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Isa Soares Tonight
Putin Breaks Silence On Prigozhin-Linked Plane Crash; Trump Set To Appear In Fulton County To Surrender; Heat Wave And Fires Engulf Parts Of Europe; Mark Meadows Surrenders At Fulton County Jail; GOP Presidential Candidates Face Off Without Trump; Wagner Chief's Fate Still Unknown; BRICS Invites Six Countries To Join Bloc; Trump To Surrender At Fulton County Jail. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 24, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Isa Soares. Tonight, Russian President
Vladimir Putin breaks his silence on the catastrophic plane crash that has reportedly killed his former ally and then former critic, Wagner boss,
And it's all eyes on Fulton County here in Georgia as we wait for the former U.S. President Donald Trump to be arrested for the fourth time.
We'll be live outside the jail in just a few moments. Condolences and criticism, and for the first time, Russia's president is speaking out, not
mincing his words about a plane crash, which is said to have killed Yevgeny Prigozhin.
He of course is the man who founded the Wagner Group and launched a brief mutiny against the Kremlin. He quoted off exactly 2 months ago after making
an apparent deal with the President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin said Prigozhin was talented, but had made serious mistakes. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): First of all, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of all the victims.
This is always a tragedy. Preliminary information suggest that Wagner Group employees were also on board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: An online flight track shows that a private jet en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg vanished from the radar, Wednesday at 6:11 p.m.
local time. Russia's aviation agency published the names of all on board, 10 people, among them, Prigozhin. Although, we must point out the victims
remains have not yet been identified.
Video that CNN cannot confirm shows a small plane falling out of the sky. State media reports that they were no survivors, and that eight bodies have
been found. Investigators are combing the crash site near Moscow. And a social media channel linked to Wagner says Prigozhin was killed by quote,
"traitors to Russia".
Others are blaming Ukraine, which is celebrating its independence day. President Zelenskyy says his country has nothing to do with it. Well, CNN's
Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, along with senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in Berlin, and our
national security analyst, Steve Hall. Good to have you all with us.
I want to start with you first, Nick because this crash happened two months after the Wagner Group launched this mutiny against the Kremlin. We're now
hearing from the president who has offered his condolences to the family of Prigozhin. What do you make of it?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Putin's words are enough to suggest that he's apprised of events, and he sort of stumbles
when he begins to talk about the preliminary information that suggests there were Wagner personnel on board, and he sort of seems to talk about
Yevgeny Prigozhin, both somebody he knew, but somebody who made errors, and who is now in the past tense.
Let me just quote some of Putin's words. "I knew Prigozhin for a very long time since the '90s" -- interject here, when they were together in St.
Petersburg. "He was a man of difficult fate and he made serious mistakes in life, and he achieved the results needed both for himself, and when I asked
him about it, for a common cause", as in these last months. Now, that's an extraordinary ambivalent way of referring to a man that many people who
observed this aircraft tragedy, think maybe murdered by the hand of the Kremlin.
And I think it speaks to the silence we've heard from Vladimir Putin in these last 24 hours since that plane crashed, where he appears to have a
little bit of distance emerge, and now stepped forward with this very ambivalent statement where he offers condolences to people he thinks were
on board, and says there will continue to be an investigation and also hints, potentially to parts of the Russian elite who might be wondering
what on earth has happened here, that he may be more apprised of the situation than they are.
When he says -- you know, when I spoke to him, he talked about this and that. Still let me let you know about exactly where we are in the
investigation. We don't know an awful lot of information outside of what Russian officials are telling us. They are clearly saying that remains have
been taken away from the area around the crash site.
That's potentially 2 kilometers wide. That's backed up by satellite imagery that CNN has obtained, showing the wreckage distributed mostly in one
place, but in various other locations too.
And at the same time too, all we are relying on at this point are Russian official statements, saying that Prigozhin and a remarkable number of his
henchmen were onboard this same private jet traveling it seems from Moscow to St. Petersburg. A sign really that these men who, a matter of two months
ago, would have been fully aware that they had challenged Putin's rule in a way not seen in over two decades.
The most direct and at times armed threat to Putin he'd ever seen. But they were somehow two months later moving freely and safely inside of Russia,
and they all decided to be on the same private jet. Now, clearly, for reasons we don't fully know their explanation over the moment, that was a
bad decision. There are some suggestions our colleagues in D.C. supporting -- reporting that there are indications the U.S. Intelligence are assessing
a whole variety of possible explanations of indeed how this plane came down.
But the discussion around what happened is focusing at times from those in Ukraine, from those in Kremlin circles, potentially pointing towards
Vladimir Putin here, because of clearly the enmity he must have felt towards Prigozhin for leading that armed rebellion against him. But still,
the calculated sober nature of Putin's comments will remind many of the Putin they perhaps knew a year ago seeming more in control, but clearly,
who felt still an enduring threat from Yevgeny Prigozhin, that potentially, his critics would say, he may have been involved in this plane crash.
KINKADE: Our thanks to you, Nick, if you can just stand by for us. Steve, I want to get some insight from you, because we have a long list of people
that have apparently, potentially, been assassinated or there's been an attempted assassination on their life, who have either been critics or
dissidents of Vladimir Putin. When you look at what has happened here, Prigozhin was not only -- not only became a critic of the Kremlin, he was a
traitor. Is Putin capable of this?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely! I mean, this is -- this is definitely something that is straight out of Putin's playbook.
There is really no surprise to that. I mean, at the end of the day, I don't think we're ever going to know precisely what happened because Russia is a
closed society, it has no rule of law. And so, we won't get any transparency.
But what we're left with, or at least what I am left with is a couple of key questions. I mean, the first is, how is this going to be interpreted
and depending on how the Kremlin spins it. So Putin's comments initially were very guarded, he didn't say a whole lot, and you wonder whether or not
his elite, and some of the key, have they thought, OK, now the real Putin is back, we've got to be really careful or have they learned, that, OK,
it's possible to try what Prigozhin tried.
I mean, his troops after all did get halfway to Moscow. We just have to be more careful. Is that -- is that what opponents of Putin are saying right
now? So, we'll have to see what lessons they've learned based on what actions we see and how the Kremlin spins this in the coming days.
KINKADE: And if it was Putin, Steve, why would he wait two months after a mutiny to do this?
HALL: Yes, that's the right question, because I think that's the question everyone is kind of scratching their heads over. There's a couple of
different possibilities. One is that, we saw how popular Prigozhin was at least, in places like Rostov and other places that are near the border with
Ukraine, where you know, they're being impacted by Ukrainian drones and so forth.
So, Prigozhin, because of some popularity, it might have been thought by Putin and his assassins that, OK, we need to give this some time, if we
turn around and kill him immediately, there could have been, you know, some sort of -- some sort of uprising. The other thing is that because Prigozhin
got as far as he did, it's possible that Putin essentially had to sit down and figure out with his key security guys, OK, what are we going to do?
How are we -- this is not just one man, this is an armed unit that if we kill its head, could come for us. And so, they might have had to plan a
little more carefully as opposed to it being, you know, one opposition figure like Navalny, who they can just throw in jail.
KINKADE: Yes, exactly. And Fred, I want to turn to you because there is also the question of the future of the Wagner Group, where you have
Prigozhin, the head of this group was on that plane, and his right-hand man, the second-in-command also on that plane listed as a passenger. What
does that mean for this group which is operating in many countries around the world?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I think that's a very key question, certainly very important one. I think one of
the things that also feeds into that Lynda, as well, is the importance of the Wagner private military company for the Kremlin, for Russia, for
Russian authorities, and also of course, for Vladimir Putin 's power.
Not just inside Russia, but also of course, around the world as well, at least in many places around the world. If you look at some of the things
that have happened since that uprising, obviously, the Wagner private military company was an extremely important military asset for the Russians
in Ukraine. They were one of the few units that were actually achieving any sort of gains in Ukraine around Bakhmut, despite the fact that, of course,
those were very bloody and they incurred some severe losses while doing that as well.
At least, they could post some successes. That was very important for Vladimir Putin. Then after the mutiny took place, and I think it's so
interesting when we look at that statement that Vladimir Putin read or the things that he said. If you read between the lines, essentially what he's
saying is if, yes, Yevgeny Prigozhin did something important, but don't forget, this is a businessman who also got very rich doing that as well.
That's the point that Vladimir Putin is clearly trying to make, saying this is not just a martyr, someone who sacrificed himself for Russia, this is
also someone who benefited a great deal from the fact that he was getting weapons from the military and money from the Russian state as well. That's
also something Vladimir Putin said.
But we've seen since then while Yevgeny Prigozhin was still alive, was a reorientation of Wagner towards more business in Africa. They had some
assets in Belarus for a while, that really wasn't working out, but they were re-orienting towards Africa, and that certainly seems to be the new
big area where they want to conduct business.
Now, if possibly now, the entire leadership of what was Wagner is now decapitated essentially, especially if Dmitry Utkin, who is that second-in-
command, the sort of military leader of Wagner, especially if he really was on that flight as well. I think very soon, you could potentially see new
leadership at Wagner, and then also possibly see them do new dealings as well, because that business in Africa is very important, money-wise for the
But also as far as political power is concerned as well, with Russia really spreading its influence in that part of West Africa, Lynda.
KINKADE: Yes, you make some really good points, Fred. Just one other question that baffles me, I'll go back to Steve on this is, the fact that
after the mutiny, Putin said Wagner doesn't exist. Prigozhin had agreed to move to Belarus under this peace deal with the Kremlin. Why then would he
return to Russia?
HALL: You know, there's so much, Lynda, that goes on behind the -- behind the doors in the smoky back-rooms of the Kremlin, so many deals that are
cut. And of course, another lesson that I think people inside of Russia -- the power people inside of Russia learning is that, OK, just because you
have a supposed deal with Putin, even if it involves go into a neighboring country -- you know, don't put all your eggs in that basket because it
might not work out as well as planned.
I think with regards to Prigozhin, there's an element of hubris here. We've seen it with some of the other oligarchs that didn't end well 20 years ago,
of course, Nikovski(ph) is a good example. You know, the fact he could pull even with Putin in terms of political strength and ended up spending, you
know, 10 years in a Russian jail. So there is a certain hubris that sometimes these guys display.
They feel like, OK, yes, I was able to pull this off, I tried something, I didn't suffer anything immediately so it must be OK, and then the hammer
comes down. I think that might explain some of Prigozhin's movements in the two months in a regnum between the initial incident and yesterday.
KINKADE: Yes, and of course, we've been focusing so much on Prigozhin. I want to go back to you, Nick, because there have been some significant
developments on the frontlines. We are now hearing from Ukraine that they say they have troops who have landed in Crimea. What can you tell us?
WALSH: Yes, landed in Crimea. I don't think they're necessarily -- they're staying there permanently, but on today, Ukraine's Independence Day,
Ukraine defense intelligence have loudly talked about an operation overnight or in recent days which appears to have put their special forces
along the banks of the Crimean Peninsula.
That is an exceptionally symbolic part of Russia's occupation of Ukraine, taken, annexed in 2014 with rarely a shot fired, and now, a place which is
very much in the crosshairs of their move in the counteroffensive if it tries and cut Crimea off from the rest of occupied Ukraine and the Russian
mainland. The defense intelligence suggesting that a series of amphibious landings have hit targets along that Crimean Peninsula's coast, suggesting
perhaps as many as 30 Russian soldiers have been killed.
It's part of a pattern of their moves across waterways including Dnipro river, to try and harass, to attack Russian troop groupings in these sort
of waterborne areas. But this Crimean move happening on the Independence Day in terms of its announcement, certainly, a way I think of Zelenskyy and
his staff to suggest that they will continue to focus on liberating all of Crimea, to continue to harass Russian troops in areas where they might
think they were otherwise safe, and possibly an answer to western critics who talked about how Ukraine's focus on the Crimea is misplaced.
Crimea is clearly a part of all of Russia's infrastructure in occupied Ukraine. And I think Ukraine would say, well, we're hitting infrastructure
there relentlessly, because it impacts Russia's ability to defend its frontlines on the Zaporizhzhia front. So, a lot moving here certainly, but
above all of that, don't forget, Lynda, this discussion of what happened to Prigozhin feeds into the war narrative here.
He was Putin's most key confidant, the most aggressive part of Russia's military infrastructure along the Bakhmut frontlines and across Ukraine.
And the fact now that Ukrainians might choose to interpret these events are suggesting Putin killed one of his own, one of his former closest allies --
well, that speaks to what this has really done, this war, to Russia's mindset, to the Kremlin's mindset, given it's not had anything like the
swift results had hoped, and had seen the slow grind deteriorate its forces here.
And even Ukraine's slow counteroffensive really challenged Moscow's ability to hold small parts of territory here, Lynda.
KINKADE: Yes, Nick Paton Walsh for us, our Frederik Pleitgen, Steve Hall, we appreciate your analysis. Thanks very much. Well, I want to turn now to
another major story we're following this hour. The pending forth arrest of former U.S. President Donald Trump which is going to happen in just a few
hours here in the U.S. state of Georgia.
And all eyes are now on Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump is expected to leave his golf club to travel to Fulton County jail. There he'll be booked
on more than a dozen charges, as you can see and as you can imagine, security is pretty tight at the jail. Law enforcement officers on high
alert ahead of his arrival. Crowds have already gathered in anticipation. Protesters both in support and against the former president are there.
And in the coming hours, we've learnt that District Attorney Fani Willis has requested for an October trial date in this case just two months from
now. Well, I want to bring in CNN's Zach Cohen who joins us outside Fulton County court. Good to have you with us, Zach. So, this is Trump's fourth
indictment, but this is the first time he'll have to turn up at a jail and get a mugshot. What are we expecting?
ZACH COHEN, CNN REPORTER: It's hard to know what to expect, being in uncharted waters here, guys with you, but you know, we do expect as you
said, former president to fly down to Atlanta, Georgia, where we are now at the Fulton County jail, which is a couple miles from where I'm standing
right now and be booked as a defendant in that jail, a criminal defendant.
Now, it's -- it remains to be seen what that process will look like. But we do know that the defendants in this case, there are 19 of them total, and
about nine have turned themselves in so far. All of those nine people have been treated exactly like any other defendant would be when they surrender
themselves to a jail. That means they were given a mugshot, that means they were fingerprinted.
You know, we are talking about a former president here, and so, it remains to be seen if he will follow that same trend, but you know, we've seen a
tightened security around the jail and here at the courthouse in anticipation of Trump's visit to Atlanta, Georgia. And as you mentioned,
really interesting on a day that he's supposed to rather surrender, Fani Willis; the district attorney, the prosecutor in this case is requesting
that a trial happen two months from now, like October of 2023.
Which is remarkably quick turnaround. And so, you know, the prosecutors in this case moving forward, asking for the next without a timeline as the
president is about to make his way to Georgia and surrender to a jail, really for -- I mean, the first time we've ever seen this happen, I mean,
in U.S. history, really.
KINKADE: Yes, time and time again, now, we are seeing history being made. Zach Cohen for us, good to have you with us. Thank you. And we are going to
stay on this story and take a closer look at what we can expect today at the county jail and how this could play out legally for Trump. I want to
bring in CNN -- Michael Moore; who is a CNN legal analyst and former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Good to have you with us.
MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's good to see you.
KINKADE: So today will be the first time a former president has to turn up at a jail, get a mugshot, and ahead of that, he's changed up his legal
team. He's now got an attorney who is a local, Steve Sadow. You're an Atlanta attorney, what do you know about this person, how is he going to
MOORE: Well, I'm glad to be with you. I do know, Steve, I think he's a good lawyer, he's kind of aggressive lawyer for the former president. He is
not afraid of big cases, he's had big cases in the past, and he's done well with them. So, I think he'll tackle this head-on without any concern at
all. And you know, let me sort of talk a little bit maybe about the trial time as well.
The district attorney's notice of trial today was because the defendant, Mr. Chesebro asked and filed for a request for Georgia speedy trial. And
that simply means that the district attorney had to try this case. She has to put it on the calendar and try Mr. Chesebro's case in the October month.
KINKADE: Yes --
MOORE: That's -- this is not necessarily the district attorney being aggressive, this is a matter of having to respond to a demand for speedy
trial that's allowed by Georgia law. And if she does not try him, then the case is automatically dismissed and he would be acquitted. So, the question
will be, now that these defendants like Trump and the other folks stay in the case?
Whether they filed to sever their trial from Mr. Chesebro, these are all the motions that are going to have to be filed and heard in the court. So,
there's going to be a lot of activity surrounding this trial time and in the coming weeks.
KINKADE: Yes, the trial -- the trial date she set is October 23rd.
MOORE: That's right --
KINKADE: Two months from now. I mean, Is that even feasible for a case like this, where at least one of the charges comes with a mandatory minimum
MOORE: Well, again, Georgia has what's called the Georgia Speedy Trial Act. And what it says is that the defendant who is indicted can at that
term of court, file a notice for a speedy trial or demand a speedy trial. And if they do that, then the state has to try the case, either that term
of court or the next regular term of court, which will be in the September- October timeframe.
So, she had no choice, but to put this on the calendar. I don't think the state is ready to try the case, I don't think they will be ready. I think
the defense lawyers will not be ready to try the case, except for Mr. Chesebro's lawyers which they did, this is a tactical move to basically
call the state's bluff and make them put their case up.
So, there will be a lot of documents, there will be a lot of information, there's going to be a lot of discovery that has to take place. But this is
what the law provides. If you're indicted, you have a right to move your case quickly through the court. How that plays out to the other what?
Eighteen defendants, other than Mr. Chesebro remains to be seen.
And I think, again, I think they will file motions to sever many of them, and have their case separated so that they have more time to prepare.
Remember, at the same time, we have motions being filed in the federal court, asking that certain defendant's cases be moved from the state court
to the federal court. Because there were federal officials at the time.
And so, those -- that hearing is set for next Monday in front of Judge Jones in Atlanta, a federal district judge, and so that --
KINKADE: And just to be clear, Michael, for our international audience --
MOORE: Yes --
KINKADE: You're referring to Mark Meadows, this is Trump's former chief of staff, whose team tried to get an extension --
MOORE: That's correct.
KINKADE: On the day for him to surrender.
MOORE: Yes --
KINKADE: The judge rejected that though, right?
MOORE: Only rejected the ability for him to not be processed. He did not dismiss his motion to have the case --
KINKADE: To --
MOORE: Transferred to the federal court --
KINKADE: Right --
MOORE: Yes --
KINKADE: And so, that's going to happen next week potentially --
MOORE: That happens --
KINKADE: Monday --
MOORE: Next week, and there will be a hearing with evidence received by the court. And the judge will make a decision whether or not under the
federal law, the case should be transferred from the state court to the federal court.
KINKADE: Michael, so often, we see Trump criticize anyone who disagrees with him. And obviously, we have seen like criticism that seems to imply
that he's attacking a judge or a district attorney. Going forward, if he continues that, what are the consequences in the court of law?
MOORE: Well, he is under a bond and will be under a bond after he's processed today, and certainly, under bonds in other courts in the other
cases that prohibit him from doing things like intimidating witnesses, talking about the case with other witnesses, potentially intimidating
jurors. If you do that, you can have a number of sanctions.
You can have your bond revoked, the judge can put additional requirements on you to allow you to remain on bond or released until the time of your
trial. So, there are a number of things that could happen. What's unique in this case is that he's also a candidate for president of the United States.
And one of his -- the witnesses who will appear against him in his trial, is his political, now rival, Mike Pence; the former vice president.
And so, Trump will have a right under the First Amendment, I believe, to respond to claims and allegations that are made and political attacks that
are made, especially around the January 6 incident. He'll have a right to respond to things that the Pence campaign might say, and it will be
interesting to see what the court does if the court is -- how close the judge lets the former president sort of get to the line, before he crosses
that line into criminal conduct.
It might be considered threatening or intimidating a witness. But the court again is going to have to balance his First Amendment rights with those
restrictions that the various judges have placed on him because of his release on bail.
KINKADE: Yes, there's a lot to take into account --
MOORE: Yes --
KINKADE: So, it's going to be very complicated going forward in the months ahead. Michael Moore, good to have you with us to break it all down, thank
MOORE: Always good, thank you.
KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, intense heat and dozens of wildfires that are enveloping parts of Europe. We'll take a look at the challenges
facing firefighters. Plus, the Wagner Mercenary Group not only fought in Ukraine, but it also extended Russian influence in Africa. We'll look at
what this means for a post-Prigozhin future.
KINKADE: Welcome back, I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us. A late Summer heat wave is engulfing parts of Europe and adding strain to the
effort to fight multiple wildfires. In Portugal, more than half the country surpassed 40 degrees Celsius, and it's not just Portugal, hundreds of
firefighters are battling fires across several countries in Europe. CNN's Eleni Giokos has the latest on those fires in Greece.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is what is left of one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the whole of Greece. I'm in Parnitha
Mountain in Athens, it's known as the lungs of Athens. It's an important carbon basin for the city. I want to show you why it's called the lungs of
Athens. If you look out, you can see this thick black smoke towering over the city.
But you also see a very densely-populated area, not enough greenery, and this virgin forest was that one reprieve. Fires broke out here on Tuesday,
it affected homes, many homes were burned yesterday, the fire department are not giving us an exact number, they're still trying to assess the
damage. We also don't know how much of this forest is actually been burned.
What we do know today is that the firefighters tell us that overnight, it was a nightmare experience with many new blazes erupting across the
mountain, and of course, with no air assistance that makes it all that much more difficult to put out the flames. This morning, many helicopters and
planes towering above us, one of the helicopters can carry around 11 tons of water and working rapidly to try and put out the fire.
You can see the wind has subsided somewhat, but the fear is that, once it starts again, that, that will reignite some of the flames that are starting
to just simmer at this stage. Now, looking ahead, locals tell us, they're very worried about potential flooding during rainy season and landsides.
That will be something that will come in the future.
But for now, this fire season for the whole of Greece has been absolutely catastrophic. We have seen hundreds of new fires erupting across the
country in the last few days. Eleni Giokos, Athens, Greece, for CNN.
KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, Donald Trump is supposed to surrender to Georgia authorities later today. We're going to return to
Fulton County jail when we come back.
KINKADE (voice-over): Welcome back.
From the golf club to the jailhouse, just hours from now, Donald Trump is set to travel from New Jersey and surrender to authorities at the Fulton
County Jail, here in Atlanta. The former president is accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election.
He already has a bond agreement in place. His team expects it should not take long for him to be processed. Several of his 18 codefendants have
already surrendered ahead of the deadline Friday.
That includes his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. For the latest, I want to go to CNN's Nick Valencia, who is outside of the Fulton County
Good to have you with us. We've just heard that the former chief of staff of Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, has just surrendered. This is a man that
tried to get an extension on this Friday deadline. That was rejected. He has now surrendered.
What more can you tell us?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, he tried to file a motion to delay the surrender, hoping to get in front of a federal judge to get
his case removed from state court, to federal court, arguing a federal statute protects him as a federal official, saying that anyone that is
charged with the crime, an alleged crime while operating as a federal official, should have the criminal proceedings moved from state court to
A U.S. district judge ruled against his delay so he had to surrender and he did so within the last hour. It's interesting, because 30 minutes or so
ago, we did see black SUVs approach the main entrance in the Fulton County Jail. And we initially thought it was Secret Service vehicles.
But then we saw his name populate on the jail record. So that timing seems to match up with Mark Meadows having arrived here a short time ago.
He's maintained a relatively low profile, as his former boss is in legal peril, dealing with four indictments in the last five months. We are out
here in anticipation, just hours away from the former president arriving here at the Fulton County Jail.
Certainly the most high profile, notable person that has set foot in this jail. And with that comes a lot of pressure dealing with security. Sources
tell us there are several law enforcement agencies that are part of a mutual aid agreement and are working in coordination with this Fulton
Part of that is because of the explosive rhetoric coming from the former president, calling the district attorney in the case a racist, calling
investigation political in nature. He also put an on call to get his supporters out here.
We saw just that. Even before the sun came up, we saw supporters walking up and down this street, which has since been closed off, walking with signs
supporting Trump, honking in support of the president.
Those crowds moved to the other side of the facility and, in response, several teams with tactical gear showed up. The environment has been
contained and is relatively calm, though there is a large crowd there for the president showing support.
It remains to be seen whether or not the sheriff here will keep true to his pledge in treating the former president like everybody else who checks
themselves in or who surrenders, I should say, to the Fulton County Jail.
Will we see a mug shot?
That's the big question, just hours away from the former president surrendering.
KINKADE: Yes, the first mug shot of a president, a former president in the United States. Nick Valencia, good to have you with us, thank you.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump was a no-show at Wednesday night's presidential debate. It is often considered the life of the Grand Old
Party. Even in his absence, he managed to dominate the event, which was hosted by FOX News.
There were eight leading U.S. Republicans on stage. And when the moderators asked about the former president, most of the candidates stood firmly in
his corner. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's speak the truth, OK?
President Trump I believe was the best president of the 21st century.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether or not you believe that the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the
office of President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Right now I want to bring in CNN U.S. national politics reporter Eva McKend, who joins us from Washington, D.C.
Good to have you with us.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Nice to see you.
KINKADE: Trump skipped the debate, instead giving an interview to a former FOX host, Tucker Carlson, that was then posted online, made very little
news. But he was still a focus point at the debate last night.
We just saw the question, would you pardon Donald Trump if he was convicted?
Almost everyone, almost everyone said, yes, they would, even Mike Pence, his former vice president.
What did you make of that?
MCKEND: Well, Lynda, you know, they are listening to the Republican primary voters, have traveled to some of these early states. And even
these voters that have more of an appetite for moving on have real concerns about former president Trump being able to win in a general election.
They don't necessarily have animus toward him. They still are really grateful for him, that he was able to deliver on a number of conservative
victories. Whether it is curtailing abortion access in the country, delivering three conservative Supreme Court justices.
And so, that is why we see this real hesitance, this real reticence to go after Trump directly, even though he is the front-runner because what you
see is that these candidates do not want to alienate these primary voters.
KINKADE: Yes, I mean, they obviously tried to want to tap into some of his base. And we did hear from one of the youngest candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy,
who stood out. But he sounded inconsistent, inconsistent with what he said in the past on the record about climate change.
I want to play some sound from him last night when he called climate change a hoax. Listen to the reaction he got.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us be honest as Republicans. I'm the only person on the stage who is not bought and paid for so I can
say this. The climate change agenda is a hoax.
RAMASWAMY: The climate change agenda is a hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: It's interesting to point out that five months ago he said on record --
KINKADE: -- in an interview, that the climate is warming, that humans are contributing to this climate crisis.
What do you make of his statement last night?
And did he manage to pull any voters away from Trump?
MCKEND: He says the agenda is a hoax. So he's arguing that, you know, the so-called administrative state, as he calls it, that the response to it is
largely disproportional to the crisis. Obviously, there is widespread disagreement on this among conservatives.
And I think it's remarkable because that actually, there was an audience question, there was a video of an audience question of a young conservative
voter, asking these candidates how seriously they take climate change.
And it is remarkable, the youngest person on that stage, he was the one most forcefully pushing back against the responses to climate change. I
don't know if he gained any new voters from the response or from his entire performance.
But it is quite remarkable that, being up there, he is the one with the least amount of government experience. And his profile has only gotten
larger. He was virtually an unknown six months ago.
And here he is on stage, calling the former vice president, Mike Pence, by first name repeatedly throughout the evening, referring to him as Mike. And
we see Vivek Ramaswamy just surging in the polls.
I don't know if that translates to electoral victories. I don't know if he's able to pull off a big win in Iowa with caucus votes in the next five
months with Trump still really commanding such a significant lead. But certainly, more people in this country know Vivek Ramaswamy.
KINKADE: Yes. And he is surging in the federal polls. But as New Jersey, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie said, in New Hampshire, in some
of the primaries, he is still ahead.
It's interesting to know that, when you look at the likes of the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, at the outset of this campaign, he was meant to be
the biggest challenger to Trump. But he seemed to be some of the background noise last night. He didn't stand out as much as someone like Nikki Haley,
I just want to display some sound about what she had to say about her former policy credentials and experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ukraine is the first line of defense for us. And the problem that Vivek doesn't understand is he wants
to hand Ukraine to Russia. He wants to let China eat Taiwan. He wants to go and stop funding Israel.
You do not do that to friends. What you do instead, is you have the backs of your friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: How are voters viewing her performance and Ron DeSantis' performance last night at the debate?
MCKEND: Time will tell. She will get back on the campaign trail, have an aggressive schedule. We will see how voters respond to this. But it was a
good night for Nikki Haley in that she was able to have several moments.
Keep in mind, Lynda, they're not only doing this to raise their profile and speak and connect with voters, this is also a performance for the donor
class. That is really consequential in the months ahead.
You can only run a campaign for as long as you can fund a campaign. And in speaking to some in the donor class after the debate, speaking to them this
morning, they were really pleased by her performance.
KINKADE: Yes, she certainly sounded very strong and made some interesting points, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Eva McKend here in
Washington, D.C., good to have you with us, thank you.
Russian president Vladimir Putin says it appears Wagner mercenary employees were on board the plane that crashed yesterday northwest of Moscow. Wagner
boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was among those listed on the plane.
The Russian president said the Wagner bus was talented but made, quote, "serious mistakes" in life. He also offered his condolences to the victims'
families; 10 people were listed on the flight. At last word, eight bodies had been recovered.
They've been taken for forensic testing. The plane crash comes just two months after Yevgeny Prigozhin's failed mutiny against the Kremlin. Yevgeny
Prigozhin is presumed death is refocusing on Wagner activities in Africa.
U.S. and Western intelligence officials are closely tracking how the group's activities could change. Yevgeny Prigozhin appears made a quick
trip to Maui just days before the crash. A recent video it shows him loading the mercenaries' impact on the continent. Larry Madowo looks at
Wagner's post Yevgeny Prigozhin future in Africa.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is here in an undisclosed location in Africa that the Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin recorded what is
believed to be his last undated video message.
MADOWO (voice-over): A recruitment promo for his private mercenary company and its operation in several African countries.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, FOUNDER, WAGNER GROUP (through translator): Wagner PMC is conducting reconnaissance and search operations, making Russia even
greater in all continents and Africa even freer. Justice and happiness for the African peoples. Let's make it a nightmare for ISIS, Al Qaeda and other
MADOWO (voice-over): It was also the first clear video of Prigozhin since his march on Moscow in June. Once known as Putin's chef, Prigozhin largely
disappeared after his failed mutiny. And quickly, Russia sought to assure its allies, especially across Africa, that Wagner's presence in the
countries would not be affected.
In the two months between the mutiny and presumed death in a plane crash, Prigozhin's fleeting messages were mostly focused on Africa. A photo on the
sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit, for the visiting African official. An audio recording on an pan African channel.
And many audio messages on his Telegram channels. Wagner has been expanding in West Africa for years. CNN filled the mercenaries' training security
forces in the Central African Republic. They are also active or have been linked to Libya, Mali, Mozambique and Sudan.
Huge countries with vast natural resources, some of which Wagner are exploiting. Over the past two years, investigations by CNN and human rights
groups have established Wagner's involvement and complicity with atrocities against civilian populations and the French say the group is also behind a
smear campaign against them.
In Niger, supporters of a July military coup who were burning French flags and waving Russian flags across the country, Prigozhin was quick to offer
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Know that the group itself has become disoriented. There is going to be a lot of fallout, a lot of consequences in terms of
security relaxing. And then generally, there is going to be a resurgence of in the culpability of some of these terrorist groups to strike in those
MADOWO (voice-over): Prigozhin proved valuable beyond the bloody battles in Ukraine. He helped secure lucrative deals and expand Russia's influence
abroad, especially in Africa, where many are sympathetic to Moscow because it doesn't have a colonial baggage of the West.
Vladimir Putin put up events to be trailed and old ally and he stab lieutenants (ph) but it will take more than a flurry of diplomatic visits
to assure allies relying on the notorious mercenary group and worried about the vacuum and disorientation in its command -- Larry Madowo, CNN.
KINKADE: We will take a quick break and be right back with much more news.
KINKADE: Welcome back.
In the first expansion in over a decade the BRICS nations have invited six new countries, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina,
can formally join the bloc January 1. David McKenzie reports.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is certainly a significant moment and possibly a turning point. This expansion of BRICS
was surprising to some. It was thought they could potentially go through a methodical process of inviting countries one by one.
But in the end, it was six countries added, something for everyone of the founding members, I think. And in particular, the addition of the UAE and
Saudi Arabia is important to potentially bring their financial might to the new development bank, the so-called BRICS bank, to counteract the World
Bank and IMF. And that has been a theme throughout this summit, counteracting Western influence and, in particular, this is a win for
Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): This expansion is historic. It shows the BRICS' determination to unite and cooperate with
developing countries which meets the international community's expectation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Underlying the importance of the BRICS meeting and its outcome, the secretary-general of the U.N. was in attendance. He had this to say
about the world financial system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: For multilateral institutions to remain truly universal, they must reform to reflect today's
powers and economic realities and not the power and economic realities of the post Second World War.
In the absence of such reform, fragmentation is inevitable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: This loose connection of countries will have to work together to have any kind of political clout. And certainly, economically, the talk of
de-dollarization in particular by President Putin of Russia, is, in the short term, probably very optimistic.
But there is a sense that they could, if they band together, have an impact on the political stage. One small wrinkle potentially to mention, the Saudi
Arabian foreign minister spoke to regional press, saying, they will look into this invite and come up with a decision at an appropriate time.
According to the South African president, all of these members will join in January 2024 -- David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.
KINKADE: We will take a quick break. We will be right back. Stay with us.
KINKADE: A reminder now of one of our top stories this hour. Donald Trump is expected to surrender to authorities at Georgia's Fulton County Jail in
the coming hours. We are watching his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for any sign of his departure.
He has just shared on social media the he is due to surrender at 7:30 pm Eastern. My colleagues in the U.S. are covering the story from all angles.
We'll have special coverage straight after a quick break. Stay with us. I'm Lynda Kinkade. You're watching CNN. The special coverage of Georgia
indictment of Donald Trump begins in just a few moments.