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Erin Burnett Outfront

First Hearing Before Judge In Trump January 6 Case Hours Away; Maui Braces For More Deaths, Some People Unaccounted For; Iowa GOP Voters Weigh 2024 Candidates, See Conspiracy Theories; ProPublica Reveals New Gifts To Justice Thomas From Billionaires; Outrage Grows In China After Areas Flooded To Save Beijing. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 10, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump's legal team just hours away from facing the judge in the January 6th case in court for the first time. This as the special counsel Jack Smith wants to start Trump's trial January 2nd.

And the death toll rising in Maui as search and rescue operations are frantically underway. I'm going to speak to a woman who narrowly escaped a wall of flames. Her incredible story.

Plus, all the Republican presidential candidates heading to Iowa, our John King just returned from there, talking to voters, and he will be at the magic wall tonight for us.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, face-to-face, Trump's team set to meet Judge Tanya Chutkan in the courtroom hours from now. Chutkan is the judge overseeing the January 6th case, and their meeting comes as the clock is ticking. Trump now on notice to reply to Jack Smith's formal request for the trial in the January 6th case to begin, January 2nd, 2024.

That would put the DOJ case to hold Trump to account for trying to overturn the election ahead of all but one case that Trump currently faces. Only the civil case in New York alleging fraud is scheduled to start sooner. It is a bold move by the DOJ, and Trump personally tonight responding moments ago referring again to, quote, deranged Jack Smith, adding, quote, only an out of touch lunatic would ask for such a date, one day into the new year. Trump adding the trial should, quote, only happen, if at all, all caps, after the election.

It was part of an invective Trump lobbied today in social media post, referring to, quote, fake indictments, saying prosecutors are trying to, quote, rig and steal another election. Now, Trump's lawyers no doubt don't want their client posting his usual screed of venomous accusations and threats, but they will almost certainly file a request for a much later trial date after the election, as he indicates. Well, that's what they did in the Mar-a-Lago case where team Trump, again, appeared to be dragging their feet.

In Florida, Trump's co-defendants in the Mar-a-Lago case, Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira appeared in court. Now, Nauta pleading not guilty, but de Oliveira causing a delay, receiving a postponement because he still hasn't gotten a Florida-based lawyer.

But even with the constant drumbeat of delays and hearings, the wheels of justice are turning. In Michigan tonight, all of the 16 people charged in the fake elector scheme have now pleaded not guilty. They each face eight felony charges including multiple counts of forgery, which I want to note are each punishable by 14 years in prison in Michigan.

And in Atlanta, the courthouse tonight under tight security with blocked off streets as all eyes remain on district attorney Fani Willis, who is expected to issue more than a dozen indictments there including possibly another set of criminal charges for the former President Trump.

Let's start with Katelyn Polantz tonight in Washington with all these developments.

So, Katelyn, prosecutors have come out and they filed, they want a January 2nd start date for Trump's election interference case, as early as obviously the first day of the New Year you could have a case begin. Trump, of course, railing against that on social media. When do you expect his attorneys, though, to officially respond?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, they're going to have to by next Thursday, so one week from today, Trump's lawyers will come into court and they'll lay out the schedule that they want. As you said, quite plausibly, they would be asking for after the election. Now, whether the judge would want to do that, that seems pretty unlikely. This judge has indicated she wants to move things along in this case.

But what the prosecutors are asking for here, it's not just a January 2nd start date of the trial itself, they actually want jury selection to begin just four months from now in December before the holidays, so a jury can be seated and then the trial can kick off right after the New Year.

So that's a pretty aggressive time line, and the prosecutors say they want that because it's of public importance that this deserves a prompt resolution. He's running for president, and this is about a former president conspiring to overturn the legitimate results of the presidential election. Trump's team, they have their own arguments that they'll make, things about presidential immunity, First Amendment, those will come later.

Tomorrow, there is a hearing in this case, Erin. It's not going to be about this. That's going to have to wait for the next hearing very likely. What tomorrow is going to be about whenever these parties do go before Judge Tanya Chutkan in D.C. for the very first time.

[19:05:03] It's going to be about evidence handling, how much Donald Trump can speak publicly about what he's learning that the Justice Department has in their evidence before trial. We're also watching to see how the judge responds, not just to the legal arguments they're making and what terms she sets there on the edge, but also if she responds to any of these social media posts Trump has been making that are quite aggressive about both her and the Justice Department prosecutors and others in this case, Mike Pence, and also if she might be commenting on how many TV appearances that his lawyer has made, John Lauro, he's been on TV multiple times, and the prosecutors have raised that as well.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Katelyn.

Let's go now to Ryan Goodman, former special counsel at the Department of Defense. Jocelyn Benson, she is the Democratic Michigan secretary of state. She was interviewed by prosecutors in the federal election probe as well. And also with us, George Conway, the conservative lawyer.

So thanks very much to all of you.

Ryan, you're with me. January 2nd, is that just sort of a starting point on the negotiation?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think it's a starting point, and that the judge will probably accommodate the defendant in this case in terms of trying to set a time that's probably a bit later. It does look like President Trump is his lawyers will ask for it to be after the election.

BURNETT: Right. And certainly he asked tonight, not formally, but he put it out there, yeah.

GOODMAN: Yeah, that's what they did in Florida, they said the same thing, so you would assume they'd say the same thing here. Maybe it gets pushed back a month or two but it seems that it will start at the beginning of the year.

BURNETT: All right. So, Secretary Benson, you were interviewed by federal prosecutors in this case. There's actually a whole section in the indictment about Trump's attempts to subvert the election in Michigan, right? It details an entire scheme in Detroit. Obviously, secretary of state there, and you're also an attorney yourself.

Do you think that this case, that the January 6th case for the DOJ can get to trial this quickly?

JOCELYN BENSON, MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: I do. I mean, what I've seen and experienced over the last several years in working both with the January 6th congressional committee and speaking with the prosecutors is that this has been a very meticulous, in some cases, slow-moving process to ensure all I's are dotted, all T's are crossed, all facts are gathered, every person who has been spoken to is interviewed. And so, in my sense, the work is done and it's long past time really

to see justice for what occurred and what will have occurred, you know, three years prior, four years prior in some circumstances with the lead up to 2020. So I think that we're all ready to go, and certainly the defense should be as well by January, which is, you know, by the way, still five or six months -- five months from now.

BURNETT: It's a fair point, and also what you say, another fair point about the frustration that many shares. This is years in the past. Why did it take so long putting us in the middle of an election season and giving us a narrative, George, that it could interfere with an election season, right?

When you look at this, Trump is saying -- looking at January 2nd, that would be two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. So he's on social media tonight saying only an out of touch lunatic would ask for such a date one day into the New Year, and maximum election interference in Iowa.

Now, again, putting aside the petty invectitude, does he have a point about Iowa and then New Hampshire, George? I mean, this would take him off the campaign trail.

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well, that's his problem and not the court's, and not the Justice Department's and not the public's. And the fact of the matter is if he's so confident that he's so far ahead -- and I think he is far ahead -- I don't see why he needs to campaign that much. He can save his money, save his energy and work on defending himself.

If he truly believed that he were innocent, he'd want this trial as soon as possible. In fact, it's a standard rule in litigation that the party who thinks it's going to win -- that thinks it's going to win wants a faster trial, and the party that thinks it's going to lose wants a slower trial, and Donald Trump's going to ask for something in 2025, and I don't think the court's going to buy that.

I agree that -- with Ryan that January 2024 is aggressive. It's like bidding for a house. You come in with a low bid. The other side's going to come in with a sky high bid --


CONWAY: -- and she'll probably do something in between, probably early next year or definitely no later than this summer.

BURNETT: All right. Which, of course, now, those times, though, are very different in terms of the electoral cycle, the primary process as we all know.

But, Ryan, let's turn to Michigan, since Secretary Benson is with us and the fake elector scheme there. So, you obviously got them all pleading not guilty at this point. So, these are serious felony charges, right? Forgery is 14 years. And there's multiple counts of forgery in each case.

But all the defendants there are locals, many of them older, 60s, 70s, 80s. So, these are older individuals. These would possibly be life sentences if they were to get them. But the reason I bring this up is there's no Trump campaign officials. The Trump lawyers who are so visible in the indictment as the co-conspirators, who are obviously going to very likely be part of what we end up seeing out of Georgia, they're not charged as well.


Should they be?

GOODMAN: They definitely could be under the law. It looks like from all the evidence that we have, it's maybe an issue of prosecutorial discretion, whether or not they want it go forward. But just on the face of it, the indictment out of Jack Smith definitely puts Giuliani and President Trump in the driver's seat, says that all of these false electors occurred under their direction including in Michigan. There's a whole section.

BURNETT: Right, that's very laid out, several pages devoted to Michigan.

GOODMAN: Several pages devoted to Michigan, especially Giuliani directing his attention towards Michigan to try to flip the electors and put these folks in place, they could be named. If they were indicted in Michigan, they could also put serious pressure on them that they might not feel like they face in the federal case because Trump might be elected again and be able to pardon them. But he could not pardon them in Michigan, so it could actually even dovetail with the federal case were they to be indicted.

BURNETT: So, Secretary Benson, do you want to see charges for the bigger fish up the chain even in Michigan?

BENSON: I want to see charges for everyone and anyone who is part of a scheme to overturn a presidential election and nullify the votes of millions of Michiganders and millions of citizens across our country. And I think it's important to note that the charges we're seeing in Michigan and even at the federal level and perhaps in other states are part of an ongoing effort not just to seek justice for the wrongs of the past, but also to ensure they don't happen again, which is why a broad net must be cast.

And I think it's important to note that, you know, none of the scheme would have come to fruition had there not been people on the ground willing to carry out the direction of those at the top of the nationally coordinated effort. So it is important to see justice at every level because whether you, you know, signed a document knowingly, knowing that it was false or directed someone else to do so, all of it was about overturning a presidential election. All of it was wrong.

BURNETT: So, George, when you look at the defendants in Michigan that there are and the two Trump co-conspirators in Florida, right, who appeared in court today, one of whom pleaded not guilty, the other obviously delaying by saying still doesn't have a lawyer in Florida, are you surprised, George, given the point that Ryan's making about some of the pressure here, are you surprised that all these individuals have stayed loyal to Trump, despite facing charges now themselves?

CONWAY: No, because I think -- I think the important thing to remember is that both of these cases, the Mar-a-Lago documents case and the January 6th case here in Washington, both of those are dependent upon numerous Trump witnesses, Trump witnesses meaning people who worked for Trump or people, other Republicans. And they're just -- I mean, there's going to be dozens of them in the January 6th case, and there are quite a number of them including former lawyers in the Mar-a-Lago case, and most -- basically most of those people it appears are cooperating, including perhaps Mark Meadows.

And so, it's not surprising -- it's actually -- it's actually heartening that most of those people are putting the law, putting their own skins above the need to defend -- their erstwhile need to defend Donald Trump. And it's sad that these two relatively unsophisticated lower level people who were manipulated and abused by Donald Trump into committing crimes, Nauta and de Oliveira, are stuck holding the bag.

BURNETT: Secretary Benson, I just want to ask you about the former president tonight in these posts, fake indictments, prosecutors are trying to, quote, rig and steal another election. Sitting as a secretary of state of Michigan, right, where you're seeing the details of what happened last time, how worried are you that such a thing could happen again?

BENSON: We are -- I mean, one of the lessons from January 6th and the tragedy of that day in 2021 was the knowledge that it could happen again, and it certainly -- you know, we need to prepare for anything like that or worse to happen again, if there's no accountability and justice for those who are part of this plan in the past. But our work as election officials across the country is to prepare for any and all threats, domestic and foreign against our elections and our democracy.

And we've been doing that. We will continue to do that gratefully with folks on both sides of the aisle, who have stood up to serve as poll workers, lawmakers who have passed laws to protect those poll workers. So, we'll be ready for whatever comes in '24, but we are certainly anticipating more tactics and pressure as we approach that presidential cycle.

BURNETT: Secretary Benson, thank you very much. Ryan and George, as always, thanks to both of you.

And next, flames shooting 40 feet into the air, winds strong enough, just the wind, to knock people flat. That's what one woman who's lived in Maui for 20 years saw, as her home was destroyed and she rushed to evacuate, feeling the heat of the flames. She's my guest.

And private plane, helicopter rides, a trip around the Bahamas on a private yacht, new reporting of what Justice Clarence Thomas has received are from wealthy friends.

[19:15:02] Plus, rare protests in China caught on camera, these after the Chinese government intentionally redirected flood waters to some homes to protect Beijing.


BURNETT: Tonight, CNN learning more lives have been lost from the catastrophic wildfires in Maui. The governor of Hawaii warning they will be announcing a very significant increase of the current death toll, which is already 36 lives lost. And he said that would be a very significant increase and said he's going to be giving another press conference in just a few hours. Rescue crews are urgently working around the clock, searching homes that have been burned to the ground. Once it is all said and done, the governor says he believes this tragedy will claim more than 60 lives.

Veronica Miracle is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still out here. It's time to go.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chaos and panic, as the relentless wildfires continue to ravage the paradise island of Maui, leaving loss and destruction in its wake.


MIRACLE: Some residents escaping by boat, watching the flames engulf their town as they sailed away. Historic Lahaina essentially gone as the fire torched hundreds of houses, cars, and businesses.


We caught up with volunteers today in Kahului harbor, where they were loading up supplies to be taken to nearby Napili.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been hit by firebombs, was so big, they were sucking oxygen out of the air. People don't have oxygen to breathe.

I think this is an absolutely top level national disaster. We've never seen anything like it. I've been here 32 years.

MIRACLE: The before and after images show the horrific scene left behind and fears of a rising death toll.

DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: What we're seeing is just this widespread devastation, across many different neighborhoods in Maui.

MIRACLE: For some who escaped like Florian Doyle (ph) who was able to get out with his kids and dog, Visu (ph), a feeling of guilt that he couldn't do more to help others.

FLORIAN DOYLE, SURVIVOR: There's a lot of people, more than 36 people that didn't make it. I tried to warn as many people as I could. We tried. There was a lot of people like I think it was just like so chaotic that nobody knew, there was no phone connections, and as much as I was trying to save and let people know, there was no options.

I just had to go. I went and got my kids, and now I got the news that there's like so many friends that --

MIRACLE: The Coast Guard pulled more than 50 people from the ocean, who had jumped into escape the flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still got dead bodies in the water, floating, and on the seawall.

MIRACLE: Nearly 11,000 customers remain without power. More than 2,000 residents are in shelters, and many travelers are still stranded on the island. The National Guard reports, they dropped 150,000 gallons of water over the fires Wednesday, to help suppress the flames. And while the fires still rage on, the search and rescue efforts continue.

MAJ. GEN. KENNETH HARRA, ADJUTANT GENERAL, STATE OF HAWAII, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: The primary focus is to save lives and to prevent human suffering and then mitigate great property loss.

MIRACLE: Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke toured the damage by helicopter Wednesday, and was shocked by what she witnessed.

LT. GOV. SYLVIA LUKE (D), HAWAII: It looked as if it's just -- the whole town was devastated.


MIRACLE (on camera): The one road into Lahaina remains closed. People can come out, but they cannot go in, which is why you see a line of cars that goes on for miles behind us here, residents waiting on the side of the road hoping that the moment it opens they can go back to their homes or at least what is left of their community. The governor of Hawaii estimating that 80 percent of Lahaina has been decimated.

There is a glimmer of good news. The fire that ravaged Lahaina has now been 80 percent contained. Firefighters able to make forward progress despite these strong winds -- Erin.

BURNETT: Veronica, thank you very much, in Lahaina tonight.

And OUTFRONT now, May Wedelin-Lee. She lives in Lahaina and lost her home in the wildfire.

And, May, I am so very sorry for what you're going through. It is truly impossible for anyone to truly comprehend the loss and what you've seen, and I know watching -- even hearing that piece and your neighbors, it's very emotional for you. How are you even managing through this?

MAY WEDELIN-LEE, 20-YEAR RESIDENT OF MAUI WHO LOST HOME IN FIRE: I don't know. It's kind of a -- everybody says just take day by day, you know. At this point it's really minute by minute honestly. It's a -- it's a roller coaster. It's like denial, I think, is a lot of it and disbelief and just shock, it's just shock. BURNETT: I mean, I know you did share some photos with us before you

evacuated, and I know that when you took some of these you were standing outside. You were watching the flames, and then the winds just suddenly shifted. You could feel the heat. How close did the flames come? Can you tell us about that just how fast this all happened?

WEDELIN-LEE: So my little neighborhood, I live about a block away from the heart of Lahaina, the famous banyan tree. I live about a block from that, and we didn't have power all day, nobody was at work. We were all home.

So my neighbors and I were kind of an alert, and we were standing and watching the fire in the middle of the town that kind of started, I don't even know what time it was. Maybe around noon, maybe 1:00, something like that. And we were just watching it, and we were thinking, the smoke, the wind is making it worse than it is, you know, this looks more dramatic, but the smoke was getting darker and darker and thicker and thicker.

And then we were saying like should we leave, and then we said, unless the winds shift, we don't need to and it was like the wind said, well, are you testing me? Because then that second the wind shifted and came towards us. It didn't take long. It took from when the wind shifted until we were like we need to go, it was maybe 5, 10 minutes.

BURNETT: Wow. And then -- go ahead.

WEDELIN-LEE: Sorry. There's -- the street I live on, we were standing looking at the street, and then on the other side of the street there's a big empty like field, and when that street caught on fire, and we saw a house across the field explode.


And then we saw the flames jump into the big field, and it's completely dry. We have had such a drought because it's summer. It's Lahaina, it's hot. We haven't had rain, you know, so once the palm trees that are 40 feet up in the air, once the flames hit that and the heat came and hit us in the face, it was like maybe like 50 to 100 yards away, you know, we were like we got to go.

So we just ran in like panic mode. Let's stay together, let's stay together.

There was no time to wait for anybody. I just jumped in my truck. It was 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon, it was pitch black. It was like it was nighttime because the smoke was so thick and so dark.

It was just panic. People were crying on the side of the road and begging and there was a man, I'm never going to forget him as long as I live. He laid in the middle of the road and cried and pleaded to Jesus that we were going to be safe, you know, it was --

BURNETT: May, as you and I are speaking, just, you know, these are your friends and your neighbors. They're now saying 53 people have died in the fire, so it's gone up from 36, and I know that the governor's indicated it will probably go higher, but you know, these are --

WEDELIN-LEE: It's going to go a lot higher. It's going to go a lot higher.

BURNETT: These are people you know. You're talking about fleeing in your truck. And you had thrown a bike in the back, but when people are trying to flee in the gridlock, my understanding from what you've said is that some people may have literally died there in their cars?

WEDELIN-LEE: Yeah, going -- the direction -- I went south because I live in the southern part of Lahaina, people that live north, they would go north, and I don't know if you've seen all the pictures, but there's a picture of front street with a bunch of cars burned, they didn't get out, you know, it happened so quick.

The way I was going, people jumped so people had bicycles. People ran, people had skateboards. People had cats under their arms. They had, you know, a baby in tow and just sprinting down the street.

So I don't know. I know it's going to be a lot more -- there's going to be more fatalities than they think because it was -- it was apocalyptic. That's the only word I can use. It was the apocalypse was happening.

It was the worse nightmares. Imagine the worse you can picture and it was a thousand times worse than that.

BURNETT: May, I know amidst all this and trying to even understand what happened as you said, obviously you're not thinking about the future in some ways. But you're a chef, so your restaurant's gone.


BURNETT: You've lost your job. What do you even -- how do you even process what to do next?

WEDELIN-LEE: I don't think -- I don't think any of us have. I think right now the most important thing, we're just trying to get ahold of our friends and loved ones, you know, because there's so many unaccounted for.

So thinking about tomorrow is not even an issue right now. It's just finding our friends, finding our families, finding our loved ones, finding, you know, we're just trying to find each other really.

BURNETT: Well, May --

WEDELIN-LEE: And then I think the future will be the next step. Right now we just need to know that the people we love are safe. That's really the only focus right now.

BURNETT: I hope you hear good news on that front, even as I know you are going to, you know, have great loss, and I'm sorry for that, for the people that you will know and, of course, for just the horrible trauma of what you've just endured and lost.

So thank you very much for even taking l taking the time to try to talk about it for everyone else around the country to know.

WEDELIN-LEE: Yeah, we just wanted to make sure that people understand that it's not just, ooh, it's a fire in Maui. It's a devastation in Maui, and thousands and thousands have lost their homes, so we just need -- we need help. That's why I decided to go on here because if I can help out in any way, you know, then, if I can be the voice of us, then I would love to be that, you know. We need help, we need money, we need resources. We need everything.

BURNETT: May, I hope -- I hope you get that and that that plea is heard, and again, I thank you.

WEDELIN-LEE: Thank you so much. God bless.

BURNETT: All right. And next, the voters in Iowa not so sure about Trump's chances if the election were today.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If it were today, do you have any doubt that Donald Trump would win Iowa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have some doubt.

KING: You do?



BURNETT: John King is next.

Plus, shocking new reporting on how billionaires are heaping lavish gifts on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. New details on private jets, sky boxes at sporting events, luxury resorts and more.



BURNETT: Tonight, Ron DeSantis defending his decision to support Donald Trump if he's the Republican nominee. DeSantis said today he was, quote, proud to sign the RNC loyalty pledge. It's something Donald Trump has said he will not do, and DeSantis took a dig at him about it.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no way that I would ever just take my ball and go home and pout. You got to continue to fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: DeSantis is in Iowa ahead of his visit to the Iowa state fair where Mike Pence made an appearance today, and Trump is expected there this weekend as well.

Our John King has been spending a lot of time traveling all across Iowa, obviously over many election cycles, but in these past months here, and he joins me now.

So, John, you've had a chance this cycle to speak with voters across the state, and you've heard a lot of different opinions, and you've been to a lot of different places.

KING: I have, Erin, and you find a lot of different views about Trump. This is the 2016 map. I'm using this map as an example. Last time you had a contested Republican caucus in Iowa. The last time you had, just like this year, a very crowded Republican field. Remember all those Republicans.

So, one place we visited was out here in Sioux City, this is Woodbury County. This is Trump country. It was Trump country in 2016. The former president is still quite popular there.

But even among his supporters, a defense attorney, a former Democrat came over to Trump in 2016. She says she likes him. She finds him to be charismatic.

She doesn't really believe all the legal challenges against him even though she's an attorney. But listen here, she says there's so much dustup against Trump, she and other conservatives are thinking maybe we should move on.


KING: If it were today, do you have any doubt that Donald Trump would win Iowa?


KING: You do?

FORSYTH: I do. Because I know so many people who are upset about it, about what's happening to him. They feel like I do that it's -- somebody's trying to take him down, and they'll do whatever they have to. There's a lot of people looking for someone else. They don't know who it is.



KING: Don't get me wrong, Erin, she says she still doesn't completely rule out supporting Trump, but when you spend a week out there and talk to people, is Trump heavily favored? Yes, make no mistake about that. Is there a narrow path of possibility to beat him? I would argue yes. BURNETT: And I'm also curious, and people think of Iowa as a rural

state, but there are, you know, there are places that are more rural than others, right? Truly more rural. And what do you find when you go there?

KING: So look at this map here from 2016, the light color here, that's Ted Cruz. He's not in the race of course. The dark is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is now most popular in many of these smaller rural counties, and not just rural counties, places like, here you go to Blackhawk County, it has cedar falls, waterloo, small cities, small communities like this.

One of the people we met here, Chris Mudd. He's a businessman. His family has an advertising business. He runs a solar installation company. He is all for Trump. Even he concedes all this talk of legal cases does create some doubt.


CHRIS MUDD, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I think he's the best guy for the job. I think he can come in and get the job done. Now whether or not he's going to make it to the election or not, I don't know. I mean, you hear people talk about putting him in jail before he even has an opportunity to run.

And I wonder why are they attacking him so hard? Why are they going after this guy so hard? Does everything really believe that everything that happened is exactly the way that the government's laying it out today? I don't.


KING: That trust part, distrust part at the end, Erin, is important. Now let's move from that area of the state. If Trump is to be beat, and that's a long shot, it will be because of the math here in Des Moines and the suburbs around it.

Just a quick note on the population growth just since 2016, nearly 60,000 new people in Des Moines and the suburbs, most importantly afternoon it, and Erin, we know the suburbs are toxic. They don't like Donald Trump.

Here you find a lot of people who say, yes, I voted for Trump twice but no more. Betsy Sarcone is one of those. She says she's already talking about friends. Maybe we disagree right now, in December, right before the January vote, we better pick one candidate.


BETSY SARCONE, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I was chatting with some women in a beauty salon, and everybody had the same viewpoint, and all of us said that we voted for Trump last time, but that he's run his course and we don't want to do it again. So I think there's also a silent, whether or not it's a majority. It might not be a majority, but there is a silent part of the party who is just hoping for a different solution this time. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So that's something we'll watch, Erin, as we go back to these voters over the next five months. You hear that aspiration, everybody gets together, all the anti-Trump people unite around one candidate. I just want to remind people, some people talked about that in 2016, too, when you had all these candidates and Donald Trump went on to win. So we'll see if it's different this time.

BURNETT: Right, the crowded field helped him last time. It appears to be helping this time. We'll see.

I know one thing that's interesting, in the conversations you had with people, they're talking about some of the beliefs people have, whether it be about the election or other issues, and I know you were struck by how disconnected some of the people you spoke with are from the truth.

KING: You know this dynamic to be true, but when you spend a week there and experience it so often with so many really good, hardworking decent people, it does strike you, Erin. We've talked before about how there's two Americas economically the last 20 years, those who have and those who don't. Communities that are struggling, have industries moved on, those that are thriving.

I think we have two Americas when it comes to truth, where do you get your information? What are your views of Trump? In the MAGA Trump media silo, there's a lot of coverage of Donald Trump, but also a lot of coverage about Joe Biden's challenger, for example, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who scientists say his views on vaccines are way out there, conspiracy theories. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks the government killed his father and his uncle, President Kennedy.

When you talk to some of the voters out there, they share those views.


IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: Robert Kennedy, I think he's a really good guy, they killed his father, and it's terrible. So I hope the truth comes out.

KING: You think the government did that?

IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I really do. Sadly to say that, yes, based on what I've researched.

JIM MUDD SR., IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: He's the first Democrat I think I've ever listened to and admired what he had to say. There might have been another one that I'm overlooking, but this guy, Kennedy, he sounds like real genuine individual to me. He's smart, and he's even minded. He's open minded I should say.


KING: So, Erin, on these questions where we think maybe that's not the truth as we see it, the part I'm fascinated by and we're going to keep going back to this community and build voter groups and other communities in the general election is for the people who have conversations like that, how'd you get there? Where did you get that information? Why do you believe that?

The one thing I want to stress is the good will -- these are good, decent hardworking people, and I'm going to get back and we're going to keep talking.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, John King.

And next, a massive new investigation into Clarence Thomas revealing the Supreme Court justice is benefitting from billionaires and the reporter who broke the story joins me next.

And defiant, rare protests in China after catastrophic flooding displaced millions, the disaster, though, was not entirely natural.



BURNETT: Tonight, trips to luxury resorts, a tour around the Bahamas and a 126 foot yacht with a full bar and a baby grand piano, and 26 private jet flights, including at least two and a full on 737. Those are just some of the lavish gifts that Justice Clarence Thomas has been given by wealthy benefactors, according to a new investigative report by "ProPublica". All of the gifts which in many cases Thomas did not disclose coming from these four billionaires on your screen.

"ProPublica" estimated that the value of these gifts is likely millions of dollars.

And Justin Elliott is OUTFRONT now. He's a reporter for "ProPublica" who worked on this investigation.

And you and your team have done, I mean, just incredible work on all of this. So, I mean, you have a lot of detail about what is a very opulent lifestyle, right? It's not as if it was just a vacation here and there. This was essentially from your reporting a lifestyle. Tell us more of what you found.

JUSTIN ELLIOTT, PROPUBLICA REPORTER WHO WORKED ON CLARENCE THOMAS REPORTER: Yeah, you know, look, Supreme Court justices make around $300,000 a year, which is the salary most people would be happy with. What we found is that Justice Thomas, through this set of billionaires has really been living the lifestyle essentially of a billionaire. I mean, we originally found out about these trips and gifts he was getting from a Dallas billionaire Harlan Crow.


And after we published a stories on that we hear there are other billionaires who are sort of helping pay for his life. And, you know, we started looking and found that with very striking regularity when he has off time, he's being flown on private jets to around the world really, to mansions, on cruises, internationally, to sporting events, apparently not paying for any of it. And as far as we can tell, he's a massive outlier on the Supreme Court in terms of taking these kinds of gifts.

BURNETT: I mean, it is -- I mean, it's just incredible though when we think about it. Twenty-six private jet flights, this wasn't just an occasional vacation, which I'm not even saying that would be okay. You're saying this is an entire lifestyle.

So tell us about these men. They are all men, these billionaires that helped finance Thomas's lifestyle, and obviously they're billionaires. So to be a billionaire, you're very, very big in an industry. I mean, how is the Supreme Court relevant and play a role in their lives?

ELLIOTT: Yeah, so the first is Harlan Crow who made his fortune in Dallas in real estate, actually inherited his fortune in Dallas. And then we have an oil company founder, a private equity executive, the late Wayne Huizenga who owned Blockbuster Video and for a time he owned the Miami Dolphins.

Some of these men Justice Thomas met through a charity called the Horatio Alger Society that gives scholarships to students. That's how some of the relationships began. They sort of escalated to where these men are just showering him with vacations and other gifts. You know, as we have not found any cases where they've had -- where any of these men have actually had cases heard by the Supreme Court.

BURNETT: Like specific, right.

ELLIOTT: The Supreme Court actually hears very few cases so it's unusual to be a litigant, but they all have business interests that are affected massively by the court, and they're also all Republican political donors who have ideological interests. I think one of the questions raised by this, is if somebody's paying your luxury vacation repeatedly, I certainly would feel some sense of obligation to that person. There's a question of influence there. One of the things we still don't know --

BURNETT: Sure you would feel that way, that's the point.

ELLIOTT: Yeah. I should also say all of these relationships started after Clarence Thomas became a Supreme Court justice, so these were not like his college roommates. These are not long-standing relationships.

So, you know, very unusual to be getting these kinds of gifts. One of the things we don't have a full answer to, what are being discussed on these yachts and on these private jets, a lot of the people haven't commented, Justice Thomas didn't comment for this story, so you know, we're still reporting.

BURNETT: All right, and we're still following it because it has been some really impressive and incredible work. Thanks very much for coming on and sharing it with us.

ELLIOTT: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, outrage in China as the government deliberately sends flood waters into some people's homes.

And five Americans imprisoned in Iran now possibly a huge step closer to coming home.



BURNETT: Tonight, rare protests inside China. Outrage growing after the government deliberately directed flood waters to their homes. Tonight, at least 33 dead, nearly 20 more missing. That's just what we know about after extreme flooding near Beijing. The death toll is almost three times, a figure given by Chinese officials just last week.

Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A rare moment of defiance in China. Angry residents on the steps of a municipal government building in the city of Bazhou. Their sign says: give me back my home. The flood was caused by water discharge, not by heavy rainfall. At some point, men with police shields disperse the crowd.

The incident took place after deadly floods caused by the heaviest rains to hit northeastern China in 140 years. A typhoon that killed dozens of people in and around the Chinese capital Beijing forcing the evacuation of more than a million people from their homes.

Over the last two weeks, these three provinces all saw dramatic flooding, but we're learning that some communities weren't just damaged by a natural disaster. The small city of Bazhou, where the protest took place, was deliberately flooded by authorities following a government disaster plan aimed at protecting bigger cities like Beijing and Tianjin.

At 2:00 a.m. on August 1st, authorities activated a flood control plan, releasing water from dams into flood storage and detention zones. They then had to evacuate more than 800,000 people living in those zones, which quickly flooded.

State TV showed the communist party chief of Hebei province touring the disaster area, instructing subordinates to reduce flooding pressure on Beijing, and vowing to resolutely be the capital's moat.

In the event of a crisis, experts say countries often plan to redirect rising water, but usually towards flood zones that are unpopulated.

ASHISH SHARMA, PROFESSOR OF HYDROLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Seems like a planning problem. Somebody allowed development or overdevelopment in an area that was designated to be a flood control zone.

WATSON: Provincial governments thanked evacuees for their sacrifice, adding, history will record your contribution. That's cold comfort to people who have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed for the greater good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Nearly all the factories in our area were seriously damaged, 99 percent of the factories have little hope of salvaging the losses.

WATSON: Under Chinese rules, people are entitled to compensation of 70 percent of the value of property submerged in flood control areas. Experts say planning for the next extreme weather disaster will only get harder.

SHARMA: I think the entire world is scrambling to get prepared for the problems climate change is unfolding on to us.


WATSON: Which seems like an almost impossible challenge.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Erin, there is some good news for Beijing and northeastern China. There's a tropical storm that our colleagues at CNN weather say is losing power, but there is a separate storm system approaching Beijing from the West that the meteorologists say is carrying a lot of water and could dump 2 to 4 inches of rain on this already flood-struck area as early as Friday night and Saturday, while these areas are still trying to recover from floods that killed dozens of people.

The controversy over the deliberate flooding of these communities has been heavily censored on Chinese social media and on the Internet, and I might add on CNN. We have a live camera up showing our live feed inside China, and that went to bars, as you can see here as soon as our report began -- Erin.

BURNETT: You know, it's really interesting there. At the very end, when you started talking as if it was a weather report, it came back. But and now it just cut out again. And perhaps because of what we're talking about.

All right. Ivan, thank you very much.

WATSON: They're very busy.

BURNETT: Yeah, thank you.

And next, Americans long imprisoned in Iran now perhaps miraculously a step closer to coming home.


BURNETT: Tonight, the White House confirming that five Americans who have been imprisoned in Iran are out of prison and now under house arrest. Four of them, only three of whom we actually know the names of, were moved out of Tehran's notorious Evin prison today. The fifth not publicly identified yet was already under house arrest.

But the Americans have been imprisoned for years and declared wrongfully detained by the State Department. A source familiar with the negotiations tells CNN the move is an encouraging step but is obviously not a done deal. It is notable that the negotiations here are being conducted primarily through intermediaries, Qatar, Oman, and Switzerland among them because the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Anderson starts now.