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CNN Live Event/Special
Texas Woman Charged With Threatening To Kill Judge Overseeing Donald Trump's Election Interference Case; Fani Willis Wants Trump Trial To Begin March 4, 2024; Death Toll At Least 110, Searches Continue; Search And Rescue Operations Continue For Victims Of Hawaii Wildfires; Retired U.S. Army General Wolf Blitzer Shares Insights On The Latest Russian Airstrikes; Experts Look Into Michael Oher's Conservatorship Issue. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 16, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Samuel Miele is charged with impersonating a high-ranking staff member, of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's in an attempt to raise money for his boss, the known serial liar, George Santos. Miele pleaded not guilty, and the indictment says that he asked more than a dozen contributors to fund Santos' campaign, and he also got a 15 percent commission from it.
Prosecutors allege that he wrote a letter to Santos back in 2022 saying, quote, faking my identity to a big donor. He also wrote, high risk, high reward in everything I do. Something he said did turn out to be true.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight. CNN Primetime with Wolf Blitzer starts right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Excellent show, Katelyn. Thank you very much.
And to our viewers, good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. We want to welcome you to CNN Primetime.
There's breaking news we're following right now. A Texas woman has been charged with threatening in a voicemail to kill the federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former President Donald Trump over his attempts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The suspect allegedly called the chambers of Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan on August 5th and left a voicemail message threatening to, quote, kill anyone who went after former President Trump. We'll have more on this story's breaking news. That's coming up in just a few moments.
And it comes as we are on the verge right now of a truly unprecedented calendar collision leading to a presidential campaign like nothing we've ever seen before. The 45th president of the United States facing courtroom dates in the coming weeks and months here in Washington D.C., in South Florida, in New York, and in Georgia, all while he's running for a second term. Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis says she wants to arraign Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants the week of September 5th. And she wants to start his trial on March 4th, 2024, the day before Super Tuesday, when more than a dozen states hold their presidential primary elections, that as lawyers for the former president are in ongoing negotiations with the D.A. over details of his surrender before the August 25th deadline.
Meanwhile, his advisers believe he's not planning to debate on August 23rd. That's next week. Asa Hutchinson, one of Trump's Republican rivals, is standing by live. He will weigh in.
And the death toll has risen now to at least 110 in the Maui wildfires as searchers are still digging through the ruins of once thriving communities. Hawaii's Governor Josh Green told me this earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): 38 percent of the territory has been covered by the rescue team. So, they're really accelerating now. As you mentioned earlier, we're adding 225 additional people to go and do search and rescue, and another 20 dogs taking up to 40 dogs. So, much more territory will be covered quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Tonight, I'll ask Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono what it will take to heal Maui and its people.
But right now, joining us, CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez and Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. Also with us, former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi and National Security Attorney Bradley Moss.
But I want to get right to Evan and John on the breaking news we're following, a Texas woman charged with threatening to kill the judge overseeing Donald Trump's election interference case.
Evan, this woman is in Texas. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolof, she made a threat. This was a voicemail that she left on the chambers of Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the election subversion case of the former president.
So, this threat, according to authorities, she leaves a threat that says, if Trump doesn't get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you. Then she goes on to make additional threats. She also made threats to kill Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, all Democrats in Washington and members of the LGBTQ community.
There's obviously a lot of threats like this that periodically make their way to elected officials, judges. Of course, we saw the very serious assassination attempt of a Supreme Court justice in the last few months. So, the FBI, the Justice Department, takes every one of these seriously. You never know which one of these things could turn out to be true.
In this case, this woman, her name is Abigail Jo Shry, she told the investigators from DHS that she had no plans to travel to Washington, that she was making these threats verbally. And so it appears that this one was a much more limited case. But, obviously, all of these things are very concerning whenever the authorities come across them.
BLITZER: And if you read this criminal complaint, which I've read and you've read, it's pretty scary stuff, what's going on.
John, the investigators say the woman used racial slurs and threatened to kill anyone who went after former President Trump.
As these prosecutions move forward, is there a likelihood of yet more threats of violence?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I think there's a certainty of it, and I think this case is pivotal. What we've seen in New York City is District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the first Trump case, has had his security detail increased because of the number of threats, including racial epithets and suggestions that he should be hung or shot and killed have come in.
Fanny Willis in Atlanta, and the Fulton County grand jury, the indictment we saw this week, we've seen the same conduct threats, increases to her security. Interestingly, even Sheriff Labat, the Fulton County sheriff, has said he's gotten threats and racist comments.
So, this arrest against an African-American judge sitting in the U.S. District Court in DC saying, if Donald Trump is not re-elected in 2024, we're going to kill you. The idea that this call was tracked to an individual, an arrest was made, a federal charge is being held. Bail has been denied. She's going to be sitting there for 30 days before even a detention hearing is a signal that the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Protective Service, the U.S. Marshals, the FBI, are going to take these cases seriously and track these threats back to people and put a price on it.
BLITZER: And they want to send a message out there to others that if you even think about doing this, you could be in deep, deep trouble.
All right, everybody, stand by. I want to turn to the former president's very complicated legal and political calendar right now.
CNN's Tom Foreman is over at the magic wall for us. Set the scene, Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forget about all the legal wrangling that will happen later this year. Forget about the civil fraud trial that starts in October against Trump and his organization. Let's go to the election year, January 2nd. If things stay where they're tentatively put right now, they probably won't, but if they do, the election subversion trial would start on January 2nd, two weeks before the Iowa GOP caucuses, the first in the nation test of who might become the GOP nominee.
January 15th, the second E Jean Carroll case, remember, she won the first one, the second defamation case would get started. That is the day of the Iowa GOP caucuses.
Even if all of that started when it did, when it's schedule to start, and even if it were all done by the end of February, which is virtually impossible, here comes March. The Georgia election subversion trial is currently aiming at March 4th. The very next day is Super Tuesday, a day when 15 states plus American Samoa will dish out the largest set of delegates in the entire race to determine who the nominee should be.
And then it goes on from there to March, when the hush money trial gets started, May 20th or 27th when the classified documents case is theoretically going to be started. And, again, even if all of that worked, and even if you got to July 15 and 18th when the GOP convention arrives, yes, a lot of people here may be excited about Donald Trump being their candidate, but he will be a candidate who will have a whole nation listening to months of sworn testimony about what he did that many are going to say would not make him a good candidate or a good president again. Wolf?
BLITZER: Truly unprecedented material. Tom, of course, all of these dates potentially could change, but so far, how has Team Trump reacted to these potential conflicts with his campaign?
FOREMAN: Well, if you look at all of that and say, boy, that would be impossible to run a successful political campaign on that, that's, in effect, what they're trying to say, and they're trying to say it's all political.
Look what he put up on Truth Social after Jack Smith had suggested, his prosecutor, suggested of January 2nd for the election interference thing. Only an out of touch lunatic would ask for such a date, one day into the New Year, and maximum election interference with Iowa. Over and over again, what the Trump team is saying is this is all about the election. Over and over again, these prosecutors and others are saying this is all about the law and the fact that you have to follow the law. And if that makes people not want to vote for you, then so be it. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Tom, stay with us. Don't go too far away. I want to bring back Evan Perez, John Miller, Gene Rossi and Bradley Moss.
Brad, let me start with you. This news about this threat to Judge Chutkan, how has this changed the threat level around this case? Because it's chilling to just hear what was said on that phone call.
BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: No, it's absolutely disturbing. And all I can say is it's going to get worse before it ever gets better. Because part of the problem is everyone is treating Donald Trump with kid gloves right now. No one wants to be the judge, the prosecutor, anything, who tries to silence him because of the political backlash. You haven't seen the D.A.s. You haven't seen Jack Smith ask for it yet. You haven't seen the judges really contemplate it yet. But as this gets worse, as these threats continue to expand, will there be a real action?
We've seen Donald Trump attack witnesses. He went after Mike Pence twice. He's gone after the judge by name. At what point does someone say, enough is enough, we have to rein him in before someone gets killed?
BLITZER: Yes, so, so important. Gene, let's go to the Georgia indictment right now. Fani Willis, the judge, is aiming to get all 19 defendants, all 19 defendants, arraigned over the next three weeks. And she wants the trial to start on March 4th. Is that timeline realistic?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Unrealistic. I had a client in a case involving 19 defendants. And what happened was it was a January 6th case. We divided up the case into two cases. Some pled out, and you had two separate trials.
There is absolutely no chance that 19 defendants will go to trial in March. There're just too many motions, too many attorneys, too many schedules.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Brad?
MOSS: Yes, I think it's pretty bold. I also don't think Jack Smith is getting January 2024 for his case. I think March is probably the earliest we'll see any cases. I think May might hold for the documents. But when it comes to Fani Wells, I think she's getting pushed to the summer. Because, remember, if any of these get the trial, Donald Trump almost certainly is going to lose. He's going to get convicted.
His hope has to rest on the pre -trial motions. And he's going to appeal it as far as you can go on every little piece and delay and push this off. He does not want to face a conviction and a sentencing before that election.
BLITZER: Important. Evan, your sources are telling CNN that Trump's lawyers, as you know, they're in ongoing negotiations right now over the details of his surrender. And as we all know, this is the fourth time that Trump lawyers have had to negotiate his surrender. We're talking about the former president of the United States. What's unique about it this time?
PEREZ: Well, the unique thing is, you know, obviously, Georgia has a bit of a different system. In the previous ones we've seen, there is a presentment and then an arraignment. You know, they've managed to do it at the same time. In this case, what they're negotiating right now, first of all, is just for him to turn himself in where he'll be fingerprinted and mug shot. And according to the sheriff, they're going to treat this like any other case, at least that's what he's saying right now. And so the possibility exists, Wolf, that this might be the first time we actually see a mug shot from the former president. They've taken one, you know, in New York, but New York law doesn't allow the release of it. The feds did not take a mug shot. He is one of the most recognizable people on the planet. So, they didn't think it was necessary. Georgia, they say they're going to do their normal process.
And so, you know, Trump being Trump, he's already said, and his campaign have said, that they would use this to sort of fundraise, to raise more money for his campaign. They find this to be something that would be good for him. They believe, at least. So, that is part of the process.
One of the things that we know is going on, or Alayna Treene was talking to sources around Trump, and they're trying to negotiate a surrender next week. But then, there's also the date on September 5th, which is when Fani Willis is sketched out for him to be arraigned. And so we have a sort of a bifurcated process in Georgia. He'll be going to court potentially, or to Georgia a couple of times.
BLITZER: Let me let John Miller weigh in on this as well. What do you expect, John?
MILLER: I think when it's time to surrender in Georgia, most of the logistical negotiation about that process that's going to make anything different, is going to happen between the Secret Service and the sheriff.
But what the sheriff has said is, show up at the jail, not at the courthouse, not at the sheriff's office, show up at the jail, we're open 24/7, we'll leave the light on for you, is basically what he's saying. And, you know, we'll get you booked and we'll get you released. And that's it. And that's the same message to all the defendants. He doesn't single out President Trump as being special.
The difference with President Trump is he's always in anomaly as an arrest by law enforcement because he is escorted, protected and surrounded by other law enforcement with the Secret Service. So, it makes it a tad awkward.
BLITZER: Very awkward indeed. And very quickly, John, if he were to eventually wind up in jail, and that's a huge if, but let's say he were, would Secret Service agents be with him in that cell?
MILLER: That is a question we have kicked around here for literally months since the first indictment. And I think, you know, there's a couple of bad assignments in the Secret Service, and that might be one of them.
BLITZER: That would be pretty bad assignment indeed.
All right, guys, everybody stand by. Here's a question, will Donald Trump take the debate stage next week? His advisers don't think so, but should he? I'll ask one of his Republican rivals, the former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson. He joins us live. That's coming up next.
BLITZER: Tonight, multiple source are telling CNN that Donald Trump's campaign advisers believe he does not, repeat, not plan to attend the first GOP debate next week in Milwaukee. So, how will this play out with Republicans?
I want to bring in Republican Presidential Candidate, the former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson. He's also the former federal attorney, the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
I want you to listen to one of your 2024 opponents, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, on whether or not Trump should show up next week to debate. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You have to earn this nomination. Nobody's entitled to it. You got to get up there and you got to answer their questions.
So, he owes it to people to go up there and debate. He needs to tell people, first of all -- they're going to ask about a lot of his unfulfilled promises from when he ran in 2016.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what do you think? Does he owe it to the people?
ASA HUTCHINSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Wolf, first of all, he does owe it to all the Republican voters to participate in the debate. He's got to answer the tough questions. He's got to not only respond to the moderator and the questions, which will be tough, but also from the other candidates that are there.
I don't know whether he's going to appear or not, but if he is there, I intend to hold him accountable. I intend to ask the tough questions as well, because he would be disastrous as a second term president conducting his revenge tour.
And he would also cause us to lose up and down the ticket in the 2024 election.
BLITZER: It's interesting that Governor DeSantis still hasn't pounced on Trump's legal troubles. He called the latest indictment, and I'm quoting him now, a criminalization of politics. Is this a winning strategy, do you believe, for DeSantis?
HUTCHINSON: Well, I mean, they're trying to do it both ways, going after Trump, but at the same time attacking the system. And the system needs to be reformed. But here you've got a state prosecutor with a grand jury making decisions. You've had four grand juries meeting and finding probable cause. If that's not a concern to the voters, if it's not a concern to the candidates, then we're really in trouble.
What concerns me is that we have our institutions being attacked, being attacked by Donald Trump. He's leading us to attack the justice system, to attack our democracy, he's undermining our judges and our prosecutors and threatening in some ways that they're somehow out of line because they're pursuing the law.
And so this is unhelpful and somebody needs to stand up for the rule of law in this country, and I intend to do that.
BLITZER: I know you've said, Governor, that Trump's fourth indictment, and I'm quoting you now, has disqualified him from ever holding our nation's highest office again. But look at this. This latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Trump and Biden are essentially tied. Biden at 47 percent, Trump at 46 percent. How do you explain this?
HUTCHINSON: Well, I think that's where we are today. But as the facts soak in from the different indictments, then people are going to realize that it's going to be impossible for him to win in a November 2024 election.
And I'm here in Iowa. I've been to the Iowa State Fair, as you know, talking to a lot of voters out here. And I just really sense that the voters are concerned about all the drama around Donald Trump. We don't need four more years of that. They're starting to be concerned about the country under his leadership. And as that goes on with the facts developed, then you're going to see those numbers decline.
And it could be this fall, it could be this winter, but those numbers will decline, and they'll start here in Iowa.
BLITZER: The same Quinnipiac poll, by the way, shows that 54 percent of Americans think Trump should be prosecuted on criminal charges linked to the 2020 election in Georgia, 42 percent say he shouldn't be prosecuted.
He's been indicted, as you know, on 91 crimes in four criminal cases, yet he's still the GOP frontrunner. Explain that.
HUTCHINSON: Well, of course, those numbers would be different in the GOP primary voters, and they see an unfairness in the system. And it's easy. Whenever Donald Trump portrays himself as the victim, that wins people over. They don't trust the system, and it really is not the right thing to do about our system of justice.
Now, I could look at it as a former federal prosecutor, and I say the Georgia case should have been withheld. It should have been deferred and handled under Jack Smith's purview, because the federal case overlaps that. I can see how that would be the right thing to do. And I'm surprised that she pursued that.
But the fact is that he's morally responsible for what happened on January 6. You've got multiple cases now that's going to determine whether he's criminally responsible. And I'm looking at it, though, as a candidate. And, ultimately, the voters are going to decide this, but they're going to have a lot of facts that will be confronting them between now and voting time that I believe they will hold Donald Trump accountable.
BLITZER: Governor Asa Hutchinson, thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you out there on the campaign trail.
HUTCHINSON: All right, thank you. Great to be with you, and asa2024 com.
BLITZER: All right, thank you.
The man once known as a America's mayor is now indicted alongside Donald Trump in Georgia. We'll go inside his rise and fall, and we'll see what's going on.
By the way, the CNN original series, Giuliani, What Happened to America's Mayor, that's this Saturday, 08:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.
And just ahead, the death toll in Hawaii rises to at least 110, and many residents are still looking for answers about their missing loved ones. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono is here with me. She's next.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: President Joe Biden will travel to Maui on Monday to survey the site of the deadliest wildfire in modern American history, the death toll rising tonight to at least 110 people.
I spoke with the governor of Hawaii just a little while ago on the state of the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREEN: 38 percent of the territory has been covered by the rescue teams.
BLITZER: How many people are still missing or unaccounted for right now?
GREEN: Still difficult to say. I think it's probably still over a thousand.
Right now, we're focused pretty completely on the disaster area and getting people into housing, getting people into hotel rooms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining me now, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. My heart goes out to all the people in Hawaii right now.
As you know, more than a week after this devastating fire, the fires, I should say, you heard the governor, Josh Green, tell me more than a thousand people are still missing. When will families get answers about their missing loved ones?
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): That is why there are increasing numbers of people as well as cadaver dogs being deployed to the area so that the search can continue. And we are also stepping up the ability to identify the remains. And when I visited with the FBI, for example today, we are sending their resources to help with the identifying of the remains. So, all of these, these are priority actions that are being taken in addition to some 700 federal agency employees who are now there to help with the effort.
BLITZER: During tonight's briefing, as you probably know, the Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator was asked if he regretted not sounding the island's warning sirens. He responded, and I'm quoting now, "I do not." Senator, you've said you will not make any excuses for failed communication leading up to the fires. Have you been briefed on the state's review of the emergency response there? Are you satisfied with what you know so far?
HIRONO: Well, I know that they -- Attorney General is reviewing the pre, during and post of this disaster. So, that is ongoing. I do believe that the Maui person was premature in his assessment of the situation. He's saying that he does not regret not sounding the alarm.
BLITZER: The people wanted to hear that alarm, I suspect. The efforts to fully contain the fires, as you well know, Senator, are still underway. The Maui County Fire Chief is asking people to remain vigilant because, in his words, "weather is coming in and winds are up". Are you concerned this situation, God forbid, could actually get worse?
HIRONO: I think at this point, the firefighters are there not just from Maui but of course there are people from California as far as I know, other counties. And so that we are on very, very high alert. So, my expectation of course is that none of this is going to accelerate.
BLITZER: Yeah. As you know, the Bidens will visit Maui on Monday. Do you believe Senator that the federal government has done enough to support your constituents?
HIRONO: We are going to need continuing efforts by the federal government and all of the federal, what we call the family of federal agencies. And in fact, President Biden was one of the first people to call me last week, as well as a number of senior administration officials, including the secretaries of the Department of Defense, DOT, et cetera.
So, the continuity of effort from all of us will be required because recovery will take time -- and resources. When I was on Maui on Saturday, I saw so many volunteers. The community is very strong, but we are going to need continuity of support and effort. And that is what I expect the President to understand when he comes to see for himself on Monday.
BLITZER: It will be really important for him to see it up close.
BLITZER: Senator Hirono, thank you so much for joining us.
HIRONO: Thank you.
BLITZER: And please, our best wishes to everyone in Hawaii. This important note to our viewers. For more information about how you, our viewers, can help the people of Maui, go to CNN.com/impact and you will impact your world.
Coming up, a Russian drone striking grain depots in Odessa, Ukraine. That's according to a Ukrainian presidential advisor who is saying Russia is specifically targeting food supplies. We'll get a military assessment on what this all means from General Wesley Clark who's standing by live.
BLITZER: Russia is targeting Ukraine's grain warehouses in its latest drone attacks. The country attacking the Port of Reni along Ukraine's Danube River, according to Ukrainian officials. Despite the severe damage, no casualties were reported. One Ukrainian official accused Moscow of specifically targeting food supplies.
Since Russia pulled out of the Ukraine grain deal last month, small ports such as Reni have become vital for Ukrainian grain exports. I want to bring in CNN Military analyst, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. General Clark, thanks so much for joining us. Talk to us a little bit about this latest Russian strike against Ukraine. What does it signal to you?
WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, of course, it is an effort to keep Ukraine from exporting its grain. But this is an attack that has multiple victims to it. First of all, there's Ukraine taking away the earnings and the substance for Ukraine's farmers. It's an attack on Europe because Ukraine has to get that grain out through Europe, and there are issues trying to get that grain through Poland and Hungary. It's an attack on sanctions because Russia says it's the sanctions that we put on that are keeping them from exporting their grain and they're not going to let that ship channel open until we relieve sanctions.
And they think that by hurting the global south, by keeping food away from East Africa and South Asia, somehow these nations are going to blame the United States and our sanctions on Russia for this. So, all of these are in play. And if you look at that explosion, Wolf, that's also a signal to Romania. That's an effort to sort of horizontally escalate the combat. BLITZER: Yeah --
CLARK: We're striking close to NATO. You better watch out. That's the message.
BLITZER: Yeah, these port cities, you correctly point out, are incredibly close these Ukrainian port cities close to the border with Romania, which is a NATO member. Russia has also as you know --
BLITZER: Russia as you know, then hitting Western Ukraine not far from Poland's border, another NATO member. If one of these strikes, General, were to end up hitting NATO territory, whether Romania or Poland or some other NATO ally, how serious are the implications?
CLARK: Well, I think the implications are serious because our European allies are looking for America to be more of a leader in this. Now, I know we're leading in giving the support to Ukraine militarily, but we're not leading politically. It was the East European nations like Poland and Estonia that wanted Ukraine to be brought into NATO. It's the United States and maybe Germany. United States may be hiding behind Germany saying, not so fast, not so fast.
So, the Russians see this. They read our newspapers, they know us very well. And they understand this administration is concerned not to provoke Putin. We're playing by Putin's rules on this. They're afraid to provoke him. And so, the more they can stir things up and horizontally escalate by putting Wagner in Belarus, by having Belarus move troops up to the border with Lithuania and so forth, the more pressure they put on NATO. And that's all part of the game plan here.
We've got to, well, if we've got to take a greater risk, we've got to move a little bit faster in this incremental approach of assisting Ukraine. Time's not on Ukraine's side in this. We need to give them the support they need as rapidly as possible and get them through those Russian defenses and back into the Sea of Azov and threats to Crimea. And the sooner we do it, the less chance of escalation there is.
And in this, I guess I disagree with some inside the administration who are worried about escalation. They want to slow things down. I think the risk is, as this drags out, you have a greater risk of escalation horizontally to other countries in the region, and that's what this strike on Remi and other ports along that Danube estuary, that's what that says to me. That's the risk of horizontal escalation.
BLITZER: You make a really important point, General, because there's growing tension on the border between Poland and Belarus. Belarus being a key Russian ally. Specifically, what are you monitoring on this front?
CLARK: So, when you look at what's happening up in Belarus, of course, we don't know really what the future of Wagner Group is. A lot of us thought from the beginning this whole thing with Prigozhin might have been a Kabuki dance, and maybe it was just a way of exploiting Western confusion, shifting effort, bringing Lukashenko in closer to Putin. There were a lot of different dimensions to it, but what we do have now for sure is a greater tension between Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Kaliningrad, that other appendage of Russia that's separated geographically through the Suwalki Gap. So, that's a real point of potential escalation and both Lithuania and Poland are very, very cognizant of this.
BLITZER: Yeah, I've been hearing from a lot of folks in Poland specifically how worried they are right now about a potential Russian attack on Poland and if you attack one NATO ally, you've attacked all NATO allies, of corse, including the United States. All this comes amid continued struggles for Ukraine in its military counteroffensive against the Russian occupation. How could -- what could change, General, the dynamic right now, and how concerned are you this could impact Western support?
CLARK: Well, I think first of all, the expectations for the Ukrainian counteroffensive got out of hand. This was never going to be a blitzkrieg, not after Russia had a year to prepare all those fortifications, even if Ukraine had air superiority. It wasn't going to be a blitzkrieg. There's too many minefields out there. So, the Ukrainians are actually doing quite a commendable job in the South at going through those minefields. But at the same time, the Russians have a major counteroffensive going, coming toward Kupiyansk and Kharkiv. And this is really of concern. We're not seeing that much of it in the press.
Occasionally, the Ukrainians say, well, we're holding some troops back. But the Russian plan, obviously, was to thin out their defenses in the south, absorb the Ukrainian push with their minefields and fortifications, and then build up forces in the northeast and try to break through toward Kharkiv and then Kyiv. Because Kyiv is Ukraine. Ukrainians know this. They're on guard against it. They're working it really hard.
So, I think, you know, we've got to understand what the dynamics of this battlefield are. This is a tough fight. It's an infantry fight in the south to clear those minefields. And they've got to do that, but they've got to hold in the North. And by the way, Wolf, we can't be saying this is going to have -- has to be finished by the middle of October because if it rains, that's the end of the offensive. Not true at all.
Ukrainians are moving on foot. They're going through forests and so forth. And really, the worse the weather, the better for the Ukrainians, because it keeps the Russian helicopters and airstrikes off the Ukrainians.
BLITZER: Yeah --
CLARK: So, this offensive, counteroffensive, is going to go on for a long time. BLITZER: I suspect you're right, General. Thank you so much for joining us. General Wesley Clark --
CLARK: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. Other news we're following tonight. Michael Oher, the man depicted in the movie, "The Blind Side", alleges in a lawsuit he was never adopted, but rather signed into a conservatorship. And now he wants out. So, what's really going on here? That's coming up next.
BLITZER: The family at the center of that scene in the movie, "The Blind Side" is calling stunning accusations by former NFL star Michael Oher a shakedown and hurtful. Oher claims he was never adopted but tricked into a conservatorship while the Tuohy family kept all the proceeds from a blockbuster film about his life. Let's discuss what's going on with CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan and Conservatorship Attorney Lisa McCarley.
Lisa, the lawsuit alleges in part that Oher, quote, "discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023 when he learned that the conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact provided him with no familial relationship with the Tuohys", end quote. How do you assess that claim?
LISA MACCARLEY, CALIFORNIA ESTATE AND PROBATE ATTORNEY: Very interesting because I reviewed the court order and he was present at the conservatorship hearing. So, I find it difficult to believe, although anything is possible, that he didn't know that he was in a conservatorship court and not being adopted. I only found that one document and not only was he there, but apparently his biological parents were also given notice and consented to the conservatorship.
BLITZER: Christine, the Tuohys dispute other allegations. I want you to listen to the family's attorneys, the remarks from the family attorneys earlier today.
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STEVE FARESE, ATTORNEY FOR THE TUOHY FAMILY: The Tuohys did not control any of Mr. Oher's finances. Mr. Oher picked his own agent when he signed pro. Mr. Oher signed his own contract. It's devastating to the family and we hope that it doesn't have a chilling effect on others who want to help needy individuals.
BLITZER: Christine, you interviewed the Tuohys. You've done a lot of reporting on what's going on here. What's your take on the situation?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: You know, Wolf, Michael Oher at the time was, of course, a superstar in high school and then went on to play in college at the same university that the Tuohys went to and, of course, were boosters of Ole Miss. And then went into the NFL as a number one pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Five seasons there, won a Super Bowl, had three more years in the NFL. He made it as far as we can understand well over $20 million in salary as an NFL football player.
That doesn't seem to be a part of this, but the fact that he had, as these attorneys are saying, he had his agent, he was able to be in charge of his career, it does beg the question about the issue of how much control the Tuohys had if, in fact, Michael Oher was able to go ahead and have his professional career and have the agent or have the money that he was making there.
There are so many questions here and it goes back really, Wolf, to the movie where there were concerns about the NCAA looking -- they looked into violations of what was going on with Michael Oher and the family getting him to Ole Miss, their university. So many issues that have now bumbled back to the surface that obviously we need a lot of a lot of answers to it.
BLITZER: A lot more answers that are needed. Right now, Lisa, explain to our viewers the difference between a conservatorship and an adoption and why would a 37-year-old still be under conservatorship?
MACCARLEY: So, according to the court records in Tennessee that I reviewed, the Tuohys did get an order appointing them as conservator, but what was very interesting to me is that they never signed an oath and they never had what's called letters of conservatorship issued. So, I am of the opinion that the Tuohys may have had a need, for example, to add him to insurance, or there may have been something to do with the college, but they never had actual legal authority to manage his funds.
In terms of what the difference is between a legal adoption, a legal adoption is when you basically change parents, that you terminate the legal relationship with your biological parents, and you then have a legal document that says that you are now the legal child of another couple.
So, that's very, very different. A conservatorship merely grants decision-making responsibilities, say, of an incapacitated adult to a presumably competent and responsible individual, but that is not a family relationship. Big difference in my mind is that an adoption would mean that if something were to happen to Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy, an adopted child would have a right to inherit from the family, whereas in a conservatorship, that type of legal relationship does not exist.
BLITZER: Very significant legal differences. Ladies, thank you very much for all of that. Coming up, Michael Burry, the famous investor who was one of the first to discover America's housing bubble back in 2008, also played by Christian Bale in "The Big Short", has another massive bet. This time, he's putting $1.6 billion on the line, betting that the stock market will crash. That's coming up in the next hour on CNN Tonight.