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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Texas Woman Charged With Threatening To Kill Judge Overseeing Trump Federal Election Interference Case; Fulton County DA Wants Trump's Trial To Start The Day Before Super Tuesday; Pre-Indictment Polling Shows Who Americans Don't Want To Vote For In General Election; Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act Is The Law At The Heart Of Trump's Georgia Criminal Case; Death Toll From Hawaii Wildfires Rises To 110; President Biden And First Lady To Visit Maui Next Monday; Campaign Fundraiser For Rep. George Santos Indicted For Impersonating Top Aide To House Speaker McCarthy. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 16, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Congressman Santos himself was indicted on 13 counts of federal fraud and money laundering charges. He, of course, has pleaded not guilty and is running for re-election. We'll see how all this develops.

Thank you so much for joining us. It's time now for AC 360.



Breaking news: A woman charged with threatening the judge in the 2020 federal election subversion case.

Also, Georgia DA, Fani Willis has a trial date for Donald Trump and his alleged co-conspirators, but how will it fit with the other three criminal trials he is facing in the middle of a presidential campaign?

Plus a live report from Maui where the governor says the death toll has risen and probably over a thousand people could still be missing.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin with two pieces of breaking news tonight. The first we've just learned of charges in Texas connected with alleged threats against Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is obviously presiding over the 2020 elections diversion trial of the former president.

According to the court filing, the woman who lives in Alvin, Texas left a threatening, racist, and bigoted voicemail for Judge Chutkan on August 5th, allegedly saying that if Trump doesn't get elected: "We are coming to kill you, so tread lightly," and then a curse.

She allegedly continued, "You will be targeted personally, publicly, your family, all of it." Authorities visited the woman on the 8th, and according to the filing, she admitted to making the call from her home telephone. Breaking news as well in the Georgia racketeering trial, a federal district judge tonight setting a hearing August 28th on co-defendant, Mark Meadows' request to move charges into federal court. Now this will be an early test for the district attorney, Fani Willis.

Earlier today, she asked the Atlanta judge now overseeing the case to set to dates, September 5th for the arraignment and a trial date of March 4th. Co-defendant Rudy Giuliani has already said he will surrender to authorities sometime next week. No sign yet that this changes his timetable.

Sources also tell us that lawyers for the former president are in "ongoing negotiations" with DA Willis' office, and early indications are that they too are discussing a date next week.

As to a trial date, if nothing changes, which it almost certainly will. Take a look. It's wedged in with proposed dates for five other trials civil and criminal, state and federal, a New York civil trial, the Trump Organization, October; and January, the federal elections subversion trial and the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial part 2, plus the Iowa caucuses that month.

Then, March, with Georgia's case followed by the New York hush money trial. Super Tuesday, March 5th. Finally in May, there is the Mar-a- Lago documents trial.

Again, all proposed dates. Nothing is set in stone. That calendar will change.

Joining us now, two Georgia grand jury witnesses, CNN political commentator and former Georgia lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan; and Jen Jordan, former Georgia Democratic State Senator; also Michael Moore, former US attorney for Georgia's middle district, and CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig.

Let's begin, I guess with the trial timeline for the DA Willis -- I mean, that's going to change.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, there is no earth, there is no planet on which this case will be tried in March due to the logjam that we just saw. Now, we see all of these four different indictments, and they're all jockeying for very limited trial space.

But the DA has asked to try this in March. First of all, there is an ongoing racketeering trial right now that the DA's office is handling in Georgia. They are still choosing a jury. They're seven months in.

So, I know, that sounds unbelievable, but state jury selection is way slower than in federal cases. So even if they started in March, they'd still be picking the jury on election day, so that is not happening. I understand what the DA is doing. She's doing what prosecutors are trained to do. You always say, we are ready to go any day. We want to try everyone all together, but March is not happening for this case.

COOPER: And Michael. I mean, it's very unlikely that there's 19 people charged. It is not going to be 19 people by the time this goes to trial.

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR GEORGIA'S MIDDLE DISTRICT: No, there's not a chance. There will be people who will flip, who will cooperate. So you know, they plead out, They may be people she decides to get rid of because it complicates the case. I mean, there could be a number of reasons. There won't be 19 defendants sitting in the courtroom.

But because there's 19, that is one of the reasons there's no possible way that she is got to go to trial in March. I mean, this is sort of a PR move, I think on her part. I think it throws gas to Trump to say, look, why are they treating me different than every other criminal defendant in Fulton County? Why are they rushing my case? I'm not in custody taking up a jail bed. I'm not -- you know, I didn't kill somebody and that mom and dad is waiting for the killer of their baby to be brought to trial. Why are they treating me different? And this has played into that hand.

And so until we recognize that he's really campaigning through this process, then I think we'll, you know, we're giving him the gift that keeps on giving and that's a lot of hot air.

COOPER: Federal charges would come first. I mean, if the judges get together to try to figure out a schedule that makes sense, do you have any doubt that the federal case would go first?

JEN JORDAN (D), FORMER GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: It probably will, if for no other reason, then you have Donald Trump just at the top, right? You don't have anybody else.


But I think one of the most complicating things with respect to Willis' case is because there are folks that can kind of pop into federal court and say that we should be there, like Mark Meadows, like Donald Trump, that really does extend the timeline. And she isn't going to want to go forward on this Trump case without Donald Trump being there.

COOPER: You testified before the grand jury on Monday, just hours before they handed up the indictment. What was that like?

JORDAN: You know, it was pretty incredible. I was the first person in. They had no idea that they were the Trump grand jury. They had been handling nine other criminal matters and then, literally a walk in the door and you should have seen their eyes. They just got really big.

And it was kind of a moment of -- it was very serious, right, because they, at that second knew that had a really big job to do and in front of them.

COOPER: And Lieutenant Governor Duncan, you also testified on that day. Was your experience similar?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, it was very serious, and I think everybody in that room realized that we were at the center of the universe, right? Everybody in the world cared about what was going to happen in that meeting. The district attorney was very prepared for their presentation and the jurors were very engaged, inquisitive, and spot on with where their questions went.

As one of the non-attorneys at this table, I hear all the legal opinions about what's going on and the moving parts, this is a mess, politically speaking. This is another reason why we cannot make this mistake again as Republicans.

I think this one's different, right? We've seen these other cases, these other federal cases, they seem to be getting more serious as time goes on. But this one's got some really, really sticky political spots to it for Donald Trump, and I hope we take our medicine. It feels like they're starting to be some more gyrations. Our candidates need to step up to the plate here.

COOPER: Mark Meadows though, obviously, we talked about this a little bit last night, trying to move this to federal court. Giuliani will probably do the same thing, the former president will probably do the same thing. Does that -- where do you stand on that? Does that make sense to you to have this be in federal court?

JORDAN: Look, I don't know if it makes sense to me for it to be in federal court, but if I'm defending one of them, I'm sure as heck going to do that. Right?

And in terms of removal and having the removal stick, it's a really low bar. So you know, I really do think Mark Meadows may have a shot at being there, but he is not going to get it dismissed. Giuliani on the other hand, I don't think that he can say what he was doing was in furtherance of some kind of official role with the president of the United States.

COOPER: That's the bar, essentially.

JORDAN: That is really kind of the low bar for removal, and then from there, it is still Fani Willis' team that is going to be prosecuting that case in that courtroom.

It is not -- it doesn't turn into a federal prosecution, it is still a state prosecution, just a little bit down the street at the federal courthouse.

MOORE: If there was ever a case that ought to be transferred, I mean, if the statute is going to mean anything, the case involving a former president would have to be the case, right? If this case can't be transferred, I don't know that there would ever be a case that will be transferred out of a state court.

COOPER: But if Fani Willis is still prosecuting it, what is it from a legal standpoint, from a jury standpoint, what is the benefit for the former president and Giuliani and these others?

HONIG: Well, for one thing, the jury pool would be much different because if this case remains in Fulton County, the entire jury will be drawn from Fulton County. You all are familiar with it. The stats are that the vote there in 2020 was 72 percent against Donald Trump, 26 percent for Donald Trump.

If you get into federal court, now you're in the Northern District of Georgia, which includes Fulton County, where most of your jurors will come from, but it includes all of those northern counties, some of which Donald Trump won by 60 to 70 percent, so you get a much better jury pool from Trump's perspective.

DUNCAN: The common denominator here is he is going to get indicted somewhere, right? He's going to have to sit in in court and pay the price.

Let's play a game who made this quote: Who could very well -- we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately criminal trial. It would grind government to a halt. Who said that?

COOPER: I think I know the answer.

DUNCAN: Donald Trump in 2016.

HONIG: I was going to say me.

COOPER: About Hillary Clinton.


JORDAN: All of us at some point --

DUNCAN: Every person with a normal brain on their shoulders would say that.

JORDAN: But in terms of the jury pool though, I don't think you're going to pull in those northern, northern. I think it's just going to be the Atlanta division. So the biggest problem for jury selection would really just be Cherokee County. The rest of kind of that Metro Atlanta area is not Trump country still, and we know that the Mark Meadows case has been assigned to an Obama appointee.

And if you're Trump, the only reason you really want to get to federal court is if you think you can get one of your appointees. Now that we know that's not going to happen, I'm wondering if he'll still pursue it.

COOPER: Just in terms of scheduling, though, I mean, assuming, you know, this date is not real. The federal case, the January 6 case goes first. When do you think this would actually go to trial?

MOORE: I don't think there's a chance it goes before the election. I think this is the case it goes after the election. And sort of back to the jury selection, you know, there have been cases -- we had one in South Georgia where they expanded to the whole district and so that that's because they needed that.


And so if you think about just the hyper emotion and the partisanship that's involved in this case, they're going to have to -- this will be a jury selection like no other. I mean, there are feelings that are polarized like they've never seen.

COOPER: Elie, I want to ask you about this. This threat that we just learned about to the judge in this case, the same caller also made a threat to Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, and I think to all gay people, if I read the LGBT community.

This is not a surprise, obviously, given we don't know if she was listening directly to the former president, but certainly he has put her name, that judge's name front and center.

HONIG: This is what happens. This is exactly the danger in the rhetoric.

Donald Trump has spent the last week or so attacking the judge over and over, Geoff Duncan over and over -- and we've seen it. How many times do we need to see this story. People see what he says, people act on what he says.

We saw, of course, January 6th. The day after, there was a search at Mar-a-Lago, a guy stormed the FBI office in Ohio and got shot and killed. Good work by the Feds to act very quickly here to swear out this warrant, charging this person with intimidation and threats against a federal judge, but someone has to step up here and it has to be the prosecutors.

They have already let Donald Trump say way more about Judge Chutkan, about themselves, about the witnesses than any prosecutor would tolerate in any case.

I understand, they are being sensitive. They don't want to be seen as overdoing it on Trump. They are underdoing it on Trump.

So all the prosecutors here need to adopt a zero tolerance policy and enforce it and go to the judge and get real repercussions for this kind of rhetoric because it's leading to real danger.

COOPER: Lieutenant Governor?

DUNCAN: Yes, look, this is exactly how we got to January 6th, right? It's this game of rhetoric. It's this game of playing on people's emotions, feeding them 10-second soundbites, lies. This is exactly how we got to January 6, and that is ultimately a fear of mine, that we get to that just unbelievable flashpoint again, because somebody' is willing to put their selfish desires of being in power over top of the country.

And, you know, like I said, I just feel like this is such a golden opportunity for the Republican Party to pivot here. I think America, including Democrats are begging us to do something better than Joe Biden and Donald Trump in this 2024 cycle.

I wish I was sitting here in this panel talking to you about how to defend Joe Biden's border policies or national security policies or college tuition waivers. I wish I was doing that. But instead, we're having to defend these crazy steps and gyrations of the Republican Party. That's what's going to play out for the next 15 months if we don't change direction.

JORDAN: Well, and I think the security issue also goes into should we be in federal court, or should we be in state court? I mean, I know the lieutenant governor had death threats and threats to his family and to his staffers. I know I did.

You know, anytime you pop your head up and push back kind of on the Trump machine, this is exactly what happens. So can you imagine I mean, the grand jury, their names were released once the indictment was released. That is allowed under Georgia law. But they are already being doxed.

I mean, so can you imagine if you are a jury called for this case to sit in judgment of Donald Trump? What you're exposing yourself to?

COOPER: Jen Jordan, appreciate it. Geoff Duncan and Elie Honig, Michael Moore, thanks very much.

Perspective now from retired federal appeals court judge and distinguished conservative legal scholar J. Michael Luttig. We spoke shortly before airtime.


COOPER: Judge as we mentioned, the Fulton County DA is asking for a March 4th start date for this trial, two months after Special Counsel Jack Smith's proposed start date.

What do you make of that date? And which of these trials do you think will go first?

J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, RETIRED FEDERAL APPEALS COURT JUDGE: Anderson, thank you for having me on tonight. It's my pleasure. At this point, early, it's impossible to know exactly how or even whether these various trials of the former president will be sequenced and held.

I believe that the courts involved will cooperate with each other and sequence the trials in such a manner as to ensure that the former president is tried on all of these matters before the 2024 election.

But I'm relatively confident that if that's not possible, that the trials will be sequenced such that the trial of the former president on the charges relating to January 6th and the attack on the United States Capitol of that date will proceed first, and I believe to conclusion before the 2024 elections.

COOPER: You think it's possible that that trial, the Jack Smith trial on January 6th issues and election interference that that would go first and that could be concluded before the election?


LUTTIG: I do, Anderson. It is many, many months before the election and on the timetable that has been proposed by the special counsel, the former president's trial would begin on January 2, 2024, I believe.

As you know, that the district court in the District of Columbia is taking briefing on that scheduled trial date as we speak tonight. The government as I said has proposed a January 2nd as this start date for the trial. The president -- former president brief on that issue is not due in the district court, I believe, until August 28th, Anderson.

COOPER: Despite warnings from federal judge, Tanya Chutkan who is overseeing the federal 2020 election case, the former president continues to rage against her on social media. What options does she have or any of the judges in these four criminal cases have to stop him?

Because I mean, none of the other -- the majority of Republican candidates running against the former president are backing him on his critiques and his attempts to destroy the justice system in this country, essentially.

LUTTIG: The former president's comments and attacks on the federal judiciary and on the specific individual judges who will preside over his trials are unprecedented in American history, Anderson.

They are a grave disservice to the nation. They are inexcusable. And they imperil the former president himself in in the defense of his actions on January 6th before the juries that will hear his case. But this is, of course, a pattern that the former president has engaged in since at least the day that he has assumed office in 2016.

COOPER: Two prominent conservative law school professors recently completed a paper arguing the former president is actually ineligible to hold a future position in government because of what happened on January 6.

They cite a section of the 14th Amendment, Section 3 which says that a person is disqualified from holding office in this country if he or she has, "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

The professors have argued that "because of a range of misperceptions and mistaken assumptions, Section 3's full legal consequences have not been appreciated or enforced. In particular, it disqualifies former President Donald Trump and potentially many others because of their participation in the attempted overthrow of the 2020 presidential election."

Do you agree with this argument?

LUTTIG: I myself came to the same conclusion two years ago. This issue will be the driving issue of constitutional law in America between now and the election in 2024.

COOPER: Judge Luttig, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

LUTTIG: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Coming up next, Geoff Duncan talked about political gyrations concerning the former president. We will take that up next.

And two polls, one with bad news for the former president, the other not great for President Biden.

Also Hawaii, where the death toll rose again today and the number missing suggest it could rise far higher.



COOPER: Two new polls out tonight both conducted before the Georgia indictments, but certainly reflecting the larger legal troubles for the former president, one signaling general election trouble for him with nearly two-thirds of Americans next year. The other suggesting nearly the opposite of a tight race.

One person who can sort it all out is certainly our senior data reporter, Harry Enten. So what does the data say about who Americans say they would not vote for?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Okay, so I want you to enter a universe in which you place each candidate against the Almighty, that is poll Joe Biden and Donald Trump individually and say, okay, would you actually vote for this person in the general election?

And what we see in this poll is over 60 percent of Americans say they probably or definitely would not vote for the former President Donald Trump, while a majority also say they probably or definitely would not vote for Joe Biden.

But what's key to understand about this is they're asking about each of the candidates individually, not matching them up against each other.

COOPER: Okay, so why are they even asking that question? Well, I won't even get into that.

So what happens --

ENTEN: We could have.

COOPER: What happens when the former president and the current president are actually matched up?

ENTEN: Yes, so this, I think, is the key thing, right? Because it turns out that you can't just be matched up against a generic candidate, you have to be matched up against each other, right? This is not approval voting where we vote for just one person and not have any idea who the other person is.

What we see is, here's the key phrase, no clear leader. Donald Trump and Joe Biden are as close as they can be. Quinnipiac University came out with a poll today, had Donald Trump down by just one point, well, within the margin of error. That's the poll that we have up on the screen.

There was also a Maris College poll that had him within one point, and there was a Fox News poll that had him within three points. So here's the key thing to take away from all of this. A majority of Americans don't want Donald Trump and a majority of Americans don't want Joe Biden to be the next president.

But the fact is, at this particular point, if you're looking at the primary polls, that's the matchup that's going to take place. And if that matchup does in fact take place, then we are in a race that is far too close to call.

This isn't 2020 When Joe Biden was well ahead. This is a far different landscape one in which the two candidates are fighting with each other.

COOPER: So, in 2020, at this time, Joe Biden was far ahead.


ENTEN: Joe Biden was far ahead. He was up by high single digits to low double digits. There wasn't a single poll taken during the entire 2020 campaign that we can put on air that had Joe Biden behind Donald Trump. This year, there have already been multiple ones and many polls show far closer than at this point in 2020.

COOPER: All right, Harry is going to stay here. I want to bring in CNN senior political commentator and former Republican January 6 Committee member, Adam Kinzinger.

So Congressman, if you were the former president, how concerned would you be by the 63 percent of Americans said they would probably not or never vote for you in a general election. Obviously, there's plenty of other numbers that are much more encouraging for him.

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I couldn't imagine being the former president, to be Donald Trump, but if I had to pretend to be him, I mean, I'd be a little nervous because he's entirely banking on winning so that he can pardon himself, or so that he can at least stop the investigations if they haven't gone to trial yet.

I think Harry is right. I mean, the reality is, this is a close race. And I think this is the danger for those of us that actually believe in democracy and want to preserve it, is that people are going to assume that since Donald Trump is under all of these indictments and investigations and potentially even convictions by then, that he is going to lose. That's not a smart assumption.

It's going to be a close race, because again, when it boils down to it --

COOPER: Are you surprised how close it is?

KINZINGER: Yes, well, I guess, I've seen the other polls -- I've seen, I'm not surprised because they've showed the same. I am surprised, though, that there are still a number of Americans that know that Donald Trump is guilty, but would vote for him over Joe Biden because they don't like Joe Biden's policies.

And I think there has got to be an understanding that we're going to have policy differences on this cycle, but if you want to have policy differences in the future, you've got to actually vote to defend democracy. I don't know how to message that any differently, but it's way too close.

COOPER: How strong is the former -- Harry, is the former president's grip on the Republican Party?

ENTEN: Yes, you know, if we spoke six months ago, what we saw was a two-man race for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, basically, within the margin of error of each other. That's what Quinnipiac University found with Trump up by only single digits over the Florida governor. Look where we are today, though, that lead has expanded to nearly 40 percentage points.

It seems that Trump is certainly not getting weaker by the day with all the indictments that are coming down; if anything, arguably, in the primary, he is becoming stronger and you'd be very hard pressed to find any poll at this point in which Donald Trump is not commanding a majority of the vote, at least in the polling for the Republican primary.

COOPER: Congressman, I don't know how much of that is, you know, the more people see of Ron DeSantis, the less they like of him and people like or sympathy for the foreign president for all of these indictments or some combination thereof?

KINZINGER: Well, it's all of the above. I mean, Ron DeSantis is not a likable candidate. I don't mean that as a cheap shot or to be mean. He just doesn't come across well, and he doesn't connect with people and you have to connect. And like or hate Donald Trump, I mean, he does connect with certain people in a certain way, and they love that.

But here's the other big thing, Anderson. Why is he gaining so much? Because nobody that is running for president with the exception of Chris Christie, Asa Hutchison and Will Hurd are speaking out and saying that what Donald Trump did was wrong.

If you're a Republican voter, and all of these people who you trust, even if you're going to vote for somebody else, but all of these people running for president are telling you that this is a hit job by the DOJ, you're going to believe this is a hit job because the people that you trust are telling you that and then you're going to rally behind the guy that's getting this hit job against him from the DOJ. It's really simple.

These people running for president that are too cowardly to speak out. I mean, like, I've said this a few times now, just drop out and endorse Donald Trump then, maybe you'll get a Cabinet position that you're obviously running for, or if you truly want to be president of the United States, show leadership, show sacrifice and tell people the truth because I can expect no different than what we're seeing in the polls if the people that folks trust are telling them this is a hit job.

COOPER: Yes. Adam Kinzinger and Harry Enten, thanks very much.

Just ahead, we're going to get back to the legal implications of the Georgia indictment. We'll focus on one specific charge that ironically propelled one of the 19 defendants, Rudy Giuliani, to fame as a prosecutor back in the 1980s. Details ahead.



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 59 of the 98 pages of the Georgia Indictment, or 60 percent of the total concerns just one of the 41 charges listed. That's the RICO or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It's a charge whose federal version has been made famous in TV and film, ironically by one of the 19 defendants Rudy Giuliani who used it against as a U.S. District Attorney against the New York mob and others in the 1980s. Jason Carroll has more about it.



JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations A, RICO for short, was originally passed in 1970 as a tool to help wipe out organized crime.

SUNSAN ROOK, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: The verdict was like a bullet, puncturing John Gotti's longtime image of invincibility from the law.

CARROLL (voice-over): At the time, it was dubbed the trial of the century, the U.S. versus John Gotti.

ROOK: The boss of the Gambino crime family was found guilty today on all 13 counts of murder and racketeering.

CARROLL (voice-over): In the early '90s, prosecutors took down Gotti, charged him with racketeering, extortion and murder. The law also used to take down the Lucchese family and mafia underlings throughout organized crime. RICO laws allowed prosecutors to connect multiple crimes among multiple defendants to tell a story of corruption.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, FACING RACKETEERING CHARGES IN GEORGIA: This case charges more mafia bosses in one indictment than any ever before.

CARROLL (voice-over): The prosecutor credited for using RICO to take on the mob was a young, ambitious U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

GIULIANI: This is a great day for law enforcement, but this is a bad day, probably the worst for the mafia. CARROLL (voice-over): And now, in an ironic twist, Giuliani is among those charged in the Georgia case, now having to defend himself against a charge he once prosecuted.

GIULIANI: This is ridiculous application. As a racketeering statute, this is not meant for election disputes.

HARRY SANDIK, FORMER FEDERAL ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It's not just for people who are in organized crime. It's also for people whose collars are white and who may have Ivy League degrees. And so, that's what we've seen in a variety of cases.

CARROLL (voice-over): RICO sent shutters throughout Wall Street after jurors sent American financier to Michael Milken to prison in 1990 for fraud related to insider trading and tax evasion.

CARROLL (on camera): And while RICO is a federal law, many states including the State of Georgia have developed their own versions.


And prosecutors have used these laws to prove racketeering conspiracies. In other words, they string together separate allegations of misconduct committed by different people towards a common goal or purpose into a single indictment.

CARROLL (voice-over): Fulton County, Georgia's D.A., Fani Willis, is well known for using RICO. As an Assistant D.A., she used to law to prosecute a case against Atlanta Public School Educators accused of scheming to inflate standardized test scores. In her current position, she again used RICO against Rapper Jeffery Lamar Williams, known as Young Thug, alleging he oversaw crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder. He pleaded not guilty, his trial still underway. Legal experts say the RICO case involving Trump and the other 18 defendants is faced with many legal challenges.

SANDIK: The length of the trial is taxing on the jury, and this will be a long trial. And the jury instructions at the end are hard to follow. They're complicated. And the jury will have to really pay attention closely.

CARROLL (on camera): Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Joined now by our Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. He is a NYPD Deputy Commissioner. He has covered organized crime's demise in New York under RICO's repertoire back in the 1980s. I was saying -- I always expect to see you and do see you often in those old mob films.



COOPER: Exactly. So how, in your experience, does a prosecutor benefit from the RICO law?

MILLER: You know, the RICO law was written by Robert Blakey, a Professor at Notre Dame Law School, who was trying to tackle the problem with cases involving organized crime, the mob, where the boss was insulated from all the crimes which were done by people done at the bottom or the middle. And he said, what about we charge the organization? So, the organization is the enterprise. And anyone who works within the enterprise, including those who run it, are equally guilty for all the enterprise's crimes.

So, RICO gave prosecutors a way to tell a story to a jury that this is about a corrupt enterprise and it's run by a boss and these henchmen do these things, and they're all responsible.

COOPER: And Giuliani, how did he use it? I mean, was he the first to use it against the mob?

MILLER: So, that's a great question because, Anderson, Robert Blakey was sitting there writing this law, trying to make it interesting

COOPER: Right.

MILLER: because it's complicated. And he was watching the Edward G. Robinson movie "Little Caesar" where in the end he's screaming, "Is this the end of Rico?" and he said, "RICO, we'll call it RICO."

COOPER: You're kidding. Really?

MILLER: And then, he had to fit the words

COOPER: That's where it came from?

MILLER: to actually fit the letter.

COOPER: That's amazing.

MILLER: Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization, it sounds awkward because it is. The acronym came before the words. But the point is, it sat dormant for ten years from 1970 to the late 1970s, 1978, 1979, 1980. But Giuliani revolutionized it because he took it and he said, "We're going to charge the bosses of all five organized crime families of New York City." The leadership of La Cosa Nostra, who sit on a board of directors called the Commission. The enterprise is going to be the Commission, that is the board of directors for the mafia. And we're going to charge all the leaders and not any of the little henchmen or anything. And he got convictions across the board in that case.

And after that, people looked at RICO and said, this is a real tool to take down criminal organizations -- cartels, gangs, and in applications that are strange where you see the corruption in a Police Department. So, the Key West Police Department was identified as a racketeering organization and put out of business in a RICO prosecution. The Hell's Angels, street gangs, and so on.

COOPER: Just very quickly, there is this person now who has been charged in Texas for making a threat against Judge Tanya Chutkan and others. I guess, no surprise given the climate that we're in and the rhetoric that is being thrown around.

MILLER: So, we've seen threats to the Manhattan D.A. since Alvin Bragg brought the first Trump indictment, threats to Fani Willis in Atlanta, and even to the sheriff, and now to the federal judge who was particularly tough on Donald Trump in the first hearing. This arrest is basically a signal from the federal government that if you make these threats, we're going to find you. We're going to track you down; we're going to charge you. It's a measure of behavior modification. You can't get away with this just by doing it and thinking nobody's going to follow up.

COOPER: Yeah. John Miller, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, breaking news out of Hawaii. The death toll has risen. We have new information about the large number of people still missing more than a week after the fires began. We'll also have the latest on when President Biden will visit Hawaii. Plus a report on how responders are still trying to put out fires, even as they are trying to identify the victims they have recovered.

Also tonight, the latest in the continuing legal saga surrounding this guy, indicted Congressman George Santos. A federal indictment against a campaign aide was unsealed today, details on that ahead.



COOPER: It's breaking news. A short time ago, the governor of Hawaii announced the death toll from those wildfires rose again. 110 people now confirmed dead. Five bodies have been identified so far. Governor Josh Green also told CNN today that he thinks that probably over 1,000 are missing. But he also said it is difficult to give an exact number. We also learned tonight that nearly 500 members of FEMA and about 270 members of the Red Cross are now there, in addition to DNA experts to help identify victims.

Earlier today, the White House announced that President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Maui next Monday. Officials expect search and rescue efforts to still be underway. FEMA's Chief said today that despite criticism in the initial federal response to wildfires, they're overcoming initial challenges to distribute aid in places that were not easy to access. Our Bill Weir is in Maui with more on the continuing struggles of the people there.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With an up- country fire not fully contained, Maui's Fire Department stretched painfully thin and winds kicking up once again. Some residents are on cooler, are using sprinklers and hope to protect their homes.

MERRILL KALOPODES, VOLUNTEER: Well, careful, careful.

WEIR (voice-over): And I met volunteer first responders trying to knock down hotspots with bottled water.

KALOPODES: Oh, man, you can feel the heat. It's a smoldering pit over there.

WEIR (on camera): Oh.


KALOPODES: And all it needs is a good wind to get it going. By the time we got there, it was already flaming.

WEIR (on camera): Really?

KALOPODES: Yeah. It started off with this little smoke. And then, we said, "OK, let's get some water and haul it over there." And then by the time we got over there, it started flaming already. So, we're going to go back and we'll some more put more water on it.

WEIR (voice-over): In this city smoky brush, one wrong step into smoldering ash means a burned foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to go check that one. And the soot is so deep you can't get through it.

WEIR (voice-over): But they stay at it until they are spot a helicopter dropping water scooped from swimming pools and they finally get the help they need. And they wonder why more skilled firefighters aren't being brought over from Oahu.

JACOB VANDERVELDE, VOLUNTEER: My mind is blown right now.

WEIR (on camera): Really?

VANDERVELDE: I didn't even know what's going on. How is this even happening like this? This whole road should be blocked off. We should be blocked off right now and the firemen should just be all here, hands on deck.

WEIR (on camera): Yeah.

VANDERVELDE: I mean, obviously, you keep people on Oahu, but they have enough personnel. (Inaudible).

BRENDA KEAU, MOTHER-IN-LAW MISSING: I stayed up until 2:00 in the morning watching because I knew the gas station was going off and the propane tanks and, you know, my favorite store that I used to go get for gardening supplies. It's gone. And the people that lost their homes, I was watching that.

WEIR (voice-over): Brenda Keau's 83-year-old mother-in-law was in her Lahaina home on the day of the fire storm. And her husband was among the first to provide a DNA sample. So now, they are in grieving limbo.

WEIR (on camera): Has he accepted the idea that she's gone? Does he have to get confirmation before he can KEAU: I mean, the truth about it, we accepted it on the day that we saw that there's no house. But, there -- you never give up hope. So, it's both. When he needs to talk, I just check in on him. We check in on each other. We say, "How are you doing mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally?" And we take time after each to check and answer. And you know, my husband was saying, "Oh, I'm OK, OK." And I told him, "No, you're not." Then if people ask you, "Are you OK?" No, you're not. The word is, "I'm concerned."


COOPER: And our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir joins us now. I understand you're also learning new information regarding the siren system, the state officials said was never activated during last week's fires.

WEIR: Well, it's mostly conflicting information. Over the weekend, we heard the Fire Chief in Maui say that the process broke down between somebody in the field needing to call, somebody else going to computer, sounding the alarm, and that the fire moved too fast for that. The latest story from the governor is that it's an aging system. So, some of the sirens might not have gone off. But he has also pointed out, when you hear a siren in Kansas, you think tornado. In Maui, you think tsunami and running uphill here in the fire wouldn't have been the best idea.

But, a lot of people didn't know there was a fire. And so, the argument is that anything, especially since so many children were home that day. School was out. At least get people moving around, looking around, seeing the smoke and out of harm's way. But this is all part of investigation, so many unanswered questions, Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah. A lot to still learn. Bill Weir, thank you so much.

Coming up next, why a campaign fundraiser for serial liar and Congressman George Santos is facing a legal fight. What happened in court today, coming up.



COOPER: Tonight, a fundraiser for indicted Congressman George Santos is facing his own legal battle. The campaign aide is charged with four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. According to a source familiar with the case, the fundraiser alleged impersonated a top aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to get contributions for Santos' campaign in 2021.

According to the indictment last September, in a letter to Santos, the campaign aide wrote "Faking my identity to a big donor. High-risk, high-reward in everything I do." CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us.

I don't know how dumb you have to be to actually put that into a message. (LAUGH)


COOPER: Into a letter, but


COOPER: So how did this fundraiser for Congressman Santos allegedly impersonate an aide to McCarthy?

JIMENEZ: Yeah. So, this is someone he worked for Congressman Santos in the 2020 and 2022 election cycle. His name is Sam Miele. So, he allegedly sought out contributions from over a dozen potential contributors, pretending to be a top aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. And as we just talked about, he allegedly was bragging about it too, sending a letter to Santos saying, "I'm faking my name to a big donor. I'm a high-risk, high-reward kind of guy." And here we are in an indictment, it seems like he got caught up in the high-risk part (inaudible).

COOPER: And has there been any response from this person or the attorneys?

JIMENEZ: So we're just hearing from his attorneys tonight. For starters, they're not taking these allegations lying down. The attorney is saying that Miele is not guilty and specifically not guilty of these charges. He looks forward to complete vindication at trial as soon as possible. But this, of course, is as the person he was working for, Santos, George Santos faces his own set of federal charges that, of course, he was indicted back in May of last year.

COOPER: Yeah. And the same -- in fact, the same prosecutors who filed this, they are the ones who are prosecuting him for wire fraud.

JIMENEZ: That's right. So this is out of the same district, Eastern District in New York, and actually this is something that prosecutors are arguing to formalize. So they said in a letter to the respective judges, in each of the cases, just today, basically saying that, look, we think the facts from each of these cases deal with overlapping events. And so, from a practical standpoint, it could just be for the judges to figure out, all right, how are we going to best handle this when we have got a similar set of circumstances? But also, it tells us that what comes out of one case can likely inform the other, especially as we go through the discovery (inaudible).

COOPER: But, are the two cases connected at all?

JIMENEZ: That's what prosecutors believe.


JIMENEZ: And honestly, they deal with a lot of the same events. So, I would say yes.

COOPER: All right. Omar Jimenez, appreciate it. Thanks a lot. We'll be right back. More news ahead.



COOPER: Alec Baldwin facing the renewed possibility of charges in the fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust." Independent gun testing on the weapon used in the federal shooting on the New Mexico set of the film shows that the trigger on the gun had to be pulled. The gun fired normally and did not malfunction, according to the report filed on the defense motion on behalf of the armorer who has been charged in the case. The report which was compiled by Forensic Science Services in Arizona appears to open the door to the possibility of filing new charges against Baldwin in the shooting of cinematographer Hutchins in 2021.

A program reminder. This Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN will air its original series, "Giuliani, What Happened to America's Mayor?" It tracks how Rudy Giuliani went from one of America's most famous crime fighters to one of its most notorious election deniers. Again, that's going to take place Saturday, 8 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. The news continues. "The Source" with Kaitlan Collins starts now.