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D.J. Diplo Describes His Trek Out of Burning Man Event in Nevada After Unexpected Rain Stranded Many Participants Due to Mud; WSJ Poll: Trump is Top Choice for 60 Percent of GOP Voters. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired September 04, 2023 - 08:00   ET



KERRY RAWSON, AUTHOR, "A SERIAL KILLER'S DAUGHTER": -- ongoing process of saying where we're going to land with both of them, and it's going to be a long-term event for both case and both families, and the victim families, unfortunately.

WALKER: And right now Heuermann has just now been charged with that case. But Kerri Rawson, thank you so much for speaking with us.

RAWSON: Thank you.

WALKER: And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning, everyone. Audie Cornish is back with me. And right now, we are waiting to find out if roads will finally reopen at the Burning Man festival where thousands of people are still stranded after heavy rains turned the desert into a mud pit. The famous D.J. and music performer Diplo managed to escape after walking for miles through the muck with comedian Chris Rock. He's going to join us live.

WALKER: Donald Trump widening his already huge lead over his GOP rivals in a new poll. It also shows that an overwhelming majority of Republican voters think that his actions after the 2020 election were legitimate.

MATTINGLY: And 385 people are still unaccounted for nearly a month after the catastrophic wildfire on Maui. We'll speak to the governor of Hawaii to get the very latest on the search effort. This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

It was a bit of an odd moment yesterday when Betsy Klein, our White House producer sent a pool note, she's in pool with President Biden and it was about the president getting an update on Burning Man, which was not something I ever expected to get from our White House team. And yet that's where we were.

WALKER: Especially since it was about rain in the desert.

MATTINGLY: Rain in the desert. Again, a lot of unexpected events, but just hours from now, maybe the end is near. Roads are about to reopen or could reopen at the Burning Man festival where tens of thousands of people are still stranded in the desert. Organizers say they'll be announcing the decision this morning.

Now, roads leading in and out of the festival have been shut down since Saturday after heavy rain turned the ground into ankle-deep mud. Officials say the thick muck made it virtually impossible for cars, buses, and RVs to leave. Some people walked for miles to get through the mud and get out. Here, you can see some vehicles that tried to leave but became hopelessly stuck.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So much water. We are flooded. We're going to be stuck here at least a couple of days. This is nuts.


WALKER: This is what people have been trudging through. For days now, festivalgoers have been hunkering down and told to conserve their food, water, and fuel. Camila Bernal is live near the festival. And Camila, let's just start with the latest on the situation.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Audie and Phil. Look, it's still muddy, it's still messy, and it's still pretty wet from what we can see in some areas. We're exactly at the main exit and entrance to the playa. This is what they call the eight-mile access to the playa, right. And so it's where the playa turns into the road. We've seen a couple of cars today trying to get out of here, even in the middle of the night.

And it's going to be difficult today. The shelter in place is still on. The thing is that if you're trying to get out, they will let you, but you are going to have a very difficult time. I want to show you what the vehicles of the Bureau of Land and Management look like. They have been in that mud, and they are completely covered in mud. The operation here is just getting started, because they're waiting for thousands and thousands to try to get out.

But the people that get out, their cars look like this. And the people that are trying to walk out have told me, look, it has taken me three hours. What they end up doing is that they get these plastic bags and wrap their shoes with duct tape, and they have told me that really is the only way that you can walk for miles and miles as you try to get out to make it to this road to the main exit.

Again, it's just difficult. People were not expecting so much rain, so much mud. But a lot of people that I've talked to have remained extremely positive. Look, they say they've had a great time at the festival. They say that they enjoyed their time here. And they're trying to make the best out of a very difficult situation. But officials are telling them, conserve food, conserve water, fuel, because if they do have to stay here for extra days, a lot of them do not have enough food or water for just a number of days that they had not planned for. That's really the concern for a lot of people.

They had been sharing. This is an event where people essentially feel free to self-express, to create art, to come together. So you're seeing those vibes, you're seeing that positivity. But officials here are saying just be careful, because still you may not be able to get out today. They're saying they're going to look again when the sun comes out, decide after they look at the mud and the conditions and how things improve or not. So in the meantime, we're just waiting for the sun to come up to see how things are going end to up going for today.


But so far, it's still looking muddy and it's still looking messy. So we do expect to see people coming out. The question is whether officials will give them that green light and make it official. Guys?

MATTINGLY: Yes, wait and see, hopeful vibes. Camila, great reporting. Thanks so much.

WALKER: That muddy mess couldn't stop Diplo making it to his next concert. The D.J. posted to his Instagram, saying that he walked six miles through the mud out of the desert before hitchhiking his way out of the festival to make sure that he made it to Washington, D.C., on time.




WALKER: And he was joined by Chris Rock in the back of a truck with a group of fans. Diplo made it to the airport walking barefoot on the tarmac and posted to his Instagram, quote, "No one would believe we would get to D.C. for the show tonight, but God did."

So joining us now is three-time Grammy award winner, Diplo. Welcome to the program.

DIPLO, MUSIC PRODUCER AND D.J.: Hi, how are you guys doing?

WALKER: Good. So were you barefoot in walking, duct tape in bags walking? What were we dealing with in terms of a plan to get out?

DIPLO: I tried the duct tape and walking, but I had some pretty good boots that had zippers instead of ties. And they worked pretty well. They were caked with mud, so they got pretty heavy. They were like three pounds each at one point, so I have some pretty strong leg muscles after that walk. But when you started to walk in the mud, you kind of realize you have to stay low to the ground, and it's very slippery. And if you don't walk on where it was chewed up from tire marks, it's pretty easy to move out of there.

WALKER: What was it like watching other people? I mean, was there a lot of dialogue in between tents? Were people actually debating, should we leave? Should we stay?

DIPLO: It was around Friday, I think, 11:00 p.m. I was having dinner in our camp, and our camp next door, Chris Rock was there, Cindy Crawford, Michael Keaton. There was a bunch of people who was there that were living in that camp. And they had the news that there's no chance they're leaving tonight because there's going to be even more rain forecast. And the main issue is getting a car out of there is really impossible when it's muddy, because you're going to get stuck, and if they have a lot of cars stuck on the playa, it's going to create huge traffic jams for the eventual exits of people.

So there was no information. We had to check the Burning Man Twitter, and I think at 10:00 a.m., we said, let's regroup and see if we can walk out of here. I said, that's the only way we can do it, if we can walk out. And we planned an excursion the next morning and I think we headed out, me and about 20 other people, and we just walked. And we didn't see many people on the road, and we just kept walking. They said the gate was closed. It's a general term for the gate. The gate was not allowing cars in because people come to Burning Man the last day for the burn. They love the Saturday and the Sunday, but there's no actual gate to open or close. It's just a matter of the mud ends and a paved road begins. And that paved road goes to Gerlach, Nevada, and we had walk to that paved road.

WALKER: Are you still in contact with people there?

DIPLO: Most of my friends did get out. A lot of the D.J. friends that I had were all asking me how did I do it, and I'd give them all advice. Ten of my friends that had work this weekend, because it's Labor Day weekend, of course, we have to work. We all made it out. A lot of my friends made it out. Some of them are still there in the camp, they're having a good time. They're waiting it out. The mud always dries up there. It's the middle of the desert. You don't expect rain, but if you have sunshine, it can dry up in four or five hours with direct sun. It's just been overcast the whole time, so it's been really hard to dry out.

MATTINGLY: The moment between deciding you were going to actually launch the excursion and the video that I think everybody in the country has seen, up to this point, including what seemingly random appearance of Chris Rock as you scrolled around the camera, which wasn't so random since he was in the camp next door, what was that like, those hours? Were you talking, what were you doing as you were making this trek towards finally getting picked up?

DIPLO: I mean, for sure, Chris is going to have a huge bit in his next special about Burning Man, because he was really -- bizarrely scared of what was going to happen. He thought there was going to be cannibalism a day later, and people were going to run into our camp and steal our stuff. But I said, look, man, people know what they're doing here. Everybody here is camping. They all have self-reliance. And we just said, I was surprised, he had his New York Knicks jacket on, and he just got up with us and started walking.

And we walked about three hours in the mud, and he was happy it was me. I think Cindy Crawford walked with us, Kaia Gerber, Austin Butler, Rande Gerber, a writer, a couple producers of TV, people that just wanted to get home to their children. And they didn't take "no" for an answer. We were just like, look, we can make it out. There is no one stopping us from walking. And it was a challenge, but honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip was just getting out there and enjoying the time out there and seeing the desert and walking through the mud and meeting fans. And some kid recognized me on the road and say, hey, I'll give you a ride for the next two miles, and we gladly took it.


And we had a good time in the back of the truck. We rode for about four miles into the city, and we sat at a bar for a while and hung out with people and found a ride to Reno. It was like the old times, just caravanning across the country.

WALKER: Anything for that kid, free tickets or some signed Diplo merch?

DIPLO: I got his number. He lives in Nevada, so he's going to come to some shows. His name was Tony (ph), he was awesome, really good guy. Then we found some hippies in the street that had a sprinter van, and we said, hey, we'll give you $1,000 and we'll Venmo you if you take us to the airport. And he had some beers, and we just got in the back. We just drove for three hours and listened to some Neil Young and just drank some beers.

And I somehow made it to the flight. And I made the show. I have no idea how it happened. But then went to my show in D.C. and had a great time and now I'm back in Nevada now, here in Las Vegas for a party. And yes, I'm glad I made it out.

But I think people at Burning Man, the organizers are very prepared. It doesn't rain often. It's the first time, I think, in history it rained during the festival. But it rains sometimes, and they're prepared for this kind of situation. I just think a lot of people that aren't navigating and camping and able to handle themselves might have been scared. But it wasn't that bad. There wasn't any Ebola breakout, like I saw the memes. There wasn't any cannibalism. Everybody was having a good time. People were making mud sculptures, huge sculptures out of mud and kind of continuing with their art. They might be there two extra days, but they had a great time.

MATTINGLY: Honestly, between a multi-hour walk with Chris Rock and then that car ride you described, sounds potentially better than what a normal Burning Man would have been. Diplo, we really appreciate the time. Glad you got out. Awesome you got to D.C. and then, I guess, back.

WALKER: Shout-out to Tony (ph).

MATTINGLY: We appreciate it man, thank you.

DIPLO: Bye, guys, thanks.

WALKER: So on to politics, because a new "Wall Street Journal" poll finds Donald Trump's big lead over his Republican opponents is actually getting better. And even more Republican voters say his actions after the 2020 election were legitimate. Harry Enten is here with this morning's number.




CORNISH: Donald Trump builds on his commanding lead in the GOP presidential primary. According to a new "Wall Street Journal" poll, the former president is pulling away from even his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Not even his four criminal indictments nor his decision to skip the first debate seem to be making much of a dent in Trump's support.

CNN senior data reporter joins us now.

So Harry, what is today's number?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: All right, so this morning's number is 46 points. That's how much Ron DeSantis now trails Donald Trump by in the Republican primary post-debate.

He was down just 24 points back in April, so DeSantis is going in the wrong direction. Of course, that's just the top line, the fact that Trump's ahead 59 percent to 13 percent.

It's underneath the hood, where I think the most trouble comes in for DeSantis. This is the very favorable view of Trump and DeSantis among Republican primary voters. Look in April, look how close they were: Trump at 53 percent in the very favorable view, DeSantis at 55 percent. DeSantis was actually slightly ahead by this metric.

Look where we are post-debate. Look at Donald Trump's very favorable view among Republican primary voters, 60 percent; DeSantis down to 32 percent. So the fact is, it's not just that Trump is getting better polling numbers, it's DeSantis is getting worse polling numbers.

CORNISH: Help me with the math here, does this mean some of those points went to any other candidates' is it really all Trump?

ENTEN: It really is a lot of Trump. But there is one candidate that Ron DeSantis is very worried about, his super PAC is especially worried about and that's Vivek Ramaswamy. And why? Why are they worried about Vivek Ramaswamy given that Trump is running so far ahead in this race?

Well, why don't you take a look here? This is an interesting question. second choice for the GOP nominee. You can see that DeSantis is ahead on this metric at 35 percent, but look who is second? It's Ramaswamy at 16 percent. So the idea of who is going to be the alternative to Trump, DeSantis folks believe it could be Ramaswamy.

And you know what? It's not just that Ramaswamy is the second choice of a lot of voters, it is also that the more Republican see of him, the more they seem to like him. Who's debate performance most exceeded your expectations? Look at

this, who came in at number one? It was Vivek Ramaswamy at 35 percent. Look how far down DeSantis was at just nine percent, guys.

CORNISH: All right, Harry, thanks so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, joining us now, Alyssa Farah Griffin, CNN political commentator and former Trump White House communications director and Jamal Simmons, former communications director for vice president Kamala Harris.

Guys, thank you for joining us.

Alyssa, I want to start with you, because I look at the numbers and I feel like I'm on a kind of hamster wheel at this point looking at the numbers every single month and coming to the same conclusion of A., the Republican primary is over and B., it seems like everybody to some degree is either trying to be the vice president or trying to just attack one another and not the guy who is winning by 40 points.


Listen, there is no historic evidence or example where another candidate has overcome such a significant lead, the lead that Donald Trump has had for some time.

And I think we're the springs from is a lot of consultants who are advising the -- let's call them tier two campaigns -- say, you've got to really wait for the right moment to go after Donald Trump because you can't risk alienating his base.

The problem is when he's thirty-five, forty points ahead of you, there is no way to make that up. And that --

CORNISH: And what would be the right moment?


GRIFFIN: Well, exactly. If it's not indictment one, two, three or four, I'm not really sure when the moment comes.

CORNISH: And not the debate stage.

GRIFFIN: And when you look at also his legal calendar, there is -- if you're banking on some kind of a conviction taking him out of the running, that's likely not going to happen ahead of July when we have the GOP convention.

I hate to say it, I think it's pretty much cooked at this way that Donald Trump is going to be the nominee barring something, some major external factor.

MATTINGLY: So what is it about the Ramaswamy kind of surge right now? Like, what's the genesis of it, I guess? A lot of people who aren't in kind of power politics aren't kind of living in the conservative media space, maybe haven't listened to him much don't understand, only see kind of little snippets of it.

GRIFFIN: You know, he had the benefit of kind of being Trump's proxy at the debate. He sounded like Trump, he carried himself that way. He was bombastic. He attacked people. He did the outsider thing. So it kind of makes sense that you'd see a surge after the debate.

He has also been working it. This guy is doing a lot of self-funding. He has spent a lot of time in New Hampshire and Iowa. He's a bit of a right wing media darling, but he's got a ceiling. There's also some polling that show that his numbers actually dropped after the debate.

I think for a lot of female voters, frankly, he was extremely off putting. I don't think that this is someone that's a serious candidate in a real way.

CORNISH: Hence, the numbers for Nikki Haley. We just passed over her, but obviously she was next in line after the debate.

GRIFFIN: Her number -- she did benefit.

MATTINGLY: The thing that I'm most interested in, kind of when you have this dynamic right now is there are a lot of Democrats who are anxious because they're Democrats. But my sense is that there's a lot going on underneath the hood, to some degree, both the Democratic National Committee with the Biden campaign, and maybe people understand.

You're connected to that world, worked inside the White House for a period of time. What are people missing right now? If they think that Trump is the opponent, either likely or almost certain to be, the Democrats should know in terms of what the operation is actually being set up to do?

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Listen, I think the first -- first of all, there's an assumption that this election is going to be about the economy and inflation, right? That was the argument the Republicans are going to try to make when they go into the election.

I think on the Democratic side, what we also know is this election is going to be about culture and it is going to be about democracy. And so the question is, are we going to have an America where everybody gets to participate? Where women get to be in charge of their own bodies? Where LGBTQ people are going to be treated fairly? Is that going to be an America that we're going to have?

And are we going to have in America where the rule of law actually matters, and we're not going to have revolts against the Congress when there's a problem with the election, or when people perceive a problem with the election?

So this idea of democracy and culture is going to go alongside the economy and inflation. And I think the president has got some cases to make about the economy, you know, 13.5 million jobs, inflation is on its way down, wages are on their way up.

So it is all starting to work.

CORNISH: Can we just hang in here for a second, but I think this message has not been landing the way that he would like, and then of course, we and others keep talking about his age. How much of defense is there against the age issue?

SIMMONS: Age is going to be a factor for people who care about age. I think the president has said himself, look at me watch, how I work. You can look at the record that we just started talking about.

And the question now is, everybody is focused on the Republicans. So we ask this question about, you know, how people are thinking about the Democrats. The Democrats have just started advertising, just started to talk about this.

We are a long way from a point where Democrat versus Republican, Biden versus Trump is going to be on the ballot. It's more than a year from now. So we've got a long time for the Democrats to make the argument.

GRIFFIN: One thing, if I may say that I get hung up on with kind of this argument of, you know, it is American democracy on the ballot, it's the future of American democracy versus Donald Trump. I think for a lot of voters, putting that kind of on the back of an 81-year-old man is really tough for people to stomach.

If you're saying the entire future of this Republic lies in the back of an 81-year-old man, when you're --

CORNISH: Is that you think they heard the midterm argument?

GRIFFIN: I think -- and I think it worked in the midterms. Democrats outperformed expectations, but I think it's a little bit harder when you're going into four more years.

CORNISH: Well, one other thing I want to add, because I do think it's relevant. Senator Mike Rounds actually spoke to our Dana Bash yesterday about Mitch McConnell whose health issues have obviously come to the fore. Here is what he had to say.


SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): He was in good shape. He was direct. He said, you know, he said, I had that concussion. And he said, They warned me that I would be lightheaded in the future and that I've got to be aware of it.

So it happened twice. He said, it just so happens, I'm doing it in front of reporters.

There is no doubt in my mind that he is perfectly capable of continuing on at this stage of the game.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CORNISH: Alyssa, I just want to bring this to you, because without

being macabre, these kinds of incidents definitely undermine a political argument that says your guy is unhealthy. Your guy is too old.

I think the public now is hearing a lot of stories of elderly members of this sort of lawmaking class who are struggling. So, what does this mean for that Republican argument about Biden's age?

GRIFFIN: Well, I think we have to have a national conversation about the sort of gerontocracy that runs Washington, DC and there is a way to talk about it that is not ageist, that's just being realistic about expectations of our elected leaders.


You know I think Mitch McConnell it's a legitimate conversation, as is Dianne Feinstein. You're representing the most populous state in the country, but you know, struggling to decide what you're voting on.

And by the way, just to Jamal's point, Donald Trump is 77. He is no -- or 78. He is no spring chicken either. So we're talking about, you know, people who are outliving the median age of most men in America, still in positions of extreme power and I think we need to address that.

SIMMONS: What worries me about the Mitch McConnell situation, again, thinking about the future of the country, and how little confidence people have in our institutions and in our politicians.

I just wish the McConnell people, God bless him, I hope he's okay, but I wish they would level with the American people about what's going on with him. Because I think when young people see this, they see somebody who has two episodes that don't just look being lightheaded, and all they say is something that's really kind of simple, like, oh, he's just lightheaded. Don't worry about it.

I think they ought to tell people what's going on. They'd get a lot of credibility from people to say, okay, he's struggling with something. Let's give him a chance. John Fetterman did that and people reacted very positively.

I think the Mitch McConnell people just take a lesson from Fetterman and tell us what's really happening with the senator.

CORNISH: All right, Jamal Simmons, thank you; and Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you.

SIMMONS: Happy Labor Day, guys.

MATTINGLY: Likewise.

SIMMONS: Union kid. I like that. Happy Labor Day.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, guys. Well, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy took a tour of the devastation left

behind by the historic wildfires in Hawaii. He is promising FEMA's funding will be replenished when Congress returns to the Hill this week.

Hawaii's governor, Josh Green joins us next. We're going to ask him for the latest update on the ground.

Stay with us.


CORNISH: Well, Speaker McCarthy led a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers to Hawaii over the weekend stressing the need to rebuild and touring the fire-ravaged community of Lahaina where 115 people were killed in the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than 100 years. Three hundred and eighty five people remain unaccounted for, according to the Maui Police Department and the FBI.

Joining us now is Hawaii Governor Josh Green. Governor, welcome to the program.

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): Thank you. Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: I want to get to lawmakers in a minute.

First, can you talk about the number of people who are unaccounted for? I think there was some reporting, expectations that that number could drop, but it really hasn't. So can you give us a sense of what's going on?

GREEN: Yes, I'd like to be really clear about this. So, while (ph) the number was 1,200 for some time, then dropped to 800, and then dropped to 385, the 385 represents what the FBI and the Red Cross and other lists have given us.