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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin
Trump Expected to Surrender at Fulton County Jail, Date Unknown; Death Toll from Hawaii Wildfires Increase to 106; North Korea Claims Private Travis King Remains There Voluntarily; Special Counsel: Plea Deal with Hunter Biden is Dead. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired August 16, 2023 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now an EARLY START, surrender strategy. Donald Trump expected to turn himself in at a Georgia jail, but the question is when?
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still have loved ones that are trapped, for example, my dad.
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FREEMAN: Grim work on the ground in Maui -- identifying the dead and getting help to frustrated survivors.
And, North Korea now confirming that it has custody of a U.S. soldier who dashed across the DMZ, but what happens to him now?
FREEMAN: Good morning, and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Danny Freeman.
We begin today with the 19 defendants indicted in the Georgia election subversion case. Will any of them turned themselves in today for criminal processing?
Well, the Fulton County D.A. gave them into the end of next week to surrender themselves, and the Fulton County sheriff says they can show up at the Fulton County jail anytime, 24/7. The sheriff says he expects former President Trump to appear there for booking, but when exactly? Trump still hasn't said.
More now from CNN's Sara Murray in Atlanta.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITCAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A ten-day clock for Donald Trump and his allies to turn themselves in here in Georgia -- FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I am giving
the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday, the 25th day of August, 2023.
MURRAY: -- after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis unveiled the fourth indictment against the former president at a near midnight press conference.
WILLIS: The defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result.
MURRAY: It's the most sweeping indictment yet, charging Trump alongside 18 other defendants, including prominent alleged coconspirators, like his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and his former attorney Rudy Giuliani.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm anxious to fight this case.
MURRAY: According to the indictment, Trump and the other defendants charged in this indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully join a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. If convicted of racketeering, the defendants face a minimum five-year sentence.
WILLIS: The RICO charge has time that you have to serve.
MURRAY: The wide-ranging indictment covers Trump's infamous January 2021 to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I just want to find 11,780 votes.
MURRAY: The harassment campaign by Trump supporters against election worker Ruby Freeman.
RUBY FREEMAN, ELECTION WORKER: I cannot say what specifically will take place. I just know that it will disrupt your freedom.
MURRAY: As well as the Trump campaign's fake electors plot, and the breach of a voting system in rural Coffee County. Trump posting that all charges should be dropped against me and others. There will be a complete exoneration -- as he clings to baseless claims of voter fraud and vows to hold a press conference about it, Monday.
Republican Governor Brian Kemp wants a Trump ally, fire back on Twitter: The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen.
And, the former lieutenant governor and CNN contributor who testified against Trump on Monday says it's time to let the judicial process play out.
GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If Donald Trump did nothing wrong, if these coconspirators did nothing wrong, then great, they are going to have the opportunity to share their story.
MURRAY: Raffensperger also weighing in, saying that the most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. You either have it or you don't.
The Fulton County sheriff says he hopes to keep the surrender process consistent with what local defendants usually face.
PATRICK LABAT, FULTON COUNTY SHERIFF: Unless someone tells me differently, we are following our -- normal practices. So, it doesn't matter your status, we have mugshots ready for you.
MURRAY: The district attorney indicating a trial could be massive.
Do you intend to try all of these defendants together?
WILLIS: Do I intend to try the 19 defendants in this indictment together? Yes.
MURRAY: And she hopes to get to it in speedy fashion.
WILLIS: We do want to move this case a law, and so we will be asking for a proposed order that occurs, a trial date within the next six months.
MURRAY: But that might be difficult with Trump's other criminal and civil trials next year.
MURRAY (on camera): Now, we have expected Donald Trump and his allies to fight these charges and we are already seeing that.
Former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has already asked to move this case to federal court and asked the court to dismiss the charges against him. Meadows' attorneys saying, even if federal court isn't prepared to dismiss the charges, they should still allow him to move his case and they should halt these state proceedings against him.
We also expect Trump's attorneys to make a play to move the case to federal court and we may see this from other Trump allies named in the indictment as well.
Sarah Murray, CNN, Atlanta.
FREEMAN: And Rudy Giuliani now says that his growing legal troubles have drained hi bank accounts. He says that he's out of cash. The former Trump lawyer and one time New York City mayor faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills and sanctions.
In court Monday, he declined to produce a detailed financial report, but he has listed his three bedroom Manhattan apartment for sale at $6.5 million.
Meanwhile, Giuliani now has company. Seven other lawyers are among 19 indicted in the Georgia 2020 election case.
CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, charging 19 people for crimes in the alleged criminal enterprise, to overturn the 2020 election, and eight of them are lawyers, professionally obligated to follow the law but now accused of breaking it.
Already, at least one is now claiming the D.A. is criminalizing the practice of law.
JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: It is irredeemably compromise.
SCHNEIDER: Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, who was front and center falsely claiming widespread election fraud, posted online defending her actions.
Rudy Giuliani also shot back on his radio show.
GIULIANI: This is all protected free speech. This is what you're allowed to do to contest an election. This is what a lawyer is allowed to do in representing a client.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani is charged with 13 counts in the indictment, more than any other defendant except Trump.
In a statement, he calls the charges an affront to American democracy.
The former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams, points out someone's status as an attorney doesn't give them carte blanche to break the law.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: An attorney can provide legal representation to a client as long as they are not urging that client to commit a crime, or committing a crime themselves. And the mere fact that these individuals were attorneys, doesn't somehow absolve them.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani is charged as part of a broader racketeering conspiracy, encompassing all 19 defendants. But he's also facing several additional charges, including making false statements to the Georgia House and Senate, when he testified in 2020 about bogus voter fraud claims, and urged state lawmakers to overturn the results.
GIULIANI: There are ten ways to demonstrate that this election was stolen, that the votes were phony, dead people, felons, phony ballots, phony mail-in ballots.
SCHNEIDER: Other pro-Trump attorney also charged include John Eastman, and Kenneth Chesebro, who outlined a plan to get Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of the election on January 6th. And, Jeffrey Clark, a top Justice Department official who drafted a letter that he hoped the DOJ would send to various state leaders, including in Georgia, falsely proclaiming fraud in their states.
ROBERT CHEELEY, TRUMP LAWYER: Regarding this voter fraud at State Farm Arena was deliberately planned, it had to be.
SCHNEIDER: Robert Cheeley was a lawyer who worked with Trump's team to promote voter fraud claims. He's also been charged, along with Trump campaign attorney Ray Smith.
RAY SMITH, TRUMP LAWYER: Two thousand five hundred and six felons voted illegally in Georgia.
SCHNEIDER: And Sidney Powell has been charged with seven crimes, including her alleged involvement in the scheme to break into voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia. She repeatedly and falsely declared Dominion Voting Systems as fraudulent, in the weeks and months after the election.
SIDNEY POWELL, TRUMP ATTORNEY: And that's when the Dominion operators went in and injected votes and changed the whole system.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Dominion is now suing Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani for defamation, so their legal troubles have only been compounded by this latest criminal case out of Georgia.
In the meantime, John Eastman's attorney is also responding, saying the activity in this latest indictment is political and not criminal.
Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
FREEMAN: We turn to the latest now on the wildfire disaster in Hawaii. Overnight, officials raised the death toll to 106 people. So far, the remains of only five victims have been identified.
Now, Hawaii's governor says 185 search and rescue personnel are on scene doing recovery work along with 20 dogs. Governor Josh Green told CNN last night that some of Maui's warning sirens were indeed broken, which is being investigated, but he says that may not be the only reason that they weren't used.
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GOV. JOSH GREEN (D), HAWAII: The sirens or typically used for tsunamis, or hurricanes. To my knowledge, at least I never experienced them in use for fires. There may be some reasons for that.
Sometimes sirens send people up mountain and going up the mountain during a fire can be problematic. Going up the mountain when there's a wave is what you have to do.
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FREEMAN: And CNN's Gloria Pazmino is on the ground in Maui -- on Maui, rather, with the latest.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The search continues. As the death toll mounts, there is desperation in this devastated Maui resort town.
Cruise now combing through the ruins of Lahaina, using cadaver dogs trained to find human remains. Only 25 percent of the fire zone had been fully searched, as of Monday. It's still unknown how many people remain unaccounted for here. Close to 100 people are confirmed dead, including a family of four. The death toll, says Hawaii's governor, could double in the coming days.
Thousands have lost their homes. And many are not now scrambling to find shelter, food, and clean water.
ANNASTACEYA ARCANGEL-PANG, LOST HOME IN FIRE: I still have loved ones that are trapped, for example, my dad. My dad's still there, but he refuses to come out. But there are certain things that he still needs.
PAZMINO: Even the island's firefighters find themselves in need.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They watched their homes burn, as they fought for other homes in the neighborhood. And it was quick, like every thing was -- happened so fast.
PAZMINO: Frustration now mounting, as some Lahaina residents remained blocked from returning to what's left of their neighborhoods.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to go back to my home, but these guys are killing us. Like I don't understand, why they can't get (EXPLETIVE DELETED) together.
PAZMINO: Others just beginning to come to terms with so much loss.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm praying for them.
PAZMINO: Annie Shilling (ph) says her brother Joe died while helping his elderly neighbors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He helped one to escape. The last message from him was, I have these seniors in my apartment, and I'm trying to keep the smoke down.
PAZMINO: Those who were able to escape the flames say they are now reeling from the scale of the destruction.
KANAMU BALINBIN, LAHAINA RESIDENT: It broke me. It still breaks me. This is what keeps me going, helping people. A lot of us are at that stage.
PAZMINO: And beyond the wreckage, the survivors say it's time to come together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ohana means family, and everyone's pitching in. It doesn't matter where your, from what color you are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the ashes, we will survive. (END VIDEOTAPE)
PAZMINO (on camera): And that spirit remains alive and well right here in the Kula community about 40 miles away from Lahaina, where so much of the devastation has taken place. It's happened here too, many homes have been burned down as a result of the wildfire.
But all day, we have watched as neighbors arrived to help neighbors, people pulling over to volunteer their help, trying to help people gather the pieces and clean up. It remains a very active area. There are still several fires burning in the vicinity, and the fire department has been dropping water in the area all day long. Recovery here remains a long ways away.
Reporting on Maui, Gloria Pazmino, CNN.
FREEMAN: And going overseas now, North Korea has confirmed for the first time that a U.S. Army Private Travis King is on its territory. You might remember last month, King sprinted from South Korea across the demarcation line and into North Korea during a tour of the demilitarized zone.
CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea, for us.
Paula, North Korean state media claims Private King is remaining there voluntarily. Correct me if I'm wrong, that's the first explanation we have of his motive for crossing into North Korea?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Danny, that has been the big question. Why did he decide to do it?
Now, we have heard from North Korea and I have to point out it is North Korea talking through state run media, this is not hearing from Travis King directly. But what KCNA is telling us is that he fled into North Korea because of racism in the U.S. military. The quote in the article that they had said that he harbored ill-feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army. Again, this is what Pyongyang is saying, not King directly.
Now we have heard from the U.S. defense officials saying that they are unable to verify the alleged comments by King at this point, but their priority is still to get him home safely. What North Korea was also saying in this article today and it's interesting that it is an article that is being shown to the world but not internally in North Korea. So, no one within North Korea knows about this at this point.
They have said that Travis King was actually seeking refuge either from North Korea or a third country. Now, we do know that he has been facing charges of here in South Korea. He had served around 50 days in a detention facility and was supposed to be heading back to the United States, where the Army said they would face more consequences for his action.
But, of course, the focus of this point is to try to find out more information. We have heard from the mother of Travis King through a spokesperson for the families, saying that she is asking North Korea to treat her son, quote, humanely, also asking to have a phone conversation with her son.
Now we know from precedents that that is very unlikely to happen -- Danny.
FREEMAN: Paula, thank you.
And to this now, the special counsel investigating Hunter Biden says that the plea deal laboriously worked out between the Justice Department and president son is totally dead, at least as far as he is concerned. Meanwhile, Hunter Biden's lawyers have been helping the agreement could be salvaged.
We're going to hear more now from CNN's Kara Scannell in New York.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Special counsel David Weiss says Hunter Biden is not off the hook for a felony gun possession charge. It is the latest twist in the five-year investigation after Biden's plea deal fell apart in court last month. A U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland gave the U.S. attorney in Delaware special counsel status. Prosecutors say because the chief U.S. probation officer in Delaware did not approve the now withdrawn agreement, it, quote, never went into effect and therefore none of its terms are binding on either party.
That comes after Biden's lawyers argued to the judge that it was a valid and binding agreement. The deal would've resolved the felony gun possession charge if Biden adhered to certain conditions, including not possessing a gun or using drugs or alcohol for 24 months.
The dispute comes as Biden's longtime defense attorney, Christopher Clark, asked the judge to withdraw from the case. Biden's lawyers saying that he could now be a witness to the now contested to deal.
One thing both sides to agree on is dismissing the tax charges filed in Delaware. Prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss then so they could potentially bring new charges in California or Washington, D.C., where the alleged tracks crimes took place.
Kara Scannell, CNN, New York.
FREEMAN: All right. Coming up in just a moment, we have new footage showing the moment a drone blasted a Russian bridge. We have that CNN exclusive.
Plus, a 32-car pileup in North Carolina. We'll tell you exactly what happened.
And what exactly is RICO, the law at the heart of Trump's latest indictment?
All of that coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FREEMAN: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as charged former President Donald Trump in 18 others with breaking a variety of laws in the Georgia 2020 election subversion case. One thread tying the alleged misconduct together is the anti-racketeering law known as RICO.
CNN's Brian Todd has more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the words she spoke --
WILLIS: Participation in a criminal enterprise.
TODD: -- and the words she wrote in her indictment of Donald Trump, like calling him and his associates a criminal organization, Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis made this Georgia indictment seemed like other famous prosecutions.
SCOTT FREDERICKSEN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The D.A. made very clear in her remarks that this was no different than a mafia RICO conspiracy.
TODD: The Georgia RICO law is what Trump and his 18 co-defendants in Georgia are charged with violating as part of their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state. RICO, standing for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, experts say the advantage of RICO is that it allows several individuals to be tried together.
FREDERICKSEN: It's a loose group of correlated individuals and schemes in which not every individual has to know what the other individual was doing.
TODD: But using the statute has disadvantages, too.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The danger of using RICO is it's more complicated. You've got multiple defendants now and that makes them harder case to prove and for the jury becomes much harder to follow.
TODD: Analysts say Georgia's version of RICO is not very different from the federal RICO Act signed into law in 1970.
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, HANDLED RICO CASES: It has been extremely successful. It has been a real hammer on a lot of different defendants.
TODD: And one of the pioneers of using that RICO statute in prosecutions now finds himself targeted by it.
GIULIANI: This election was a sham. TODD: Former Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani facing several RICO related charges in the Georgia case. In the 1980s, serving as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Giuliani was aggressive in using RICO to take down the city's most powerful dons.
AKERMAN: He used it against the mafia commission, basically breaking up the five families, going after the bosses themselves.
TODD: Notorious violent bosses like Fat Tony Salerno of the Genovese crime family, and Carmine Jr. Persico of the Colombo family, among several organized crime figures indicted by Giuliani under RICO.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It was actually a very sad day to see somebody who was such a pioneer using this very statute to show how it can be used, being on the receiving end of it right now.
TODD (on camera): Throughout this investigation, Donald Trump and his allies have vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Rudy Giuliani is calling this indictment in Georgia, quote, an affront to American democracy and he sees the real criminals are the people who have brought this case forward.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
FREEMAN: All right. For more on this, let's bring in former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland.
Jeremy, based on what you have right in the indictments, do you feel Fani Willis, the D.A. here, has a strong legal basis for RICO charges?
JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN PROSECUTOR: Absolutely, and people should not conflate RICO solely with the mafia-related prosecution or charge. What D.A. Willis did is she laid out these overt acts that not everyone was involved, in but I think there are probably 160 of them in setting forth that there was a common scheme or objective of this organization, now we use the term criminal enterprise, to basically obstruct that 2020 election results and prevent them from being certified. They had a common scheme and plan, and there was sort of a structure to this organization with obviously President Trump and his 13 charges being at the top.
FREEMAN: All right. So, here's the question, Jeremy, that I feel a lot of people have been wondering since the other night. D.A. Willis says she wants to try this case within the next six months, but, I mean, come on, is that actually realistic? Especially with all the other Trump cases happening?
SALAND: Even setting aside that, your the statement is actually and absolutely a fair one, and even setting aside those other cases, six months is extremely aggressive. You have 19 defendants, 19 people who are going to have a possibly motion to dismiss, possibly a motion to sever, because not all of them are going to want to be tried together, removal possibly to the federal court for some of the defendants.
So there are so many moving pieces, but even if you got through that in a very efficient manner, you would still have jury selection which could take months. It's unrealistic and very aggressive to say this will happen in six months or before the election.
FREEMAN: Yeah, you say 19 moving pieces, that means 19 variables as well.
All right. One of Trump's codefendants in the Georgia case is Mark Meadows. He is now trying to get to his case moved from state to federal court.
Jeremy, can you explain what is the strategy behind that and do you think you'll be successful here?
SALAND: So, the strategy is he wants to take it federal court for a few reasons. But number one, his argument is that the state shouldn't be prosecuting in the first place, that he was acting in his official capacity and under the color of law and that ultimately, it could move it to federal court, that there is a better jury pool, too, should he have to get to that point, it's not going to solely be out of Fulton County, which may be more blue for him.
It will be in federal court, which will be a further and greater jury pool that will include people of all different shades of red and blue.
So, absolutely favorable to him to say that this should not be prosecuted, it should be dismissed as a matter of law. But, if it does have to go forward, it should be in a federal court.
FREEMAN: All right. Well, Jeremy, I know you are a federal of Manhattan prosecutor, but put this hat on for a moment. If you were part of Trump's legal team, would you even began with a defense strategy?
SALAND: Well, one of the things that he could look at is say, I cannot be indicted in the first place, I am the former president of the United States. I was acting in a manner consistent with my role as president of the United States and furthering my objective and goals as a president.
The problem is, for that defense, you're assuming that he is doing things that he should be doing as a president and we know that a president's job is not to certify an election, to tabulate and count the number of votes, to challenge Electoral College. So he is doing things well beyond, certainly, if you truly the indictment and is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it's also not accurate to say it's a president's role to intervene and get involved in the election itself, as he did to perpetrate this supposed fraud.
So, there is a major problem with that defense of the First Amendment. It seems to be clear that anyone can say whatever they want, that's one of your rights. But that's not true either.
The First Amendment does have limits and it can't be the core criminal conduct. Just like, for example, you can't yell fire in a crowded theater. Certainly, that's not the same here. But you can't use those words along with actions that are part of a criminal action or criminal transaction. So, he's going to have some very serious difficulties.
FREEMAN: Jeremy, thank you very much for breaking that down for us this morning. We appreciate it.
SALAND: My pleasure.
FREEMAN: All right. Some quick hits across America now.
The mother of the Virginia six-year-old who shot his teacher has pleaded guilty to child neglect. As part of the deal, Deja Taylor will serve six months in jail.
And, in North Carolina, fast moving storm triggers a 32-vehicle pileup in Durham, shutting down parts of I-40, causing hours of delays. Downed trees and power lines also closed local roads in the area.
And federal officials easing water restrictions along the Colorado River after a snowy winter raised water levels in Lake Mead and the lower basin area. It impacts Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
All right, coming up in a moment, the U.N. says that the conflict in Sudan is spiraling out of control, as 30 mass graves are reportedly uncovered.
And we'll have more on the deadly clashes in Libya between rival militias.
Stay with us.