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At Least 2,000 Dead in Libya Flooding; Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un Set to Meet; Escaped Convict Now Armed in Pennsylvania; Trump Asks Georgia Judge to Dismiss Charges; Republican House Opens Impeachment Inquiry Into President Biden. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The first step to impeachment, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ordering House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden. He's accusing the White House of a -- quote -- "culture of corruption."

But even members of his own party seem to be divided on this decision.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, 19 defendants in one courtroom on trial all at once, how can you make that work? Fulton County's district attorney facing a deadline of today to explain to a judge how she plans to make it happen.

At the same time, lawyers for former President Donald Trump are fighting the case, trying to get most of the charges against him thrown out.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: And armed and dangerous. In Pennsylvania, police hope they're closing in on a missing killer, but after a sighting overnight and a standoff with a homeowner, they now know he has a rifle with a scope. They are warning people to stay inside as they mobilize some 500 officers to hunt him down.

We are following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: Another bitter chapter is kicked off in Washington. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is formally green-lighting an impeachment inquiry into President Biden focusing on Republican accusations of bribery and corruption from Biden's time as vice president.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Today, I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public. That's exactly what we want to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: This is something that Republicans on McCarthy's right flank have wanted for months, and they have threatened to strip McCarthy of his speaker's gavel if he didn't move on this.

But it's something that GOP moderates fear could have major political costs for them.

CNN's Lauren Fox is on the Hill. We have Jeff Zeleny here in studio with us.

Lauren, this push has been building for months. What brought this to a head?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this actually moved much more quickly today than anyone anticipated.

We expected that House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, would announce on Thursday that he was supportive of this impeachment inquiry. Then he announced it today around 11:00 a.m. Now, he is arguing that this is going to empower his committee chairmen who've been working on these investigations to get more information.

He also pointed out a series of what he views as a culture of corruption from the Biden White House. But we should note that there is no direct link at this point, nothing that these committees have uncovered to this point that shows a direct link of Joe Biden benefiting from Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings.

We should also note that this comes at a critical time for House Republicans as they are trying to find a consensus around funding the government. It's also not clear that the announcement today that McCarthy made is going to satisfy those on his right flank who have been threatening to oust him now for several weeks.

Here's Matt Gaetz just moments ago on the House floor.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate, total compliance or remove you, pursuant to a motion to vacate the chair.


FOX: And Matt Gaetz argued during that floor speech that opening this impeachment inquiry was just a baby step and warning that the motion to vacate was still very much on the table, warning potentially it could come up on a daily basis if McCarthy does not give into his right flank.

So there are so many moving pieces at this point. And the House of Representatives is expected to vote tonight at 6:30. But this is quite the opening to what is going to be a very long week in the House.

KEILAR: It certainly is. So, Jeff, we should be clear there are divisions in the GOP. There are

divisions between the Senate and the House. A lot of senators, GOP senators, are not on board with this.


And you even have some Republican members of the House who are on board with it who seem to be illustrating some concerns, like Nancy Mace. Let's listen to what she said.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): The inquiry, my understanding, gets us or help -- will assist us in getting Joe Biden's bank records. And there's no doubt, based on the evidence that I have seen, whether it's the SARs reports or evidence from the FBI, whistle-blowers, et cetera, there is no way that any of this happens without Joe Biden.

And so if that is a tool in the toolbox that we can use to get more evidence for the American people, then I'm going to support it. The problem is, if you do the inquiry, how do you avoid doing an actual impeachment? And that puts a lot of seats up at risk, particularly for Republicans who won Biden districts.

And that is the web that we will weave if we move forward on it.


KEILAR: The web they might weave.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And it's a complicated web and a thorny one, I mean, going into really only about 14 months or so before the next election.

But, look, if impeachment, as our forefathers intended, was for a major deal, not just to look at a president's bank records. So that's sort of interesting there, the mind-set of wanting to go halfway, but not all the way.

But, look, there are divisions among House Republicans. There are divisions of between House Republicans and Senate Republicans. All the while, this is really wrapped up in so much else. I mean, what Speaker McCarthy is trying to do, first and foremost, is save his speakership.

If he would not have done this, the right flank is exposed in a major way. Also, as Lauren was saying, a busy month shaping up, the budget. I mean, what was supposed to be happening in September and will still be happening is getting some type of a deal on these spending bills. So he also needed to do that to protect his right flank.

So this is going to be an unchartered territory really in many ways, but it doesn't really feel like a full impeachment inquiry, which we have seen several of just in our short time here.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a trend.

How does Joe Biden, how does his campaign, how does the White House counter this?

ZELENY: Look, they're calling it extreme politics at its worst. They're saying that there's been no evidence, no shred of evidence through all these investigations in the House committees that any wrongdoing has been committed.

We will see about that. Long term, they think the politics of this is good. But, look, this is something that no president wants to be under. Any time there's an investigation or an inquiry, you don't know how this is going to end. So this is something that a White House likes to control events. They cannot control this event, so they can call it politics, and it may be that, but who knows how this investigation will unfold.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a cloud of suspicion, even if they don't find something, that he doesn't want to be under.

Jeff, thank you so much.


KEILAR: Our thanks to Lauren as well -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: We want to pivot to Georgia now, where former President Donald Trump has asked a judge to toss out all 13 counts he's facing in the Peach State.

His filing comes as the Fulton County district attorney faces a deadline today to explain to the judge how she plans to try all 19 defendants at the same time. As of now, at least two defendants are going to be tried together next month, but plenty of legal fights are under way to figure out which others, if any, will join them.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Atlanta tracking the latest details.

So, Nick, what should we anticipate from Fani Willis' filing later today?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris, today is the deadline for her to show in writing, in detail how she logistically expects to try all of these 19 co-defendants, which has been her desire from the very beginning.

She faces, though, a very, very daunting task. Last week, we learned that a trial against these 19 co-defendants would take at minimum four months and require at least 150 witnesses. And you remember, the special purpose grand jury, they heard from 75 witnesses who testified, so that's more than twice as many.

And that process took seven months. But what the district attorney's office is saying is that these 19 need to be tried together because their charges are effectively linked together. They're inextricably linked, and that they go to this overarching conspiracy of trying to keep the former president in power.

We mentioned these challenges, though. These co-defendants are going a variety of different directions. You have some that want a swift trial, others that are asking for a delay. You have some, like the former president, who want to get their indictment quashed altogether.

And, even still, you have some like the former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who are trying to get their case removed from state court to federal court. And it was last week that the presiding judge over this Georgia trial, this subversion case, Scott McAfee, he brought up some of these challenges and the complications, a scenario that would be presented if a federal court hands down a decision while a state trial is under way in Georgia.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, SUPERIOR COURT OF FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: And so the 11th Circuit could take any idea of how long to weigh in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as they need to.

MCAFEE: Right. So it could potentially even optimistically be a six- month turnaround just for the 11th Circuit to come up with a decision, right?



MCAFEE: So, if it's a four-month trial that starts in October, we're potentially sitting at a point where we presented the entire state's case, maybe even the jury has returned a verdict, but we can't enter that judgment of conviction until the 11th Circuit comes to a decision?

Is that kind of the scenario we're playing out here?


VALENCIA: So, just a short time ago, Willis responded to this in part in a motion, saying that a decision against the -- Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, the verdict in the state trial would come down before a decision is reached by a federal court.

So this is part -- potentially part of the defense that we're going to see later laid out in this deadline. We also heard last week that some of these witnesses are victims, Boris, so the DA's office saying they don't want to retraumatize these victims by having them testify in potentially multiple cases moving forward.

So a lot that we're expecting to see here later today from the district attorney's office -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, those election workers that were accused of all sorts of malfeasance...

VALENCIA: That's right.

SANCHEZ: ... that later turned out to be completely false and fabricated.

Nick Valencia, thanks so much for the reporting -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Turning now to the worst setback by far in the nearly-two- week-long search for an escaped murderer in West Philadelphia.

Danelo Cavalcante, convicted of stabbing his victim 38 times, is now, police say, armed with a rifle that has a scope and a flashlight. According to State Police, they say Cavalcante stole it from a homeowner about 25 miles from the prison he escaped from.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: A call was received from a resident on Coventryville Road indicating a short Hispanic male, no shirt and wearing dark pants had entered his garage while the homeowner was in it, and that he grabbed a .22 rifle that was leaning in the corner of the garage.

The homeowner drew a pistol and fired at Cavalcante as he fled with the rifle.


SCIUTTO: He was in the garage as it happened.

State Police have set up this search perimeter, believing the 5-foot- tall killer remains in that area. They believe it. One school district has closed. Several others are moving all outside activities inside as a precaution.

CNN's Danny Freeman, he is in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Danny, I wonder how residents are reacting to this, because this is not the first time that police have said they have a cordon, they have a perimeter around where they believe him to be. But now he's armed, and I wonder what their confidence is in the police now.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a very fair question.

And we have been standing at this intersection here of Route 23 and Route 100. This is the northeastern most section of the perimeter. And you can see behind me these roads entering the perimeter are closed off, but we're actually standing at a gas station, where there are a lot of residents milling about, going to fill up their tank.

And they have voiced frustration to us that, once again, this man, Danelo Cavalcante, has been spotted, in this case, twice last night, but still no capture. And folks, I think reasonably, are on edge because of that.

Now, let me talk about the updates that we learned just a few hours ago in that press conference with State Police. The first thing we learned is that there was a sighting last night, actually at 8:00 p.m. That was when police got a report from a woman who was driving by the area that police had been searching for a couple of days near the area where Cavalcante ditched the stolen dairy van in East Nantmeal.

It's this little community just a little bit west of where we are right now. Police said they -- a woman saw Cavalcante crouched down on a road. Police investigated. They didn't find him, but they found footprints and ultimately they found his discarded prison shoes.

Then, a little less than two hours later, at 10.10 p.m. last night, Cavalcante entered an open garage, spotted a .22-caliber rifle sitting in a corner of that garage equipped with a scope and a flashlight. He went for it.

But, at that time, the resident of that home was actually in the garage at the time. The resident opened fire at Cavalcante. Cavalcante, though, was able to escape and took that rifle with him, thus now why police believe he is armed and extremely dangerous.

I want you to hear what Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens said about this new development and about how Pennsylvania State Police are thinking about Cavalcante after this new development. Take a listen.


BIVENS: He's killed two people previously. I would suspect that he's desperate enough to use that weapon. We have considered him dangerous right from the very start. It changes nothing.

We have always considered him to be a risk. We just now absolutely know that he has a weapon.


FREEMAN: Now, a few important details here.

Police do not have any reason to believe at this point that Cavalcante was injured in that brief shoot-out in that garage. The other thing that was brand-new that came out of this press conference is that Cavalcante, according to police, knows where he is in this area.

Initially, when we learned that he dropped off this stolen van in this East Nantmeal area, it seemed almost like a random location, but now police says he knows where he is and he has been in this area before.


And the last thing I will note is that Pennsylvania State Police, they were asked if anything has gone wrong during this investigation so far, the police saying, no, nothing has gone wrong. We have him contained. We believe he's still in this county, but, again, day 13, not captured yet, armed and dangerous -- back to you.

SCIUTTO: Nothing's gone wrong, but they lost him twice.

Danny Freeman in Chester County, thanks so much -- Brianna.

KEILAR: New video shows Kim Jong-un in Russia meeting with officials there, Washington issuing a new warning to North Korea ahead of Kim's expected meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Plus, time running out, as the United Auto Workers union and the Big Three automakers work to negotiate a contract. Almost 150,000 workers could strike Friday if there's no deal. We will speak to two union members about their demands ahead.

And Libyan officials say the death toll is climbing after torrential rains brought down two dams, while the number of people missing is believed to be an astonishing 10,000.

We will have a live update next on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



KEILAR: So, this is new video just in today. It shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Russia ahead of his expected meeting with Vladimir Putin.

And you can see Kim sitting with a senior Russian government official. This is coming after Kim's heavily armored train stopped at a Russian station just over the border from China. It is unclear when Kim and Putin will be holding this closely watched summit, but we do know what Putin wants from this meeting. He is looking for ammunition for his war in Ukraine.

Kim Jong-un wants everything from satellite missile technology to hard cash and food in return. U.S. officials deeply concerned that the two leaders could be striking an arms deal soon.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul with the latest on this.

Paula, do we know where Kim Jong-un is now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna as far as we know, he is still heading north. We don't have an exact location because we don't know for sure exactly where he will be meeting Vladimir Putin.

There are rumors and speculation that it could be a little further north than Vladivostok at a space launch center. This is an area called Vostochny. Now, we know that Vladimir Putin will be going to that area. He said so at his Eastern Economic Forum to state-run media, saying he had a personal agenda.

So, clearly, that could be where they are going to meet. But we still don't know exactly when. What we do know is that it will have a military focus. We have heard from the Kremlin spokesperson saying it's going to be a full-blown visit with talks between two delegations, which will touch upon -- quote -- "sensitive issues."

We do know from the Kremlin as well that the defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, will be part of that delegation. And we have already seen from footage with Kim Jong-un that his main military person, Ri Pyong-chol, who's effectively the leader of the missile program in North Korea, is with him as well. He is sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.N. So we know it will have a

military focus -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, earlier, this morning we heard Vladimir Putin speaking pretty glowingly of Russia's relationship with China. How does that relate to what we're seeing as a growing alliance between Russia and North Korea?

HANCOCKS: Yes, we did hear from Vladimir Putin.

He actually met with the China's -- China's vice premier on Tuesday. And he said -- quote -- "Relations between Russia and China in the sphere of economic cooperation have reached a very high level. Of course, this is all a derivative of what has been achieved in the political sphere," adding that "the results are more than good. They are excellent."

So there is definitely a closer relationship between Russia and China, the same we're seeing between Russia and North Korea. And what we heard from South Korean intelligence just last week was that they believe, when the Russian defense minister was in Pyongyang, they were talking about a trilateral military drill between Russia, North Korea and China -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Paula Hancocks live for us from Seoul, thank you for that report -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Today, we are seeing stunning and sad images out of Libya, catastrophic flooding now responsible for at least 2,000 deaths confirmed, while 10,000 people are reported missing.

We want you -- to warn you this next video is just disturbing. In it, you can see dozens of covered bodies on the ground, this on the grounds outside a morgue in the eastern city of Derna. Officials say they are being left there, those bodies, because the local morgues are now completely full.

Derna has seen the worst of the devastation from this flooding, 6,000 people reported missing in that city alone, hospitals completely out of service.

CNN's Ben Wedeman been following this.

Ben, I mean, the statistics of this are just staggering, thousands upon thousands dead and more missing. What are you hearing about rescue efforts? And do they have a real grasp of the extent of this?


In fact, the Facebook page of the Derna municipality has a very simple message at the top in Arabic. It says: "The situation in the city is out of control. International intervention is needed."

And what we heard from a spokesman for the Libyan National Army, which is the army that controls the eastern part of the country, is that they need help desperately and as quickly as possible. They need help to find bodies under the ruins, to find bodies at sea, and to just find anyone who might still be alive out there, that they simply don't have the capacity to deal with really what was a freak storm.


Basically, in the span of 24 hours, this area of Eastern Libya received the equivalent of eight months of normal rainfall. Now, there is help on the way. The Turks, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, have sent three planeloads of search-and-rescue personnel, as well as relief equipment.

From Tripoli and the other side of the country that's under the control of a different rival government, they have put aside their differences and sent a planeload of medical personnel to help. But one of the problems is that many of the roads into Derna have been washed out. So actually getting to the city is very, very difficult -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: How about other countries?

Are -- is Europe, is the international community reaching out now to see what they can do?

WEDEMAN: Italy is dispatching a team to assess the damage to determine what Italy can provide.

The United States ambassador to Libya, who's actually based in Tunis, has put out an official document, which is the beginning of the process that would allow the United States to send humanitarian aid as well. There's been lots of verbal messages of support, but not enough aid is reaching there at the moment.

Keep in mind, because of the divisions within Libya, basically, after the convulsions of the uprising that led to the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, since then, the country has been divided between two very mutually hostile governments that normally don't cooperate at all.

They're usually fighting one another. So that complicates all aid efforts immeasurably -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and the people in between, and they suffer.

Ben Wedeman, thanks so much for covering -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Down to the wire. In just a few days, we could see a possible strike against all three major U.S. automakers. So what are union workers demanding? We're going to speak directly with them next.

Stay with us.