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Storm and Tornado Risk Intensifying In D.C., Eastern U.S.; Trump Team Responds To Special Counsel Request In Jan. 6 Case; Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Gets Tougher On Trump, Of Course He Lost; Eastern U.S. Faces Outbreak Of Destructive Storms; New Photo Shows North Korea's Kim Jong Un Touring Arms Factories, Firing A Weapon. Aired 6- 7p ET
Aired August 07, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Also tonight, GOP Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis toughens his message against Trump, directly saying that his chief 2024 rival lost the 2020 election. I'll get reaction from another Republican White House hopeful, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. He joins us live this hour.
And there's more breaking news we're following. The skies here in Washington, D.C., are growing more ominous right now as millions of Americans in the Eastern United States are at serious risk right now from severe storms and even tornadoes.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Let's get right to the breaking news this hour, the very severe weather outbreak on the East Coast of the United States, millions of Americans right now facing dangerous storms, including tornadoes.
CNN's Gabe Cohen is tracking the worsening conditions for all of us here in Washington, D.C. Gabe, first of all, what are you seeing?
GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we just had an intense burst of rain here, intense wind blowing through in the last few minutes. It's eased up but it's gotten darker and darker here in the district, the Capitol just about two blocks behind us, and yet it's become harder to see that iconic dome.
And, you know, one of the things we have heard from officials here in the district and really across the region today has been about the precautions needed to keep people safe as the storm blows through in the next few minutes.
Government buildings shut down here in the district at 3:00 P.M. today, the federal government telling employees to go home in order to be off the roads when these intense conditions, rain and potential flooding, blow through.
And it's not just the rain. We're talking about wind, these wind gusts that could be hurricane strength, 70 miles per hour. That could cause downed trees, could cause other issues and create very dangerous conditions for people across this region.
We know schools, libraries, the zoo here in D.C., all shutting down activities outdoors or just shutting down early to make sure that people would not be out in the elements. And we're seeing more ground stops from Atlanta to New York on flights coming into those airports, here in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia. It is going to be a mess for flyers in the coming hours, Wolf, a lot of concern.
But the worst of it here in Washington is still to come here. We're expecting more severe weather to blow through really in just the next few minutes.
BLITZER: All right. Just be careful out there. Thank you very much, Gabe, for that report. We'll check back with you, for sure.
I want to bring in Chad Myers right now. He's joining us from the CNN Weather Center. Give us the latest forecast, Chad? What should we be bracing for?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A charging-ahead line of weather from New York State all the way down to Alabama. And there are a couple places that are really in the crosshairs of the worst weather in the next 15 to 30 minutes. One of them would be Philadelphia. D.C., Baltimore, you're in it right now, Philadelphia not yet, but it's on its way, all the way down to the south, where wind gusts have been over 75 miles per hour.
Right now, I just counted them, 600,000 households at this point without power, we haven't even moved through the big cities yet for that matter. And here you go all the way from Upstate New York through Pennsylvania, even toward Scranton, into Pennsylvania, and then down at D.C., along the I-95 all the way down to the 75 there in Atlanta, Georgia.
So, let's zoom into a couple spots here. We still have these pink boxes, which are brief tornado spin-ups. These are not big monsters tornadoes but it doesn't matter if it's over your home. So, up here, here's Scranton right there. There's the I-81 corridor on up toward the north.
Something else I'm very worried about is this, right here. See what's happening to that? It's call a bow echo. The wind is coming in behind this bow echo and accelerating to 80 miles per hour. Where are you there? Philadelphia, you are next and that 80-mile-per-hour wind gust could be on your doorstep quickly. If these winds are moving at 80, that's faster than you can drive there.
Here's the weather into D.C., Baltimore all the way down toward Dale City, a little bit of a gap through parts the Virginia, but then, again, Charlotte picking up some weather, Atlanta picking up the wind gusts right now, even the thunder and lightning here right over CNN Center has been tremendous just in the past 15 minutes.
So, yes, it's still coming, for some. As soon as it's gone, pretty much it's gone for you. But I don't want you to go outside yet because the lightning with this weather has been behind the storm as well. Don't go out and take pictures. We've already heard of people being hit by lightning today because they were outside and they shouldn't have been outside. Pets, people and property, those are the three things to protect right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Chad, thank you very much. We'll, of course, continue to watch the breaking news on this weather.
It's a horrible situation here in the nation's capital. We'll stay on top of it.
Also breaking tonight, the new court filing by the Trump Team in the January 6th case, the former president and his lawyers are arguing against tighter rules over evidence proposed by the special counsel, Jack Smith.
Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here with me in The Situation Room following the breaking story for us. Give us the latest, Paula.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as expected, the Trump Team doesn't want these rules to be too restrictive in terms of what the former president can share about the evidence that he learns about in the course of this case.
But this comes just as we're seeing the first investigative step by the special counsel since the Trump indictment last week. We have learned exclusively that the special counsel has interviewed former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. He's a close associate of Rudy Giuliani. And his lawyer confirmed to us that he had a lot of question from prosecutors about Rudy Giuliani, also known as co- conspirator 1.
REID (voice over): Tonight in Washington, CNN reporting exclusively that former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik talked to special counsel investigators.
TIM PARLATORE, LAWYER FOR BERNIE KERIK: It was mostly about all the efforts in between the election and January 6th of what the Giuliani team was doing.
REID: The meeting is the first known investigative step since the special counsel's office filed charges against former President Trump last week. Kerik's attorney, Tim Parlatore, saying he doesn't think Trump's former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, will be indicted.
PARLATORE: No, not a chance.
REID: Also tonight, Trump's lawyers arguing in a new court filing that they shouldn't be restricted from talking publicly about some evidence in the election interference probe.
JOHN LAURO, TRUMP ATTORNEY: The press and the American people in a campaign season have a right to know what the evidence is in this case.
REID: While so-called protective orders aren't unusual, prosecutors saying it's especially important in this case because of Trump's public statements and how they could have a chilling effect, like this recent social media post that read, if you go after me, I'm coming after you.
Trump also lashing out specifically at his former vice president, who could become a witness at trial, calling him delusional and not a very good person. Pence saying he would testify if asked.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: People can be confident we'll obey the law, we'll respond to the call of the law if it comes, and we'll just tell the truth.
REID: Trump even attacking Jack Smith at a fundraiser in South Carolina just days after his second arrest and arraignment in federal court on a case brought by the special counsel.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Jack Smith, he's a deranged human being.
REID: Trump's legal team testing out their defense in the court of public opinion, including arguing that what Trump did was covered by the First Amendment.
LAURO: There was no fraudulent conspiracy. That's part of the reality of the defense.
Biden said in November 2022 that he wanted to see President Trump prosecuted and taken out of this race.
REID: But these defenses were quickly rebutted by some of Trump's former top allies, former Attorney General Bill Barr drawing a line between speech and conspiracy.
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: He can say whatever he wants, he can even lie, but that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy. All conspiracies involve speech.
REID: The Trump Team also bracing for a fourth indictment in as many months, this time coming out of Fulton County, Georgia --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think that we can expect it.
REID: -- where the former lieutenant governor just got subpoenaed in that grand jury investigation, and District Attorney Fani Willis is getting ready to announce possible charges against Trump for his actions in Georgia around the 2020 election.
FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I took an oath, and that the oath requires that I follow the law, and that if someone broke the law in Fulton County, Georgia, that I have a duty to prosecute and that's exactly what I plan to do.
(END VIDEOTAPE) REID (on camera): And today, CNN observing additional security for Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan. She's the one overseeing the January 6th prosecution of former President Trump. And this comes after Trump posted about her on social media, suggesting that he won't be able to get a fair trial if she's the one overseeing the case.
Now, Wolf, she is also, of course, be the one who will decide on this protective order, and it's unclear when her decision on that will come down.
BLITZER: And later this hour, I'm going to speak live with Geoff Duncan, who has been testifying in Georgia, the former Republican lieutenant governor of that state. We'll see what he has to say.
Stay with us. Don't go too far away. I want to bring some more of our legal and political experts as well. And, Elliot Williams, let me start with you. I want your reaction to part of what Trump and his attorneys are claiming in this new filing that has just been released.
Let me read it to you.
In a trial about First Amendment rights, the government seeks to restrict Firth Amendment rights. Worse, it does so against its administration's primary political opponent during an election season, in which the administration, prominent party members and media allies have campaigned on the indictment and proliferated its false allegations. What do you make of that argument from Trump's legal team.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, this is an argument they've been rolling out a lot, this idea that the president was empowered to speak and he's being prosecuted for the words that he said on and leading up to January 6th.
Now, this whole back and forth with the government and Trump's attorneys, Wolf, it's what's called a discovery dispute. It's not uncommon in trials to have one side say, this is how we believe evidence should be handled, and the other side disagrees. They'll probably work it out in the end.
Now, it's going to come down to two big issues, I think. It's, one, what to make of statements that Trump has made in the past, right, because he hasn't mishandled evidence yet, which is ultimately what protective orders are about. And the judge will have to assess, well, what do we may of things that happened in the past and then sort of this idea of what is sensitive material. They go back and forth about how to handle what they deem as sensitive.
And I think that will be what the judge will be resolving and I think she would probably do it pretty soon.
BLITZER: We will find out. Shan Wu, how do you expect the judge to balance Trump's free speech concerns with the potential, quote, harmful, chilling effect on witnesses that the special counsel is clearly warning about?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it's actually a tough balance for her here. It's, in some ways, less about his free speech concerns and more about her making sure that the protective order is narrowly tailored and reasonable.
The random factor here is just how volatile Trump's statements can be and what he might do with the discovery information. Trump's team is actually already winning the fight here just because this is going to cause delay. The areas they identify they want to fight about in there, for example, they want only sensitive information to be withheld, while that immediately sets up the fight over who is going to define what the sensitive information is.
So, this is definitely going to take a lot more time now because until they resolve this, Wolf, they can't even start the discovery.
BLITZER: Yes, that's going to be critical as well.
Gloria, I want you to look at this, this tweet from President Biden is included in the Trump filing that has just been released. Trump's team writing, and I'm quoting now, President Biden has likewise capitalized on the indictment posting a thinly veiled reference to his administration's prosecution of Donald Trump just hours before arraignment. This is quite a stretch to claim this tweet is referencing Trump.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's trying to sell campaign paraphernalia in this little ad, and you can interpret it any way you want. These people are running against each other for the presidency. So, they are going to criticize each other. But is it the equivalent of Donald Trump on Truth Social saying, if you come after me, I'll come after you, or calling Jack Smith deranged, et cetera, et cetera?
And I think the unknown here, as Shan is saying, is Donald Trump himself. What will he decided to do on Truth Social at 3:00 in the morning if he has a document that he doesn't like or that upsets him? What will he decide to do? And the question is, will his lawyers have any control over him in that instance? And the logical answer to that would be no, because no lawyer has ever had control over what Donald Trump does.
So, I think it's a very tricky situation here, because what you have to say is the lawyers are saying one thing but then Donald Trump is perfectly capable of doing something else.
BLITZER: Yes, good point.
You know, Paula, it's really interesting. Do you see anything in this response from the Trump team that would lead you to believe that the judge in this case is likely to rule in his favor?
REID: So, it's not a winner-take-all here. I mean, they're not that far apart, the defense and the prosecution. It appears very likely that there will be a protective order. The question is how broad will it be, how restrictive will it be? And it is likely that the judge may side on -- err on the side of it being more restrictive. But, again, it's not like the former president is apt (ph) to lose here or prosecutors will win. The question is just what would be the broad parameters of the protective order.
I'm also interested to see how quickly she makes this decision. Because one thing we're really seeing here is how fast she wants to move this along. She wants to -- she didn't even give them an extension for this and she wants to set a trial date by August 28th. So, just as much as I'm looking at the substance, I'm also looking at the speed here.
BLITZER: Yes, met too.
Elliot, it appears the security around the federal judge in this case has increased dramatically following Trump's repeated attacks against her. Does that indicate to you how she might be likely to rule on all these sensitive issues?
WILLIAMS: No, I don't think so. Look, judges don't have security under normal circumstances.
They can get it if there's some reason, if they've been threatened in some way. I work for two different federal judges. They like to sort of put that stuff aside and try to rule to the extent they can on the facts and the law. And I would hope and think that's what the judge would do.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect she will rule on the facts and the law. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, as the Fulton County probe into the 2020 presidential elections continues, I will speak with one of the key witnesses subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Geoff Duncan, the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, will join me live.
And we're learning that Ukraine says Russia was plotting to assassinate the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. We'll have more details that are just coming in.
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the Trump Team's new filing on the January 6th criminal case against the former president. We want to get reaction right now from a key witness in the Georgia investigation of Trump and interference in the 2020 presidential election.
We're joined by the former Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan. He's also a CNN political commentator. Lieutenant Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
Trump's team argues a sweeping protective order on evidence violates his First Amendment rights.
But do you fear Trump would use evidence to potentially intimidate witnesses or even the judge?
GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think everything is on the table for that team, right? He's very unpredictable. We've seen this play up, even the communication that we've seen in the last 48, 72 hours that he's put out on social media just seemed erratic and unmoored from truth. It's very concerning.
And, unfortunately, there's similar hall marks I'm watching play out in the last few days that really bring me back to a terrible place, and that was the lead-up to January 6th, where it's just this continued deluge of misinformation and a feverish pitch through ten- second sound bites and short, little social media posts.
BLITZER: CNN has learned that you received a subpoena to testify before a Fulton County grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Will you commit to testifying?
DUNCAN: Yes, I'll be there answer the facts as I know them and to continue this process of trying to discover actually what happened during that post-election period of time. Certainly, we can never repeat that as a country. Certainly, I never want to see that happen to my home state of Georgia. A lot of good people's lives were uprooted. A lot of people's reputations have been soiled. This is part of that process. But it just doesn't feel worth it at this point for just the information that is starting flowing now, but it will eventually.
And, certainly, from a political standpoint, we have to turn the pages, Republicans. We cannot continue down this path of craziness and chaos to try to win folks enough to win these elections.
BLITZER: I know you'll get 48 hours, Lieutenant Governor, 48 hours notice before you're required to appear. So, are you prepared to testify this week or next week?
DUNCAN: Well, I'll certainly not comment on the exact details of it. I don't want to infringe on any sort of details of the investigation. So, I'll leave that offline and off of this commentary here. But I'm committed to telling the truth, I know a number of people are, around this process. And not because of any reason, any sort of personal vendettas, but just because we have got to get this right. If we let something like this happen again in America are, I fear for where it goes the next time.
And that's really this process playing out with Donald Trump. He is a sore loser. He lost. He ran a terrible campaign and got beat by, in my opinion, not very good candidate. And if we don't find our right moorings here as Republicans, we're going to see what eight years of Joe Biden feels like if Donald Trump is our nominee.
BLITZER: Are you willing to testify in any other trials that come out of all of this?
DUNCAN: Certainly, I'm willing to testify and tell the truth in as many settings as I possibly can. That's my duty as an American, I believe.
BLITZER: As you know, Lieutenant Governor, the road in front of the Atlanta courthouse will be closed for almost two weeks starting next Monday. Is Georgia prepared for any security risks around all of this?
DUNCAN: Well, I certainly have seen communications out from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, Fani Willis and her team, and I certainly know that our law enforcement officials will be prepared for, for whatever they see. I hope there's nothing. I hope it's a non-event. I hope it's a trial that facts and details are shared and judgment is rendered, whether that's guilty, not guilty, and we can move past this terrible time in our state and country's history.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope for the best. Former Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, thanks so much for joining us.
DUNCAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, some of Donald Trump's Republican rivals are dialing up their attacks on the former president. Just ahead, I will speak with GOP candidate, Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota.
Plus, we'll bring you an update on the severe weather outbreak that's slamming the East Coast of the United States right now, including right here in the nation's capital.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, a severe weather outbreak right here in the eastern part of the United States, including where I am in Washington, D.C., also in Baltimore and Philadelphia, all facing tornado threats tonight, large hail and flooding also a real possibility. Already thousands have lost power and flights up and down the coast have been disrupted. Stay with CNN, we'll keep a very close eye on the storms as they develop tonight. Very serious, very worrisome development.
Also tonight, we're following the latest developments in the January 6th case against Donald Trump, the former president's legal team just filing a response to the special counsel's request to limit the evidence he can publicly share. This as some of Trump's top rivals right now for the Republican presidential nomination are unleashing rather blunt new criticism trying to chip away at his commanding lead.
CNN's Jessica Dean has our report.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saying directly what is chief rival, former President Donald Trump, refuses to, that Trump lost the 2020 election.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Of course he lost. Joe Biden is the president.
DEAN: DeSantis making the new case in a new interview that if the 2024 election is about Trump and his legal battles, Republicans will lose.
DESANTIS: That's not a path for the Republican Party. I think a lot of our voters understand that.
DEAN: It's a similar attack former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been using against the former president.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want Republican voters to know this is a preview of the election coming up if Donald Trump is the nominee. He will be talking about Donald Trump rather than Joe Biden. And what we should be focused on is talking about Joe Biden and his record.
And that's why he cannot be the nominee.
DEAN: Many of the Republican candidates spent the weekend in Iowa, courting voters in the first in the nation caucus state.
NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa is an important state, not because of the caucuses, that's an important thing, but for our national security. Food security is national security. You supply us with our food, you supply us with ethanol.
DESANTIS: I'm asking for your support in the January caucuses, because I can pledge to you this, I will get the job done. I will not let you down.
DEAN: But Trump continues to go after DeSantis.
TRUMP: DeSantis has fallen very dramatically.
DEAN: And his other rivals, most pointedly his former vice president, Mike Pence, writing on Truth Social, quote, he's delusional and now he wants to show he's a tough guy.
Pence has been sharpening his criticism of Trump following the former president's third indictment, saying Trump put himself over the Constitution and anyone who does that should not be president.
PENCE: President Trump was wrong. He was wrong then. He's wrong now. I had no right to overturn the election. And more and more Americans are coming up to me every day and recognizing that.
DEAN (on camera): Despite all of this, former President Donald Trump continues to lead by a wide margin in those polls that are taking the temperature of Republican voters in this primary, and so all of his fellow rivals are looking for some way to break through. They're looking to this debate. It's going to be the first debate of this cycle. It's in about 2.5 weeks.
And, Wolf, right now, people like former Vice President Mike Pence, who we just heard from, haven't qualified to be on the debate stage yet. So, it's still taking shape as to who will be there. We also know that the former president hasn't said definitively if he will be there, but we know for sure that these other candidates are certainly looking to that stage hoping that's going to be their breakout moment.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Jessica Dean, reporting.
Let's get some reaction right now from Republican Presidential Candidate, Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
In a brand new Trump filing, Trump's legal team is leaning heavily into claims that prosecutors are in a potentially and a politically- motivated campaign to restrict his First Amendment rights. I want to get reaction to that, Governor.
GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Well, my reaction to -- on indictments when I'm on -- in New Hampshire and talking to them. And so we're going everywhere. We're talking about the economy, we're talking about energy policy, we're talking about national security, including border secure, where I am today, down here sharing my gratitude with the two North Dakota National Guard troops down here, one aviation and one engineering group. They're down here helping to secure the border, doing the job that is actually the federal government's job, which is securing the border.
BLITZER: As you know, Governor, Trump has admitted to at least some of the claims in the classified documents case and is on tape asking the Georgia secretary of state for more votes. Should he not be prosecuted if these are illegal acts?
BURGUM: Well, I think here in America, everybody is innocent until proven guilty. And I think the bigger issue for our country is not about any one case, whether it's Hunter Biden's case or President Trump's case. If -- system is trustworthy, if they start to think that there're two standards of justice, one for one party and for the other, that's a celebration for China. It's a celebration for anybody that wants to see democracy fail.
And one of the things that I know, what I've done my whole business career in the private sector and what I've done as governor is we've got to restore trust in government. You have to do that. Growing up in a small town, like Arthur, North Dakota, with 300 people, every transaction with every farmer in our family's life was about building trust with them, their children, the next generation. We have to get back to the best of America.
We have an incredible --
BLITZER: Yes, we're going to try to fix some of that audio. I know we keep losing some of it.
Governor, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're back but we weren't able to reestablish our connection with GOP Presidential Candidate North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. We will invite him back to join us here in The Situation Room. Sorry for that.
Ukraine's security service, meanwhile, says it successfully foiled a Russian plot to assassinate the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
For more on this, I'm joined by CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He's joining us from Ukraine right now. Nick, what details do we know about this alleged assassination plot?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's clear that Ukraine's security services felt they needed to make this public, but the details they put out there, there's not many of them.
We know that this is a woman, an informant who worked in a military surplus store in Ochakiv. That's southern city on a peninsula not far from the town of Mykolaiv. What they say, she was being asked by presumably Russian interlocutors to find out dates, details, places where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy may have made a visit.
Now, that didn't, in fact, occur in the previous weeks. And so, clearly, this plot actually failed. But the fact they've chosen to put the information out there now and indeed messages apparently between her and her Russian correspondents suggesting that they were asking her to specify the hospital where he may have been, take pictures of it. Well, that clearly show they thought this was a threat.
I should point out the context, though. Russia has always been trying to kill Volodymyr Zelenskyy and that's nothing new.
And, indeed, Ukraine's security services say they have retted (ph) about sort of 29 potential Russian informants over the last few months or so. So, a lot of this occurring inside Russia, a certain persistent threat, but this is something different that they felt they had to talk about. Wolf?
BLITZER: What is the latest on the ground there, Nick?
WALSH: Yes. Look, I mean, a lot of reporting of intense fighting on the southern and eastern frontlines, but also some suggestions from western officials, as my colleague, Jim Scuitto, has been talking about, that maybe the war may not necessarily have been moving at the pace that Ukraine would have liked.
And we've been seeing that ourselves along the frontlines, a sense perhaps of some frustration amongst Ukrainian troops. They're not able to move forward in the way they would like. And a lot of this relates to minefields that we've been seeing placed by the Russians, slowing the Ukrainian advance, making sometimes their advances through de- miners, a matter of ten meters an hour or so, very complex and tough work, causing grueling casualties.
And this occurs, obviously, with the ticking clock of fears of potentially how fast they can move before winter sets in, slowing down their advance generally. So, a lot of expectations here, certainly, and not all of them being realized at the pace that many in NATO would like to see Ukraine move. Wolf?
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh reporting from Zaporizhzhia, in Ukraine, stay safe over the, Nick, thank you very much.
For more on this and other major developments, I'm joined by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and CNN Military Analyst, retired General Wesley Clark, and Georgetown University Adjunct Professor Jill Dougherty, she's a former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief.
Jill, how significant is this foiled assassination plot and the silence from Russia on this allegation, at least so far?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: Well, as Nick said, there have been a number of attempts to assassinate Zelenskyy before, but there really must be something about this. I was looking at the video of the woman who was arrested. She's dressed in civilian clothes. You cannot see her face. But it's unclear. I'd have to say, when I figured where her town is, Ochakiv. It is east of Odessa, a Russian-speaking area, if that tells us anything, but not much probably.
But I think the significance here is that if Zelenskyy were to be killed, we all know that he is the best communicator, the person who pulls the Ukrainians together, the person who can speak to the international community, there really is nobody like Zelenskyy. And so having him out of the picture, eliminated by Russia, really would be a disaster for Ukraine.
BLITZER: It certainly would be.
General Clark, how do you assess the threat to Zelenskyy in this assassination attempt and the informant's efforts to spy on Ukrainian military sites?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is an active intelligence environment. There are Russian agents (INAUDIBLE) Ukrainian SBU knows this. They're working continuously against it.
But these agents really come in sort of three flavors. There's the active agent, the backup agent and the sleeper agent, that you don't know anything about. And so the sleepers get activated when you take off the top level. So, they're three deep, at least, in every position in Ukraine, in all the communities, in all the agencies, there's someone there, and they are very actively going against them. They have eliminated a lot of these people so far, but the work is not done. So, it's a real problem, Wolf. They know it.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
Jill, Ukraine is increase his bringing the fight to Russia, attacking Russian ships, for example, in the Black Sea, and bridges near occupied Crimea. How does this shift in the war play in Russia?
DOUGHERTY: To tell exactly obviously what Russian citizens are thinking, but places that they have hit with the drones, especially in Moscow, that would really -- could terrify some Russians who would feel that, in the capital, with President Putin right down the road, things would be stable and safe, but they aren't. And then the other part of this is the more military attacks which are now taking place on the bridge into Crimea and a couple of other bridges most recently.
So, I think civilians generally are probably shocked that this is happening and just distraught that the war is coming home to them. And that appears to be exactly what the Ukrainians want to get across.
BLITZER: General, the first batch of the powerful U.S. Abrams tanks have been approved to be search to Ukraine. They should be arriving there relatively soon. What kind of boost could they actually give to Kyiv's counteroffensive right now?
CLARK: It's a good tank, Wolf, but if you run over an anti-tank mine, you're still going to lose the track and the tank is going to be immobilized. Look, when you're going at these minefields, you have to do it like a football play. So, you have to isolate the area with smoke and obscuration. You have to have your artillery there, you have to have your radar there to detect enemy artillery, and before you start moving, all that has to be synchronized themselves.
So, as soon as you identify the enemy artillery, you bring your own fires on it. And the whole idea is you have to destroy the artillery so you have the ability to have time to get through the minefield. Otherwise, your Abrams tank will be like the Leopard.
BLITZER: All right. General Wesley Clark, thank you very much.
Jill Dougherty, thanks to you as well.
Coming up, we're tracking watches, hurricane force wind gusts, and torrential rain across the east coast and the south. We're going to show you where the worst is headed. That's coming up next.
BLITZER: Breaking news we're following, millions of Americans in the eastern United States are right now in the midst of a severe weather outbreak. These are live pictures coming in right now from Philadelphia where the severe weather is heading.
Our meteorologist Chad Myers is over at the CNN weather center for us.
Chad, where is it the worst at least right now?
MYERS: Right where you see all of these lightning strikes. And that picture was one of them, Philadelphia, absolutely. Down toward Annapolis and the eastern shore. And then down into parts of the Deep South.
The number that you see here are the number of lightning strikes that just happened over the past one minute. It's a rolling tally. So, it keeps moving. But in the past one minute, we're just counting 804, 791 lightning strikes hit the ground on this map in the last 60 seconds. That's how dangerous it is out there for some, especially pets or people that are outside. You need to be really taking cover from this type of weather. So, up toward Binghamton and Scranton, things are calming down just a bit. But we have this bulk that's been rolling through and into Philadelphia right now, that box there for king of Prussia, that is still a tornado warning for you. It was a brief spin.
We'll have to see if it's still spinning, I don't think so, but we still have the warning going on for the tornado that's northwest of Philadelphia in the suburbs. Now we move you down across parts of the Chesapeake, Annapolis. I wouldn't be on the bay bridge right now all the way across the eastern shore and parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Those are the areas we're still watching for severe weather.
We know there are 900,000, and these numbers going up exponentially, 900,000 homes and businesses already without power right now. And the wind is just getting to some of the most populated areas, Wolf. This is going to be a night where more than a million, possibly 2 million customers by the morning hours will be without electricity.
BLITZER: Yeah, awful situation indeed.
All right. Chad, thank you very much for that update.
And this note to our viewers. Coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right after THE SITUATION ROOM, former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb breaks down the latest on Trump's legal issues. That's coming up right at the top of the hour.
Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Kim Jong Un's latest propaganda effort is giving the world a rare peek at North Korea's weapons facilities, amid tensions with the West.
BLITZER: Images released by North Korean state media show Kim Jong Un touring the country's arms factories and even firing a weapon. This is happening as Moscow wants to develop closer ties to Pyongyang.
Brian Todd is covering this story for us.
What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of concern tonight on the part of U.S. officials who are getting increasingly worried about potential arms sales from North Korea to Russia. Those traditional Cold War partners, again, ramping up their dangerous alliance.
TODD (voice-over): From North Korea's volatile dictator, more flexing of military muscle. Sporting a white tunic and a hat of a revolutionary, Kim Jong Un test-fires mounted machine guns. Part of what North Korean state media says was a tour of munitions factories in recent days, one of which it says was a large-caliber artillery complex. Kim's propaganda arm says the supreme leader presented, quote, directions and guidance for the production of ammunition and strategic cruise missiles.
DEAN CHENG, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Kim Jong Un, unlike his father Kim Jong Il or his grandfather Kim Il Sung, has had far less time to develop a cult of personality. So he really is, in a sense, creating that cult of personality in office. So he has to, therefore, live up to the images of the strong bureau leader.
TODD: This comes as U.S. officials say they're increasingly concerned that Kim's regime may sell weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: Our information indicates that Russia is seeking to increase military cooperation with the DPRK, such as through DPRK sale of artillery, munitions, again, to Russia.
TODD: John Kirby says this recent visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to North Korea was made expressly to convince Kim to sell weapons to Russia.
CHENG: Because North Korea was heavily supplied with Russian munitions throughout the Cold War, they have the right caliber. So, 122 millimeter artillery shells, 133 millimeter artillery shells, they have modern tanks, again, courtesy of Russia which means they have 125 millimeter tank shells.
TODD: Another bargaining chip in the hands of the North Korean strong man, U.S. army private Travis King who bolted across the border into North Korea last month. U.S. defense officials tell CNN the Biden administration is debating whether to designate King as a prisoner of war. POW status could give King better protection under the Geneva Convention. King's recently said he doesn't know anything about his condition or where he's being held inside North Korea.
JAQUEDA GATES, PRIVATE TRAVIS KING'S ISTER: He's not the type to just disappear. So that's why I feel like the story is deeper than that.
TODD: Officials say, so far, the North Koreans have not provided any detail on King's whereabouts or his condition. Analysts say the North Koreans almost certainly have interrogated him.
GREG SCARLOTOIU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Perhaps he doesn't know much, but they will ask questions about everything, chain of command and control, names, training process, access to bases, any memories that he might have of his military life and his pre-military civilian life.
TODD (on camera): Human rights monitor Greg Scarlatoiu says it's also possible that the North Koreans may eventually use Travis King in propaganda, featuring him in anti-American videos or movies. King's family says they are working with top negotiator Bill Richardson's nonprofit group to try to bring him home.
Wolf, let's hope they can bring him home.
BLITZER: Let's hope he comes home soon. Thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.
To our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.