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CNN Tonight

Judge To Hold Hearing On Protective Order In January 6 Case Against Trump; Maui Death Toll Rises To At Least 53; New Details Revealed About Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's Lifestyle Bankrolled By Friends; SCOTUS Blocks $6 Billion Opioid Deal; Wife Of Imprisoned Putin Opponent Speaks Out. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 10, 2023 - 23:00   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This every and any little thing, and every big thing as well. Thank you for tonight.


COATES: Really important, Russell Moore. Thank you, everyone. And that's it for me, everyone. Sara Sidner in her lustrous, beautiful volume hair picks it up right now for CNN TONIGHT. Hey, sis.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Laura, you forgot to ask the one big question. What would Jesus do if he heard this conversation?

COATES: What would Jesus do? Man, I don't -- where is my bracelet? Sara Sidner, I took off the Apple watch, and then I forgot everything.

SIDNER: It's all good. See you soon.

COATES: See you later.

SIDNER: Good evening to you. I'm Sara Sidner, and this is CNN TONIGHT.

And we're bringing you "Tomorrow's News Tonight." At 10 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning, the judge presiding over former President Trump's election subversion case will hold a hearing on which rules will be imposed on the handling of evidence. And the special counsel is asking that the trial start on January 2nd, prompting an angry response from Trump on social media.

Also, tonight, a major move by the Supreme Court, which marks a victory for the Biden administration. The court blocking Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy settlement, which would have granted immunity to the wealthy Sackler family from opioid-related civil lawsuits. The high court will now take up the case itself. More on that coming up.

And utter catastrophe in Hawaii. The devastating wildfires scorching and destroying Maui, leaving at least 53 people dead now. Hawaii's governor addressing the catastrophe just a short time ago.


GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): What we've seen today has been catastrophic, but we tell you there is going to be a team effort to bring our state back. What we saw was likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii's state history.


SIDNER: The governor sent us this photo from his tour of the area, and I'll be talking to him about all of this tonight.

But we are going to begin with "Tomorrow's News Tonight." Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C., Judge Tanya Chutkan, the judge overseeing Trump's January 6th case, will hold a hearing on the scope of the protective order. That order will set the rules for the handling of evidence in this case.

Let's get right now to CNN's senior crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz, and former Trump White House lawyer, James Schultz. Thank you both for being here.

Katelyn, let's start with you. Former President Trump not required to be there at tomorrow's hearing, we understand, but what are you expecting to hear from the judge in this case?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, we're expecting to hear where the judge is going to stand on evidence handling. Right now, there's a legal dispute between prosecutors in this case and Donald Trump's team about what Donald Trump is able to talk about with other people or publicly as he's learning about evidence that the Justice Department has collected about him.

So, the Justice Department will give him evidence as part of what's called discovery as they prepare for trial and the Justice Department wants all of that to be locked down. They don't want him to be able to share any of it. They want an order from the judge over top of it.

Trump's team, they don't want it to be that broad. They want to only define certain things as sensitive that he can't talk about but have him have the ability to have what Trump says is free speech. Now, the Justice Department, they say that this is not about free speech, that he doesn't have a right to publicize things during or before his trial. And so, we're going to have to watch to see what the judge does here.

But Sara, taking a step back, there's a big, big question of the tone of what Judge Chutkan will have going forward tomorrow because both the Justice Department and Trump have been raising social media posts from one another. They have been making political barbs in their filings. And so, if Judge Chutkan is going to take a handle on this case and just look at it as the law, that's one way she could do it.

But there also is a situation where she is a judge who probably has been seeing many of these posts, including in the filings. And so, it's quite plausible that she also may have some things to say about the public commentary of this case that's happening outside of the courtroom. So, that's a big thing to watch for.

SIDNER: All right. Thank you for all of that, Katelyn. James, to you, we've all seen how many times Donald Trump has attacked anyone involved in a legal case against him, whether it be a judge, a prosecutor or one of the defendants. You know, this rule for a protective order, what are the chances in your mind that Donald Trump obeys an order that the judge puts in place?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Well, he's known to test the limits, right? That's what he does. So, I wouldn't expect anything different in this instance. I think there will be -- he'll be -- his lawyers will be held back into court probably on numerous occasions because he's going to want to exercise that -- what he calls a free speech, right, to -- to bang away in terms of, you know, attacking the prosecution, attacking their -- their case, and doing that all in the public domain.


No doubt about it. So, I do think that the judge is going to be very thoughtful about this. I do think she's going to be very strong with both sides on this and make sure -- and will want to make sure, first and foremost, that witnesses are protected, right? That the witnesses don't feel threatened, that witnesses don't feel intimidated, that none of that is going on. That's going to be in the forefront.

Also protecting the evidence, right? There's going to be things that were -- I imagine the defense is going to want the grand jury testimony in this. The prosecution is not going to want that to be public in any way shape or form. They are going to protect that sensitive information. And I think the judge is going to fall on the side of the prosecution in that -- on those issues.

The broadness of just asking that everything is going to be deemed sensitive and everything is going to be off limits, I don't think she'll go that far because you do have somebody running for president, but I do think she's going to want to protect the sensitive information and the witnesses first and foremost.

SIDNER: James, you talked about Donald Trump, you know, sort of pushing the limits. When a judge makes a ruling, there is a very clear limit, generally speaking. What if he doesn't comply? I mean, what happens then? I can't imagine. This is a former president. Is he going to be held in contempt? I mean, how does the judge deal with something like that if that's what happens?

SCHULTZ: Sure -- the judge can hold Donald Trump in contempt, surely, can sanction him. There's a lot of things that she has flexibility to do, and she will exercise it. She is a very strong judge, is going to set the tone very early in this, that she's in charge of this case and that Donald Trump is not in charge of this case. And I think she's going to do that very early.

And I also think she's going to be, you know, is going to take very seriously the prosecution's request to have a speedy trial on this. I think the prosecution has asked for a trial in early January. I don't know that it happens in early January.

But I do think the speedy trial provisions -- D.C. is known to be a rocket docket jurisdiction, meaning a very fast jurisdiction to get the trial. And I think you're going to see it here. I think we're going to have a winter trial date for sure coming out of this hearing tomorrow.

SIDNER: I want to go back to you now, Katelyn. The special counsel, as you just -- we just talked about and I just heard from James, we're talking about January 2nd, starting this trial, that's what the special counsel has asked for, 2024, I mean, what is the judge saying at this point? What else is being said about this because that is a very fast date?

POLANTZ: Yeah. So, the judge hasn't weighed in on the trial date proposal from the Justice Department yet, and she won't. We don't expect her to tomorrow because the Trump team still has some time before they can respond and make their asks for a trial date.

However, we have heard her talk about timing before just in the little orders she has put in the docket in that she has moved things along very quickly to get to this hearing that we're having tomorrow about the evidence. And that hearing is not a standalone hearing about evidence handling a protective order. It's a hearing that sort of works back in time from the trial date.

They have to have some sort of order governing the evidence in this case before the Justice Department can give it to Trump's team so everybody can get moving towards the trial. And so, the sooner they get that done, the quicker they can set the trial date.

And so, they got to get at something set tomorrow, and Judge Chutkan was not letting this drag out. She really wanted to have this hearing this week. Trump's team even tried to put it off until next week. That's not going to be the case.

And so, we're going to watch tomorrow to see how quickly things will get moving, particularly with this first order that just sets up the framework of everybody's next steps to get evidence, look at it, prepare for trial.

SIDNER: Now, to you, James, I mean, you hear this date, January 2nd, and by many people's estimation, many attorneys I've also spoken with, that is a very fast turnaround for the defendant. Is there any realistic chance that the special prosecutor's request for the January 2nd date, that the judge actually goes for that?

SCHULTZ: I -- like I said earlier, I think we end up with a winter trial date. I don't think it's early January, but I do think she's going to put them on a strict motion schedule. I mean, the motion schedule you saw there was -- proposed motion schedule was early November. I think you're going to see motions in December, January, and then probably a trial date sometime in February. But there are -- this is going to be a motion intensive matter. I think there are going to be a number of issues that the defense is going to raise. In terms of the grand jury, they are going to make sure that was appropriately. If they have an argument there, they're going to make that argument. They're going to want to -- they're going to address the First Amendment issue. I know we've heard a lot about that. That's something they're going to raise. I'm not sure it's a real strong -- real strong motion for them, but nonetheless going to raise it.

I'm sure there's going to be privilege issues that are raised again because just because they were addressed at the grand jury level does not mean that that carries over into this case. So, I think you're going to see some of that. That's all going to take a lot of time, and this judge is probably going to write on those issues.


SIDNER: James, Katelyn, thank you so much for your insight on this. And we will be sticking with you and coming back to you when we get more information. Appreciate you both.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

SIDNER: Now, I want to bring in Nick Akerman, the former assistant special Watergate prosecutor. He has an opinion piece in "The New York Times" arguing against televising Donald Trump's upcoming trials.

Nick, thank you for being here. You say in your piece, and here's the line that really struck me, it is one thing to testify in a public courtroom; it is a whole different level of public exposure to testify before the entire world on television. A witness who is named and pictured on television becomes a sitting duck any Trump partisan intent on seeking retribution.

It sounds like you are comparing these possible cases to what someone might say would happen in a mob trial. Is that what you're intending here?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. This is exactly the same danger that witnesses I had in mob trials experienced. And this is even worse because if this is televised all over the world, look what just happened in Provo, Idaho (ph) with one individual who was targeting Joe Biden, targeting the D.A. in Manhattan, and others.

And then you also have that incident right after the search warrant was executed on Mar-a-Lago where an individual, a Trump partisan, went out to Cincinnati to the FBI field office to try to shoot people in the FBI office.

So, this is a very real problem. And putting this trial on with witnesses who are broadcast all over the world is going to create problems. I mean, you even saw what happened with the January 6th Committee. Cassidy Hutchinson testified, but afterwards, she had to go into hiding and had security.

And there's only so much the government can do in protecting people. There's a witness protection program, but you can't put everybody in that program and there's no way you can guard against every crazy nut out there that might try and do something.

SIDNER: Look, no other people would have lived their lives that way. Nick, I do want to talk to you about, you know, the public's right to see this, to know about this. This is a defendant like we really have never had before in our country's history. Not only was he the president, but he is the leading GOP presidential candidate and he was a former reality TV showman. I mean, is your argument really against televising the trial or live streaming it because of who is on trial?

AKERMAN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this makes all the difference in the world. It's not just a danger to the witnesses, but let's face it, there's one thing that Donald Trump excels at, and that is reality T.V. And if there's any way that he can use this trial to appeal to his partisans, to put a monkey wrench into the trial by virtue of appealing to the wider television audience, he's going to do it. And that is just not a good thing for our justice system.

What we really need in terms of transparency is the press and the media doing a much better job of covering this trial and having people sit through that trial, understand trial practice, understand techniques and are able to report on that on a regular basis using the transcripts that can be brought forward on a daily basis.

SIDNER: All right. Well, I'll tell you what happened when I covered one of these trials. It wasn't Donald Trump, it was the Oath Keepers, and I sat there for the whole six weeks, is that every day, you got the evidence sort of brought down to the reporters at the end of each day, and so we were able to report it out being both in court and (INAUDIBLE).

And so, we'll have to see what the judge does and how the DOJ responds to all of this. But there is a lot of interest and a lot of people who want to be able to watch this gavel to gavel. It is not likely to happen.

Nick Akerman, thank you so much for your arguments there.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

SIDNER: Up next, we'll turn our attention to the devastation in Maui. The catastrophic wildfires killing at least 53 people, and the toll, we heard just from the governor, is expected to rise. We'll hear from Governor Josh Green, who has toured now some of the hardest hit places and survivors of all of that devastation, next.




SIDNER: We are following staggering wildfires in Maui. CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir and his photographer, Evelio Contreras, is on the ground now there. And you are looking at those images. We are getting this in. I am watching them with you as we see them from their vantage point there in Maui, in Lahaina. You look at this devastation. Row after row after row of homes and businesses charred.

You are looking now at their drone shot there in Lahaina, just looking off the water, and all you can see for a very long way is burnt-out buildings. Those are businesses there. This drone video gives you just a really big perspective of what people are going through and why authorities are telling people to try to stay away from this particular area. Although Maui is, by the way, still functioning, still open, it's just that the area of Lahaina or greater Lahaina is not.

The death toll, we have learned tonight, has climbed to at least 53 people. But there are still people missing. So, officials are warning the number of deaths will likely grow. The number of unaccounted for people at this point is 1,000.

Let's get an update from Hawaii's governor, Josh Green, now. Governor, the last time we talked, you were racing back to your home state.


You not only, of course, are the governor of Hawaii, you're a resident there. What is it that struck you first when you finally saw the destruction there in Lahaina?

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI) (via telephone): Well, it does definitely appear that a bomb went off. That's the feeling. Of course, it was a fire, fire that was spread by gale-force winds. They're about 80 mile- per-hour winds on the backside of Hurricane Dora, which just passed Hawaii.

We've never seen devastation like this before. Our heart goes out to so many families. We have confirmed 53 of our people have passed, and we know that number will rise. Our greatest tragedy in the past during statehood since 1959 was the loss of life of 61 people in 1960. So, it's devastating. Lahaina has essentially been burned to the ground.


GREEN (voice-over): And I walked the entirety of Front Street in Lahaina with our mayor, Mayor Bissen, and Senator Brian Schatz, a dear friend. It was quite shocking. I'm an emergency room physician, otherwise. I've seen a lot of injuries and tragedies in my life, but I've never seen devastation that extensive up close in the state.

SIDNER: Sir, I am so sorry. And we are looking at some of these aerial pictures of just every single building and home, one after the other, burnt to the ground. How many people are still unaccounted for at this time because you said that there are quite a few people that you're not sure where they are?

GREEN (via telephone): Yes. So, one of the challenges is that telecommunications have been very limited because of the extreme heat, the destruction of the fibers, and there's no internet access or telephone access right now, power is down.

SIDNER: Hmm. GREEN (via telephone): So, it's difficult to know. For example, one of our shelters has 1,100 people with some people who have suffered minor burns, others who are just displaced from their homes.

The reason we can't let people go into Lahaina quite yet to get back to their residences or into the area is because we have to respect those who have passed and the police will begin to do search and rescue with experts to find any other fatalities that have occurred in the area. So, we're asking people to be patient.

We are expecting many more buildings to be ultimately described as destroyed. One of the initial councils has 271 buildings. I believe there's pretty clear indication that that number is going to be over a thousand of houses and businesses.

The good news is we had -- after my arrival, we were able to, in about 25 minutes, make the request to the federal administration for support. And within six hours, President Biden was very generous with us and approved a presidential disaster declaration, which means we'll have a lot of resources now coming to the people of Hawaii, those who have lost homes or loved ones.

So, it's all hand on deck, whether it's federal, state or county. But I would expect that about 1,000 individuals are gradually going to be accounted for, meaning that we're going to find them and reunite them with their families. But there will be additional fatalities in some of those homes.

SIDNER: That is really hard to hear, frankly hard to watch. This is really paradise for even the people that live there and those who come to visit. I know tourism is about 80% of the economy there in Maui.

I do want to ask you what you think, how long you think people will have to be in shelter? How long it's going to take for you to deal with this large scale of a disaster?

GREEN (via telephone): That's a very good and complicated question. One reality is 11,000 individuals are without power right now. So, a lot of those individuals are going to get their power over time, and some of them will seek extra shelter. The mayor has done an excellent job setting up shelters and getting that available for people.

But permanent housing or more permanent housing is going to take time. We just announced that we're going to be initially pursuing at least 2,000 hotel units or other residences to put people in.

SIDNER: Governor Josh Green, thank you so much for sharing what you saw today, what you experienced today, and what you will be experiencing and the residents there for many years to come. I appreciate you coming on.

GREEN: You bet. Thank you very much. Aloha.

SIDNER: Aloha. Up next, a new report on the extent of Justice Clarence Thomas's luxurious and expensive travel, which has been bankrolled by several of his billionaire friends. And in a major move, the high court blocking the $6 billion opioid settlement that would have given the wealthy Sackler family immunity from civil lawsuits.


The panel joins me next to talk about both of these important stories.


SIDNER: We're getting more details tonight about the luxurious life tie -- lifestyle, excuse me, of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The details coming from a ProPublica piece that shows at least 38 destination vocations, numerous flights on private planes, skybox tickets to sporting events, stays at luxury resorts, and a standing invitation to play at a high-end private golf club in Florida.

According to ProPublica, Thomas isn't paying for any of it and it all comes from these four billionaires.


ProPublica estimates the value of all these gifts amounts to millions of dollars.

Let's discuss this with Jessica Washington, a senior reporter at "The Root," Jason Osborne, a Republican strategist, Joey Jackson, a CNN legal analyst, and Jay Michaelson, a columnist for "The Rolling Stone" and a rabbi. We always leave that out. It's an important piece.


SIDNER: It's an important piece. All right. Jay, I'm going to start with you. ProPublica has not identified any legal case that has come before the court that Justice Thomas has had to, you know, make decision on. But when you look at this, should these be things that are gifts that the public knows about? Because there's another part of this, and that is optics.

MICHAELSON: Sure. I mean, it is a crime that none of this is criminal. This is outrageous. But the real fault does lie with the Supreme Court, which has no rules governing a lot of this behavior other than disclosure rules, which Justice Thomas did violate. But you can be a junior civil servant, and you can't accept any of these gifts.

I clerked for a while for then-Judge Merrick Garland. He got a small, like a picture from somebody, and he immediately reported it and kind of freaked out a little bit that he didn't want to have any appearance of impropriety. And this -- again, I don't think -- we don't know if there's a quid pro quo here where there was a particular case where Thomas ruled a certain way.

Parenthetically, if the January 6th cases do go to the Supreme Court around Trump, that would certainly, I would think, be grounds for recusal. But here, we don't have that smoking gun. But I don't think we need that smoking gun.

With every other court in the country, there is a responsibility to avoid the appearance of impropriety. And the fact that the Supreme Court has no rules to govern itself, that's what's just inconceivable.

SIDNER: Yeah. A lot of people have a hard time wrapping their heads around it because of the rules for other federal judges and other judges and prosecutors.

Jason, today, 2024 presidential hopeful and governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, weighed in on this reporting about Justice Thomas. Here's what he had to say.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Clearly, there's a concerted effort to try to demonize Justices Thomas and Alito in particular. You know, some of these liberal like Ginsburg, she used to do different things.

So, if we want come together and say, okay, maybe there should be these rules and everyone get on the same page, that's fine, but this is being used, I think, to attack Clarence, I think it's being used to attack Justice Alito, and those are two justices that have served with honor and with integrity.


SIDNER: Is it basically a good political move right now for any of these GOP candidates to stand by Justice Thomas, no matter what it is that's sort of coming out?

JASON OSBORNE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, absolutely. I mean, whether I agree with this or not. I mean, the facts of the case on this. But for Governor DeSantis to come out and support Justice Thomas and Justice Alito, two figureheads of the movement, conservative movement, for years on this, I think he has to. Standing by and saying nothing on it just lets, you know, the continued politics of personal destruction move ahead, right?

And I do think there is something to be said about the fact that there is a lot of stories about Justice Thomas that have come out over the last several months. And I'm not saying that what he has done is right, but optically, at least from a base perspective, a conservative Republican base perspective, it seems that it is very focused just on him and now Justice Alito as well.

SIDNER: Jessica, I'm curious from you. Look, Clarence Thomas, like the other justices, has a lifetime job. I don't know anyone else in the country that has a job that is for a lifetime. When you decide to leave, you go, and that's a decision that you make. But otherwise, he makes somewhere around $300,000 a year, which is publicly out there.

So, what are your thoughts on how people are responding to this and how this might affect the electorate when you consider all of this? Plus, you see all this money, hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts, in flights, in vacations being handed to this justice. JESSICA WASHINGTON, SENIOR REPORTER, THE ROOT: Yeah, I think people have been continuously losing faith in the courts, and some of it has been some of their decisions. But I also think you look at this and the average person says, his entire life, it appears, has been bankrolled by these billionaires. And I think that the average person sees that and they say, you are supposed to be this paragon of virtue.

That's we think about the Supreme Court or what we hope them to be. They decide on the most important issues of our time, ethical, political, moral. And to see them taking all this money and not disclosing it, according to ProPublica's reporting, I do think people find that disturbing.

SIDNER: All right. Joey Jackson, I'm not making you talk about this. I am moving on to another really big issue that happened today, the Purdue case, where you have all this Oxycontin that went out into the public. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, were addicted and then died from it. What has happened is the bankruptcy settlement has been blocked. And now, the Supreme Court is going to look at this.


What do you make of this? A lot of people are upset that no one ever went to jail for this.


SIDNER: But there was a settlement that they came to at some point.

JACKSON: And a very big settlement, Sara, right? It was very significant, in the area of $6 billion, and it was approved by a judge. The rub in it was this: Whenever lawyers settle in litigation, you want the settlement to be final. You want, when you make a payout, for that to be it, for you to control the balance of your life to ensure that in the future, no one comes after you.

So now, the family, I guess, what do they have? $12 billion? They said, this is what we're going to do. On behalf of the company, we're going to put up $6 billion. We are going to take it through bankruptcy courts as they do with this -- what they call mass tort, mass litigation, right? And, of course, this was a major issue. So many people dying as a result of this opioid crisis, etc.

So now, you have this settlement, significant settlement. But here's the rub: While the company is on the hook for $6 billion, the immunity, and it is really protection from legal liability, would go to the individuals in the family. And to the extent that they're not bankrupt, why should they get the benefit, right, of the bankruptcy protection?

And so, there's the issue where if you're not bankrupt, well, why are we going to bankruptcy court to immunize you from any future liability? So, the issue really centers around, from a legal perspective, whether you can do that. And the outcome of that is going to be very significant for them and for other cases, Sara, moving forward. SIDNER: Always in the Supreme Court rules it has a much bigger footprint as to how it affects other cases. Jay, you know, the Sackler family withdrew billions of dollars before this happened. I mean, how the settlement even goes forward when you -- when you know that that's still on the table? They not completely broke.

MICHAELSON: No, not at all. And I think what's troubling, you know, maybe about this aspect of the settlement is we also don't know what possible misconduct they may have engaged in. You know, if you sit on the board of an organization or of a company, you know, you have certain limitations on your liability. That's why the corporate forum exists. But not for certain activities. You know, fraud, negligence and so forth. But this blanket immunity, you know, covered all of that.

And, you know, we pierce the corporate veil, as lawyers like to say, all the time when necessary. I think about the Supreme Court case of Hobby Lobby where the religious beliefs of the closely held -- you know, the family that held this closely held company were imputed to the company. So now, Hobby Lobby itself had religious beliefs.

Whereas here, it's sort of the opposite of piercing the corporate veil. Now, we're sort of putting all the liability on the company, which is doing all this paying out and not checking to see -- not allowing possible litigation against individual members of the Sackler family.

And I think it is a very complicated -- as Joey just said, it's a pretty complicated legal case, but sort of ethically and morally, the fact that we know that this family had control of this corporation, it was basically a family company, and to just blanket immunize these folks.

I will point out, you know, the victims, the organizations representing the victims of the Sacklers, actually oppose this step because they want to get the money.

SIDNER: Right.

MICHAELSON: Right? Just as Joey said. And this will delay their getting their compensation. But I think you pointed to, you know, this real sense of injustice when the extremely wealthy family that controlled this corporation seems to be also getting off scot-free.

SIDNER: I want to thank you all for being on this panel, even though I was the only "S" in a whole sea of J's.


I love to see your faces on the show.

JACKSON: But that stands for special.

SIDNER: Oh, thank you, Joey.


SIDNER: Joey is just great. Just ahead, the wife of an imprisoned opponent of Vladimir Putin speaking out to me tonight. Her husband spoke out live on my show, and then hours later was thrown in jail in Russia and sentenced to a very long prison term. It's an important interview. That is coming up, next.




SIDNER: The White House is pushing back on a recent CNN poll that shows declining support for the war in Ukraine. But my next guests say support and attention to the war is needed now more than ever, as well as attention on Putin's regime.

Joining me now is Evgenia Kara-Murza. She is the wife of imprisoned Russian opposition politician, Vladimir Karamurza, who spoke out live on my show and was jailed in Russia hours later.

Also, with me is Yonah Diamond. He is an international human rights lawyer, the creator of the "Price of Conviction" podcast, and part of Vladimir's advocacy team. Thank you both so much for joining us tonight.



SIDNER: I'm going to start with you, Evgenia. You know, as I just mentioned, your husband, Vladimir, was on my show back in April of 2022, and he was being very outspoken about what he thought of the Putin regime and the war in particular.

And then he was jailed hours later. He'd already been poisoned twice. He's since been convicted by the Russian courts and sentenced to 25 years in prison. I know he is appealing, but how is he doing now, both mentally and physically?

KARA-MURZA: Well, thank you very much for paying attention to Vladimir's case, Sara, and thank you very much for shedding light on the situation in Russia in general. Well, Vladimir's appeal actually was rejected just a few days ago. So, the court left the sentence unchanged, the sentence of 25 years of strict regime.

So now, the next step is the transfer to the strict regime penal colony. We don't know when it's going to happen because, of course, uh, in today's Russia, we're not dealing with a normal legal system. We're not dealing with, uh, independent courts.

[23:45:00] So, um, there is no, um -- there is no knowing beforehand what might happen and what to expect. He might be transferred tomorrow or in three months. We only know that this transfer is a very dangerous period in the life of any prisoner, especially political prisoner, in the Russian Federation today because the authorities very often lose prisoners during transfer.

SIDNER: Evgenia, when you say that they could be lost, and if then they do make it to these penal colonies, are you worried that your husband may not make it through his imprisonment and through this transfer?

KARA-MURZA: Absolutely, as is the case for any political prisoner in the Russian Federation today. Basically, the regime is currently using all measures, all repressive measures that were used in the Soviet Union against anti-war protesters. And these measures, beside those Stalin-era prison terms that go up to 25 years for so-called high treason, these measures also include extreme violence, physical violence, sexual violence, denial of medical care, punitive psychiatry, you name it.

SIDNER: Evgenia, you are describing torture on many different levels, both physically and psychologically. I think a lot of people are extremely disturbed to hear that that's how things go, although we have seen this in other cases as well in Russia in particular.

Yonah, I do want to go to what Vladimir told me during our interview. Let's listen to a little bit of the interview we did in 2022 before he was jailed.


VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, POLITICAL ACTIVIST, IMPRISONED RUSSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN: This regime that is in power in our country today, it's not just corrupt, it's not just kleptocratic, it's not just authoritarian. It is a regime of murderers. It is important to say it out loud.

It is -- it is -- it is really tragic, frankly, I have no other word for this, that it took a large-scale war in the middle of Europe, which Vladimir Putin is now conducting against Ukraine, for most western leaders to finally open their eyes to the true nature of this regime.


SIDNER: Why is it that those words scare Vladimir Putin to the point where he would jail this person who is simply saying what he thinks about the regime?

DIAMOND: Thanks, Sara. Those are the exact same things that Evgenia cited as the evidence that was used against Vladimir, pointing out the culture of corruption and criminality and impunity that are the root causes of this war. That is -- we would not have a war in Ukraine. We wouldn't have untold destruction on our environment, on global food shortages. We wouldn't have Putin sending tens of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians to death if it weren't for his regime and their decisions.

And so, Vladimir brings this into direct focus, and this is exactly what Vladimir has dedicated his life to standing up against, to holding the Putin regime accountable and to laying the groundwork for democracy in Russia.

SIDNER: I want to talk a little bit about what is happening in Russia and what has happened during the time that Vladimir Kara-Murza has been imprisoned.

You've had Yevgeny Prigozhin actually try and use his own military to stage a failed coup, if you will, when it comes to marching its way into Moscow. They didn't go all the way, but there was a plan to do so. And yet, he's walking around free and still able to do some of the things he does, and he has a whole army that he commands in the mercenaries that he commands, the Wagner mercenaries.

Why is it that someone like Vladimir Kara-Murza is imprisoned and being put in this position and not someone who actually went forward and became what looked like and at first was called an enemy of the state in Russia? I'll start with you, Evgenia.

KARA-MURZA: I see the situation as a very simple one. Yevgeny Prigozhin is part of the system. And as part of the system, he does not really represent any danger to the system itself, to the regime in the Kremlin, because he's driven by the same interests that Vladimir Putin and his close circle, whoever supports him, are driven by, the same interests. And these interests contradict the interests of those people who, like my husband, speak against the regime and speak against the war.


And those people -- those people represent a much bigger threat, existential threat to the regime, because they denounce the crimes of the regime, they question its policies, they condemn its policies, they do it publicly, and they show to the Russian population that Russia can be different. It can be a democracy. It can be a country that will not be a threat to itself and its neighbors.

SIDNER: Evgenia, Yonah, thank you so much. And we'll be right back.


SIDNER: We're following, of course, the wildfire disaster in Hawaii that has now killed at least 53 people.


The death toll is expected to climb. The governor is estimating that upwards of 1,700 buildings have been destroyed and the historic town of Lahaina has been virtually wiped out. Officials say thousands of people have been displaced.

For ways that you can help the people impacted by the Hawaii fires, you can go to Thank you so much for watching. Our coverage continues ahead.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight on "360," trying times fast and slow today with Jack Smith pitching aggressively quick election interference trial, and we get more evidence of defense foot dragging in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.