Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Fulton Co. DA Wants Trump Trial To Start On March 4, 2024; Mark Meadows Trying To Move Case To Federal Court; Giuliano Faces Massive Legal Bills After Defending Trump; Pence Proposed Plan To Eliminate Dept. Of Education; Returning To Lahaina Residents Struggling With Housing Issues; Paul Whelan Spoke With Secy. Blinken From Russian Prison; CNN Investigation Details Massacre In Sudan; One Week Until First GOP Presidential Debate. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 16, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Plus, CNN has learned officials actually tested Hawaii's warning system just days before those deadly fires last week. The question is, why weren't the sirens turned on before and during the fire? We're going to talk to one man whose Lahaina roots go back 200 years. Now his family's home is completely gone.

Leading this hour, Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants could be arraigned in Georgia the week of September 5. That's the date that the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis just proposed. She also wants to go to trial on Monday, March 4, which happens to be the day before the first 2024 Super Tuesday primaries for the Republican presidential contest. This is also before the proposed trial dates for two other of his criminal trials.

Let's get straight to CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid for us.

Paula, walk us through the scheduling proposal from the Fulton County DA.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the keyword is proposal, right? This is her request. She said in her press conference just a few days ago that she wants to try all 19 defendants together, and she wanted to do that in six months. But, Jake, it's a pretty aggressive timeline. Six months to put on a RICO case, these are notoriously complicated, tend to be drawn out, and then you have 19 defendants, at least three of whom are expected to challenge this, try to get it removed to federal court. So, it's unlikely that this is going to be granted.

But she's also competing for real estate on a very crowded calendar. I mean, let's start with January of next year. There's a request by the special counsel to do the January 6 trial the first week of January. Then you have the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, a civil trial, January 15.

TAPPER: Same day as the Iowa caucus. REID: Exactly. The Manhattan hush money case. The first criminal prosecution scheduled for former President Trump at the end of March, and then tentatively scheduled the Mar-a-Lago documents case in May. And as you noted, I just laid out the legal events to say nothing of the many events and deadlines and primaries for him as candidate Trump.

TAPPER: Yes, something like 57 primaries and caucuses. Paula, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has filed to have his case moved to federal court. What's the argument there?

REID: So we expected that the former president and several of his closest allies would try to get this state case removed to federal court. Now he argues if he can get this removed to federal court, he will move to dismiss it. His attorneys argue that he is protected because they argue that everything he did that's alleged in this indictment was done in his capacity as the White House chief of staff. And there is a statute that is meant to protect federal officials from state prosecution.

Jake, I don't know that he's going to be successful on this arguments --


REID: -- of getting it dismissed. But if he or the former president or Rudy Giuliani, who says he's going to try this too, if they're successful in getting this removed to federal court, there is at least one big advantage for them, and that is the jury pool. Fulton County is a heavily Democratic county, so the jury pool is going to be skewed Democratic. If you can get it removed to the federal jurisdiction, you have a wider, more diverse jury pool, but they could still face DA Fani Willis, she could be waved in as a U.S. attorney and prosecute this case. And I think that one of the biggest issues here, too, for the American people, is that if this is removed to federal court, you won't have cameras documenting every moment of this case.

TAPPER: Yes. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

In addition to being indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, Rudy Giuliani is staring down hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills and sanctions. And his lawyer claimed today that Giuliani will not be getting any help paying those bills, not even from his client, Giuliani's client, Donald Trump.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is here with more. Katelyn, how did the former New York City mayor find himself in such a financial hole?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, it was working for Donald Trump after the 2020 election. Whenever you look at all of the legal issues that Rudy Giuliani is facing and he is facing some personal lawsuits, some difficulties with his business, unpaid phone bills from 2020, the vast majority of what he has to face and the costliest things that he has to do are respond to defamation lawsuits from his work after the 2020 election for Donald Trump. There are the criminal matters which are very likely to be quite a laborious and quite a costly thing to deal with as well, having a lawyer represent him, talking to the special counsel's office as he's doing, he's not been charged there in federal court related to January 6, but now he has been charged in Fulton County and will -- now is valuing that he's anxious to go to trial to fight it. But the lawsuits related to the 2020 election are progressing.

And every time they take another step forward, it costs money to litigate. It costs money for him to get access to his records, to turn them over under subpoenas. And so, places like Smartmatic, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, the election workers in Georgia, all who are suing him, are going to the court and asking them to sanction Rudy Giuliani for just not showing up --

TAPPER: Right.

POLANTZ: -- essentially, in the course of these lawsuits. That doesn't even factor into what happens if he were to lose them. And he's already conceding he did make false statements.


TAPPER: So we know Trump's Super PAC has spent millions of dollars on legal phase, not only for the former president, but for many of his associates. His fans say this is him being generous. Critics say this is a way that the Trump team keeps everybody in line, makes sure nobody flips. Either way, why wouldn't Rudy Giuliani have his legal fees paid by the Trump Super PAC?

POLANTZ: Well, there was a bit of a hiccup back in 2020 where Rudy Giuliani was saying -- was sending them very large bills for his day rate, and there was some question of whether Trump wanted to pay that. But as of right now, all we know is that Rudy Giuliani has a lawyer who's been representing him or a team of lawyers on these various things related to what he did for Trump after the 2020 election, and they have not been paid by Donald Trump or by Trump's PAC, the Save America PAC. However, one of the things that has happened is that Giuliani incurred a debt of $320,000 just to keep his electronic records from 2020 archived and available for lawsuits. That was something where the PAC came in, paid that bill, also gave him an extra $20,000, just a boost to get him through a little bit more there.

But he was in court today, his lawyers were in court today in this Smartmatic defamation case, and they said that they are not expecting any more financial help. And according to the court filings I've looked at, it took them months just to get that $340,000 from the Trump campaign. Months of negotiation.

TAPPER: All right, Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much.

As Rudy Giuliani's legal case unfolds, a CNN original series digs into how he got there. It's called "Giuliani, What Happened to America's Mayor?" That's a good question. It's airing this Saturday night at 8:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

I want to bring in Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd. Will, let me start -- I'm sorry, Congressman Hurd, let me start with you by just asking the question that's in the title of that, "Rudy Giuliani, What Happened to America's Mayor?" What do you think happened to him?

WILL HURD, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He got tied up with Donald Trump. Right? Like, unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people in Donald Trump's orbit that have ended up falling on hard times are ending up in prison. It's really unfortunate as someone -- you know, I was in the CIA when 9/11 happens, you know the importance of New York City and the former mayor's role there, it's pretty disappointing. And I'll be tuning in and watching to see what happened.

TAPPER: Thank you.

You have said that Trump's fourth indictment, the one from this week in Fulton County, Georgia, is just the latest example of how Donald Trump's baggage will hand Joe Biden reelection if Trump becomes the Republican nominee. Looking at the latest polls showing that Trump and Biden are essentially tied, though, a new Quinnipiac poll out today shows Biden at 47 percent, Trump at 46 percent. Why do you think this is going to hurt Trump? It seems to be only helping him solidify the Republican base. And I don't see any obvious impact on the head to head polls.

HURD: Look, we should have learned that polling -- since 2016, that polling is a snapshot in time. It is not an indication of who's actually to go out to vote. These were the same polls that two weeks ago, when the legal -- the ballot issue in Ohio came to a vote last week, it was basically a vote about abortion. The week before that vote, everybody thought it was close, that it was tight, and it ended up going down by 18 points.

We saw this in 2022. The weekend before the election in 2022, the same polls, the same prognosticators, we're saying that Kevin McCarthy was going to have potentially north of 30 people as a buffer, as a lead, and it ended up only having five. There's no question that right now, Donald Trump is in the poll position of the election. But as these issues keep coming out, people are getting sick and tired with this baggage. They want people talking about articulating a vision of the future.

How many conversations have you gotten in to some of these terrible policies of Joe Biden, the $6 billion given to the Iranians, and we're not even getting the Americans back on our soil. The fact that Republicans haven't been able to talk about the problems with the Biden administration is because we're consumed by Donald Trump. We need -- the GOP, if we nominate Donald Trump for president, is going to go to Joe Biden, period, full stop. And we need to elect someone who's not afraid of Donald Trump, but's articulating a vision for the future. And if your viewers believe in that, then go to and help me get on that debate stage by giving at least $1.

TAPPER: So, we did cover, just for the record, we did cover the $6 billion in unfrozen assets in exchange for those five Iranian Americans being remanded to house arrest in Iran. Just for the record, but I hear you.


Let's talk about a couple of issues because I want to talk about the war in Ukraine. The other day, the U.S. announced a new 200 million dollar aid package. Polls suggest now that most Americans are opposed to more funding by the United States to support Ukraine. There are wide gaps by political party on this.

HURD: Sure.

TAPPER: You come from an intelligence background as you noted, do you think the U.S. is doing too much, not enough, just right, what do you think?

HURD: I don't think we're doing -- I don't think we're doing too much. I think we need to do stuff faster. And the reason that we're having that disconnect in polls is we're not having people articulate why Ukraine continues to matter. The broader perspective is we, the United States created an international order after World War II that benefits us. If we don't defend that international order, then that hurts us specifically on the dollars spent.

It's been about 5 percent of the entire DoD budget that has been spent on the war in Ukraine. And guess what? We've gotten the dismantling of the Russian military without having to send our boys and girls or spouses to the conflict. I think that's a really good deal.

The problem with this administration is they're not articulating what a vision of victory is. And to me, victory means we're pushing the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include Crimea and the Donbass. We should be making sure they have all the equipment they need in order to establish a no fly zone and even hit and attack positions inside Russia. We need to stop trying to make the Ukrainians fight this war with the hand tied behind their back. And if we do that, this is not going to be a forever war, it's something that could wrap up sooner rather than later.

TAPPER: Let's turn to education policy. Today, the former vice president, Mike Pence, who's one of your competitors, said he would eliminate the Department of Education on day one of his presidency, and he would return those funds to the states with the mandate that they must expand school choice. What do you make of that plan? Do you support it?

HURD: Well, look, I don't think getting rid of the Department of Education is the right way to go. I think that the amount of federal dollars that go to school is important. I think school choices, I support of school choice. I'm also supportive of making sure public schools have the same rules and regulations that magnet schools do.

I think we should be working with the Department of Education to figure out how to get AI tutor to every student that needs it. The tools exist in order to do that right now. I was lucky to have parents and an older brother and sister that helped me with my homework. Imagine now we have something that's in everybody's pocket that helps -- that teaches them how to fish rather than just giving them a fish. And that's something I think would be a valuable use of Department of Education, because ultimately, in the United States of America, we have income inequality, because we have education inequality, and we can fix that.

TAPPER: One week from today is the first Republican primary debate. You still need to hit the polling threshold and the donor threshold to get on that stage. If you don't make the debate stage, is that a campaign ender for you, do you think?

HURD: Well, first off, I'm pretty confident that we're going to be able to hit those requirements before the deadline on August 21. I'm hoping folks help us out with that. We're still working towards those goals, but I feel pretty confident we're going to be able to pull that off. And once we do that, then we won't have to worry about the second part of the question.

TAPPER: All right. Republican presidential candidate, Will Hurd, good to see you, sir. Thank you so much.

HURD: Thanks for having me on.

TAPPER: A gruesome search, one team saying the fires in Hawaii were so bad it looks like everything in one community has been cremated. We're live from Lahaina, next.

Plus, a conservative appeals court ruling on the abortion medication Mifepristone, why this could signal access to the drug that got FDA approval more than 20 years ago might soon be changing.



TAPPER: In our national lead, a week after those deadly wildfires ripped through the island of Maui in Hawaii and devastated portions of Lahaina on western Maui, the death toll is climbing. And so far, only five of the 106 people so far pronounced dead have been identified because, frankly, the remains are unrecognizable. Rescue workers and cadaver dogs are on the scene, they're combing through the ashes of the homes and the businesses that were incinerated by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Gloria Pazmino is in Lahaina right now for us, where crews are searching through the rubble.


GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The scope of the devastation here stands in stark contrast to Maui's stunning beauty.

FRANK TAYLOR, NEVADA TASK FORCE 1, SEARCH & RESCUE IN HAWAII: It looks like it started up there and ended down there.

PAZMINO (voice-over): Frank Taylor, with FEMA's search and rescue team found Lahaina reduced to ashes, now a graveyard for everything and everyone caught in the wilds fire's path.

TAYLOR: There's nothing left. Cremation, basically. This is the absolute worst disaster I've ever seen.

PAZMINO (voice-over): More than a hundred dead. Now search teams face the grisly task of finding many more in the days to come. Using dogs trained to locate cadavers in this restricted zone.

TAYLOR: They are absolutely essential to this and they're trained just for human remains. We can walk through and do visual searches, but you send a dog in there and they'll find them. I'm very confident we'll find everybody.

PAZMINO (voice-over): Main roads are just starting to open here, FEMA is providing disaster relief and families hoping to lay the victims to rest are fighting exhaustion amid their grief.

MICHAEL RICHTER, LOST STEPFATHER IN FIRE: I just want to identify the body. The police have really helped, but I have run into a lot of people that I understand are tired. I'm tired too. I haven't slept in six days.

PAZMINO (voice-over): For some survivors, not knowing how the deadly fire started and how it was able to cause so much destruction so quickly adds to their suffering. A warning system that never sounded despite being tested just days before the fires raged.

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): The cell phones were immobilized, the power line were down and we had no service. But the sirens, some were broken, and we're investigating that.


PAZMINO (voice-over): And some locals point to down power lines and loss of water pressure as the flames ravaged the landscape, fueled by months long drought, extreme winds and flammable grasses. But one local Hawaii reporter says he finds solace in the close knit community of Lahaina after losing at least four members of his extended family.

JONATHAN MASAKI SHIROMA, TRAFFIC ANCHOR, HAWAII NEWS NOW: The people of Hawaii have always been rooted in the spirit of ohana, which is family. And I know how painstaking this is. I know the hurt, I know the -- just the deep void we all feel.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Gloria Pazmino.

With us now is Etan Krupnick, whose family lost their home in Lahaina. He's 14th generation. His family has lived in that town for more than 200 years. Thankfully, nobody in his family died, but 50 to 60 members of his family have been displaced.

Etan, thank you so much for joining. I understand you're staying with your dad not far away from the destroyed areas. Tell us what you're seeing in those devastated areas.

ETAN KRUPNICK, LOST HOME IN MAUI FIRE: Straight just obviation, you know, there's nothing there. Everything's flat. And it's -- you don't see what you grew up with. You don't see the -- your town anymore. It's completely gone. It's unexplainable and it's very tragic to just even go there and look at what has happened to our beautiful Lahaina town.

TAPPER: I know a lot of residents of the island, such as yourself, have a lot of questions about why the emergency --


TAPPER: -- warning siren system didn't sound. What's your message to leadership on the island right now?

KRUPNICK: I would say to the leadership on our island to really -- I mean, we can't bring the lives back, we can't take anything back. Nothing will ever make up a loss that we lost, you know, here. Our town, our neighbors, our friends, our family, they can't do anything to take that back and nothing will ever make it right. But you know what, you need to start listening to your community. It's that simple.

You know, actually listen to us, you know, and collectively collaborate with us. You know, not these community leaders that are voted in or that are, you know, chosen to, like, hey, you can be a cultural advisor or something. No, you need these longtime Lahaina families, you know, and friends to just collaborate with the people that would like to be in the spotlight because we are the people, the community of Lahaina, we make Lahaina. That's why people keep coming back to Lahaina is because of the people, you know, and the beauty, of course, but the people is number one. And we want to stay in Lahaina.

TAPPER: Are you worried that you're not going to get the resources or the financial help from Hawaii or the US government that you need in order to rebuild?

KRUPNICK: Yes, 100 percent. We're already stressed out of mourning and the loss of our beautiful town and now we have to worry that maybe our land won't be, you know, livable in the state's eyes where we think that they're going to try and take that away from us or even just funding. You know, like, who's going to help clean up all this debris? Are the owners of each property have to clean that up, you know, by themselves and come out of their own pocket. The community is already from all islands are driving in boats, you know, flying in planes, driving from the other side of the island, bringing in with their own money.

You know, I've yet to see or heard of anything from the state or the upper, you know, the president himself to like really come and actually assess and help out the people that are in need right now that are being displaced that lost all their homes.

TAPPER: That night just over a week ago must have just been devastating and horrific. I can't even imagine what it was like.

KRUPNICK: You know, it was a nightmare. Like the whole time we were just trying to run for safety for our lives. I know nobody thought that we would be watching our beautiful Lahaina town burn in flames. It was a nightmare. It was like watching one of those "Game of Throne" movies where it's just like fireballs just destroying this beautiful place that God created, you know. So.


KRUPNICK: You never want to relive that.

TAPPER: Etan Krupnick, we're so glad that all of your families is alive and well. And we're going to stay --


TAPPER: -- on this story. Thank you so much for joining us. Stay in touch with us, please.

KRUPNICK: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: A phone call between America's top diplomat and one of the wrongfully detained Americans in Russia. Could this signal progress us towards Paul Whelan's release? I'm going to talk with Paul's brother next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead and a CNN exclusive, America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Paul Whelan today. Whelan, as you know, is a former U.S. marine who has been wrongfully detained in Russia since 2018. He is serving his 16 year sentence in a remote Russian prison camp on trumped up espionage charges which he and the U.S. government vehemently deny. Paul Whelan's brother David joins us now.

David, Paul told your parents that the conversation was, quote, "long and frank." What else can you tell us about what Paul said to Secretary Blinken?


DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: That's really all we know. It's difficult for Paul to have phone calls. And so I think he probably took the opportunity to be as clear as he could about his concerns about his situation with Secretary Blinken.

TAPPER: Do you have any idea how the call happened or why it happened today?

WHELAN: I don't. I think that Secretary Blinken has obviously sent a message and that message is for Paul and for our family that the U.S. government is continuing to advocate for Paul in his release. And I think it's also a message for the Kremlin, that the U.S. government hasn't led up and in fact, their lead foreign policy person is willing to call a prisoner, which is I think, astounding.

TAPPER: A senior U.S. official says that Russia has not responded in any substantive way to the most recent U.S. proposal to try to get your brother home and now with Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich there too. Do you think that that is further stalling these negotiations?

WHELAN: I don't think so. I think that the U.S. government probably has a pretty good idea of what the Kremlin wants. And it's a question of whether they can make that concession. I'm not sure that they can. And hopefully, if they can, they will. But I don't know that. Mr. Gershkovich's case has complicated efforts. I think that the U.S. government has struggled and continues to struggle to find concessions that the Kremlin wants.

TAPPER: Right. So I've heard that Russia wants Russian spies who are in prison to be released in exchange for your brother and Gershkovich. And the U.S. does not currently have any. So it would require the U.S. to lean on allies who have various imprisoned Russian spies. Are there any specific ones in countries that you think bringing public attention to it might encourage those prime ministers or chancellors or whomever to help the U.S. out here?

WHELAN: I'm not sure I think that the Kremlin is always looking for parity. And so it may be that since they have labeled Paul a spy, that that's what they want. I think the U.S. government is in the best position to make those phone calls to other diplomats, other foreign leaders and if there is a concession to be had to negotiate that and hopefully bring Paul home.

TAPPER: Your sister, Elizabeth, told CNN last week that negotiations are moving at a quote, glacial pace. How are you and your family staying positive? It's been almost five years now or more than five years, it's been almost six year. I'm sorry.

WHELAN: Well, just actually just over four and a half, so.

TAPPER: Four and a half. OK.

WHELAN: We're coming up to date, 1,700. And I think we are now at a point where we're resolved that it could be 2034 before Paul sum (ph), I don't think that there's any reason to think that what the U.S. government is doing right now is going to lead to Paul's immediate release or even release as soon as possible. So I think we are focusing now that he may have to do his 16 years and the better that we are able to come to grips with that, the more I think we'll be able to survive it and help him to survive it.

TAPPER: All right, David Whelan, hopefully you're wrong. But thank you so much for your time. We're going to stay on this story.

WHELAN: Thanks so much, Jake.


TAPPER: An exclusive CNN investigation gives a rare glimpse at the horrors of a brutal civil war raging inside Sudan by piecing together video of one of the region's worst massacres. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our World Lead, a gruesome discovery in Sudan as the civil war between Sudan's army and the RSF or Rapid Support Forces, led by the country's former second in command rages on. Thirty mass graves containing the remains of more than 1,000 people were discovered in West Darfur according to local officials. In a CNN exclusive, CNN's Nima Elbagir and her team pieced together a video from a massacre in West Darfur in June. That was one of the bloodiest in the region's history. It ended with victims' bodies littering the streets and eventually being buried in the mass graves. And we want to warn you some of the images we're about to bring you in this important report are graphic. And the report includes distressing descriptions of this conflict.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The streets of El Geneina in Sudan's Darfur region are eerily quiet, filmed at great risk by survivors. The video shows racist graffiti defacing walls and corpses littering the streets. Seen here in their own propaganda, Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, RSF, occupied Geneina in June, after a heavy shelling campaign and fighting in their war for dominance over Sudan's army.

A CNN investigation has now uncovered some of the cost of the RSF's victory here in Geneina. Survivors aid workers and body collectors described the CNN how together with their allies, the RSF gunned down hundreds of civilians in and around Geneina on June 15th, in one of the most violent massacres to date in the recent history of this genocide scarred Sudanese region.

Using satellite images, eyewitness testimony and geolocating what few videos have made it through the telecommunications blackout, cutting Darfur off from the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I lost eight members of my family that day during the escape from El Geneina to Chad.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): This man says he buried hundreds of victims in Darfur since April. But on that day, he couldn't even reach his slain relatives. The ISIS troops are drawn from Darfuri Arab tribes and together with its leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo A.K.A Hemedti are implicated in the years long in the region against African tribal groupings.


It's unsurprising then that the war between the RSF and Sudan's military for control of the country took an even more sinister turn here in Darfur mirroring the RSF previous tactics, forcing civilians to flee many arriving in Geneina. That is until June 14th, when the West Darfur Governor seen here at his arrest by the RSF, was executed. The RSF blamed for the killing denies responsibility.

As hundreds attempted to flee they were harassed and threatened. Even children joined in. A lucky few made it to Chad. SABRY MOHAMED, FORMER EL GENEINA RESIDENT AND EYEWITNESS (through translator): They were going into houses killing people. Snipers were everywhere.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Bringing with them stories of ethnic targeting.

MOHAMED (through translator): On the road out of the city, we were stopped and searched. They took our phones. Men were separated from the women so they could kill us. We ran but they shot some of us.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Evidence shows much of the killing occurred here outside the main hospital in Geneina. Then fleeing civilians were ambushed again in Wadi Kaja. Satellite images show the river which is usually shallow enough for cast across had water running high that day. Scores struggled in the water some shot as they drowned. Survivors say they heard gunfire from all directions.

JAMAL KHAMISS, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER AND EYEWITNESS (through translator): I saw 17 kids who were shot dead then thrown into the water. This was one of the most surreal scenes I've witnessed.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Even as they fled Geneina for Adre across the border in Chad, our evidence shows men, women and children was shot as they fled. At the MSF Hospital in Chad, survivors arrived with gunshot wounds in the back legs and buttocks. The lead doctor told CNN. All injuries consistent with being shot from the back.

Over 850 people flooded the hospitals in Adre between June 15th to 17th, according to MSF. More than any other period since fighting began in April. Body collectors say according to their count, around 1,000 people were killed on the day of June 15th, buried in dozens of mass graves. Survivors say the RSF is replicating these same tactics across the region, even as they're supposed to celebrate in the aftermath of mass killings and the sweep of escalating ethnically targeted attacks.


ELBAGIR: An official rapid support for spokesperson told us that they categorically deny the assertions in our reporting, without commenting, though, on any of the specific incidents that we put to them. And I think it's also important to point out, Jake, that they have previously denied the findings of previous investigations before you turning and announcing that those implicated in the violations with detailed would be prosecuted. And that seems to really be a pattern with them. Jake?

TAPPER: More incredibly important journalism from Nima Elbagir. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.

TAPPER: With the first Republican primary debate just one week away, several candidates are still struggling to make the debate stage. Who's in, who's out. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our 2024 Lead, we're just one week away from the very first Republican presidential debate of the season while eight candidates have qualified to take the stage including Trump, DeSantis, and Nikki Haley. Time is tick, tick, ticking for several other candidates who have yet to meet the polling or donation requirements. But Asa Hutchinson and Will Hurd who spoke with me earlier this hour say they're not giving up hope just yet.


HURD: I'm pretty confident we're going to be able to hit those requirements before the deadline on August 21st. I'm hoping folks help us out with that.

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I plan on being on the debate stage there in Milwaukee. I like the trend line in which we're moving toward that goal. So I need everybody's help to get there because you need my voice on that debate stage.


TAPPER: And just to be clear my panel is with me now, just to be clear, it's not an amount you need to raise. It's not like you have to raise $10 million. You have to have contract contributions from 40,000 people, which seems like a reasonable standard, I have to say, do these candidates, Hurd and Hutchinson, not to mention, Larry Elder and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, do you think that they have enough time to get to the stage? And do you think that if they don't get there that that's fundamentally the end of their campaigns?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think if they don't get there, it's pretty mortal blow. And, look, I mean, they can go the Doug Burgum route and buy, you know, 40,000 donations, I mean, you know.

TAPPER: What did he do exactly?

GOLDBERG: Well, they -- he offered, like gift cards for like, 20 bucks for every $1 donation, you know. And you got a little flag or something, I mean.

TAPPER: It's a good deal. What was it 20 -- was it for like a Kohl's or something? What was it $20 gift certificate.

GOLDBERG: I have not been deep enough of report.

TAPPER: I don't know just get Christmas shopping coming up.

GOLDBERG: But yes, like, there's -- Vivek Ramaswamy, I mean, he made it naturally, but he also launched a sort of, you know.

TAPPER: We get a percentage of it.

GOLDBERG: A Mary Kay-Ponzi kind of structure to get donations. I mean, so it can be creative, but it's getting close.

TAPPER: Do you think that if they don't make it to the debate, then that's it?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sadly, I do. Look, I hope that they do make it.

TAPPER: Sadly?

CARDONA: Yes. And also I say sadly because, Jake, Asa Hutchinson, Will Hurd, Chris Christie, who I believe is going to be on a debate stage. But these are the very few candidates who have shown courage, who have actually been able to have the backbone to tell the truth about what Donald Trump would be not just to the Republican Party but to the country, if he is allowed to go into the Oval Office again.


And it seems like the Republican base, especially the MAGA voters, don't want that kind of courage, don't want that kind of backbone in their candidates, because if they did, Will Hurd, Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie would be at the top of the pack and they're not.

TAPPER: You hear from Republican voters all the time through your newsletter through social media, et cetera, do you agree with her?

GOLDBERG: For being heckled in the street? Yes. That's right. It's interesting, this -- there's this New Yorker profile of Ron DeSantis's campaign that just broke today. And there's a great little factoid in it, that when they were doing polling of Republican focus groups, or Republican voters, 70 percent of Republican voters said they agreed with the statement COVID lock downs were bad.

And then if you asked, if you said Trump's COVID lockdowns were bad, 70 percent of the voters disagreed, right? So it is purely a -- if Trump's for it, we're for it kind of dynamic. And that's a really hard thing to fight, you know right now. And, you know, you can look at it in terms of the indictments, you can look at all of these things, if it's bad for Trump, there's just a reflexive thing among a big chunk of Republican voters to say then it's not true or not fair.

TAPPER: Vice President Pence, who's also going to be on the debate stage, I think he made the debate stage. He weighed in for the first time today, on Trump's fourth indictment, take a listen.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one is above the law. And the President and all those implicated are entitled to the presumption of innocence that every American enjoys.


TAPPER: I mean --

CARDONA: Trying to have it both ways, maybe a little bit. TAPPER: Do you think?

CARDONA: Yes, a little bit. Especially because he was the one whose life was in danger on January 6th, he was the one who his former boss was calling for people to punish him. If he did not come out and do the right thing by Trump, which was to overturn an election that he had no authority to be doing.

And look, I actually do feel bad for Mike Pence, because he kind of has nowhere to go. He has no lane. He has no natural base. He seems to be somebody that maybe Christian voters could get behind.

TAPPER: But they're not.

CARDONA: But they're not, exactly. And so I don't know, where he's going to see the opportunity to be the one that's left standing, because this is what they're all right. This is what they're all hoping. This is what they're all betting, right? The reason why you only have those three that I mentioned, being the courageous ones to really stand up against Donald Trump and what he means, right, all of his indictments, whereas the other ones seem to be following Trump's lead, and they're enjoying indictmentum, right, but it's all focused on Trump.

TAPPER: So that fourth indictment is from Georgia. So is this next individual Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution was asked about whether she would run for Senate in 2026. She said, quote, I haven't -- I have not made up my mind whether I will do that or not. I have a lot of things to think about. Am I going to be a part of President Trump's Cabinet if he wins? Is it possible that I'll be VP? Why -- you're giggling? Why are you giggling? I take that very seriously. You don't at all?

GOLDBERG: Look, I think it's entirely possible she could be in Trump's cabinet. I don't think Trump would pick her as a VP, though, you can't, as a running mate, I should say.

TAPPER: You can't rule it out.

GOLDBERG: He can't necessarily rule it out, either. And --

TAPPER: She's won elections unlike Kari Lake, who is also often talked about a possible VP with him.

GOLDBERG: Yes, look, I mean, this is a very stupid time to be alive. We have to just sort of stipulate that before we continue, right? So graded on that curve, I think that Trump thinks that he needs somebody with some gravitas. He cares a lot. He actually cares a lot about what other people think even though he pretends that he doesn't. And so, I don't know. You would think that even some of his political advisors are not all crazy, terrible politically.

TAPPER: Not at all. No, no.

GOLDBERG: Some of them, you would expect would up end the jerrycan of gasoline over their heads and light a match if you said, OK, we're going to go with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, a conservative appeals court ruling on the abortion medication, mifepristone, why this could single access to the drug might be changing. But first here is CNN's Wolf Blitzer with what's next in the Situation Room. Wolf?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, the Hawaii Governor Josh Green, he'll be back with us here in the Situation Room and we'll discuss what's going on, live. He'll share the newest information on the Maui wildfire disaster as the death toll climbs above 100. And questions about the cause of the disaster clearly intensified. I'll ask them about all of that much more. And I'll -- we'll certainly discuss President Biden's visit to Hawaii next week. All that's coming up right at the top of the hour right here in the Situation Room.


TAPPER: In our Health Lead, a consequential ruling today on the medication for abortion drug, mifepristone, a federal appeals court imposed restrictions on the use of mifepristone. But it will remain on the market. The Justice Department today says it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision and the ruling is paused from taking effect until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in. Here are the rules that exist as of now. Mifepristone can still be prescribed by a non-physician. You don't need to go to a doctor's office to get the prescription. It can be done via telehealth. And you can obtain it until up until 10 weeks of the pregnancy. This is the most consequential legal battle over abortion since the Supreme Court last summer overturned Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs decision.


You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, Bluesky if you have an invite. I'm back on the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to the lead once you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer right next door in the Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.