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Isa Soares Tonight

Deadly Wildfires Rage In Greece; All Eight People Trapped In A Cable Car In Pakistan Rescued; South Africa Hosts BRICS Summit; Trump To Turn Himself In On Thursday; GOP Prepare For First Debate Without Trump; Russia Pounds Zaporizhzhya Area With Shells, Missiles; Thailand Elects New Prime Minister. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 22, 2023 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Christina Macfarlane in for Isa Soares.

Tonight, deadly wildfires rage in Greece as Europe swelters under yet another extreme heat wave. Then breaking news out of Pakistan, as all eight

people trapped in a cable car have now been rescued. We'll have the latest.

Plus, the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa meet in person for the BRICS Summit, but Russia's president is sidelined with just a

virtual appearance, we're live in Johannesburg. Well, we begin with some breaking news out of Pakistan. Pakistan's prime minister and a senator say

all eight people have now been rescued from a cable car that was dangling over a ravine for hours, that includes six children and two adults.

Rescuers had paused helicopter operations due to nightfall. But local zipliners continue to try and get them safely out. The children were

heading to school when one of the cables snapped. Sophia Saifi joins me now live from Islamabad. And Sophia, this is such a relief, such good news,

it's happened just in the last few minutes. What can you tell us?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Christina, we know that this entire country has let out a huge sigh of relief. This was a rescue operation that had been

going on for many hours. Those children between the ages of 10 and 15 had been suspended 900 feet above the ground for hours. It was part of the

school run, this commute by a cable car in between the valleys.

They were going from one point to the other when it -- one of the cables snapped, and that cage-like, homemade almost cable car that's made locally,

there has been calls for better supervision after this incident. That had been suspended for many hours. We've been told that the children had been

vomiting, they've been nauseous.

They're very concerned parents who are on the ground, a lot of locals were there trying to make sure that they're rescued. This has been a joint

effort by the military, by the rescue services, as well as by the locals who know that area best. It is the best outcome. It's been a very long day

for these children as well as the two adults who were with them.

And I think everyone is incredibly relieved that they can now go home, and I think they're going to have a day off from school tomorrow considering

the ordeal that they've gone through today. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Yes, and Sophia, do we know what condition these children, these adults are in, you know, following that rescue and indeed how they

were rescued? Because we know the helicopters had moved away, and that the locals had then pitched in to try and help get those last three remaining

survivors out.

SAIFI: Yes, so the helicopter efforts happened during the day. We did know that there had been stopped because it had been gone into nightfall. We

also know there were zipliners, local zipliners who had been called in also were involved in rescuing those children. A lot of the children were

rescued by the efforts of local zipliners working with the military on the ground.

The helicopters themselves while being manned by SSG commandos were causing issues with the cable car being -- moving a lot because of the wind being

caused by the blades of the helis. But again, a joint effort, an effort that has taken a long and measured response, that has taken many hours. We

know by one of the young children who were on -- in the cable car who spoke to local media from their phone when it still had battery, that two of the

children were slipping in and out of consciousness.

We also know that the commandos had thrown in anti-nausea medicine because a lot of the children were vomiting inside. We do know that they're

currently being administered by health services. And we're hoping for the best to ensure that they are safe and sound. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Yes, and it's distressing to hear that they have been through such an ordeal as you say, and clearly have been very sick from it. I know

this is a secondary issue, Sophia, but you talked there or you touched on having another look at the safety measures around this.


And we know that these children -- for these children, this is a traditional method of travel for them. You know, to get to their school in

the neighboring valley. I mean, what do you think is going to be the sort of next steps and the inspection that will happen after this, to ensure

that it doesn't happen again.

SAIFI: Well, Christina, this is an incredibly beautiful part of north Pakistan, northwestern Pakistan. It's an area where there are lots of

tourists and the prime minister, the caretaker prime minister has already suspended all chair-lifts and cable cars in the region right after the

incident was initially reported. These are cable cars made by the parts of old vehicles. There's not much oversight.

But these kind of incidents are actually not very uncommon in this part of Pakistan. There are no roads in that area. There's a lot of criticism of

the fact that there's not enough infrastructure for children to actually be able to go to school. People do want to send their kids to school, and this

is the best way that they've come up with. So, there is a lot of need for oversight.

There's a need for regulation, and these are questions that are definitely being asked and are being looked upon by the authorities. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Well, as you say, we hope that lessons can be learned from this. But for now, it's just relief and joy for those children and their

families that this has a happy ending. We're so relieved. Sophia Saifi --


There live from Islamabad. Thank you. And now, we turn to northern Greece where hundreds of firefighters are battling more than 60 wildfires being

driven by gale force winds. In Evros, the current epicenter, the bodies of 18 people were discovered on Tuesday. Greek authorities say they believe

there may have been migrants who were caught in fast-moving fires.

The flames forcing many to flee, 200 patients have been evacuated from regional hospitals, many were taken to this ferry, which has been converted

into a makeshift medical center. Now, those left behind are using any tools including branches as you can see here to try and hoax the blazes. And it's

not just Greece battling these extreme conditions.

Other parts of the Mediterranean including Spain and Italy are also attacking wildfires exacerbated by the region's record hot and dry weather.

France too is sweltering on Monday, it hit its hottest ever temperature at this time of year. Let's bring in CNN's Melissa Bell who is in the French

capital monitoring all of this. And Melissa, just turning to those events in Greece, I mean, it is a tragedy for these migrants that seemingly, these

wildfires spread so quickly they have no chance of escape. I mean, how are authorities tackling the scale of this right now?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. It is a scale of it as you mentioned a moment ago, Christina, those very many different wildfires that

have started these last few days driven by those high winds. The conditions making it very difficult for the Greeks to battle, and in fact, other

European firefighters fire engines, helicopters and planes have been brought in to try and help them for the time-being though. So many of those

fires still raging out of control, and already, Christina, with devastating consequences.


BELL (voice-over): Helpless, but being helped to safety. Two hundred hospital patients in northern Greece escaping wildfires that are now in

their 4th day. Firefighters struggling in the face of strong winds and searing temperatures to contain the flames as they spread towards the port

city of Alexandroupolis. Church staff were on hand to evacuate patients, joining in the more than 4 hour-long rescue efforts at the two hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We managed in just four and a half hours to transport 200 in patients from both institutions, saving them from

the threat of fire. Some were able to walk and others were bedridden.

BELL: Others were not so fortunate. The charred bodies of 18 people who Greek authorities say may have been migrants were found in a village to the

north of the town by firefighters. In Spain also, wildfires burning beyond control in Tenerife with more than 12,000 people forced to flee their

homes. The Spanish prime minister says the area will be declared a disaster zone as soon as conditions allow.

PEDRO SANCHEZ, PRIME MINISTER, SPAIN (through translator): The next few hours are going to be very important. Let's hope that the weather helps us

so that we can consider the fire stabilize in the next few hours or days, hopefully, the weather will be on our side.

BELL: As some parts of Europe burn, others are baking with temperatures reaching record levels and heat warnings in more than 20 countries.


French authorities say this could be the worst heat wave this Summer. With the new record set Monday nationwide, some residents aren't hopeful that

things can improve.

GUILHEM ZERMINI, LOCAL RESIDENT: I think it's going to be worse and worse. It will increasingly get hotter and more frequent.

BELL: As loss, devastation and sweltering conditions return to Europe for the third month in a row.


BELL: And it is those many weeks and months of hot temperatures, dry conditions, Christina, that are making what looks like it had happened next

inevitable. Those hot conditions, that heat wave, all of those areas under red alerts, many of them here in France, one of the hardest-hit countries

mean that the dry conditions could lead to many more days of difficulties.

I mentioned a moment ago, those wildfires in Spain, here in France, we've seen a couple starting as well, and the fear is, that we could see more of

what we saw last Summer is, which is -- which was those wildfires spreading so widely across the southern parts of Europe pushed by the winds, pushed

by the dry conditions.

The fear is that we're heading -- extended the last back part of this Summer. That could be what we look ahead to over the course of the next few

weeks. No sign yet of the temperatures dying down or the wildfires being brought back under control. Christina.

MACFARLANE: Yes, just when you think you've seen the worst of it, it comes again. It's just relentless in Europe right now, isn't it? Melissa Bell

there live from Paris, thanks Melissa. And as Europe deals with heat and fires, dangerous rains forced a state of catastrophe declaration in parts

of South American -- the South American nation of Chile.

At least three people are dead and thousands evacuated in the central southern region of Chile after what's been called the heaviest rainfall in

three decades. Forecasters predict more rain in the mountainous area which could lead to flash flooding and landslides. CNN's Patrick Oppmann joins us

from Havana. Patrick, as I say, a state of catastrophe now in Chile. What is the latest on the disaster relief then, the effect this is having on


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's happening, a major effect on some of these communities which are already very isolated places, very

difficult to get help -- indoor(ph) sourcing. Hearing about thousands of people who are cut off. And you know, of course, this is Winter time in the

southern hemisphere.

But because of warming temperatures, warmer temperatures, the kind of things we're seeing, frankly, across the globe that is meant for a very

rainy Winter, an unprecedented amount of rain really, And of course, for the people who live in the mountainous areas where this rain comes in and

causes landslides, causes roads to be cut off, makes it very difficult for emergency personnel to come in and carry out rescues.

That means they're essentially cut off and on their own for the moment. The president of Chile, Gabriel Boric has been traveling through some of these

affected areas and calling on people to heed evacuation orders. But of course, when people are experiencing weather systems that they've just

never encountered in their lifetimes, when the weather just doesn't behave the way it usually does, that makes it really difficult to prepare ahead of


MACFARLANE: And also Patrick, we know that parts of the Caribbean are also headed for some heavy weather, particularly Haiti, Dominican Republic. How

are they preparing for Storm Franklin to hit?

OPPMANN: Yes, and it seems like the hurricane season is really starting in earnest now, and just in the last week, we've been watching storms begin to

develop, which is very concerning for a place, particularly Haiti which has so little to offer its citizens in way of preparation. So, even if the

storm remains a tropical storm, even if it veers a little bit more towards the Dominican Republic.

For Haiti where you have so much of that country that has been deforested, where you have hillsides that don't have many trees on the left because

they've been taken down and to be used as fuel. That can lead just to devastating mudslides, we've seen that in the past even with a tropical

storm, not even a hurricane. You know, you have these dangerous mudslides and frankly, Haiti's government is non-functioning on the best of days

because of the security situation there, because of gang violence being out of control.

And so, when a storm comes in and adds to the misery that people are already experiencing there, you know, certainly, Haiti doesn't need any

more catastrophes. But here in the Caribbean, you know, we're experiencing a record ocean temperatures. And that is a fuel that hurricanes use to

become stronger and for the hurricane season to last even longer or so.

It's very concerning when you see so many storms beginning to develop, and when you hear weather experts say, the weather conditions that we are

experiencing the Summer could lead to more storms and initially predicted for places like Cuba, like where I am, like Haiti, that is just news they

don't need, they don't need any more catastrophes.

MACFARLANE: Yes, absolutely. Haiti's economy as you say struggling so much already right now. Patrick Oppmann, thank you. And as Patrick was saying,

major storms keep hitting the U.S. tropical -- this side of the U.S.


And Tropical Storm Harold came ashore in the U.S. state of Texas a few hours ago. It marks the first U.S. landfill of the Atlantic hurricane

season. Heavy rain and strong winds will continue to slam portions of Texas and Mexico as the storm tracks westward.

Harold comes right after Tropical Storm Hilary drenched parts of Baja, Mexico, southern California and the southwestern U.S. Residents are still

clearing up after record rainfall left a trail of mud and debris. We were reporting on that yesterday. Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Weather Center.

The tropics clearly very active right now, Jennifer. What are we expecting from Harold?

JENNIFER GRAY, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Christina, the tropics have come alive, and it started over the weekend, and we have seen those storms continue to

line up not only in the Gulf of Mexico, but the Atlantic basin. So, we are entering that active period of the Atlantic hurricane season. So, this one

is Tropical Storm Harold, it's got winds of 75 kilometers per hour.

This one made landfall earlier today around 10:00 a.m. local time, South Padre Island, which is in south Texas. And it's pushing to the west, so it

is still carrying some pretty heavy rain and some pretty gusty winds, up to 65 miles per hour. We do have flash flood warnings across Corpus Christi

and areas to the west because of the intense rainfall rates.

And as this storm continues to push westward, the rain should start to die down in the next couple of hours. The good news about this storm is it's

fast-moving. And so, we're not going to have the rainfall totals that we could have if this were a slower-moving storm. So, the rains will get on

out early this afternoon and push into portions of Mexico, that's where we actually could see the highest rainfall totals, and then we'll see rain

spread into west Texas as well throughout the overnight hours.

So, additional rainfall we're expected to see about 50 to 75 millimeters of rain could pick up as much as 100 across portions of northern Mexico. This

is a very dry area, 88 percent of Texas is in a drought. The most extreme areas across central Texas and then southeast Texas, the storm basically

missed those areas that needed the rain most, but we are in dry conditions, moderate to severe drought in the areas that is getting rain from Harold.

So that is good news. It's actually beneficial rain. And it's also giving south Texas a brief break from the heat. We have excessive heat warnings,

heat advisories, heat warnings in place, not only across the south, but up into the upper Midwest, northern areas of the United States, and even south

Texas that's not under those advisories because of Harold getting that break just for about a day or so, and that the heat will be back.

Dallas, Texas, 42 degrees on Friday, temperatures staying in the 40s, Oklahoma City in the upper 30s. So, intense heat spreading all the way as

far north as Chicago, 44 degrees, the heat index, 41 is what it will feel like in Minneapolis. We could seek more than 400 potential records broken,

maximum high temperatures as well as high minimum temperatures throughout the week. So that intense heat that the U.S. has been feeling for much of

the Summer continues to march on. Christina?

MACFARLANE: It does indeed. But good to hear that at least the rain might bring some respite however short. Jennifer, thanks very much.

GRAY: Thanks.

MACFARLANE: Well, turning to Hawaii now where the Island of Maui is recovering from the deadliest U.S. wildfire more than a 100 years. U.S.

President Joe Biden went to Maui, Monday, to look at the devastation, one of the hardest-hit areas was the historic town of Lahaina, which was

completely destroyed. Recently, the president pledged an immediate $700 to each victim of the fires.

And yesterday, he assured the people of Maui that the government would be there to help them rebuild. The county of Maui says a research of all

single-story residential homes has been completed. At least, 115 people have been confirmed killed, but more than 800 people are still missing.

OK, still to come tonight, Russia's president has to appear virtually as South Africa hosts the leaders of India, China and Brazil. We'll have a

live report from Johannesburg. And later, a deal has been made for Donald Trump to surrender in connection with criminal charges. Details ahead.



MACFARLANE: Welcome back. Day one of the BRICS Summit is wrapping up in South Africa as the five-member states look to boost their global

influence. China's President Xi Jinping got a warm welcome from host Cyril Ramaphosa. The South African president has made expanding BRICS a big focus

of this event.

He says China shares similar views, a total of 69 countries have been invited to the summit, including all African states. BRICS is an economic

bloc, not a military alliance, some see it as a counterweight to the U.S. and G7. But the BRICS countries have their own rivalries and divisions.

Brazil's president and India's prime minister are also in South Africa.

But President -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is only attending virtually as he faces an ICC arrest warrant for alleged crimes in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has traveled to Johannesburg in his place. Lavrov was greeted by traditional dancers here as he arrived.

Our CNN David McKenzie is live for us in Johannesburg with the latest tonight.

David, good to see you. It was not long ago that Putin gave that virtual address to the summit. What did he say, and how is his absence being felt

despite representatives like Lavrov being there in his place.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's been downplayed that he's not here in person, Christina, and you would expect

that. I think it was a major headache that was avoided for particularly the host, South Africa that he didn't come because of that ICC arrest warrant

related to Ukraine.

He spoke at the initial meetings of the leaders, and gave that pretaped address. He will speak again tomorrow more formally and most likely live.

He said a lot of what you would expect, that he railed against sanctions against his country, he blamed others for the food shortages that are

related to the war in Ukraine, and he said that they would help African countries get access to grain.

None of that is especially new. I do think though that his presence even virtually, is important as one of the members, the founding members of the

BRICS grouping. Many of the leaders reflected their disappointment, their feeling that the world economic system is slanted against them. Here is

President Ramaphosa of South Africa.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: We require a fundamental reform of the global financial institutions so that they can be more agile and

responsive to the challenges facing developing economies.


MCKENZIE: So, Christina, you did mention this is economic bloc, not a military one. That is true. But it is also a political bloc. And the

question is, with talk of expanding BRICS beyond its core members at the summit, whether this group will take on more of a solid form in terms of

counteracting the influence of the G7 and the IMF and the World Bank.


That is something you hear a lot from those supporting BRICS nations, and those who want to join it. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Yes, and David, interesting to hear that comment about reform from Cyril Ramaphosa. We know that South Africa and China have already

indicated that they're open to that. But what are you hearing there about the chances of this happening soon or at all, given we know that there are

conflicts within this bloc?

MCKENZIE: Yes, and those conflicts aren't necessarily spoken about in public. But China is definitely the country that is most publicly saying

they want to expand BRICS. This would work very well for China. Because it shows it's increased influence on the world stage as it continues its

rivalry, and particularly with the -- and particularly with the U.S.

That is more awkward for countries like South Africa and Brazil even, that are looking to sit on the fence, have good relations with both the U.S. and

Europe, and with Russia, China, and other members of the so-called global south. I do think though that there is a move by these countries. They feel

a certain level of momentum. Here's one analyst I spoke to from India who spoke about some of the key issues to these BRICS members.


PRANJAL SHARMA, ECONOMIC ANALYST & AUTHOR: The economic central gravity is shifting away from Europe and U.S. to that extent, and the fact that the

consuming populations are here. You know as well that the growth of consumption in the West is blattering. If this is where the growth is going

to be, then this region, it is variously described as a growth economies or global salt needs to reinvent itself.


MCKENZIE: Well, whether they can actually come up with concrete ways to expand BRICS, and to have a unified force, it remains to be seen,

Christine. Of course, if you have one group that contains the world's biggest democracy and the world's biggest autocracy in one group, you're

going to have very different viewpoints.

In a way unified in their need or their willingness to kind of look at the world through a different lens, and try and build their own power and

influence with each other. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Yes, it will be very interesting to see what framework they come up with or including any additional countries if indeed they do move

in that direction there. David McKenzie, appreciate you being up for us this evening, we'll speak again tomorrow. Thank you.

All right, still to come tonight, U.S. presidential race is heating up, the first Republican debate is about to take place, but without the leading

candidate. We'll have a preview. Plus, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's latest European tour as he tries to turn the tide of the war.




MACFARLANE: Former U.S. president Donald Trump is expected to turn himself in this Thursday to the authorities in the state of Georgia. The news comes

as two of his codefendants, including his former attorney, surrendered earlier today.

In an agreement made between Trump's attorneys and the Fulton County district attorney, the former president will be processed and released on a

$200,000 bond. He is accused of taking part in a criminal enterprise over the 2020 election results in that state. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied

any wrongdoing.

CNN's senior crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz, joins us from Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta.

Katelyn, some activity today. Just walk us through the events that have taken place at the county jail and conditions of Trump's bond agreement

yesterday. That is important in this.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is extremely important because what Donald Trump is being told right now by a

court is that, if he doesn't meet his conditions of release, he could be put in jail to await trial.

The bond could be revoked. His bond is currently $200,000. He has to assure the court he would pay them so that he will say, I will be showing up for

trial. On top of that, the conditions he has to meet include making sure he is not intimidating or retaliating against anyone associated in this case


Any defendants or possible witnesses. There are potentially many people from the campaign, people from his own administration, his vice president,

Mike Pence, who he's running against now for the Republican nomination for president.

Donald Trump, with those conditions, one of the things different here in Georgia than in the three other cases that he is facing as a criminal

defendant is that he didn't have as strict terms in those other cases. He was essentially released with the general conditions given to any defendant


He's getting that $200,000 bond plus a very explicit warning that he must not intimidate using social media, where he likes to post about people,

including Pence. But we are at the courthouse because there's a long process going on this week of getting all of these 19 defendants, Trump

included, arrested.

What they're doing before they go to the jail to be arrested -- and we've seen two of them already at the jail earlier today. They were arrested and

then released there on bond. John Eastman and another defendant in this case.

But what is happening here first is lawyers are negotiating with the district attorney's office to make sure that none of these defendants are

going to be arrested, swarmed by police to be hauled into court so that they would be bringing themselves into the jail.

Then they would be processed and released fairly quickly so they don't have to sit in jail for too long. Then we are on to more of the proceedings in

this court case, which could take quite a bit of time and become very complex.

Because of how many defendants we are having here, as well as how many moving parts there are in Georgia state court and elsewhere.

MACFARLANE: Yes, two down another 17 to go. Katelyn Polantz, outside the courthouse, appreciate it. Thank you.

We are just a day from the first Republican presidential debate, the debate that will not include former president Donald Trump. Despite his legal

issues, Trump is the front-runner for the nomination. Without him, the event will feature eight candidates.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, South Carolina senator Tim Scott and Trump's former vice president, Mike Pence.


MACFARLANE: To take part, the candidates must have 40,000 individual donors and at least 1 percent support in three national polls. Despite his legal

problems, Trump supporters overwhelmingly support him.

Some calling the indictment a witch hunt and blasting high-profile Republicans for not supporting the former president. Let's bring in CNN

political analyst Ron Brownstein, who recently wrote about just this.

Ron, before we get to this debate tomorrow night, I want to talk about Trump's continuing popularity. We know, when he is on the stage tomorrow --

or when he is not on stage tomorrow -- he will still be the elephant in the room essentially.

Can you first address how it is that Donald Trump, despite the many indictments against him, has remained the front-runner in the GOP by quite

some margin?

What tactics has he been deploying?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The short answer is he's convinced most Republican voters to view the indictments the way he wants

them to see it, which is a plot by the deep state to silence them, in effect, by sidelining him.

He is tapping into what has become one of the most powerful fuels in the modern Republican coalition, the belief among conservative white Christians

or the dominant bloc in the Republican coalition that they are the real victims of discrimination in a changing America.

And Trump has called the prosecutors, the Black prosecutors involved in these cases, racist for going after him. He has said explicitly they're

going after me but they are really trying to silence you.

In all these ways, he's essentially extended the argument he has made from the beginning, since he came down the escalator, to encompass this case,

which is that there are all these institutions in American life that are now trying to marginalize you and displace you and efface and erase the

America that you understand it to be.

And I am your voice. And now, of course, he says, I am your retribution.

MACFARLANE: You wrote, Ron, on, I want to read out a quote.

"Trump's belligerent approach to the forces of threatening conservatives will remain central to the GOP message, whether Donald Trump remains a

central figure or not."

I think you touched on it there about how Donald Trump has achieved this political transformation of the party.

But is it a genuine transformation or simply that his messaging is now so popular and so pervasive within the political -- within the Republican base

that his rivals cannot hope to compete with it?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, it's a really hard question to answer in terms of where this is going in the future. But there are lots of reasons to believe that,

whatever happens to Trump, that this line of argument, this cultural pushback, will remain central to Republicans.

And as long as it does, the skepticism and suspicion of institutions that we are seeing reflected in the Republican rejection of these charges will

also continue. The views that we are talking about are overwhelming in the Republican coalition.

Over 80 percent of Republican voters say discrimination against whites is now as big a problem as bias against minorities in the U.S.. Over three

quarters of Republican say Christianity in the U.S. is under assault.

Roughly 70 percent, Christina, said society now punishes men just for acting like men. And though you don't hear the other candidates take these

arguments into the political arena in quite a belligerent fashion as Trump, certainly they are there.

Whether you're listening to Ron DeSantis and all his attacks on the wokeocracy or even Tim Scott in the way he talks about liberal institutions

in U.S. life. This is what drives the Republican Party.

Plus there's a self reinforcing element to all of this, which is that Trump is transforming the Republican electorate. He's been driving out the

generally more culturally moderate, economically focused, college educated, suburban voters and replacing them with even greater strength among the

more culturally populist and even reactionary blue-collar voters.

So the electorate in 2024 for the Republican primaries is likely to be even Trumpier in effect than it was in 2016 because it will have more of the

kinds of voters who are most receptive to his messaging and fewer of the voters who could be the basis for a coalition to oppose him in the


MACFARLANE: But there are a few candidates that have gone the other way to a degree. Of the eight taking part tomorrow, Mike Pence stands out as

someone who's built his campaign and been very outspoken in his condemnation of Trump's behavior on January 6.

Chris Christie is another.

Looking ahead to that debate tomorrow.


MACFARLANE: How would they have fared if they have the opportunity to go up against Donald Trump?

Would it have been in their favor to have the opportunity to do so?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think so. I think most political consultants will say Trump is making the correct, hard political call to not get on stage with

candidates who are trailing him by 40 and 50 points in national polling, a deficit we rarely see in primarily polling and not give them the option.

That's a rational decision for him.

Now the ball is in the court of the other candidates. They have to make him regret and reconsider that decision by using his absence to make a case

against him that he is not there to deflect.

I don't often make predictions in politics but I will say that if the candidates spend the debate tearing each other apart, they have very little

chance of convincing Trump to get on the stage with them in the next debate in September.

I mean, the only way to get him to reconsider his posture is if they use this time effectively and he is not there to rebut the arguments they are


MACFARLANE: Yes, that's good advice. We also know Donald Trump is planning some counter programming to this tomorrow. With Tucker Carlson. His

intention to turn himself in to Fulton County Thursday. He will make headlines as well.

Do any of these candidates, who have an opportunity to better their situation tomorrow night, if, as you say they don't just use the occasion

to tear each other apart?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think the candidates who have the most potential momentum on the ground in the early states are Ron DeSantis, who is heading

in the wrong direction, and senator Tim Scott, who may be heading in the right direction in Iowa and New Hampshire.

DeSantis has a lot of institutional support. A lot of the Republicans who don't want Trump as a nominee, who don't think he can win, those power

brokers, bet on DeSantis early. But he is not connecting with voters. I can tell you just coming back from Iowa there was not a huge amount of

interest in him among the voters that I spoke with.

But he does have a lot of institutional support and if he can begin to make a better case for himself and, more importantly, a case for why voters

should bypass the former president, he has something to build on.

And Scott is I think the one who is best positioned to fill the vacuum that the disappointment in DeSantis has left. There is interest in polling in

Ramaswamy. But we have seen this before in public races, like Herman Cain, Ben Carson, Michelle Bachmann.

Candidates on the fringe have a moment when it's still warm out or even when the leaves are falling. But when we get to the winter in Iowa and New

Hampshire, most of them wither along with the temperature.

So I will say DeSantis and Scott have the most to gain. But if they can use it and not only make a strong case for themselves but get over the

threshold, which is 55 percent to 60 percent of Republican voters, who say they want Donald Trump.

If you don't change, it doesn't matter how much you improve perceptions of your own candidacy.

MACFARLANE: Yes. We will wait to see how they use the occasion. Ron Brownstein, always great to have your perspective. Thank you for joining


Ukraine's president is shoring up support across Europe as his forces struggle to break through Russian lines. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met

with his Serbian (ph) counterparts on Tuesday in Athens. Both leaders were there for a summit with Balkan and European Union leaders and are publicly

supporting each other's efforts to join the E.U.

As to recent developments on the ground, Russia says they destroyed more Ukrainian drones near Moscow. Officials in Ukraine say the Zaporizhzhya

region has been hit 96 times by shells and missiles in just the last 24 hours. I want to turn to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh who's standing by.

Nick, given you are in Zaporizhzhya, what is this barrage of missiles been like?

What toll has it taken on the region in the last 24 hours?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Frankly the change has not been that noticeable because the numbers you talk about,

catastrophic as they sound, are quite regular at times. It's often a case of accounting as exactly what hits where.

A lot of places hit by that 100 missiles or artillery strikes are along the front line of the southern counteroffensive. Here where we were during the

day, we heard multiple air raid sirens, felt the pressure wave and what sounds like incoming blasts eve as far away as we are from city here.

And too, in the dark of night, have heard what sounded like drones passing over us. That is likely Russian attack drones. This feeds into the broader

narrative of what we're seeing, Ukraine making incremental gains, allowing their success in the village called Robotyne, that is short of 500 people

strong in the last census done 2 decades ago.


WALSH: But it's now the focus of intense fighting to the Russians and Ukrainians. Ukrainians saying a very high level within the Ukrainian

government they have got troops in the north of there. Even saying they've taken 20 civilians, who somehow managed to live inside there during this

intense fighting. They've taken them to safety.

At the same time as you mentioned, Christina, that Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now on his way back from a tour of Europe. It's fair to say been quite

successful. We seen these periodically -- Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece; him essentially meeting allies and trying to get more weaponry from NATO


And despite the fact literally four days ago, Ukraine was saying they're not going to get the F-16s they needed at all this year. That's still the

case. But that tour has resulted in a much more concrete timetable; 19 from Denmark, possibly as many as 42 from the Netherlands.

Zelenskyy's saying Greece would help with training as well. So a concretization of that desperate need from Ukraine to see F-16s in their

skies to try and dampen Russian air superiority.

At the same time, we are hearing repeated reporting from Western officials, suggesting they don't think the Ukrainian counteroffensive is going as fast

as it could be doing. A remarkable thing frankly for Ukraine's key ally to be doing publicly, criticizing their counteroffensive turn as it is at its

most intense throes but, at the same time, NATO responding to sustained pressure from Ukraine and giving that vital F-16 support.

So Zelenskyy possibly happy with what he's achieved in his brief tour of some European countries but probably returning now to an exceptionally

complex front line. They are seeing some success but nothing like the pace that somehow Western officials felt they would be able to achieve in August

alone, Christina.

MACFARLANE: Nick Paton Walsh, live from Zaporizhzhya. Thanks, Nick.

We will be right back after this short break. Stay with CNN.




MACFARLANE: Thailand has a new prime minister. Parliament has elected real estate mogul Srettha Thavisin, ending months of political deadlock. But the

vote was overshadowed by the return of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister, who was ousted in 2006 and is linked to the same party as the

prime minister-elect.

It's adding to speculation that he made a deal with the country's military and political elite. Paula Hancocks breaks it all down for us.



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cheers from supporters welcome Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand bowing to a portrait of the

king amid speculation the ousted prime minister may seek a royal pardon.

We've been meeting his followers, Thaksin was taken into custody into court where he was sentenced to eight years on corruption charges brought during

his 15-year self imposed exile, charges he denies.

A doctor says he has underlying health issues and will be held in a separate room under 24-hour supervision. The former prime minister was

ousted in 2006 by a military coup but is still considered an influential and divisive figure.

This supporter says, "I am so happy I'm delighted because I have been missing him. I have joined his fight since it all began, the same day

Srettha Thavisin, the candidate for the Thaksin backed Pheu Thai party, was voted in by parliament to become Thailand's new prime minister.

Speaking to CNN before the election, he said the economy was the priority.

SRETTHA THAVISIN, THAI PRIME MINISTER-ELECT: Thailand has been in a bad economic situation for the last 5 to 8 years. OK? We were kind of in a


HANCOCKS (voice-over): The Thai only came second in the election but the progressive move forward party, which won the most votes, was blocked from

forming a government by conservative military-backed parties.

Pheu Thai has now aligned itself with two of those military backed parties, a stunning turn of events, reversing the campaign pledge to keep the

military out of politics.

THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK, CHULALONGKORN UNIVERSITY: Thaksin has come back, criticize his leaning cause in governments (ph) to protect and safeguard

the establishment, which earlier accused Pheu Thai for many years of being subversive. Accusing Thaksin of being a usurper against the crown.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Experts point to the irony of the former enemy becoming the current partner.

THITINAN: The Pheu Thai support base is angry, upset and disappointed, because this is a sellout.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Pheu Thai has said the coalition is necessary to break three months of stalemate during the election. The move also subverts

the will of millions of voters who backed Move Forward, many of them young, hoping for deep structural reforms in Thailand.

This Move Forward supporter said, "I had high hopes for our future, my children's future, who would've had better lives. I'm disappointed and I do

not know if the current ruling party will be betrayed."

Thailand has seen more than a dozen successful coups since 1962 -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


MACFARLANE: We will be right back after this short break with a big chess update. Stay tuned.





MACFARLANE: Welcome back.

After 35 moves, the opening game of the Chess World Cup final ended in a draw yesterday. The 18-year-old Indian chess prodigy, Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa, better known as Pragg, and Norwegian grand master Magnus Carlsen both agreed to a stalemate and will face off in a second game


Pragg became the grand master at the age of 12. He beat the five-time world champion in an online chess tournament more than a year ago. He is the

youngest player to ever defeat the Norwegian and if needed the two will head to a tiebreaker on Thursday.

Finally, in what could be a first, a rare, spotless giraffe has been born.


MACFARLANE (voice-over): This giraffe, born in a Tennessee zoo, is believed to be the only solid colored giraffe in the world, less than a month old.

The young female already stands almost 2 meters tall.

The zoo is running a poll on what to use name the unusual baby, drawing inspiration from the Swahili words meaning "unique," "beautiful" and


I would just call it cutie pie.

And that's it for the show today. Thanks for joining us. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up after the break.