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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Two Trump Co-Defendants Surrendering Now in Fulton County; Tonight: 8 Candidates to Face Off in GOP Debate; Putin a No-Show at Summit Because He's Wanted for War Crimes; 18 Bodies Found in Greece Wildfires. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 23, 2023 - 05:00   ET



DANNY FREEMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, surrenders under way in Fulton County with two Trump allies inside the jail complex at this moment and more expected in the coming hours.

Plus, the elephant in the room, Donald Trump the main topic even as he blows off the big debate in Milwaukee tonight.


FREEMAN: Good morning and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Danny Freeman.

We have breaking news. More of Donald Trump's co-defendants in Georgia's election subversion case surrendering overnight. We're told former GOP chair David Shafer and Kathie Latham who allegedly served as fake elector were both being processed right now. They were both just released actually I'm learning moments ago.

Today, former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani will be in Fulton County, Georgia, to negotiate a bond agreement with the district attorney's office. Giuliani faces 13 charges in the Fulton County criminal case over efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, including a racketeering charge. Now, on Tuesday, conservative attorney John Eastman and Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall turned themselves in, both men were booked and released.

And tomorrow the big day, former President Trump is expected to surrender.

CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani is expected to meet with the Fulton County district attorney on Wednesday. Giuliani is expected to travel to Georgia, along with his longtime friend, former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik.

Now, Kerik is not an attorney but he is an unindicted co-conspirator in this Fulton County case. Kerik has been helping Giuliani in his search for an attorney, something that has proven challenging given that Giuliani currently has seven figures worth of unpaid legal bills.

But it does appear that they have someone with a Georgia law license who will at least help them through the bond phase of this process. It's unclear though if he has retained someone who has agreed to represent him in this case. It is an open question about whether Giuliani can even afford a lawyer to represent him in this case.

Now, I'm also told by one source that Giuliani would like to get through the bond negotiations and his surrender before former President Trump shows up on Thursday.

As CNN has previously reported, Rudy has gone to former President Trump pleading with him to give him help with his legal bills. As of now, Giuliani has only received a small portion of what he owes and that was from a Trump affiliated political action committee, not from Trump himself.

Paula Reid, CNN, Fulton County, Georgia.


FREEMAN: OK. For more on this, let's bring in a former Manhattan prosecutor, Jeremy Saland.

Jeremy, I want to ask you about this breaking news. So we've learned that two of these co-defendants basically were just released a matter of moments ago. But they were going through this processing overnight.

Can you explain potentially why?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN PROSECUTOR: Well, timing is everything. And again, they have time to turn themselves in because this is not the deadline yet. Also they may be trying to escape all the media and all the action around this case which is very big. And I would point out that Mr. Shafer who was the Republican chairman in Georgia, GOP chairman in Georgia, has already indicated that he wants removal as a contingent if you will presidential elector.

But he has signaled that this is Trump, I was listening to Trump's attorneys, I have -- I was following Trump's lawyers. So he may be trying to distance himself not wanting to be caught up with Giuliani and Trump, the bigger fish, come in.

FREEMAN: All right. Well, let's start talking about Rudy Giuliani, because we've been discussing them a lot this week. First, he was struggling to pay those legal bills and then he was having trouble finding a Georgia attorney. But now, we understand that he does have a lawyer to help him through the bond process. We're expecting him to be in Georgia today.

Jeremy, what should we expect to see when it comes to the former mayor of New York?

SALAND: Well, it should be similar to the other folks did. Meaning there is an agreement in terms of what that bail would be, likely putting up 10 percent as other folks likely did as well. And I'd expect that Giuliani is somewhat scrambling. I mean, as we know, he is looking for money. He's having difficulties in finding an attorney, he has Mr. Kerik who is helping him out.

I think that Giuliani is getting desperate and if you were Donald Trump, I'd be concerned turning my back on someone who knows a lot about me and what did or didn't happen in those rooms. So, we're not going to hear everything, but today, I expect that it will go somewhat in the order of everybody else.

FREEMAN: Jeremy, I know we've talked about this a lot leading up to this moment, but I -- can you just put into context how unthinkable it would have been say 20, 30 years ago to picture Rudy Giuliani at a jail dealing with bonds, getting a mug shot all for at least some RICO charges?


SALAND: You know, I'd like to say you feel bad for a man who has fallen so far and so hard, but at the same time, if this is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there is nobody to blame, America's mayor as he used to be called can only look himself in that mirror and say I did this, I conspired with the president and these other people to overturn the democracy, the election.

It's really pathetically sad if true. At worst -- at best for him I guess you could say, he is caught up in this, but it is really a bad look and horrible thing for him and the nation.

FREEMAN: Jeremy, I want to talk about some of the other co- defendants. Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, they've asked a federal judge to block their arrests. Do you think that they can avoid this Friday deadline to surrender?

SALAND: The only way that happens is if a judge would have a stay between now and Friday. But it has been already clear that the judge is already going to have a hearing and one where there will be substantive issues and testimony on Monday to address the case should be removed. It's a removal proceeding from the state court to the federal court.

So I don't expect either one will be successful in stopping this clock from happening and moving forward between now and Monday if at all.

FREEMAN: Jeremy, we have 19 co-defendants here. We're seeing a lot of different of legal strategies so far over the course of this week. John Eastman saying that he was just performing his ethical duties as a lawyer. Former Georgia Republican chair David Shafer saying he was acting at the direction of Trump.

I'm curious, are any of these defenses standing out to you so far?

SALAND: Well, I think that you could look at Eastman or any attorney, they are weighing two issues. One is potential incarceration and conviction, and the other is they will get disbarred if convicted.

So when you look at Eastman, for example, I'm not shocked that he's doubling at people and saying, I believe that this actually happened, that the election was a fraud. Not from his perspective, but in other words it was Trump's election that was stolen.

So that defense doesn't shock me. Whether it holds water is a different thing. I think the bigger issue is that specifically for Donald Trump, all these lesser players if you will are having their own strategies and some of that may ultimately be he's not helping me, I don't want that to happen, I'm going to flip. And I'd not be shocked if somewhere down the line especially when you hear someone like Shafer say, it was Trump's team that told me do this, that someone will turn on the president.

FREEMAN: Jeremy Saland, former Manhattan prosecutor helping us get through an historic week. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

SALAND: Thank.

FREEMAN: And amidst all of these legal concerns, first Republican primary presidential debate is finally here and it kicks off tonight. The stage will have eight vying to become the top alternative to the clear frontrunner, that's former President Trump, though who will not be there. The stakes are high as Trump's rivals seek to win over voters across the country, especially in battleground states like Wisconsin.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


CAROLINE QUINLAN, WISCONSIN VOTER: I think the next 15 months is going to be like a lifetime movie. There is going to be -- so much can happen on both sides.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That is how Caroline Quinlan sees the 2024 presidential race, hopeful for the possibility of change, but bracing for a year of drama.

QUINLAN: I could go for a fresh starts on both sides, yeah, both for the Republicans and the Democrats. Is that going to happen? I don't know.

ZELENY: Quinlan has a ringside seat, here in this sprawling suburbs of Milwaukee. The Republicans will not only gather tomorrow night for their first primary debate, but also convene next summer in the same arena to crown the party's nominee at the GOP convention.


ZELENY: Wisconsin has long been a vital stop on the road to the White House, a battleground and bellwether that went for Joe Biden in 2020 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Eight candidates will be onstage for the debate, but not Trump.

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a onetime Trump rival, believes that's a mistake.

SCOTT WALKER (R), FORMER WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: When I sit next to him at that first debate eight years ago in Cleveland, this was a guy who was commanding. He took charge and took over the debate. And I think it's a missed opportunity for him not to come here to Milwaukee and try and take charge again.

ZELENY: As Walker sees it, Trump is not only competing in the primary. He also could start trying to win over some of the voters who once supported him.

WALKER: If they see him fighting -- not for the sake of fighting -- but fighting for them, fighting for their families, fighting for their schools, fighting for the economic survivability, then I think he starts to pull some of those voters back.

ZELENY: Quinlan, an independent, would be in that camp. When we first met during the final weeks of the 2020 campaign, she was torn.

QUINLAN: I get it, why people don't like Trump.

ZELENY: She ultimately voted for Trump. Now, she's intent on sizing up the field.

Is there anyone who stands out to you at this point? Or a few people?

QUINLAN: Well, I'm still learning about all of them.


I am really interested in DeSantis, and Haley. I'm interested in her.

ZELENY: She wants to hear the candidates talk about education, the economy, and crime. She fears Biden is too old, and, for now, is withholding judgment on Trump.

QUINLAN: Yeah, he's not my first choice. But -- yeah, let's see what my choices are.

ZELENY: Democrats are also laser focused on Wisconsin.

BIDEN: Good to see you, dude.

ZELENY: With the Biden campaign on the air with a new TV ad --

BRIAN SCHIMMING, CHAIRMAN, WISCONSIN REPUBLICAN PARTY: What this debate is about is one of us versus Joe Biden.

ZELENY: Brian Schimming, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said the attention makes clear, his state will help settle a larger debate, whether it's a rematch between Biden and Trump, or not.

SCHIMMING: I don't think anything is inevitable. History is full of folks who were ahead early and end up the nominee in both parties.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY (on camera): It's is an open question if history will be the best guide for the 2024 campaign. But one thing is clear, talking to voters here in Wisconsin, many do have open minds. Some eager to turn the page beyond Trump. Some, of course, are loyal supporters.

But one year from now, next summer, the Republican Party will nominate their candidate right here in Milwaukee in this building right behind me here. Will it be Trump or someone on the debate stage? That of course is up to the voters.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Milwaukee.

FREEMAN: And happening now overseas, day two of the BRICS group of emerging economy summit, is under way. The BRICS members, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, represent more than 40 percent of the world's population. Now, they are considering bids from nearly two dozen other countries to join their bloc.

Russian President Vladimir Putin could not attend as he is wanted for war crimes.

CNN's David McKenzie is live for us in Johannesburg with more.

David, how is the summit going so far, and what more can we expect today?


You have these world leaders assembly just a short time ago, at the most critical day of this BRICS summit. And of course not in attendance amongst those leaders is Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has already shown his presence virtually because if he were to set foot in this country, he could be arrest arrested for those alleged war crimes that have happened in Ukraine.

But I think that this is a critically important meeting because China in particular is looking to expand this grouping of countries to increase their economic and political cloud on the world stage. And though they haven't said it directly, it certainly is the feeling from China and Russia particularly that they want to counteract the G7 group of wealthy nations and also try to limit the influence of the World Bank and IMF. Those are critically important groups that lend money to countries all over the world.

We've seen some divisions already forming, India, South Africa, in particular, are more likely to try to sit on the fence, to please both China and the U.S. when it comes to international relations and trade. But I think the fact that these groups hold 40 percent of the world population as you mentioned, but almost a quarter of the world's GDP and that will grow, if they get it right, this could be a force to be reckoned with on the world stage both in terms of business and in terms of politics -- Danny.

FREEMAN: David, thank you so much. Essentially, a fascinating meeting. Appreciate the updates. All right. Coming up, police searching property that used to along to the BTK serial killer.

Plus, a devastating bus crash kills one child and injuries dozens more on the first day of school.

And a hair-raising rescue, school kids saved from a dangling cable car. All that and more, coming up.



FREEMAN: Breaking news overnight, two more of Donald Trump's co- defendants in Georgia's election subversion case surrendering just minutes ago.

Former GOP chair David Shafer and Kathie Latham who allegedly served as fake elector both just departed Fulton Count jail. This amid growing concerns about the safety of local courts and law enforcement officials in Fulton County. CNN is learning many of them are receiving threats.

CNN's Brian Todd has details.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The surrender of former President Trump and his 18 co-defendants creating an atmosphere of fear and concern this week in Fulton County, Georgia. A source telling CNN employees with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office are being threatened, threats even made against their homes because of the role they play operating the Fulton County Jail where Trump will surrender this week.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think what we are seeing in Fulton County right now is a really troubling development on some of the concerns we've had around security issues surrounding Donald Trump's three prior first appearances in criminal court.

TODD: Other Fulton County officials have received threats of violence as well, including District Attorney Fani Willis, who's bringing the charges against Trump in Georgia. A source recently telling CNN, Willis has gone given additional security protection near her residence.

Willis has shared with officials messages she's received of a sexualized and racist nature.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I've probably been called the N-word more times in the last 2.5 years than most -- a hundred people combined.

TODD: Willis has said that security concerns have been escalated by Trump's rhetoric. Trump, in denying wrongdoing in Georgia, has called Willis racist, a, quote, lunatic Marxist, and has accused her of having an affair with a gang member.

MCCABE: The attacks are baseless, they are completely false, but they're very effective in appealing to his die-hard supporters, people who are really energized and attracted to what he says.

TODD: As part of the conditions of his release on bond in Fulton County, Trump has been ordered by the court to, quote, make no direct or indirect threat to co-defendants, witnesses, victims, or against the community.


That includes posts on social media.

What if Trump violates that order?

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And if he were to violate that, then he could theoretically see himself behind bars.

TODD: But there are threats targeting Trump as well. Court filings say a woman in Illinois has been threatening to kill Trump and his youngest son, Barron, to shoot them, quote, straight in the face.

Federal Judge Esther Salas, whose son was shot and killed at the door of their home in 2020, worries about the overall climate of fear.

ESTHER SALAS, U.S. FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: I'm also concerned about the language that is being used by our leaders, both on the right and left, when we question the justice system, when we start to, you know, perpetuate false narratives about judges being in cahoots with conspiracies.


TODD (on camera): Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe says what he is worried about most regarding these trials coming up is not large hostile crowds around court houses but the individual lone wolf inspired by violent rhetoric who could target a court or city official connected to these cases. Those people McCabe says are the hardest to find and to stop.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

FREEMAN: And now, to some quick hits across America.

A sheriff's official says a search is under way at the former property of the BTK serial killer in Park City, Kansas. They are following leads in unsolved missing and murder cases.

And one elementary school student and 23 others injured after a school bus overturned in southeastern Ohio on the first day of classes. Officials say a minivan crossed the center line and hit the bus. And tropical storm Harold that is now a depression has triggered flash

floods, power outages and tornado warnings as it rips through south Texas. Forecasters say it's now tracking westward.

All right. So what is the dead giveaway for Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis' mood when he gets on that debate stage? We'll have that.

Plus, an extreme heatwave fueling deadly wildfires in Greece. We'll tell you when they might see some relief.



FREEMAN: We want to turn now to Athens where wildfires are raging at this very moment.

CNN's Eleni Giokos is there for us.

Eleni, what are you experiencing there?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, as you can see behind me, massive flames engulfing a piece of land. We have been seeing enormous wildfires since this morning, erupting across what is known as the land of Athens.

As you can see it, it's close to homes. We saw homes being destroyed a little earlier, we've been listening to police evacuating, moving from street to street. And this fire will not let up. You can hear the helicopters ahead. They are dropping as much water as possible to try and mitigate the spread.

The winds are not happening. We have seen enormous winds. When we set up our shots, our live shot here a few minutes, it was barely any smoke and now, as you can see, it is now burning. People have lost their livelihoods, losing their homes. A lot of people are just choosing to be defiant and stay and trying to hose down their homes with some water, in the hope that they'll be able to save what is left of what they have.

Ninety-three (ph) wildfires have erupted across Greece in the last 24 hours. It has been a herculean task to try to put these fires on you and get them under control. Locals are telling us more should be done. The fire department is telling us that they are doing what they can with the resources that they have. In other parts of Greece, in Alexandropoulos, we saw a massive forest fire and also 18 bodies charred, found dead in the forest.

Just from seeing -- seeing -- having this experience, it is absolutely shocking to see homes alight. As you can see in this home in this garden over here, they've put -- obviously, they have left the hose open to try and protect their property. Look, Greece has seen rainfall in June, record temperatures in July and wildfires spreading across the board. The question now becomes what will be done to save this very important

forest that is absolutely vital for the city of Athens. You can barely breathe. I'm covered in ash and dust. It has been unbelievably terrifying to watch this play out, Danny.

FREEMAN: Oh, Eleni, those images are just terrifying. I truly hope that you and your crew stay safe. I hope that fire officials can get these fires under control as soon as possible.

Eleni, thank you.

All right. Just into CNN, the former leader of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine known as General Armageddon has been dismissed from his position as head of Russia's aerospace forces. That's according to Russian state media.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us now live from London.

Clare, Pentagon spokesperson, Brigadier General Pat Rider, said the U.S. is prepared to support Ukrainian fighter jet pilot training, but I just want you to tell us what more can you -- what more information can you give us about this latest breaking news about General Armageddon.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Danny. This is General Sergey Surovikin, who for three months from October to January last year -- or January this year, commanded what Russia called the special military operation in Ukraine. He has been head of the aerospace forces since 2018.

But the real reason why this is so significant is because he hasn't been seen in public since the aborted Wagner.