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Trump, 18 Others Charged In Georgia Election Case; Trump Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows Faces Criminal Charges; Special Counsel: Hunter Biden Gun Deal "Withdrawn"; Death Toll From Maui Wildfires Nears 100. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 15, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: One former president, four indictments, 91 criminal charges.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump, lashing out today after the latest indictment against him. This one in Fulton County, Georgia. Why this case could be so consequential.

Plus, the actions of Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, charged for the first time in one of these cases. A chief Trump critic and 2024 rival is here, Governor Chris Christie. Why he, a former federal prosecutor himself, says he's uncomfortable with how the Georgia indictment went down.

And one week after the first evacuations in Hawaii, new questions about warning systems. Did the wildfires make them an operable or did no one ever sound the alarm?


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our law and justice lead. Ninety-one charges, that's what Donald Trump is now facing after he was indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, late last night. This is the fourth time he's been indicted since leaving office.

The former president is one of 19 people charged in Georgia, for his and their attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state. Trump joined by his former attorneys John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, as well as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, all of them have been given until noon next Friday to turn themselves in.

One major difference in this case is the racketeering charge that Trump and his coconspirators face. Prosecutors are accusing Trump of being the head of a, quote, criminal enterprise working to overthrow democracy. And in Georgia, that racketeering charge carries with it a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Mr. Trump is once again today lashing out and reverting to his

playbook, attacking the prosecutor, calling this a witch hunt, insisting without any evidence that the 2020 election was stolen.

To which Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, a conservative Republican and former Trump endorser, responded this afternoon. Quote, the 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen. For nearly three years, now anyone has failed to find evidence of fraud, come forward, under oath, and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair, and will continue to be as long as I am governor, unquote.

The Georgia indictment is nearly 100 pages long, and includes a sweeping list of ways that Trump allegedly broke the law.

So, CNN's Sara Murray is starting off our coverage today by digging into what exactly went down in Georgia.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITCAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A ten-day clock for Donald Trump and his allies to turn themselves in here in Georgia --

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I am giving the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday, the 25th day of August, 2023.

MURRAY: -- after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis unveiled the fourth indictment against the former president at a near midnight press conference.

WILLIS: The defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result.

MURRAY: It's the most sweeping indictment yet, charging Trump alongside 18 other defendants. Including prominent alleged coconspirators, like his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and his former attorney Rudy Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: There's nobody in this country that has used a racketeering statute more than I have. This is a disgrace.

MURRAY: According to the indictment, Trump and the other defendants charged in this indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully join a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. If convicted of racketeering, the defendants face a minimum five-year sentence.

WILLIS: The RICO charge has time that you have to serve.

MURRAY: The wide ranging indictment covers Trump's infamous January 2021 to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I just want to find 11,780 votes. MURRAY: The harassment campaign by Trump supporters against election

workers Ruby Freeman.

RUBY FREEMAN, ELECTION WORKER: I cannot say what specifically will take place. I just know that it will disrupt your freedom.


MURRAY: As well as the Trump campaign's fake electors plot, and the breach of a voting system in rural Coffee County. Trump posting that all charges should be dropped against me and others. There will be a complete exoneration.

As he clings to baseless claims of voter fraud and vows to hold a press conference about it, Monday. Republican Governor Brian Kemp wants a Trump ally, fire back on Twitter: The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen.

The Fulton County sheriff says he hopes to keep the surrender process consistent with what local defendants usually face.

PATRICK LABAT, FULTON COUNTY SHERIFF: Unless someone tells me differently, we are following our -- normal practices. So, it doesn't matter your status, we have mugshots ready for you.

MURRAY: The district attorney indicating a trial could be massive.

Do you intend to try all of these defendants together?

WILLIS: Do I intend to try the 19 defendants in this indictment together? Yes.

MURRAY: And she hopes to get to it in speedy fashion.

WILLIS: We do want to move this case a law, and so we will be asking for a proposed order that occurs, a trial date within the next six months.

MURRAY: But that might be difficult with Trump's other criminal and civil trials next year.


MURRAY (on camera): Now we are still waiting to hear when defendants, including former President Donald Trump may choose to turn themselves in. And, Jake, the process here is going to work a little bit differently that it did in federal court. The day that these folks surrender and are processed is not necessarily going to be the day we see them in court. We are going to wait for the judge who was assigned to this case to set some kind of an initial appearance for these defendants -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, in Atlanta, Georgia, for us. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss with former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers.

Jennifer, one of the big questions today is whether Trump's legal team is going to try to get this case moved from state to federal court by noting that he was holding a federal office when the alleged crimes took place. How does a judge decide that and how likely is it that could succeed?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's unlikely to succeed. The judge will decide by referring to the statute at issue. So, a defendant can try to remove two federal court if he or she is a federal officer and if the conduct charged involves their professional duties as a federal officer. So he would argue that, as president, he's responsible for ensuring that elections for president are secure and that's all he was doing.

The problem is, the indictment, of course, is full of allegations. That's not what he was doing. There are people charged with ensuring elections are fair and clean. And those are the state elections officials that actually conduct the elections in the state and that he was actually interfering with them.

So he's not going to be able to prove that. In fact, he was acting within the confines of his job at that time. So, ultimately, I think he will make the motion and it will be denied.

TAPPER: How might this case be different if it does get moved to a federal court instead of Fulton County, Georgia?

RODGERS: Really, three reasons. First of all, the jury pool is better for Trump. It is a more rural area, includes more counties that he won in the last election, so he likes the look of the jury pool more. He might get a judge that he feels will be more fair to him, or more on his side.

And then, importantly, if it moves to federal court, its then goes under the federal government control, right? So if he were to win the election, or even another Republican would win, he would be more likely to pardon himself, get a pardon from someone else, or just interfere directly with a case by ordering it dismissed through his attorney general.

TAPPER: Special counsel Smith, Jack Smith, he charged Donald Trump for his actions in Georgia just a few weeks ago. But he did not charge any other alleged coconspirators. What do you think Smith only pursue charges against Trump, as opposed to Fulton County indicting 19 people including Trump?

RODGERS: I think Smith and Willis just went about their cases in very different ways. Jack Smith pretty clearly wanted to get this as streamlined as possible to get a tried as early as possible. So he has just charge Trump and he's pushing for an early trial date. Despite what Fani Willis is saying about trying to get this thing going in the next six months, there's just no way that's happening.

She did what prosecutors usually do. She charged everyone she wanted to charge, with everything she wanted to charge him with. That's arguably the way it should be done.

But it's going to mean, here there's no way this goes to trial, probably even before the election. There's just too many defendants, too much litigation to happen. Too many schedules to coordinate, and so on.

TAPPER: Well, she says she wants to try all 19 of the defendants at the same time. How many of the 19 defendants do you think are actually going to end up going to trial? It is, of course, a possibility that some of them might choose to cooperate and flip.

RODGERS: Not just flip, Jake, a lot of them will just plea it out. That will start making offers, especially to some of the folks who are at the bottom of that food chain. They will get some offers that perhaps don't include any mandatory minimum time. They'll try to thin out this case pretty quickly.

I think they probably would struggle to do more than, say, 6 to 8 defendants in the courtroom. It just gets logistically difficult. So, they're going to try to start getting rid of people. Some will be cooperators. Some will just plea it out.


TAPPER: All right. Former prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to discuss, Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. attorney, Chris Christie.

Governor Christie, thanks for joining us.

You said today, earlier, that the Georgia charges against Donald Trump you feel are, quote, unnecessary because you feel as though Jake Smith, the special counsel, has already charged Trump for these exact actions in Georgia. Now, Georgia prosecutors might point out, if Trump is elected president, he can just shut down Jack Smith's case or pardon himself, but he wouldn't have the right to do that with a Georgia investigation and/or verdicts.

What is your response to that?

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Jake, you know, I don't think that's a prosecutor's job. The prosecutor's job is to look at how you administer justice in this case. And let me say, first off, that I have no argument with the underlying conduct constituting something that should be seriously considered by any grand jury at the state or at the federal level.

But what happened here was Jack Smith charged the case. He charged the case weeks ago that consumes this conduct. Now, she could have brought us case without Donald Trump, and because Jack Smith didn't charge anybody else, other than Donald Trump in this matter. So, I think the double charging here of Donald Trump is something that complicates things in a way that makes the administration of justice much more difficult in the near term. And so, I didn't think it was a necessary thing to do. Once you saw

that Jack Smith was trudging him federally for the ferries and contact, we would have these kinds of discussions among federal and state prosecutors when I was U.S. attorney, and we would work it out so we didn't have these things.

I'm a little bit concerned that this had more to do with ego than anything else, that her office had put a lot of time and to the investigation, Jack Smith came in a number of months ago, swooped in, moved quickly, charged the case, and at this point she felt like I put all this time, and I should talk to president because I put my time in. I don't think that's the way you make these calls.

So I think it was an unnecessary thing to do, because she has 18 other defendants who have not been charged in any place else, that she could have charged without Trump, and still have a very, very strong case down there.

TAPPER: So beyond that concern, independent of that, when you read this indictment, is this a solid case, do you think?

CHRISTIE: The conduct is very disturbing, Jake. That's why I said that, off the top, when you look at what he's alleged to have done here, along with others on his behalf, the pressure campaign that was put on these folks.

Look, Donald Trump got due process in Georgia. There was an original account. There was a machine recount, then there was a hand recount. All which came up with essentially the same result.

He had access to all the courts in Georgia to contest it in the same way that Al Gore contested these measures in Florida state court, back in 2000. The difference being, that when al gore ultimately lost this case, he conceded and moved on. Donald Trump ratcheted up the pressure even more, ultimately resulting in what we saw on January 6th.

And so, yeah, there is a lot of disturbing conduct here. Not just Donald Trump but by the number of others named in the indictment.

TAPPER: What about the racketeering charges, specifically? As a former U.S. attorney, you have probably used RICO statutes statewide and federal. And I'm wondering what you think about Fani Willis's application of them here.

CHRISTIE: Look, the RICO statute in Georgia is a very broad statute, even broader than the federal statue, Jake. I've never used a RICO statute on the state level, but I did use it as U.S. attorney.

Look, she's got a number of predicate acts here which would require, I think 161 predicate acts she cites. People must understand. They think everyone also act has to be a crime. What she is really establishing is that these were acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to commit a crime.

And, you know, the fact here is that the RICO state being as broad as it is, as it is in Georgia, that gives have the opportunity to do it this way. I don't know if I would have charged at this way, but now we're into the realm of second-guessing. Every prosecutor is going to make their own judgment on these things.

But is it permissible for her to have done what she did with RICO? Given how broad this RICO statute is in Georgia, I think it is.

TAPPER: We had Marc Short, the Vice President Pence's former chief of staff, who's obviously supporting Vice President Pence's presidential race, on yesterday. And I asked him, do you think the fourth indictment is going to have the same effect as the previous three did? Which was basically solidifying a lot of support for Donald Trump among Republican voters.


He said he didn't know but that the court case itself, the prosecution, Donald Trump in court, evidence being presented, all of that might change this dynamic that we've seen. What do you think?

CHRISTIE: Look, I think Marc has that read pretty well. All of this is just theoretical now. Most people are not going to read the engagement, Jake. They're just going to read whatever news reports that they read about characterizations of it.

It becomes much different when there's a trial going on. And that's what I think Jack Smith charged this case the way he did with just Donald Trump as a defendant, no one else. He wants to move that case quickly and get this case done.

He wants January -- that might be a little bit tight, but I can certainly say this happening in February or March of 2024. And so, you know, I do think whenever this starts to be presented, witnesses get on the stand and tell their story.

And if the prosecution does an effective job of weaving that story together -- and Donald Trump has to be sitting there. Remember, Jake, he has to be there every day. This is not an optional exercise. You are a criminal defendant, and I think, that's one of the things folks should keep in mind that are watching.

He is now going to be when he appears next week in Georgia sometime, he's going to be out on bail in four different jurisdictions in this country -- New York, Miami, Washington, and Atlanta.

I think that what Republican voters have to ask themselves is two things. One, is someone out on bail on four jurisdictions really our best chance to beat Joe Biden. And secondly, are we really going to continue to act as though this is normal conduct? It's not.

So, even if you disagree with some of the criminal charges here, if you think they were in overreach, or as I think on this, they're unnecessary, it doesn't get rid of the underlying conduct, which is what we should be discussing in the campaign, which is, does this man have the temperament and the character to beat Joe Biden and to be president of the United States again? And I firmly believe the answer to that is no. TAPPER: And he'll be under indictment in every single national league

east city, with the exception of the great city of Philadelphia.

Governor --

CHRISTIE: Well, what's going on, Jake, with your old city, that they're not in there?

TAPPER: I just root for the Phillies! I just root for the Phillies. I have nothing to do with prosecutions, but you're a Mets fan, I believe. So I thought --

CHRISTIE: Yes, I'm a Mets fan. Suffering, Jake, suffering painfully right now.

TAPPER: I thought you might -- you appreciate the preference.


TAPPER: Presidential candidate, former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, thanks so much and best of luck for the debate next week.

CHRISTIE: Jake, thank you very much and thanks for having me on.

TAPPER: Coming up, the other 18 coconspirators also charged in Fulton County from former Trump attorneys to fake electors and one who was a publicist for Ye, aka, Kanye West.

Plus, the actions of Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House chief of staff. What led to Meadows to be charged in this case and not in any of the others against Trump?

And activity today in another high profile case from the special counsel investigating Hunter Biden, the president's son.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, a closer look now at the 18 coconspirators charged in this indictment, along with Donald Trump in Fulton County, Georgia. One of those codefendants is Mark Meadows, the former president's former White House chief of staff. He was obviously in the room for many of the pivotal advance surrounding election subversion attempts.

And in recent months, Mark Meadows has kept it low profile, but not low enough to fly under the radar of Georgia District Attorney's radar.


TAPPER (voice-over): In Donald Trump's previous federal indictment connected to the 2020 election, Mark Meadows had managed to escape any charges, leading many to wonder if the former White House chief of staff may have turned on his former boss.

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I think one name that is obviously not in the indictment is Mark Meadows, who was kind of the ring leader of all of this.

TAPPER: But Meadows' faith changed Monday night when a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, charged him and 18 other defendants, including the former president, with racketeering, for their efforts to try to overturn the 2020 election. In the indictment, prosecutors say the defendants, quote, joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.

Beyond Trump himself, Meadows is the highest ranking official to be charged. And the indictment outlines the key role prosecutors say Meadows played to try to keep Trump in power.

REPORTER: Mr. President!

TAPPER: In the weeks following Trump's election loss, Meadows got involved, according to the indictment on November 20th, Meadows and Trump met with Michigan letters and the White House, where the former president made false claims of election fraud in that state. The next day, prosecutors say Meadows sent a text to Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, asking, quote, can send me the number for the speaker and the leader of Pennsylvania legislature? POTUS wants to chat with them. The following week, Meadows and Trump met with Pennsylvania legislators at the White House. The same day, codefendants Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis also traveled to the commonwealth and, quote, solicited, requested, and importuned the Pennsylvanian legislators present at the meeting to unlawfully appoint presidential electors from Pennsylvania.

Meadows was also, allegedly, deeply involved in the efforts to overturn election results in Georgia. According to the indictment on December 22nd, Meadows traveled to Cobb County, Georgia, and Atlanta to watch and election order that wasn't progress but not open to the public. He was turned away.

Meadows then arranged a phone call between Trump and then chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state, Francis Watson.

TRUMP: The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. They know I won. I won by hundreds of thousands of votes. I wasn't close.


When the right answer comes out, you'll be praised.

TAPPER: But perhaps the most notable, if not the most damning phone call Meadows arranged for President Trump, was with Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Mr. President, everybody is on the line and just so -- this is Mark Meadows, chief of staff, just so we are all aware.

TAPPER: Where Trump told Raffensperger this.

TRUMP: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.

TAPPER: Meadows' role in that phone coal earned him a second charge for solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer.


TAPPER (on camera): And CNN's Tom Foreman is here for us.

Tom, let's take a closer look at some of Trump's author co-defendants in this case. Let's start with Rudy Giuliani.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, remember, we've been talking about here, Jake, over and over again, you have racketeering -- a lot of people working together, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly. In that role, Rudy Giuliani in this indictment is presented as something of a ringmaster, his fingers in many different areas. Not just in the indictment, but in our experience as well.

What is he specifically charged with here? That he made false claims of election fraud over and over again, and specifically, make them before members of Georgia's legislature, asking them to take steps to overturn it. And he backed the idea of fake electors, people who would go forward and say we are the real electors. We're here to give the electoral votes to Trump, even they lawfully and rightfully belong to Joe Biden.

Now, Giuliani spoke about it this afternoon. Listen to what he had to say.


GIULIANI: I woke up this morning more excited than I have in weeks. He said, why? Because I've got a fight on my hands. And a justifiable one. We're going to beat these fascists into the ground.


FOREMAN: Bold take there, Jake.

TAPPER: What about some of the other names, individuals close to Donald Trump.

FOREMAN: Some you will recognize, Sidney Powell, being one of them, another attorney that work with him. She is specifically tied to this notion that was mentioned early on in the show, about the breach of election computers that happens out there in Coffee County. What happened were there was some Trump supporters out there, some people who came in out there, who allegedly broke into this system to basically get the sensitive, protect the data because they were trying to prove something was wrong with the voting machines.

Yeah, some locals were also charged, but there is email evidence, a chain that could link Sidney Powell in the White House to these people out there, again, speaking to the idea of racketeering, Jake. Not just a few people going off the -- off the grid here, at grassroots level, but all the way up to the top.

TAPPER: Then we get down to several people who probably very few of viewers would recognize and yet, they've also been charged along with the former president. Tell us about them.

FOREMAN: Well, one is a minister from up around Chicago. He's charged with travelling all the way down to Georgia to put pressure on election workers, to say, I want you admit there was fraud, even there was no fraud.

And then there is Trevian Kutti, who was once a publicist for R. Kelly and for Ye, Kanye West, we mentioned earlier, same sort of charge, the idea of leaning on, and threatening campaign workers to admit to things that simply did not happen.

All of it speaks to the idea of all of these people, as we said, working in concert. That's the basic claim.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Coming up, a top Georgia official who testified as a witness before the Fulton grand jury will join me. When he makes of Chris Christie's argument, that the charges in the case were unnecessary, because they could be covered at the federal level?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, former President Donald Trump on Truth Social yesterday attacked a key witness in Georgia's 2020 election subversion case, saying that the witness should not testify before the grand jury. Spoiler alert, that witness did testify, and soon after, Trump and 18 of his fellow defendants were indicted on charges in connection with attempts to overturn the election in Georgia. That witness is Geoff Duncan, Georgia's former lieutenant governor, and the conservative Republican.

On December 3rd, 2020, while Duncan was in a meeting of the Georgia state senate, Rudy Giuliani was there, spreading conspiracy theories about widespread irregularities and fraud in the state, things that were not true.

CNN contributor Geoff Duncan joins us now.

So, Geoff, you seem to have taken Trump's warning, threat, whatever you want to call it to you about, you should not testify, in stride. He misspelled your name, we noted. Trump now faces 91 charges, in four criminal cases are headed to trial, are you concerned that he might continue to make similar comments, aimed at other witnesses?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, certainly, that's just his game, he is going to continue to play a child's game. And look, if he didn't do anything wrong, this should be really easy, he should be able to present the facts and details of the proof that he's got the mountains of evidence that him and Rudy and all others talked about, endlessly, and be able to present it, and get out of this, and move on with his life.

My guess is, the reason why he is so hostile, is because that information isn't there. Those files aren't there, those dead bodies that voted, those felons that got out of jail, those mountains of missing ballots that showed up at the last second, they are just not there. And so, it's just a childish gamy place.

And look, politically speaking, that presents this problem called the 2024 election. All right, we have the weakest polling president, sitting president ever, probably. And yet, we are neck and neck. We certainly can do better.


TAPPER: What do you make of Governor Chris Christie's argument that this indictment in Fulton County is unnecessary, because so much of it is covered by the federal indictment by special counsel Jack Smith?

DUNCAN: Well, Governor Christie is certainly versed -- well-versed in the law, way more than me. I got sucked into playing six years of my early baseball instead of going to law school. And so, I will take his words of wisdom, under consideration.

But at the end of the day, we both agree on the same thing. And that's Donald Trump is wrong for this country. He has committed egregious acts, that have put us in a terrible position, not only as a party, but more importantly as a country. And, he is really going to have to face the music.

TAPPER: Trump and his fellow codefendants, faces sweeping charges under Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. Major events that built the case include how Trump's team allegedly misled state officials in Georgia. They organize fake electors, they harassed election worker Ruby Freeman. They pressured the justice department, and Vice President Pence. They breached election equipment in a rural Georgia county. Some critics have said, using Georgia's RICO Act in this way, might be a bit of a stretch.

You're the former lieutenant governor, what do you think?

DUNCAN: Well, when I read through the indictment yesterday, and this morning, to the best of my ability, it really brought to light, three dimensions, what we thought two and a half years ago. You could just feel and sense this coordinated effort, that was just endless, and coming from all angles. Whether or be conspiracy theories, or faux electors, or misinformation, or pressure campaigns, or timely tweets and phone call us.

The indictment really, for me, brought that into three dimensions. It helped connect those dots, and they certainly have their work cut out for them, to try to explain right. I mean, I, don't think it's going to work through well just staying, oh, the entire time I thought all of these conspiracy theories were real and actual.

At some point, somebody, in my guess, had to have buckled and, and put something in writing. But, we'll see it play out.

TAPPER: Yesterday afternoon, a document showing a 39-count indictment against Trump was posted on the Fulton County court website, and then it was quickly removed. The Fulton County clerks office just confirmed, that this was a dummy document used as a test, in preparation for possible real indictments to come down. Republicans are making a big deal out of it, saying that the fix was in, before the grand jury even voted.

Do you think that this is a legit issue, or do you think it's a ruse, a red herring for Republicans to just try to state change the subject?

DUNCAN: Well, I certainly don't know the inner workings of the court's office. It's not like some sort of administrative error. But look, once again, we need to ask Republicans, take this as an opportunity to pivot, and hold folks accountable for misinformation.

And if we just try to create shining object for folks to stare at, we're going to continue to step on ourselves, we're in continue to lose elections, election cycles. We're going to continue to lose entire bodies of Congress. We're going continue to use the White House, where you continue to track in a negative direction.

If we just simply make the next couple of years about the issues, if we make it about the border if, we make it about education, we make it about the budget if, we make it about the economy, we make it a national security. We will win, we will win running away with it.

But if we make it about Donald Trump, it's going to be a three-ring circus. And we will lose. And the only place where to be able to make our campaign speeches, as Republicans, are going to be on courthouse steps, because it looks like every Republican that hung out with Donald Trump, is going to get an indictment.

TAPPER: Geoff Duncan, former lieutenant governor of Georgia, thanks for your time, sir.

DUNCAN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: We're also following developments today in the Hunter Biden case, what a new court filing means for the special counsel investigation into his actions.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back with our law and justice lead, Hunter Biden is definitely not off the hook for his felony gun possession charge, according to the newly appointed special counsel, David Weiss. Lawyers for the president son tried to argue that the Justice Department backed out of a specific part of the now crumbled plea deal, that would have let hunter avoid the repercussions of buying a gun, when he was using drugs, even though he claimed he wasn't on the form, which he later admitted to in a memoir.

CNN's Kara Scannell is following this all.

Kara, we're just learning that lawyers for Hunter Biden, and prosecutors, agree that the tax charges that he was facing need to be dismissed, in Delaware.

Tell us more about that.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, so they are on the same page on one piece of, this but not on the rest. So, they are both in agreement on the tax charges that were filed in Delaware, as part of this now collapsed plea deal, should be dismissed. And the reason that both sides say that's the case is because none of the alleged tax crimes occurred in Delaware.

So, the special counsel's office had asked for this to be dismissed on Friday, saying that they needed dismissed, so they have the opportunity to bring charges in the jurisdictions where the alleged crimes took place, either Washington, D.C., or California.

But, that's the only place that are on the same play page. They are both on opposing views on what happens to this gun diversion deal. Hunter Biden's team saying on Sunday night that they think this deal is still binding, and valid, because both prosecutors and Hunter Biden had signed this deal.

Now in a new court filing today, the special counsel's office is saying that it is not a binding deal, and they're saying is because it's lacking one other signature, and that's from the head of the U.S. probation apartment in Delaware. In the filing they write, because she did not approve the now withdrawn diversion agreement, it never went into effect. And therefore, none of it is terms for binding on either party.

So, that puts this gun diversion deal back in the hands of the judge. And you remember last month, she was not a fan of how it was structured, questioning whether was constitutional. So now, she will be the next one to make the move on what happens with this deal, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Kara, Hunter Biden's top lawyer asked a federal judge today for permission to withdraw from representing Hunter Biden.


SCANNELL: Yeah, so this attorney, Chris Clark, has been representing under Biden for years during this criminal investigation. And, the Biden's team asking today for him to have permission to withdraw from this case, saying that he could be a witness, because he has firsthand knowledge of the plea negotiations, and the drafting of those plea documents.

[16:45:05] So, they're saying he can no longer serve as an advocate for Hunter Biden. But Biden has a large legal team, so that will not upset the process here in this case, as it moves forward. Now, as part of the special counsel investigation, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

CNN is on the ground in Hawaii, where there is growing frustration. Days after wildfires tore through the island of Maui, the response to those most impacted are getting from people in charge, is next.


TAPPER: In our national lead, just a short while ago, President Biden spoke about the devastation from the wildfires in Hawaii's island of Maui.


It's his first comment publicly in days. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thoughts and prayers, with the people of Hawaii. And not just our prayers, every asset, every asset they need will be there for them. And we be -- we'll be there in Maui, for as long as it takes.


TAPPER: The president's comments came amid growing frustration, directed at the federal and local response. And critics who want President Biden to visit the devastated area, the president said he does not want to get in the way of ongoing recovery efforts.

The Maui disaster is now the nation's deadliest wildfire in more than a century. At least 99 people have died. Hawaii's governor told CNN he expects that number to double, in the coming days.

And then, there's the investigation. Hawaii's govern told CNN that the emergency sirens that failed to go off, to warn people of incoming danger, may have been immobilized by extreme heat that is different than other officials who said, emergency management personnel never triggered the sirens.

One week since the first evacuation orders, crews are still trying to find people who are missing and house those whom are displaced. Nearly 90 percent of buildings damaged or destroyed, were residential.

CNN's Gloria Pazmino is reporting from Kula on the island of Maui.

And, Gloria, we know the number of people at shelters is starting to dwindle. But are people beginning to get the help and the resources they need?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the answer is, not here so far, where we are standing, where as you said, we are in Kula. This is an area that's about 40 miles from Lahaina. That is, of course, the area that's been the worst affected by the wildfires.

But as you can see, there's an incredible amount of loss and devastation here, too. You can take a look at just the area behind me, entire homes are gone. The one right there across the street, the car is completely burned out.

Just about 200 feet over, there is another house that is completely gone. And the rubble that you are seeing here, these mangled pieces of metal, these piles of molten debris, is the kind of stuff that people back in Lahaina are having to sift through, as you said, they are trying to identify human remains -- an extremely difficult, and a long process. It's going to take a long time, but that's what they need to do in order to give the families of those who are missing, their loved ones, some closure.


PAZMINO (voice-over): It's unclear how many people remained unaccounted for, as the death toll on Maui continues to rise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will go up very significantly.

PAZMINO: The president addressing the federal response on Tuesday.

BIDEN: I've spoken to Governor Josh Green multiple times, and reassure him the state will have everything it means from the federal government.

PAZMINO: Residents who want to return home to assess the damage are facing challenges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just hard, an unbelievable. Outside West Maui, frustrated family members are waiting. Officials suspended an access plan after just one day, saying too many nonresidents and others tried to get entry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad is still there, they're saying there's things he still needs, that we need to get to him specifically, like medicine.

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D), HAWAII: If people go into ground zero too soon, our responders, our FEMA folks, will not be able to do the job that they are there to do.

PAZMINO: The entire catastrophic chain of events, and the official response, now the focus of a state investigation.

GREEN: I've personally authorized a comprehensive review, so we have every answer going forward.

PAZMINO: For now, the island spirit of family has given many survivors hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's a big Ohana here on the island. Several and doing the same thing. We're all chipping in. We're doing our best.


PAZMINO (on camera): And I'm seeing that spirit here, Jake. (INAUDIBLE) you're looking at -- he is the owner of the house behind me. He is waiting for insurance adjusters to show up here, to the area, so he can start to process his claim. He says, that's his priority right now. He is remarkably in good spirits, despite the fact that he has lost his entire home -- Jake.

TAPPER: Gloria Pazmino in Maui, thank you so much.

And in addition to the 19 co-defendants charged in Georgia, the Fulton County prosecutor also mentioned three coconspirators, not identified, not indicted. What CNN is piecing together about who they may be, and their roles in the 2020 election fraud case.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, blind sided? Michael Oher, the NFL player whose life story was featured in the Oscar-winning story "The Blind Side" is now suing the family who took him in, claiming that they lied to him, and took millions.

Plus, an agonizing and slow search for the people who have not escaped the flames in Hawaii, as the death toll rises to 99 confirmed dead. And now, we are hearing a different explanation, for why the warning sirens were not used.

And leading this hour, former President Trump now facing an unprecedented 91 criminal charges, for his unprecedented behavior. This after he was indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, late last night.

Donald Trump is not alone. He is one of 19 people charged in this Georgia case for their attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state.

Trump's former lawyers, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis were also charged, as well as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. All of them have been given until noon next Friday, to turn themselves in.

One major difference in this case, is the racketeering charge that Trump and his coconspirators face.