope that the district attorney just wait until tomorrow to give us all and the public the sense that the grand jury is actually going to consider in some detail an overdue deliberation of the evidence they've had before today.

COOPER: Elie, I mean, it had long been reported that DA Willis is pursuing a RICO case against the former president, racketeering charges. I mean, we've all seen it in mob films. What might RICO mean in this context?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Anderson. All indications are that the DA is looking at a RICO charge here, and this is very much real life, and we could see it.

Traditionally, RICO is applied to mob families or organized drug trafficking organizations, but in the last couple decades, it's been expanded to apply to corrupt political groups, corporations, and the argument here would be that this is an ongoing, what we call an enterprise, meaning a group of individuals working together towards a common end who committed what we call a pattern of racketeering activity, meaning one or more charges related to that goal.

So all indications are that Fani Willis is looking at and really important to know, Anderson, if there is a racketeering charge that carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. None of the other charges Donald Trump has seen so far from any of the other prosecutors have any mandatory minimum, but if he does get charged with this, and convicted of it, and it is upheld on appeal, that requires five years behind bars.

COOPER: And Congressman Kinzinger, how do you expect the case here in Fulton County, if there is one, to track with the work you and your colleagues did on the January 6 committee?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's -- I'm really interested to see the details of this because, you know, as you've seen with Jack Smith, that's really tracked a lot of what the committee did. This is going to be -- I don't know how similar it will be or how different, but it seems like with kind of Jack Smith, with the January 6 committee, we were kind of a mile wide and however far deep on some of these issues.

This is going to be, it looks like a specific drill down on what happened in Georgia, why that was corrupt, and potentially bring other people in on this. So I think it's going to be really interesting to see what else is brought in, to see how powerful the evidence or at least the indictment seems to be.

Again, I don't know if it's going to change any Republican minds. because they've kind of now since rallied around the flag idea, but certainly I think this is going to be sobering when a lot of this stuff comes forward.


COOPER: Sara, you reported that the prosecutors in possession of text messages linking members of the former president's inner circle to the data breach of Coffee County voting machines in early 2021. Can you just remind our viewers about that incident?

MURRAY: Yes, I mean, this was a breach of voting systems in Coffee County on January 2021. We didn't learn about it until months and months later, because there was actually a civil case involving Georgia election security, and one of the folks mentioned in the civil case that they were able to access these voting systems.

We then learned that there were a number of operatives here in the state of Georgia who were able to access these systems, and what the Fulton County district attorney's team had sort of suspected for a while and then gathered evidence to was that this was not just some sort of organic thing that sprung up from Trump supporters in very Republican rural Coffee County, Georgia, that this was a more top down effort that was coordinated with members of Donald Trump's team. And like my colleague, Zach Cohen and I have been reporting on are

these strings of messages that make their way to attorneys who were working with Donald Trump on his post-election legal challenges, with researchers who were helping Rudy Giuliani try to cobble together evidence of election fraud.

And we know that Coffee County is of course, one of the areas that she is scrutinizing as a place to bring potential charges against people -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Elie, so the Fulton County grand jury, they presumably have been hearing testimony that overlaps with Jack Smith's election interference case. I assume if Trump is indicted, here in Georgia, the federal case would take precedent.

HONIG: I would think it would have to, as a practical matter. This happens, I've been on both sides of this equation. I was a federal and state prosecutor. Normally what happened is you get on the phone with your counterpart, and you would say, okay, it looks like we're on the same turf here, who's going to go first? Are we going to work together, are we going to share resources?

By all reporting, by the DA's claim, she has not done that yet. She said I wouldn't know Jack Smith if I saw him. But there's a potential peril there if they don't coordinate, because they could be stepping on each other's toes. They could be looking at the same witnesses. It could be that somebody who Fani Willis indicts could be cooperating secretly with Jack Smith's team, which would cause a big problem.

So if I was giving advice to these prosecutors, I would say there's nothing wrong with coordinating. In fact, it's done normally and it is good practice and we'll help avoid running into each other.

COOPER: And Michael, if and when indictments do, indeed get handed up, if it happens in the next couple of minutes. How quickly -- I mean, how much do we learn right away? And how quickly do you think Fani Willis, you know, gets in front of cameras and how much detail would she give?

MOORE: Well, we already know that there is this purported leak out there, this filing that was done an error. So it looks like the sheet that the clerk would use has already been prepared. So we'll know pretty quickly what the charges are, the indictment will be returned and the clerk will have it. It will be made available to the public, unless of course seals it for some reason, some security reason.

And I expect her to come on out pretty quick. I mean, she's had people all over the country watching and waiting for the last few hours and it wouldn't surprise me if she walked downstairs and gave a press conference.

But again, it may be better both for the appearance of it, and also maybe for the security now that we're getting into the evening hours if she has his grand jurors come back, vote clean early and fresh in the morning, has a full day than to have the indictment returned and have the warrants prepared, could work out with Trump's legal team, you know, some court appearances and things that will be expected in the coming days. That to me seems like a very clean way to do it as opposed to sort of a rushed through tonight.

Either way, maybe legally acceptable, but there might be a way to stage it to her advantage and also, again, maybe build some public confidence in the process as we go along.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, the former Georgia Republican lieutenant Geoff Duncan appeared before the grand jury today, as we know. The former president attacked him on Truth Social earlier saying he shouldn't testify. I wonder how you view that? I mean, obviously, that's what the former president does. Is that intimidation?

KINZINGER: Yes, I think it's an attempt to intimidate. I mean, Geoff is not going to be intimidated, thankfully. But, you know, that doesn't mean that everybody is not going to be intimidated and people watching, potential witnesses are going to see --

I mean, I saw this in the political thing all the time as people are like, well, don't want to vote against this because Donald Trump's going to go after me on at the time that was on Twitter, not his weird social media that he has now.

But I think part of that is to send something out. He has tried to intimidate Jeff, but also let other people know that he is paying attention. That's like his kind of secret sauce, it is he is overly complimentary of you in person, but the reason he does that is to let you know he's watching and we know he is consuming news all the time.

So this is going to be an issue I think going forward now frankly for the next year is what he says on Truth Social, his intimidation he tries to lay on people and I think I've heard Elie on here say before that this is probably not the end of any kind of procedures that are going to have to come down against him to stop some of this from happening.

[20:15:08 ]

COOPER: Elie, two former Georgia state lawmakers were at the courthouse today. They reportedly witnessed Rudy Giuliani's presentations on election fraud. What do you make of the fact that they appeared at this late stage in the investigation?

HONIG: Yes, let's not lose sight that there could be a lot of other people in play here beyond Donald Trump. Our reporting, as of a few days ago was that there will be a dozen or more people indicted. Even if you take Donald Trump out of this equation, we're going to see some very powerful people potentially on the hook here.

If we look at Rudy Giuliani, we remember he went in front of the Georgia State Senate and he lied to them. He claimed there was all sorts of massive election fraud. And I think that's likely part of the questioning that was directed at Geoff Duncan today. So yes, we are going to see some serious players here, I think indicted other than Donald Trump and these witnesses that are getting it at the end, these are probably witnesses who the grand jury said they wanted to hear from in person before they wrap this thing up.

COOPER: All right. Well, we're going to continue to follow this obviously throughout this next hour. Sara Murray, Elie Hoenig, Adam Kinzinger, Michael Moore, thanks.

Next, the previous indictment. The judge's warning to the former president to watch what he says and what he went ahead and said anyhow, earlier today.

And later, a teenager's remarkable story in video. He fled into the sea with his mom and younger brother as flames destroyed their community in Maui.

I'll talk to him and his dad ahead.


[20:20:00 ]

COOPER: As we wait for the Atlanta grand jury to possibly return a fourth criminal indictment; the third one is also in the news the January 6 case. At Friday's federal court hearing in Washington, Judge Tanya Chutkan warned attorneys and defendants alike to, "take special care in your public statements about this case."

Even arguably ambiguous statements, she said, if they could be interpreted to intimidate witnesses or to prejudice potential jurors can threaten the process, she said.

Well, despite that, the former president continues to attack the judge and the special counsel. Today, he called her highly partisan and very biased and unfair. He also continued to call the special counsel deranged.

CNN chief correspondent, Kaitlan Collins joins us, along with former federal judge, Shira Scheindlin.

Judge Scheindlin, as we mentioned, District Attorney Fani Willis has been reportedly pursuing a RICO case against the former president. How would a state level case of that scope compared to the federal case brought by Jack Smith in terms of gravity or complexity?

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: You know, they're both very, very serious indictments. It's just a matter of which one goes first, and I agree with Elie, that probably the federal case will go first. It's huge in scope. And remember, he's the only defendant, so it is easier to try.

This state court case, I think will have multiple defendants. It'll have multiple charges, not just the RICO charge with its mandatory minimum, but it will have other charges. It's a far more complex case. There will be a longer discovery. I think it's going to be behind the federal case.

COOPER: Does every -- I mean, in a RICO case, as a conspiracy does -- I mean, everyone doesn't get tried together, right? SCHEINDLIN: Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely. You can have multiple

defendants. I've tried RICO cases with eight defendants sitting in the courtroom. Absolutely.

They are all members of the enterprise. It's all a conspiracy. Oh, they absolutely can be tried together.

If they are indicted together, they will be tried together.

COOPER: Kaitlan, if the former president were to be convicted in Georgia state court, he couldn't pardon himself even if he becomes president again. How much does that sort of loom over everything?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: I think it changes the dynamic of this because I do think when we talk about Trump's efforts to be the Republican nominee to win the 2024 election, it's often seen, you know, not just as his political aspiration of his, but a legal comfort, basically, this legal padding to protect him from the legal exposure in the many indictments that he is facing. I mean, three of them already, one here in New York, and, of course, the two federal charges.

But if he does -- if he gets indicted here tonight, potentially or this week, or whatever the grand jury makes their decision here. It's a fundamentally different case for him. And I also think it's important. I mean, Georgia was at the core of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

When you look at the efforts that he went to, that people who worked inside the White House, his attorneys, all of these other allies of his, the great lengths that they went to, to try to pressure the state officials, some of the ones that you've seen testifying there today. I mean, this was at the center of his efforts to undo this.

And I think this is why the Trump team is viewing it so seriously here, and you've heard from his attorneys here now facing several other indictments is that this is different because it would be state charges, and he would not, even if he does win the 2024 election have that legal protection here afforded to him with the federal cases where he could either have an attorney general who fires Jack Smith, or who makes the cases go away, or he could potentially pardon himself. There's some questions about that.

This would not be the case here. It's a state parole board that makes those determinations in Georgia, he would not be able to basically insulate himself.

COOPER: Judge, would it be possible if he did get elected president and was facing charges in Georgia that any court case in Georgia would be delayed until after he served his term in office?

And who would make -- who would have the authority to rule on such a thing?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, that's interesting, you know, when somebody says, is it possible? The answer is always anything is possible. But I think the trial judge in the state court case would have the power to decide whether to move the case forward, even while he is president, or to delay it until the end of his term. But I don't think it's mandated by law; either way, I think it's going to be in the discretion of the judge.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, we talked about this in the intro. The former president attacking Judge Chutkan again, who is obviously presiding over the federal case, calling her highly partisan, very biased and unfair. I mean, clearly, there's no reason, despite her ruling on Friday and her admonition and warning to everybody. I mean, there is no sense he is going to stop making these kinds of comments.

COLLINS: Trump's legal team was actually kind of happy with how Friday went. I mean, despite what he has been posting, you know, they thought the protective order that was issued was actually not as strict as they thought it was going to be. They thought it was -- not as broad certainly.

They thought it was actually pretty-- a fair ruling to them. I mean, there was a robust conversation during that hearing between John Lauro, Trump's newest defense attorney and Judge Chutkan, but yes, I mean, you've seen Trump do what he does with everyone who is either a judge overseeing a case that involves him, a prosecutor.

I mean he attacked his own attorney general. He attacked the Supreme Court. I mean, any of this isn't a surprise, but I think what changes here is that the comments the judge has made.


She has directly addressed what he has said on social media, his thread saying basically, if he continues, if those inappropriate comments continue as she framed it, that it could potentially speed up the trial timeline because she believes it could taint a jury pool.

And whether you agree with that or not, she is the judge here, and she does have broad discretion over when this trial is potentially going to happen.

But I mean, I've talked to many of Trump's lawyers, former attorneys that were on his team, that aren't any more; people who have been in his orbit, they don't like when he does this stuff. But also Trump is not exactly someone that you can just, you know, tell him to stop doing something and he'll stop doing something.

I mean, it almost encourages him to do it more when someone has told him to stop doing something like that. So they certainly know, Anderson, this does not help them, but...

COOPER: Judge, I mean, isn't a defendant allowed to say the judge is unfair, or the prosecutor is deranged?

SCHEINDLIN: Right. Yes, he has the right to free speech, he can say what he wants. But the judge has warned him specifically not to do that, not to taint the jury pool and there is a real risk here that what he says could have that impact. I have to say, I agree with Kaitlan. I did a quick count. He's

attacked at least 10 different judges over the years by name. That's his MO. That's the way he operates. He attacks the judges and calls them biased and unfair, and therefore he can't get a fair trial. It's all a witch hunt.

So this is what he's done over and over again.

COOPER: And Judge, we learned tonight that Donald Trump is seeking to have a lawsuit brought by the state of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick who died after January 6, after the insurrection put on hold because of the 2020 election criminal case that he's facing. Does that make sense to you?

SCHEINDLIN: Well, I don't know. It depends if the evidence in the one case might impact the evidence in another case, and I suppose it would. The civil case is going to have to show much of the same video call many of the same witnesses. And it may be that the government in fact wants to go forward with the criminal case first and not have the same people testify, because if they testify, you know, then you can use their testimony to cross examine them. So there may be a good reason to hold up on the civil case.

COOPER: Judge Scheindlin, it is great to have you on the program. Thank you so much. Kaitlan Collins, as well.

We of course are going to keep a close eye on that Georgia courthouse throughout the hour.

But coming up, breaking news: The death toll from the Hawaiian wildfires has risen again and the governor says it could be dramatically higher, sadly, in the coming days. We'll have the latest as we wait a news conference with the governor.

Plus, my conversation with a teenager who escaped to the ocean with his family to survive.



COOPER: There's breaking news. We are expecting a news conference on the wildfires in Hawaii with the state's governor about an hour from now. We'll bring you any new information as we receive it.

Just a short time ago, the governor, Josh Green, told CNN the death count had risen to 99 people. And that in the coming days, that number could potentially double. Also tonight, there are now questions about how well prepared the island was for a major disaster.

State officials confirmed that none of the 80 outdoor warning alarms that are supposed to deliver a loud, piercing sound to residents in a tsunami were activated. And that the New York Times, quote, firefighters who say that fire hydrants ran dry. According to one firefighter, there was just no water in the hydrants. Tonight, we're also hearing more stories of what it took to survive a fire that, according to the governor, traveled at an incredible speed of 1 mile every minute. 19-year-old Noah -- excuse me -- 19-year-old Noah Tompkinson and his younger brother Milo and his mom raced to their car as the fire spread. They were caught in traffic, and they did the one thing they thought would save their lives, escaped into the ocean.

They were there for hours. It was recorded on video. Here are some of those moments beginning with Noah speaking with his brother, Milo.

NOAH TOMPKINSON, SPENT HOURS IN THE OCEAN TO SURVIVE MAUI WILDFIRE: You're going to be OK Milo. Milo, your mask is dirty. It's better -- holy (INAUDIBLE).


N. TOMPKINSON: Yes, just wash it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keeping your phone dry. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My phone's toast.


N. TOMPKINSON: We're up through the worst of it. We're going to be OK.


COOPER: It I'm joined now by 19-year-old Noah Tompkinson and his dad, David. Noah, when the fires hit your neighborhood, you were with your mom, you were with your younger brother, Milo, how quickly did you realize you needed to get out of there?

N. TOMPKINSON: Within -- it was about five to 10 minute from when we smelled and saw the smoke over the hillside, over up on that big mountain.

COOPER: Wow, that fast.

N. TOMPKINSON: It was about that fast, yes.

COOPER: And you got into a vehicle, I know, but there was a lot of traffic. Was it -- how close was the fire when you were actually in your car?

N. TOMPKINSON: When we were in our neighborhood, it was starting to shoot embers down on the grass and light the very dry grass on fire. And at one point we had -- when we were leaving our neighborhood, fires on both sides of our car.

COOPER: So the decision to go into the ocean, when did you make that decision? N. TOMPKINSON: It was when we were coming down the front street, which burned down, and the fire was at that point, starting to light the buildings across from the street -- across the street on fire. And we knew that we had to. And our car wasn't moving anywhere. The traffic was so bad, no one was moving, so we knew we had to jump in.

COOPER: You took video while you're in the water and we're watching some of it. I just want to play one part of the video where you're talking about the fire on all sides.


N. TOMPKINSON: Shit. Both sides to the left and the right are on fire. White smoke starting to come, which means the fire is starting to die in. Scary.


COOPER: What was that like? I mean, to see what's happening on shore. The smoke is clearly -- I mean, it seems like it's stinging your eyes. It looks like it was difficult to breathe. Can you talk about that experience being in the water?


N. TOMPKINSON: It was just so suffocating. The water or the air was so thick, so heavy with smoke. And like I said in the video, if you look to the left, it was on fire. If you look to the right, it was on fire. I think at that moment, I was just realizing that we were going to be in the water for a while.

COOPER: How long were you guys in the water for?

N. TOMPKINSON: About five hours.

COOPER: Wow. And you were able to stand in the water, is that right?

N. TOMPKINSON: Correct. It was about -- for me, I'm about 5'10, it was about chest deep. But for my mother and my brother, they're both about 5'4, it was much harder for them to stand.

COOPER: You seem -- I mean, you're 19. Your brother Milo, I understand, is 13. You seem to kind of know what you were doing. I mean, you suggest to Milo that he doesn't look at the fire. I assume that was because of smoke of sort of the air coming and hurting his eyes.

N. TOMPKINSON: Correct. It was for multiple reasons. I told them both not to look. It was -- because the wind was starting to blow and the smoke towards our direction, that dark smoke from the cars that were starting to light up and also the wind. And just in general, I didn't want him to see what was happening behind him.

COOPER: David, you live higher up in a different part of Maui, and I know you couldn't get in touch with your kids until the next morning. I mean, I can't imagine what that was like for you. DAVID TOMPKINSON, FATHER OF WILDFIRE SURVIVORS: Yes, it was about 12, 13 hours where I knew that the fire had gone through their neighborhood by some videos that I saw online. And at that point, I just -- I had no idea. I was not able to communicate with them at all. I just knew that their -- they had a pretty good idea that their house had burned down and I was just terrified for them.

I did think that, you know, worst case, they're fit enough that they could, you know, run at least and get into the ocean. But I had no idea where they were. And it was terrifying to just think all these scenarios as I was -- I knew I had to try to get some sleep that night. And it just felt guilty me laying in bed knowing that they're -- who knows where.

COOPER: How were you finally able to get in touch with them?

D. TOMPKINSON: So they spent about, you know, about 12 hours, start to finish from when they had to escape, from when they finally got rescued. And then later they finally made it to a place where they were able to get a cell phone, go up on top of a building, and they were able to be high enough to get a signal.

And Noah calmly called me, as I was talking to my neighbor saying, I don't know what's going on. I don't know where my kids are. I haven't heard him. And while I was telling this story to my neighbor, Noah called me. And first thing calmly, he says to me is, dad, we're OK and we're OK. And that was just a huge relief.

At that point, I just knew -- I knew everything was going to be OK. And so, yes, I -- at that point, I just knew everything was going to be fine and that whatever happens, they're safe and it's all good. Life's good at that point because they're safe.

COOPER: No, I understand. Even though once you got back on shore and I think you found shelter in a vehicle, you still were in danger. I mean, I understand that smoke was just hanging over everything.

N. TOMPKINSON: The smoke was just so heavy. And even while we were in the car, we still had our masks on and we got a minute to sit in it. Being in the car, of course it was better being out, better than being out in the smoke. But it was just still so heavy. It started to feel very suffocating.

COOPER: Noah, what do you want people to know about what people in Lahaina need right now, what the future looks like?

N. TOMPKINSON: You know, it's a marathon, not a race. So we need those donations spanned out along that time, and that would get to the most people and help the most people.

D. TOMPKINSON: Housing too, right.


D. TOMPKINSON: Right. This temporary -- people are in shelters and there's nowhere to go. There's many families that have taken on other people. We have somebody in our home who her house burnt down in Lahaina as well, and our business burnt down. The owner of the business, his house burned down, his neighbors. You know, so many people are without homes right now.

COOPER: I mean, you must be so proud of Noah and Milo. I mean, your son Noah has quite a head on his shoulders, I mean, to be as calm and --

D. TOMPKINSON: Yes, and incredibly --

COOPER: -- as thoughtful in those moments is extraordinary.


D. TOMPKINSON: Yes, I'm very, very proud of him. I -- just from the moment he told me, dad, we're OK, it was like right away I felt so proud that he was able to -- I knew, I just -- those words, the way he said them said so much to me about how the whole situation was handled and that he really was there support system for his brother and his mother.

And they needed each other to survive. And I'm so thankful for them to all be -- that they were together and that Noah was so calm in this whole thing. Very, very calm. It's -- I'm very, very proud both my (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Well, Noah, if I ever get in trouble, I'm calling you because you seem to have a good head on your shoulders and know what you're doing.


COOPER: Noah, David, I appreciate both of you. Thank you so much. And I wish you continued strength in the days ahead.

D. TOMPKINSON: Absolutely, Anderson. Thanks.

COOPER: You can find a lot of information about how to help at or you can text Hawaii to 70-70-70 to donate.

Coming up next, back to the other breaking news, possible impending indictments out of Georgia. There's a look at the courthouse now as the grand jury is still inside working at this late hour. We'll take a closer look at the prosecutor, Fani Willis, her road to the office she now holds into this moment in the spotlight.



COOPER: We are waiting here from the Atlanta grand jury, which seems to be trying to pack two days worth of proceedings into one long one as we do. More now on the woman leading it. Our Randi Kaye has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It doesn't matter if you're rich, poor, black, white, Democrat or Republican. If you violated the law, you're going to be charged.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, talking about her investigation into Donald Trump's alleged attempt to influence Georgia's 2020 election. At the center of it all, a phone call Trump had with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the election.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.

WILLIS: Very thankful that you are here.

KAYE (voice-over): When that call was made, Willis had only been in office for one day ever since she's been leading the charge on the investigation.

WILLIS: Been working for two and a half years. We're ready to go.

KAYE (voice-over): Ready to go. And in the process, ruffling Trump's feathers.

TRUMP: In Georgia, the racist district attorney goes after me for a perfect phone call. This woman is not a capable woman.

A racist, and this is a person that wants to indict me.

KAYE (voice-over): Those accusations of racism unfounded. Team Trump also included Willis in this ad called the Fraud Squad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Biden's newest lackey, Atlanta D.A. Fani Willis.

KAYE (voice-over): Despite it all, Willis hardly seems rattled by Trump's continued attacks.

WILLIS: It's ridiculous in nature, but I support his right to be protected by the First Amendment and say what he likes.

KAYE (voice-over): Since investigating Trump, Willis says she's been subjected to racist taunts.

WILLIS: I've never been called the N word so much in my life.

KAYE (voice-over): Willis, a Democrat, was elected Fulton County's first female district attorney after ousting a six-term incumbent in a primary. She'd built a name for herself as a leading prosecutor in the Atlanta public school cheating scandal, securing convictions for 11 of the 12 defendants.

TRUMP: Fake machines, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): In her first two years in office, Willis has juggled investigating Trump and subpoenaing some of his top allies, while also going after gangs like drug rich. She's also handed down Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations indictments to popular rappers, including Young Thug and Gunna.

Willis has cited the rapper's song lyrics as evidence in the indictments against them, something her critics say infringes on First Amendment rights.

WILLIS: I have some legal advice, don't confess to crimes on rap lyrics if you do not want them used, or at least get out of my county.

(on-camera): Willis was born in California. Her name, Fani, is Swahili, it means prosperous. After her parents' divorce, she was raised primarily by her father. He was a criminal defense attorney and member of the Black Panther Party.

(voice-over): After attending Howard University, she graduated from Emory University School of Law in 1996. She worked in the private sector for a time, then joined the Fulton County Prosecutor's Office in 2001. According to the New York Times, a spokesperson says that since Willis became DA, her office's conviction rate has stood at close to 90 percent.

If Donald Trump is indicted in Fulton County, this will be the biggest case of her career.

WILLIS: I truly believe God personally selected me here for this moment in time, and I'm going to do the job that I'm blessed to be able to do.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Coming up next, we'll continue to be watching what's happening in Atlanta. Also, Ukraine accuses Russia of piracy after its navy fired warning shots and boarded a Turkish cargo ship in the Black Sea. Some of that was caught on video. We have details ahead.



SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- is back on the bench. That court is back in session and we are essentially waiting to see what the grand jury has to hand off to the judge. We also know that the clerk is in the clerk's office. Again, here is how this works. Whatever the grand jury decided to do today, whatever the grand jury handed up, it gets handed up.

It gets walked into the presiding judge's courtroom, which is Judge Robert McBurney this week. He needs to sign off on any potential indictments. And then those indictments need to be walked into the court clerk's office where they can be stamped, where they can be processed.

So, as we are seeing, these folks assemble, we're seeing the judge take the bench. We're seeing the clerk show up in the clerk's office. What we are essentially seeing is everyone going to the places that they need to be in order to process a potential indictment while we await word of what the grand jury has actually handed up, guys.

COOPER: So, Sara, just in terms of what we are literally seeing on the screen, let's be clear. This the room where the -- is this the room where the grand jury was meeting and that's the audience in that room? We're obviously not seeing the grand jury where they're not showing the judge. That's just the reporters, people who have been sitting there waiting for word, correct?

MURRAY: Right. I can't see the room that you're looking at right now, Anderson, because I'm looking into a camera. But I think what you're looking at is probably Judge Robert McBurney's courtroom. Reporters are not allowed into the room, you know, where the grand jury normally --


MURRAY: -- convenes, where they have been hearing from witnesses all day. But reporters have been sitting in Judge Robert McBurney's courtroom all day, waiting for any word that the grand jury is wrapping up, waiting for any word that the grand jury has any findings that they are prepared to hand up to this presiding judge today, Anderson.

COOPER: And then -- so what will we hear from this room? We will hear from the judge himself?

MURRAY: Yes, it's sort of up to every presiding judge of how they want to handle these things. You know, some judges, when they're in this position, just get a stack of papers, they sign it, they hand it back to an official from the clerk's office, and they don't say anything about it.


We're waiting to see if Judge Robert McBurney is actually going to say anything, presumably when he gets handed whatever is provided to him from the grand jury today. Again, the presiding judge has a lot of leeway to sort of decide what he wants to say in this situation. And we're waiting to see if Judge Robert McBurney makes --

COOPER: It looks like the clerk is receiving paperwork now, Sara.

Elie Honig --

MURRAY: Yes, I'm seeing --

COOPER: Our Legal Analyst Elie Honig is also joining us. Elie, what are we watching now?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Anderson. So the stages set here, these appear to be the final stages. So what ordinarily would happen is the prosecutor who's been handling the grand jury proceedings after the grand jury has voted, assuming they have voted yes on an indictment, would then walk the four person over to the clerk's window, and we just saw someone signing some paperwork at a sort of translucent window and then to the judge.

And as Sarah said, different judges handle this part of the mechanics differently. Some judges will do it in open court. The grand jury foreperson will literally hand up the indictment. That's why we use the phrase hand up an indictment. The judge will review them quickly.

There's no substantive review. It's just a formality. And then sometimes the judge will announce the case names and numbers. Other times that will happen behind closed doors in chambers. And the way we would then find out is when these documents hit the public docket, which would be nearly instantaneously. So it does look like there's some security moving through this area here.

We don't know exactly who the people are, but again, you would take the four person as a prosecutor, walk with that four person to the clerk and then to the judge, where the final sort of stamping would be happening.

COOPER: So it seems like that would be the clerk that was just visited, and they are now going toward the judge.

HONIG: Could well be.

COOPER: Is that a safe assumption?

HONIG: Could well be. And again, sometimes the judge will do this in front of the public in the courtroom. Usually it's no big deal. The person just walks up, and the cases don't really mean much of anything to anybody. Sometimes the judge can choose to do this behind closed doors in chambers.

It's really up to the judge to do that. And I think the courtroom that we're looking at here, you are correct. Sara, is correct. This is not the grand jury room. You would never have a camera inside a grand jury room. That's never happened. I don't think that will happen.

This does appear to be a courtroom where the crowd, the media assembled there does seem to be expecting some sort of an announcement by the judge. And the judge could well do that and come out and say, we've returned the following indictments today, case number, such and such, state of Georgia versus whoever.

COOPER: Also, former Georgia Federal Judge Michael Moore is with us. Judge Moore, I'm wondering, what do you expect to now happen?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Well, at this stage of the proceedings, there's nothing unusual about the grand jury, poor person coming in with the prosecutor. In Georgia, indictments are to be presented in open court, and that is the courthouse is to be open, the courtroom is to be open. The judge will have the bench and at that point, there'll be a clerk present.

And then sometimes, there's a discussion with the judge and the foreperson, you know, is this -- the indictment handed up. They'll flip through the pages to make sure that it's signed in the proper places, those things and indictment will be received and returned in open court. So that's what it sounds like is happening here.

And, you know, the next step, obviously, the judge will accept it, the document will be given to the clerk and filed on the public docket. And at that point, you know, we're off to the races. It sounds to me like this cake is well baked and it's just a matter of time --


MOORE: -- before we see hype man and I imagine we'll see it. It'll be interesting to see if it tracks the charges from the earlier posting that we talked about in the earlier setting (ph).

COOPER: And Michael, I think I referred to you as a former federal judge, I apologize. You were a former U.S. attorney, so.

MOORE: Look, I apologize to my judge friends who may have thought I was.

COOPER: OK, so Michael, this is the indictment being handed to the judge, correct?

MOORE: I can't see it, but that is likely what is happening. If the clerk is there, the prosecutor is there, the judge is on the bench and the papers are going up, then I would gather that's the indictment being handed up.

COOPER: Do we have sound in this room? Can we listen in?

Let's listen in.




One second. I'm just making (INAUDIBLE).