Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Putin Makes First Remarks Since Prigozhin's Death; 8 GOP Candidates Face Off In First Debate Without Trump; One-On-One With Fmr. MD Gov. Larry Hogan; Meadows Agrees To $100k Bond In Georgia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 24, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: The breaking news right now, moments ago, for the first time, Vladimir Putin commented on the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who launched a short lived revolt two months ago inside Russia. Prigozhin was on a plane that fell from the sky yesterday with 10 people on board.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Ukraine. So what did Putin say, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, extraordinary. After nearly 24 hours silence, we are now hearing from Vladimir Putin, not necessarily directly declaring Yevgeny Prigozhin dead, but talking about his desire to express his severe condolences to the families of all the victims of that particular air crash.

And then he mumbles mid this sentence, it seems, and he says, indeed, if they were there, it seems -- here he mumbles -- preliminary information suggests that Wagner Group employees were also on board. Now, that's important because it is essentially him confirming and amplifying the initial information we got from Russian officials about the death of key Wagner employees on this aircraft.

He goes on, importantly, to talk about Prigozhin himself and refers to him, it seems, in the past tense as part of this same conversation. I knew Prigozhin for a very long time, since the 90s, he was a man of a difficult fate and he made serious mistakes in life. But he also praises the contribution, he says, that both Prigozhin and Wagner made.

And so while this is, I think, far, it's fair to say from any confirmation from Putin that indeed Prigozhin is dead, he's definitely adding his voice to the narrative. He's taken a very typical Putin pause between the events and him speaking, in which he's been noticeably absent from the commentary around this.

But I think if you were observing this, you might see it as Putin trying to project himself as in control of events. I should point out again, we don't definitively know Prigozhin is dead. It seems pretty likely at this stage, and there is no evidence that Putin was involved in that. But so much commentary, including that of President Joe Biden, points in that direction because of what Prigozhin did with his Wagner mercenaries about two months ago.

But startling, frankly, to hear Putin talk about him when in what seems to be the past tense. Dana?

BASH: Those two words, Nick, difficult fate, seem to be doing a lot of work in that statement that we just heard from the Russian president. Thank you so much. Appreciate that reporting, Nick.

And now I want to go to Fred Pleitgen, who is joining us from Berlin. Fred, are you surprised to hear these comments from Vladimir Putin, or is this, as Nick was saying, kind of the classic Putin playbook after somebody who gets in his crosshairs suddenly allegedly disappears and dies?


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that Vladimir Putin taking a pause and taking a little while to comment is certainly something that we might have seen before. I mean, one of the things that I thought was really interesting, as we were covering this event yesterday after the plane crash took place, is that no one in official Russia has -- had actually commented on it.

There was supposed to be a Kremlin phone call with the spokesman for the Kremlin that didn't happen. Other Kremlin officials that I tried to get in touch with also not commenting on it either. And of course, some of the visuals that we saw yesterday of Vladimir Putin where he was at an event commemorating soldiers killed in World War II, and there was a moment of silence for them.

But at that point in time, he still had not commented on this plane crash and the possible death of Yevgeny Prigozhin. It certainly seems as though he did take quite a long time to now put these words out there. And if you read some of the statement that Nick just obviously did, it certainly does not feel extremely heartfelt.

He said he knew Prigozhin since the 1990s. He said he was a man of difficult fate. He was a businessman who did well for himself in business, and then they had a common cause, which obviously he means the war in Ukraine and putting the Wagner mercenaries there on the front line.

So, really, Vladimir Putin speaking in a very matter of fact way about Yevgeny Prigozhin. He did offer his condolences to everybody, obviously, who was on that flight. And I think a lot of that also, quite frankly, reflects the mood in Russia as well, where many people, when they heard the news about the possible demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, of course, also some of the senior leadership of Wagner as well, they did kind of feel like it wasn't surprising.

It was certainly something that was shocking, but not necessarily something that was surprising. And, of course, Yevgeny Prigozhin is someone who was quite well respected, actually, by a lot of Russians. If we look around the country today, there are a lot of memorials that are coming up. Certainly flowers being laid down in front of the Wagner headquarters in St. Petersburg, also at some Wagner bases.

But there are very few questions that are being asked publicly as to what exactly happened, how it happened. And I think we saw that in Vladimir Putin's statement as well, where he was saying, look, there's an investigative committee that is working right now, will await the results, and then we'll know more. It certainly doesn't seem as though he is pressing to find results very quickly. Dana?

BASH: No, it's hard to press for results when you might already know the answer to it. We don't know all the details. We should say that very clearly.

Thank you so much. Appreciate your reporting.

And Trump's rivals for the White House tried their best to set themselves apart on the debate stage last night. Were they successful? I'm going to talk to former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan next.



BASH: Eight Republican candidates took the stage without Donald Trump, but his day trip to an Atlanta jail will refocus the 2024 discussion back squarely on the front runner. Joining me now, one of Donald Trump's biggest critics, the former Republican governor of Maryland. Thank you so much for joining me, Mr. Hogan -- Larry Hogan, I should say your name.


BASH: Let's start with the notable moment that I know that you sort of were looking at a lot of people took notice of. And it's when the moderators asked the candidates to raise their hands and ask if they would still support Donald Trump as a nominee if he is, in fact, convicted in any of these criminal cases. Let's look at what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all signed a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party's choice? Please raise your hand if you would.


BASH: How much does that sum up where your party is right now?

HOGAN: Well, that was the low light of the entire debate. I mean, I was embarrassed and disgusted by it. The fact that, you know, look, we've got to let the court cases play themselves out. We can't -- everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but no man is above the law, not even the President of the United States.

And for, you know, six people who'd raise their hand and say, I would put a convicted felon in the White House, it's just beyond comprehension. I mean, in most states, convicted felons don't even have the right to vote. They're not registered voters, but we would put them in the White House. I mean, I was amazed that only Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson stood up and said, you know, they would follow the Constitution and the rule of law.

BASH: And you have urged candidates to take a more aggressive approach towards Trump in this primary. But I want you to listen to what happened when Chris Christie did just that.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The conduct is beneath the Office of President of the United States. And, you know, this is the great thing about this country. Booing is allowed, but it doesn't change the truth.



BASH: That was a moment if you had decided to run yourself, you probably -- I mean, I could see you doing what Governor Christie did right there with regard to what he was saying --

HOGAN: No question.

BASH: -- about Trump. And you would have gotten the same --


BASH: -- response from the Republicans who were in the audience. And that begs a question, one of them that I've asked you many times, which is, is there still room for that kind of talk, that kind of, in the words of Chris Christie, truth in the Republican Party right now?

HOGAN: Yes. Well, that's a question that I guess we're going to find the answer -- we're going to find out the answer about. Look, I thought Chris Christie, you know, was telling the truth. He had a lot of courage. I like the way he pushed back on the audience.

But, you know, this is not a representative sample of the voters in America. This is the most partisan, most active base of the Republicans, those couple thousand people that get in that room. And I'm not sure all the people watching television had the same, you know, exact opinion. And that's the problem here, is that Donald Trump's very, very popular with the base and very, very unpopular with, you know, almost 70 percent people of America.

BASH: But the base, they're the ones who tend to go out and vote in the primaries and in the caucuses and elect --


BASH: -- the nominee for your party just like the other party.

HOGAN: Well, that's the problem, and it's one of the reasons why I'm not in that primary. I didn't want to see 11 people splitting up the anti-Trump vote. And I wouldn't mind standing there next to Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson getting booed, but I just didn't think it was productive.

You know, I think they have to keep telling the truth because, you know, the fact that people were willing to just forget about what happened on January 6, you know, is ridiculous. It's absurd. It's an embarrassment to the party. And, you know, they've got to stand up and have a little more courage.

I mean, Donald Trump last night said, it was -- January 6 was a beautiful day. It wasn't a beautiful day. It was one of the darkest days in American history. You know, I was sending in the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland State Police to protect the leaders of Congress while they're chanting to hang the vice president. It's just -- it's not even -- we're not in reality anymore. I don't understand.

BASH: You have been flirting with the notion of participating in a third party run. The group is no labels. You are involved with no labels. After you saw what you saw last night, where you look at the larger picture of where the race is right now, are you any closer to saying, you know what, that's something I want to do?

HOGAN: It's really not something I'm focused on. I mean, I believe that the group is out there representing a lot of folks who would like to see more common sense. They're sort of fed up and disgusted with politics and politicians and both parties, and they think Washington is broken. And so it's still a long way off.

I'm not convinced yet that we can't -- you know, that the primary is a long way off. This was a very -- this was the opening start of the race last night, and there's still a lot for us to deal with. I'm still hopeful that we can find a Republican that can step up and win this nomination. That's not Donald Trump, because I think he is our weakest possible candidate in the general election, in spite of the fact that he's 40 points ahead among Republican based primary voters.

BASH: Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

And up next, we have more breaking news. Mark Meadows, the former president's former chief of staff, is moving closer to surrendering in Georgia. What we're learning after a short break.



BASH: Now, breaking news back in Georgia Fulton County, where Mark Meadows just wrapped up negotiations for his bond. CNN's Paula Reid is in Atlanta. Paula, what does this bond agreement look like?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the former White House chief of staff now has a $100,000 bond agreement. He will have to post a small percentage of that in cash. He's also subject to a list of specific restrictions if he wants to continue to be a freeman and not be detained among those restrictions. And we've seen these with other defendants.

He cannot discuss the case with other defendants, only can discuss it through counsel, also cannot discuss it with any witnesses. And he's also barred from trying to intimidate anyone involved in this case. Now that he has his bond all set, Dana, we expect the -- Mark Meadows could show up here at the Fulton County Sheriff's Office at any time.

Now, he had actually been trying to avoid all of this. He had asked a federal judge to give him a reprieve from this deadline of tomorrow at noon to surrender because he's currently trying to get his entire Fulton County case moved to federal court. He believes if he can get this moved to federal court, he can get it dismissed.

And he asked the federal judge that he not be forced to surrender until that issue is settled. But yesterday, Dana, federal judge disagreed. So that's why we've seen his attorneys have settled on bond. Now he'll have to show up hereto the sheriff's office to be processed, and that involves fingerprints, a mugshot. They'll take some of down some of his vital information, and then he will be able to return to his life until a few weeks from now, when he'll have to come back for an initial appearance.


In federal court, we saw all of this happen at once, but here in Fulton County, things happen in stages. But this, this was an appearance at the sheriff's office that he was hoping to avoid, but he could come anytime today. If he doesn't show up today, he'll have to be here by noon tomorrow.

BASH: Would be interesting if he shows up the same time as his former boss, but he thinks that's not going to happen. I'm guessing you agree.

Paula Reid, thank you so much for that reporting. A very important reporting about Mark Meadows.

And tonight, the former president is surrendering in Fulton County, Georgia. What will happen in his ongoing legal drama? Join Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Kaitlan Collins for special live coverage. It begins at 07:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.