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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Trump Pleads Not Guilty In Georgia Election Case; Capitol Physician Medically Clears McConnell For Work; Convicted Murderer Escapes Prison Near Philadelphia; Smoldering Mistrust As Maui Fire Survivors Seek Answers; Justice Thomas & Alito Disclose Trips Paid For By Conservatives; CNN With Ukrainians Learning To Fly Drones. Aired 4- 5p ET
Aired August 31, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: He technically fits inside the vehicle.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: He was given a warning, told to drive the bull whose name is Howdy Doody back home.
I guess they're going to be looking out for him again on the road?
KEILAR: Maybe not.
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts Tapper --
SCIUTTO: Don't look at the back of the car, by the way. That's --
KEILAR: Don't do that. You won't unsee it.
THE LEAD starts now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: From "stand back and stand by" to standing in prison for 17 years.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Actions and consequences. A hefty prison sentence today for a rioter in the January 6th attack as Donald Trump himself continues to try to stay out of jail with a new not guilty plea. His fourth in a criminal case just this year.
Plus, on the run with, quote, nothing to lose. The manhunt right now for a convicted killer and the search expanding near a major East Coast city.
And Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas finally disclosing fancy trips and private jet rides paid for by a Republican mega donor. Thomas' excuse for not making the disclosures public in the past, coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We start today with our law and justice lead and a not guilty plea
from Donald Trump in the sprawling 2020 election case in Fulton County, Georgia. The former president, of course, faces more than a dozen charges there, including racketeering for his alleged efforts to steal Georgia's electoral votes, despite Joe Biden wining the state over and over. It is still unclear when Trump will go on trial in this case.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has asked the judge to schedule a trial for all 19 defendants including Donald Trump for October 23rd of this year. That's less than two months away. Today, Trump formally asked to separate his case from the codefendants who are asking for a speedy trial and other codefendants who are trying to get their cases moved to federal court. We'll get to all of that in a moment.
But, first, today one of the longest sentences yet for a January 6th rioter was handed down. Joe Biggs, a leader of the so-called Proud Boys, was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Biggs plotted with other members of the far right militia to storm the U.S. Capitol and he led a group of violent rioters to the Capitol on January 6th.
Let's get straight to CNN's Sara Murray.
Sara, Biggs was convicted on serious charges including seditious conspiracy or conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and that's why he has ended with the second longest sentence of all of the rioters, longest so far has gone to one of the leaders of Oath Keepers. The prosecutors actually asked for 33 years behind bars for Biggs, the judge, though, said, you know, they had taken to consideration how other rioters have been sentenced from their cases. And Biggs did make a tearful appeal to the court today, essentially saying he wants the ability to be able to pick his daughter off and take her to school.
And the judge essentially said, look, you guys, as part of the Proud Boys, were part of the group that broke the tradition of this peaceful transfer of power and then issued a hefty sentence to go along with that, Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, a lot of violent criminals have kids they would like to pick up at school instead of serving their sentence.
Let's turn to the Georgia case now. Not only did Donald Trump plead not guilty today, but he's asking to have his case separated from his codefendants. Tell us why?
MURRAY: Yeah, that's right. A number of codefendants, Ken Chesebro, Sidney Powell, attorneys who are working for Donald Trump's campaign after the 2020 election, have asked for a speedy trial. This is looking like it's shaping up to be October of this year.
In a filing today, Trump's attorney Steve Sadow said that there's no way that Donald Trump and their team are going to be ready to go to trial in October. He says he has another trial going on shortly before that and they said it was essentially infringe on Donald Trump's constitutional right to force him to go to trial in that timeline.
Again, we're still waiting for the judge to weigh in on this. Other than the folks who have asked for this speedy trial, we haven't really heard from the judge about how he plans to handle the other defendants in this case. And I think it's still an open question whether Donald Trump is actually going to go ahead with this case in state court or whether he will try to move this to federal court like we've seen his former chief of staff try to do.
TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks so much for that update.
I want to bring in Michael Moore, former U.S. attorney in Georgia.
Michael, good to see you again.
MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you.
TAPPER: So, there are a number of codefendants who have not waived their court appearance or entered a plea. Is there any benefit for them to physically go to the arraignment versus entering a plea through a court filing as so many others have done?
MOORE: Well, I'm glad to be with you today. There's really no benefit at all to going to court. The courts have gotten a little bit lax, especially since COVID, in allowing defendants who are represented at least to be able to waive arraignment.
Arraignment is really a time when defendants are told what they're being charged with, what the ramifications of the proceedings may be. Given some of their constitutional rights and protections for those people who don't have a lawyer. You know, they're told at the time they have a right to have a lawyer and they usually fill out forms to have a public defender or someone else appointed to represent them.
So in this case, there's no real reason. Probably, and here's both to the benefit of the state and to Trump, for the state on the one hand because it sure of keeps some of the circus that we saw with the surrender down, and that doesn't disrupt the city. And for Trump, it keeps him from being really appearing again as a defendant in a case. It's one less time that he's on camera sort of sitting at the surrender table in a courtroom.
So, I wasn't surprised to see this, nor am I surprised to see some of the motions that are going back and forth.
TAPPER: So earlier today, Trump asked to have his case separated from his codefendants who want that speedy trial. Mr. Trump's attorney claims they wouldn't have sufficient time to prepare for a trial at the end of October. Is that a strong legal argument?
MOORE: I think it's a great argument and I don't think there's any possibility that he will be tried in October. Remember that the special purpose of a grand jury working under the direction of the district attorney met for about eight months to consider the case and she's been investigating this particular case for about 2-1/2 years. So you can think about the volume of materials out there.
And the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives every defendant a right to have effective counsel. And so, you can't be effective if you don't have time to prepare. So, by sort of lobbing this argument out there, his lawyer doing the right thing and saying, look, if you don't give me time to prepare I'm not effective. That sets up a possible appeal should there be a conviction.
I -- just as a practical matter, there's no way that the judge is going to hold him and his right under the Constitution to be prepared to that date be -- even though the court is bound now that there has been a request for a speedy trial file by some defendants. That case has to be heard, has to be started in October, or else as a matter of law, those defendants would be acquitted and found not guilty.
So, it wasn't really a move by the D.A. or a move by the court. The law says the case has to start then. Simply because two or three people may want to avail themselves of that right under the Speedy Trial Act, that doesn't mean that the constitutional rights to have more time and sufficient time to prepare would be infringed on.
So I just think there's no way he will be tried in October.
TAPPER: So Republican state lawmakers in Georgia had called for a special session to investigate the District Attorney Fani Willis' handling of the case.
Today, the governor of Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp, he shot down the idea, saying it might be unconstitutional. Take a -- take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: The bottom line is that in the state of Georgia, as long as I'm governor, we're going to follow the law and the Constitution, regardless of who it helps or harms politically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Quickly if you could, what do you make of some of these actions targeting District Attorney Willis?
MOORE: Well, I think the Republican lawmakers have gotten sort of caught on their own hook. They passed this law to where they could have this prosecute attorneys commission review, prosecutors who they claim weren't doing their job. Part of what they had to do move forward on cases where probable cause has been found and present cases to the grand jury that they're asking to issue an indictment. And she's done that in this case.
So, from a political standpoint, she's done exactly what she is to do under the law. I think you're hearing a lot of puffing, you're hearing a lot of PR moves by some members at the state capitol simply because they come from districts that maybe eating up this red meat.
But the idea of stopping budget process or impeding a budget process or impending the budget funding for prosecutors across the state would essentially freeze law enforcement and freeze criminal prosecutions, and that's just not going to happen. I think Kemp knows that and he's right to not call the special session.
I don't think it's the end of the drumbeat that we'll hear for sometime, but there's no chance that that's going forward right now.
TAPPER: All right. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.
Turning now to our politics lead. Today, the Capitol physician said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, is, quote, medically clear to continue working. You may recall the 81- year-old had a second freezing episode yesterday. It was the second one in two months. He paused for about 30 seconds or so after being asked a question. It leads to bipartisan concerns about his health.
As CNN's Manu Raju reports for us now, McConnell's time is trying to reassure his allies that he is, in fact, fit for the job.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the moment Mitch McConnell freezing again and that pause opening up a new round of questions. The key one, can he continue to serve as Senate GOP leader.
This after the second time in many months he froze in front of cameras, prompting concerns about the 81-year-old Kentuckian's health.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, Daniel Cameron -- do you have a comment on Daniel Cameron?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, I think the governor's race is going to be very close.
RAJU: Behind the scenes, McConnell has sought to reassure allies he can continue the job he's held for 16 years, longer than any Senate leader in history.
And today, McConnell's office releasing a letter from Brian Monahan, Capitol's attending physician, clearing him to continue with his schedule. In saying, it is not uncommon to suffer occasional light- headedness for people who suffer concussions, as McConnell did when he fell and hit his head at a Washington hotel in March, sidelining him for nearly six weeks.
His confidants believe he will remain as leader through the end of next year. But Republican senators' aides tell CNN they are skeptical he will remain in the job in 2025 intentionally opening up a leadership race between Senators John Thune, John Cornyn and John Barrasso.
After the first time he froze in July, GOP senators supported him staying as leader. But many would not say if they would back him in the future.
Do you think Senator McConnell should run for leader in the new Congress?
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): No. I mean, the new Congress is 18 months away.
RAJU: Do you think the next Congress if he ran for leader, he would get the job?
SEN. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R-WY): Well, I think that that's speculation that's not necessary right now.
RAJU: After his Wednesday event in Covington, Kentucky, McConnell call key allies including Thune and Cornyn and attended a fund-raiser for Senate candidate Jim Banks, who told CNN that the Republican leader was sharp and engaging.
MCCONNELL: I'm fine.
RAJU: The question about McConnell's health is bound to intensify when he faces his 48 GOP colleagues next week for first time since before the summer recess.
Should he tell his 48 colleagues what happened?
SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): He should tell us if something else -- something bigger is going on. And whatever he tells me, I'll trust to be true.
RAJU: Some Republicans fear that the impact of McConnell's fall in March could be worse than he has let on.
REP. KEVIN HERN (R-OK): Obviously, the fall he had was more damaging than most people thought.
RAJU: Yeah. Do you think he should stay as leader of the Senate Republican Conference?
HERN: That would be for the Senate to figure out.
RAJU: All of this putting a spotlight on an aging Senate, where a majority of senators are in their 60s and 70s.
RAJU (on camera): Now, there's no way for senators who are critics of senator McConnell to try to force a vote to oust him from the leadership position. The next leadership election would not occur until November, 2024, after the elections. And, Jake, Mitch McConnell will face his colleagues for first time on Tuesday night in a conference -- in a meeting with his leadership team and the full Republican conference next Wednesday -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.
Turning now to longtime McConnell ally and Republican commentator, Scott Jennings.
Scott, good to see you.
I know --
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey.
TAPPER: -- this is sensitive. Nobody likes to see people go through health issues like this. You were with McConnell at a fund-raiser last night. How was he and how do you reconcile how he was last night with the video of him freezing up for 30 seconds or so?
JENNINGS: Yeah, it was business as usual last night. I was here in Louisville. He attended a fund-raiser for Jim Banks who's running for Senate in Indiana. And he made remarks about policy, politics, and took a bunch of questions from the attendees. If you hadn't something had happened earlier in the day, you would never have suspected it. It was normal Mitch McConnell at the event last night.
TAPPER: How do you reconcile that with what we saw? And do you think McConnell and his team need to be more transparent as some Republican senators are even calling for about whatever is going on?
JENNINGS: Yeah, I mean, obviously as someone who has known him for my whole life, and you see things like this, you know, it's personally concerning. Of course, I have the benefit of being able to talk to him and see him up close and observe him. And I have seen him the entire month.
He has been on quite a robust schedule here in Kentucky. He spoke at several big events. He has been doing these political events. He's been meeting the press. He's doing all the things you would expect him to do. And I have seen him in action.
In fact, the day before yesterday, I saw him speak at a lunch and make 15 minutes worth of remarks, take a bunch of questions. And so, it is hard to reconcile.
But at the same time, this afternoon when I saw the letter come out from the Capitol physician, Monahan, I knew that Senator McConnell had sought the advice of a physician. I was glad to see that letter come out. And I think that will give people a lot of confidence that he's okay to keep doing what he does which is being effective leader for the Republicans in the Senate.
TAPPER: It is interesting though that McConnell's aides when we saw that video, they did not seem surprised that this happened.
Do any know more than we're hearing publicly. Does this happen more on often than the twice we've seen it publicly?
JENNINGS: I don't think so, actually. I'm not aware of any other instance of it. I have not heard of any instance of it. And I would also note in both instances, he then started taking questions again almost immediately after, and then for the rest of those particular days, he kept up the rest of his schedule.
I had a private conversation with him last night. One on one, we talked about several different things, I didn't notice any difference whatsoever following the incident yesterday. So, no, I don't think there's anything else to know except a couple of these things happen. Apparently, the Capitol physician says it's not unusual when you're recovering from a concussion to have these things happen intermittently.
But apparently, it doesn't impair him in any way. And I have not detected any impairment, any lack of cognitive ability, any memory issues and also over the course of the year, his hearing has been getting better and better in conversations. It was -- had given him some trouble after the concussion, but I think it has been improving quite a bit lately as well.
TAPPER: All right. Well, we all hope his health improves.
Scott Jennings, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, that search for escaped inmate. A man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend is now on the run.
Plus, weeks after the wildfires in Hawaii, the confusion, the anger, the resentment as Maui residents question if their nightmare could have been avoided.
And front row to history, I'm going to speak with Nebraska's head coach and star player after that world record for attendance set at their volleyball match.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our national lead, (AUDIO GAP) dozens of law enforcement agencies near the city of Philadelphia are frantically searching for a convicted murderer whom police warned is extremely dangerous.
CNN's Danny Freeman is in Philly for us.
Danny, this escapee was just convicted of first-degree murder charges two weeks ago?
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Jake, just convicted two weeks ago, this first degree murder charges, and just sentenced to life without the possibility of parole last week. Now he's on the run and now there's this multiagency manhunt for him. Let me tell you how this all started though. Law enforcement say that
inmate Danelo Cavalcante escaped this morning at 8:50 from the Chester County prison that's about 30 miles or so west from where we are in Philadelphia right now. He was last seen though around 9:40 a.m. right around the area of the prison wearing a white t-shirt, gray shorts and white sneakers. And, Jake, that's important because law enforcement says that's different from the normal green prison garb that he normally would be wearing.
And I just want to emphasize why law enforcement have been using such strong language when warning residents and speaking about this particular suspect. Like you said convicted of first-degree murder a little over two weeks ago and he was found guilty of stabbing his girlfriend back in 2021 to death 38 times in front of her children. And, Jake, the motive for that killing, according to prosecutors, was the girlfriend found out that he was wanted for murder in Brazil as well.
So that's why law enforcement really urging a lot of caution for residents around the area of that Chester County prison. Take a listen to what the D.A. of Chester County said about this just a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEB RYAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: His depravity knows no bounds. I mean, this is someone who has nothing to lose as you indicated. So, I don't know what he is capable of doing. If he's already engaged in a murder in broad daylight in front of her two children, there's no stopping him from doing anything more egregious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: And, Jake, at this point, like you said, dozens of agencies now searching. They're using K-9s. They're using drones. They're using helicopters, and we're still waiting at this point for a concrete answer to the big question of how he got out. So far, law enforcement officials not giving us any details -- Jake.
TAPPER: So, they're not giving any details about how he got out. Chester County prison, I mean that's a tough facility, it's not easy to walk in and out of it. Do we have -- do we have any idea how he managed to escape?
FREEMAN: No, listen, the acting warden of that prison came out in that press conference earlier today and said we're not going to take any questions. We're not going to talk about how he got out at this point. It's still under investigation.
But you can bet if this manhunt certainly continues into the night, into the next day, we've seen other manhunts in Pennsylvania just this summer that have done that. You can bet there are going to be more questions about how this all happened -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Danny Freeman in Philly, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
This just into THE LEAD, we're learning of an incident involving multiple stabbings at the Fulton County jail in Georgia. Earlier images of that facility in the weeks past, that is, of course, the same jail where former President Donald Trump surrendered last week in Georgia's election subversion case.
Coming up next, the governor of Hawaii will be here. We'll have him respond to the heartbreak and now the anger and mistrust for so many victims of those devastating wildfires in Maui.
TAPPER: Continuing with our national lead, CNN staying focused on the damage and heartbreak caused by the Hawaii wildfires. The official death toll standing at 115 with hundreds of residents still unaccounted for. Property losses are estimated at $6 billion and there are questions about the response or lack thereof, who's to blame and when survivors and businesses can start to rebuild.
As CNN's Natasha Chen discovered, residents are skeptical of what the government is telling them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard, it's hard to take in seeing all this devastation.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as Lahaina fire survivors take stock of what's left of their historic community --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make me cry, make me cry.
CHEN: -- officials are trying to identify the bodies of those lost, but it is a mystery at the moment how many are still missing.
Right now, they're investigating about 100 missing person reports.
KALAI ASUELA, LAHAINA RESIDENT: I'm like, okay, today is going to be a good day, I'm not going to cry. You hug the first person, that's all you wanted to do is cry.
CHEN: Kalai Asuela says her Lahaina home is still standing but has no idea what condition it's in. She's with her family in temporary housing not living, she says, just existing.
ASUELA: I don't want to be angry, and I don't want to be upset but nothing's moving.
CHEN: The number of dead stands at 115, a number that hasn't moved in 10 days. Active search and rescue is over, as federal agencies are now working to remove hazardous materials and debris to make it safe for families to return to their neighborhoods. Most Lahaina students have to either enroll at other schools on the
island or take virtual classes at least until mid-October. The entire survival and recovery process has surfaced long held skepticism and resentment towards outside authority, which many locals have historically blamed for mismanaging the land and water.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I directed my team to do everything we can for as long as it takes to help Maui recover and rebuild in a way that respects and honors Hawaiian traditions and cultures and the needs of the local community. We're not going to turn this into a new land grab.
ASUELA: But who has he talked to? You know, who he has he really sat down with and said what is it going to take?
CHEN: Asuela questions whether this tragedy could have been prevented. Residents in the county of Maui are suing Hawaiian Electric, accusing the utility of not properly maintaining power lines that remain energized leading up to August 8. The company says a downed power line in Lahaina seems to have sparked flames that morning but says the cause of the fire that afternoon is still unknown.
And while sirens have not previously been used for wildfires on Maui, new protocols will soon be shared.
DARRYL OLIVEIRA, INTERIM ADMINISTRATOR, MAUI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: As we go forward we need to educate the public on what do they need to do when a siren sounds, and that includes our visitor population that will be unfamiliar as well.
CHEN: Visitors who are currently avoiding Maui. The Hawaii Tourism Authority says they're losing $9 million each day with a steep drop in daily passenger arrivals to the island. Local businesses are laying off employees.
RICHIE OLSTEN, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, AIR MAUI: We've had people cancel their reservations all the way through December of this year.
CHEN: Air Maui has laid off seven dispatchers. Its seven pilots used to fly more than two dozen trips a day. Now they take turns making one or two flights a day. While island residents want tourists to stay away from burned areas, they need people to come visit the rest of Maui.
OLSTEN: Most people that live on Maui have two jobs to sustain themselves so they're not going to be able to survive and pay their bills and their home mortgages on employment insurance. It just won't cut it.
CHEN (on camera): You've heard him mention mortgages there. There's some temporary relief in that department. The state of Hawaii says borrowers with a Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, FHA or V.A. mortgage are able to pause through early November. HUD says in many cases, borrowers can reduce or suspend payments for up to 12 months by working with their lenders. But interest still may accrue and the payments still have to be made up in the future, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Natasha Chen, great piece. Thanks so much.
Let's talk about it with Hawaii's Democratic Governor Josh Green.
Governor Green, good to see you.
As you heard Natasha Chen just report, there is a lot of mistrust about what residents of Hawaii are hearing from authorities. Here's an opportunity for you to respond to the skeptics what do they need to know?
GOV. JOSH GREEN (D), HAWAII: Well, I appreciate it, Jake. Of course, people are traumatized and we're in the era of mistrust and I respect that. I come at it more as a physician than as a politician and people know that of me.
We have to deliver services for people. This is a tragedy beyond anything we have ever experienced. We already have gotten through after 23 days the recovery phase. We have lost 115 souls but we're starting already to also look at the rebuilding.
I know people worry that they're going to not be able to get into their properties. As soon as it's safe from the standpoint of the EPA, we want people in there so that they can get closure. We've already put 6,000 people out of the 12,000 people directly into hotel rooms or Airbnbs. Other people are staying with family.
And even then, of course, people, you know, rightfully are traumatized. And so --
GREEN: -- that trust question remains. And we have to build trust like about all things.
So we'll be building back. We want everyone to know that we'll only build Lahaina back when the people of Lahaina tell us how they want to do it. Whether it's as a memorial, whether it's housing like it was before the tragedy, they will tell us, and nothing else will suffice.
Also, I want to share with people right now one of the things that we don't talk much about but we're doing, and that is we're doing everything we can to prevent predators from coming in, stealing people's land, buying it up at pennies on the dollar while they're struggling and suffering to pay their bills.
We've actually made it a penalty, a year in prison, and up to $5,000 in fines for every time someone reaches out to try to take someone's property. And then finally, this is an important thing I would like to emphasize here nationally, I want to know -- I want people to know that I'm concerned about outside interests coming in as predators in a legal way. And we're going to do what we can to protect against that, too, not unlike we did as a country with 9/11.
We want to make sure that people who have damages are protected, so we're looking and studying how we can do that. Again, people should ask those hard questions about how they can trust. But I want them to get resources to build their lives back.
TAPPER: How much responsibility do you think the power company bears here for the fire?
GREEN: It's a very good question. Two days in, which was on the tenth, I asked my attorney general and instructed her to do a comprehensive investigation. So, she's doing that right now. She's brought in outside investigator in from the mainland that has fire expertise. She's going to find out exactly how much.
We do know that that early fire was sparked as HECO said.
I don't want to jump to conclusions just because I don't think it's fair for me to do that. But we will hold everyone accountable 100 percent, and we'll be very transparent about it and release all the reports.
I think that at the end of the day, we all have to acknowledge that this is a global problem. It was a very, very hot dry terrible storm.
We are dealing with global warming here. We had six total fire emergencies from 1953 to 2003, then we had six in the first two weeks of this month.
So, it's a disaster waiting to happen because it's so hot. But we'll get to the bottom of actual responsibility and that will contribute to how we try to bring some kind of financial closure to people for this tragedy.
TAPPER: So you just said, you just referred to the death toll which stands right now at 115 from the fires. It's been a week since authorities in Hawaii said that 388 people were unaccounted for. Are you making any progress on those 388?
GREEN: Yes, a great deal of progress. The formal announcement will be tomorrow from the FBI and the group that's working on this. It dropped immediately to 300 when we were able to separate people that were for instance incarcerated, or we did get people calling us immediately when the names were released.
The number of people that actually filed missing reports was closer to 112 or 115 to the Maui authorities. And of those individuals, a substantial number, more than half were immediately found either to be tragically lost to the fire, or discovered in some in the hospital. So I think we're going to hear a number in the lower double digits tomorrow, hopefully under 50.
And it's not much consolation because our hearts are broken that we lost 115 people for sure. But it is something that we are grateful that it's not 800 or 1,000 like people were projecting earlier. But tomorrow, we should have a much tighter number for everyone.
TAPPER: All right. Hawaii Governor Josh Green, thanks so much for your time today, sir. I appreciate it.
GREEN: Thank you for supporting us.
TAPPER: Next on the record, finally, with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Why he says it's taken him so long to disclose those private flights paid for by a Republican mega donor.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead today, inadvertently. That word is used 16 times in a new nine-page financial disclosure statement from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, describing information that he inadvertently omitted on previous financial disclosure forms. Both Justice Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito filed new disclosure statements today, giving new details about among other things, trips they took but did not have to pay for.
CNN's senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic is following all this for us.
Joan, let's start with Justice Thomas. What are we learning?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Okay. First of all, he came forward, disclosed officially that he had taken two sets of trips at the expense of Harlan Crow to Texas last year and that also, he had gone to his very luxurious resort in upstate New York in the Adirondacks. It's like an adult playgrounds with all sorts of you know fun things for you know fun expensive activities that he had gone on that trip, which we had known that he had done that every summer, but this was the first time that he was that Clarence Thomas was acknowledging this set of trips that Harlan had provided for him in 2022.
Flash back to 2014, Clarence Thomas also acknowledged in this filing today in 2014, Harlan Crow had paid for -- he had bought three properties that Thomas family had owned in Savannah, Georgia, and this was the first time that Clarence Thomas was going to acknowledge that, also.
TAPPER: So reported by "ProPublica" already disclosed a lot of this, right, and ignited a firestorm of criticism from conservatives about them, and also criticism from progressives and others about Justice Thomas. His attorneys push back?
BISKUPIC: Yes, definitely. Remember the context of all this. There has been lots of questions about what should be disclosed, what should not be disclosed and the court's general overall lack of transparency and the fact it has no formal ethics code.
So what his lawyer said when he revealed these new filings as you said, said that they were any mistakes were inadvertent, he also added a statement that kind of I think reflects the tone of what's going on now, Jake. The lawyer said the attacks on Justice Thomas are nothing less than ridiculous dangerous and they set a terrible precedent for political blood sport through federal ethics filings.
You know, it just goes to show not just pushing back on the fact that he has to disclose these things but also the atmosphere that his lawyer claims that this was all coming from just political enemies going after Clarence Thomas. But, these trips and travel, and private jet opportunities, other justices have at times disclosed them themselves.
TAPPER: Yeah, tell us about what's in Justice Samuel Alito's financial disclosure.
BISKUPIC: Okay, nothing as glamorous, but he has taken several trips on the dime of several institutions. The most notable something that our colleague Devin Cole (ph) had written about earlier where he took a trip to Rome in 2022 to give a keynote speech by a conservative and it was at the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Initiative, and that's a group that -- who's clinic will often file briefs at the court, urging more religiously competitive outcomes.
Now, that was a speech that I think we even showed on this show --
BISKUPIC: -- where it was right after the Dobbs ruling against -- rolling back Roe v. Wade, and it was a very provocative speech that Justice Alito had made.
Joan Biskupic, thanks so much.
Coming up next, store bought weapons of war. We're going to take you to Ukraine next where a team of women are learning how to retrofit and fly simple drones that are having a huge affect on the battlefield.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Tragedy in South Africa tops our world lead today. At least 12 children are among the 74 people killed in a blaze that broke out in the middle of the night in a crowded building in Johannesburg.
Daylight brought scenes like this. Shattered glass everywhere as responders recovered dozens of charred bodies. Authorities say it was a, quote, high-tech building -- a structure abandoned by landlords and leased to migrants illegally which often creates incredibly unsafe and unregulated living conditions.
The former mayor of Johannesburg says the deaths were, quote, totally unnecessary. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN MASHABA, FORMR MAYOR, JOHANNESBURG: This for me it murder or culpable homicide, because it was bound to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now to Ukraine. In the midst of grueling ground battles, Ukraine's military has launched an all-out assault from the skies. Late Tuesday into early Wednesday, Ukraine carried out its biggest drone attack on Russia to date, targeting six regions, including Moscow.
Today, Russia says it shot down a Ukrainian drone again headed to Russia's capital city.
As CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports for us now, these drones come in all shapes and sizes, even the retrofitted store bought models can destroy Russian weapons worth millions.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Any support is welcome in Ukraine, especially if it appears blessed by Jesus say these drone students set up in an abandoned church working on their simulators. And convinced their cause is just.
YULIA, UKRAINIAN DRONE PILOT: We do whatever we can now to resist because Russians wants to kill all of us. This is genocide.
AMANPOUR: Next door in the construct and repair class, Yulia soldiers and tweaks and teaches. This part is fairly simple and fun, she says.
Did you study engineering? What are you in normal life?
YULIA: A writer and a film director.
AMANPOUR: You're a writer and a film director.
AMANPOUR: And now, you're a drone operator.
AMANPOUR: We're not allowed to disclose the location where Julia and the others put theory into practice. Here in this innocuous looking field, where the rudimentary obstacle course, this could almost be child's play, but with deadly results, of course.
These are all civilian drones that the Ukrainians are repurposing for their current war effort. They can be caught off store shelves, but this signifies a turning point in the conduct of modern warfare. A $500 drone that has been weaponized can take out vehicles, and weapon systems worth millions. Software engineer Lyuba Shipovich started the victory drones
LYUBA SHIPOVICH, CO-FOUNDER, VICTORY DRONES: The most advantages it's one of the most cost effective weapon, and it's also weapon, and it could be used as reconnaissance. For reconnaissance purposes, if you see the enemy, you can hit enemy, you can hide like your soldiers. So it's pretty --
AMANPOUR: But enemy can see you?
SHIPOVICH: Yeah, if you don't use security measurements.
AMANPOUR: Like hiding or disguising their signals because the Russians are adapting fast. She says they're mostly crowd-funded and have deals with the Ukrainian military to train front line troops, tens of thousands so far, in what's become indispensable strategy.
That was just practice dropping a water bottle full of sand. But just a few days ago the group says, one of their former trainees took out this Russian tank on the eastern front. They can also wipe out artillery positions and troop carriers.
How long did it take you to learn to fly?
Many of these citizen soldiers are women, busting stubborn myths.
And Yulia, of course, agrees in fact she assembles the drones her husband flies, too.
A lot of women have taken up this fight.
YULIA: We are all people and we are fighting for our existence.
TAPPER: And, Christiane, we have heard conflicting reports of the Ukrainians' counteroffensive. Western officials have privately expressed frustrations that the counteroffensive is moving slower than expected and even Russian military bloggers say that it's actually making progress if gradually. What's your reporting?
AMANPOUR: Well, we are hearing the same as those Ukrainian officials and the Russian bloggers and others are saying. And actually, I've been talking to a lot of military analyst as well, both U.S., and U.K. and NATO types who are all saying, don't count the chickens before they hatch.
This does take time. It's very, very difficult. The Russians have laid incredible defenses and several layers deep trenches, mines, all of that. So it takes very methodical, you know force to get through it. And that's what they are trying to do.
And that's why these drones are so helpful. These obviously are the civilian drones and the ones you mentioned at the beginning the military type drones which are going hundreds of miles into Russian territory now and causing damage, not enough to win but it's, it's enough to cause definitely political -- you know, they're aiming for at least some political impact inside Russia as well.
TAPPER: All right. Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv for us, thanks so much. Great to see you.
Coming up, the defamation lawsuit that Rudy Giuliani forfeited. Why did he choose not to even contest the case?
And what the mother-daughter election workers who sued Giuliani think about the judge's decision. I'm going to talk to their attorney, next.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, 2020 rivals make their cases. Nikki Haley calls out Vivek Ramaswamy. Why, she says the 38-year-old should get, quote, nowhere near the White House, after comments he made about Israel and Iran.
Plus, the price tag on disaster. New damage assessments from hurricane Idalia as CNN's team reach some the areas that were hardest hit.