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Judge Issues Protective Order In 2020 Election Case; Hawaii Governor To Give Update On Wildfire Catastrophe; Special Counsel Appointed As Hunter Biden Trial Now Likely; GOP Candidates Descending On Iowa State Fair; Zelenskyy Fires Heads Of Ukrainian Military Recruitment Offices Amid Corruption Scandal. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 11, 2023 - 18:00   ET


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The Robotaxis allow users to request a ride similar to Uber or Lyft with one major difference, there's no one in the front seat.

Be sure to tune in this Sunday to CNN State of the Union, I will be talking to Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono about the devastating wildfires in her home state. I will also talked Republican Presidential Candidate Will Hurd and Democratic Congressman Dan Goldman. That's at 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern on Sunday only on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will see one Sunday morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, a new protective order just issued in the 2020 election interference case against Donald Trump, the judge barring the former president and his lawyers from publicly disclosing sensitive information.

Also tonight, as the flames ease and the death toll is expected to keep rising, we are getting up-to-the-minute accounts of the damage from the wildfire disaster in Hawaii. CNN is, of course, on the scene and the Hawaii governor will join us live with all the latest developments.

And the top prosecutor in the Hunter Biden probe is elevated to special counsel as the president's son now appears headed to trial. We are breaking down the legal implications and the political fallout.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get right to the breaking news coming out of the first hearing before the judge in the Trump election interference case. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is on the story for us.

Jessica, first of all, tell us about this newly released protective order and what else happened in today's hearing.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This was the first that we have seen of Judge Tanya Chutkan in this case. She took charge immediately. She did not give prosecutors that broad protective order that they wanted but she was firm with Trump and his team that they are not to disclose sensitive information, including material about the grand jury or search warrants. So, that is all what's part of this protective order that she issued just a little while ago.

And during the hearing itself, she gave several warnings to Trump and his team, and she said this. She said, the fact that he is running a political campaign currently has to yield to the administration of justice. And if that means he cannot say exactly what he wants to say in a political speech, that is just how it is going to have to be.

So, because of that, she says she's going to be carefully scrutinizing any statements from Trump and his team. She basically said that anything that could be interpreted as intimidating witnesses or prejudicial to potential jurors that could really threaten this entire judicial process in this case as we move toward trial.

So, what is under these terms that prosecutors have in this protective order? Well, under the terms, they are prepared to begin handing over material today. And what that material includes is 11.6 million documents, it includes hundreds of recordings of witness interviews and it is those recordings part of which Trump is prohibited from disclosing publicly.

So, Wolf, we will see how quickly this case could go to trial. The prosecution wants to start on January 2nd. Trump's legal team, starting next week, will propose their start date. It is likely that they will propose it after the 2024 election. But at the rate that Judge Chutkan is moving now, she will likely want to hue closer to the prosecution's proposed January date but we will see how this ultimately moves forward to a trial. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you, Jessica Schneider reporting.

Let's get some more on all these major development. Our legal experts are joining us, including George Conway and Karl Racine, and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman is with us as well.

Karl, you know Judge Chutkan well. How do you think she's going to deal with all of this?

KARL RACINE, FORMER D.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think she's been dealing with this entire case and exceptionally, well-reasoned, balanced manner. And what you saw today was a split decision. She did not give the government all that it wanted. The government actually sought to restrict the ability of Mr. Trump to analyze the evidence without his lawyers. She struck that down. She permits President Trump to access this evidence.

It is really important that he has access to the evidence anytime he wants without a lawyer present, yet she is going to make sure that witness intimidation, obstruction of justice, or any interference with the administration of justice is not going to occur on her watch.

BLITZER: What you think, George? Is this five-page protective order, as it is called, a reasonable document? And do you think Trump will actually abide by what is written in this?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well, I do not know if he will abide by it. He has trouble abiding by the rules and laws, as we all know. I mean, the protective order should not be that big of a deal, normally it's not a big deal. We have them in civil cases, in criminal cases all the time when people are producing -- one side is producing sensitive information pre-trial to the other.


So, I can't imagine that Judge Chutkan approve something that wasn't perfectly within that realm of possibility.

But you understand, it is understandable that the Justice Department would seek as much as they could given who the defendant is.

And it is important to remember, Sam Bank -- what his name? Sam Bankman Friedman was ordered by a judge in New York. He is going to be ordered to go back to jail because he gave some materials to The New York Times. This is a very serious stuff to violate a protective order. And it was good that Judge Chutkan warned Trump today about that.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a very significant development and it's a fascinating reading, once you read these five pages, indeed.

Maggie, in court today, the judge also warned Trump to be careful what he says publicly about this case on the heels of his truth social post saying, and I'm quoting him now, if you go after me, I am coming after you, all in caps. But could Trump really contain himself?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think we have ever seen any evidence that Trump is eager to contain himself. There are morning moments, Wolf, when his back has been against the wall, when he has been better than others, but he likes testing the bounds and seeing what he can get away with. It would not surprise me.

And, again, we have no idea what he is going to do. We know the things that he says upset his lawyers. We know that that they are frustrating to his lawyers because they cannot control him. Donald Trump has a history of testing the boundaries.

And so I think that you can see a scenario where he will continue to say provocative things online to see if the judge will turn away from it. There are other defendants, who, if they were in similar cases, obviously, there is no parallel to this with the former president, but other people who have been connected to January 6th related cases have not gotten as much leeway in certain aspects as Trump has.

And so I think it is very likely he will test the bounds and then we will see what the judge does.

BLITZER: We'll see what she does indeed. You know, Karl, Judge Chutkan says that Trump is a criminal defendant before he is a political candidate. Is that true? RACINE: I think in this courtroom, it is true. What Judge Chutkan is focused on is making sure that the evidence in this case, particularly the sensitive evidence in this case, is tried in the courtroom, not on the campaign trail. That is an important distinction, and you better believe that the judge is going to be quite observant of Mr. Trump's conduct after this protective order has been entered in.

BLITZER: We will see how he behaves and how he response. Maggie, I understand you have new reporting that drives home just how much Trump's political and legal futures are intertwined right now. What can you tell us about the impact these cases are having on the former president?

HABERMAN: Sure. So, Wolf, my colleague, Shane Goldmacher, and I took a look at Trump's financial situation and how impacted his political orbit, that's his super PAC, that's the campaign, that Save America, the political action committee that's been putting his legal bills or the bulk of them, have been strained by these trials. Also the fact that as a criminal defendant, he will be required, if these trials go ahead before Election Day and after Election Day, will be the same thing. But he has to physically be present. He will not be able to be on the campaign trail for those days.

These cases are consuming a lot of resources and a lot of time and he is facing a potential cash crunch. He is facing a likely prospect they want to stop start putting his own legal bills, at least to some extent. And he has said publicly he is willing to put in whatever campaign money he has to toward the actual political race. He did do that a bit in 2016, but commensurate with the overall amount he spent, it was relatively small. We will see what happens here.

BLITZER: And, George, do today's events suggest to you that the judge might rule for a very speedy trial, maybe along the lines of January 2024, the timeline proposed by the government?

CONWAY: Well, I do think she is going to move expeditiously. I think the way she handled this dispute, the protective order dispute this week, by getting the parties in really very fast and then denying a motion to extend the briefing time, I think she's going to move this case pretty fast.

Whether she -- I do not know that she will grant January 2024. I think sometimes when you're litigating, prosecutors will do this and they will ask for more than they probably will get from the judge and hope that the judge splits the difference and give them something not so bad, but pretty good.

BLITZER: Karl, how do you think the judge will react, will rule eventually on a trial date?

RACINE: To be sure, no one knows, of course. January 2nd seems a little early to me given that we are talking about $11.6 -- excuse me, 11.6 million documents that will be given over to the defense right now.

I think it is interesting to look at that March date that D.A. Bragg asked. He is indicated recently that he would be open to talking to other prosecutors and perhaps rearranging that date. March '24 sound like a good date on the January 6th trial to me.

BLITZER: All right, we shall see. Guys, thank you. Maggie, final thoughts from you, what should we be looking for next?

HABERMAN: Next, we are going to see again whether Trump does something that the judge considers violative of this order on social media.


We will look for what Trump says this weekend when he is in Iowa. We will look at the next debate and whether the first debate, and whether Trump actually goes.

But this is -- Wolf, we have never seen anything like this. This is a series of legal actions with wrapped around the political campaign. This is not a normal political season. Trump, obviously, is using this campaign is something of a shield.

We have been talking about that long before he actually got in the race. It's part of why he got in the race as early as he did and also to freeze the field. But we should be looking for everything that he says about these cases, any change in language, anyway he handled it differently, and, again, what the judges in the cases do.

BLITZER: Good point. Thank you to all of our experts.

Just ahead, we will go live to Hawaii for an update on the devastating and deadly wildfires. The state's governor joins me live. He'll be in THE SITUATION ROOM right after a quick break.


BLITZER: Officials in Hawaii say this week's devastating wildfires have now killed at least 55 people. But that count only includes victims found outside, and is expected to climb as crews go inside house to house.

CNN's Bill Weir is joining us live from Maui with the latest.


Bill, you were able to survey the damage in devastated Lahaina earlier today. What did you see?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely crushing, Wolf. It's the worst thing I've seen since Paradise, California. The deadliest fire in U.S. history, most the town completely flattened and completely caught by surprise.

And that's the thing. Lahaina was once the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii, going back to the ancient settlers. They knew that the cost of this paradise was living with wind and surf and occasional volcanic lava. But no one ever imagined a firestorm moving with such speed that it forced people into the ocean for refuge or some of them either passed away due to the waves, breathing in the water, or breathing in the smoke.

And I think people are just now coming to grips with just how devastating this is. There is much fear that the casualty count, the fatality count, could get into the hundreds.

Now, I've heard that sort of thing going back to the Florida Keys after Irma or Puerto Rico, even after Paradise. And a lot of people ended up being okay because the communication was just cut off. But that is where we are right now, a lot of frustration also with the organized government response.

BLITZER: Bill, what does the relief effort look like where you are?

WEIR: Well, right now, we are actually at a checkpoint here where the harbor is sort of closest to Lahaina to the south. And all day, there is a convoy of trucks coming up. There's actually -- it was broken now. It was really a logjam we saw of aid trucks, food trucks, people finally able to go in and check on their homes, bring supplies to people.

People on the north side of Lahaina were hearing or really begging for help. They've been struggling for a while. No electricity, no communication, they need fresh water in these places and a cell tower to get people proof of life.

Somehow, here, you are hearing complaints now -- look, we are next to basically the Pacific capital of the U.S. military. The resources are right here in the islands. They would like to see them now here.

BLITZER: Bill Weir on the scene for us, Bill, thank you very, very much.

Let's get an update right now from the governor of Hawaii, Josh Green. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. I know you are incredibly busy and we are grateful to you. What are the latest numbers, first of all, on those killed and those unaccounted for?

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): Well, thank you, Wolf. So, 59 fatalities, that is up from 55 earlier today. That we can confirm. And it is heartbreaking, of course, the loss of life. The storm did come on extraordinarily fast with 80-mile-per-hour winds moving the fire. So, that's what happened.

We have more than a thousand people that we are still connecting with. We are not searching for them, per se. We have several hundred homes that did burn, and those houses will be assessed in the coming days starting tomorrow morning with the FEMA team and the people that can tragically identify whether someone has perished in their home.

These 59 fatalities that have occurred, as was reported earlier in this segment, did occur out on the streets or out on the open as people were trying to escape the fire.

So, that is where we are numerically right now. There are a lot of things going on. We're really just into the third-and-a-half-day of this response. A lot of things are going on simultaneously. Mostly, what we are trying to do is get relief for the people and we opened up 15 minutes ago to allow people to travel back to their properties to go and assess them. That is where we are at the moment.

BLITZER: Is that number, the 59 deaths confirmed, expected to go higher later tonight?

GREEN: Yes, it is. I do not know if we will update the number again this evening. Without a doubt, there will be more fatalities. We don't know ultimately how many will have occurred. I will say this. The largest natural disaster in state history occurred in 1960, when 61 individuals perished as a result of a tsunami on the big island in Hilo.

So, this will exceed that. It is a product, in my estimation, of certainly global warming combined with drought, combined with a super storm, where we had a hurricane offshore several hundred miles, still generating large winds.

As everyone knows, the islands are very prone to natural disasters, whether it is a volcanic eruption, which you guys have witnessed on many occasions, or a tsunami, or an earthquake, or in this case, a fire.

BLITZER: Do you have a sense, Governor, of how long it will be until you have a full picture of the death toll?

GREEN: I think, actually, over the course of the next week, we will get as close to a complete assessment as possible. As you know, sometimes natural disasters or essentially wartime disasters, and it does look like a war zone where Lahaina is concerned, you will sometimes discover later that someone has perished because it was burned to the ground.


When I say that, I do not see it lightly.

As you know, we were on the phone together when I was walking the district with the Senator Schatz and Mayor Bissen, and it was rubble and ashes down in Front Street. But I think next week, starting tomorrow, we will see a lot more, I guess, certainty, about how many individuals have perished.

I will also say we are grateful to have so much support. The FEMA director will be with me tomorrow, and I believe with Senator Hirono down again at ground zero. We have all the support that you could imagine. President Biden called me again this morning and has been extremely generous offering support, and approving our emergency requests.

We are going to be launching programs in the coming days. One of them will be called the Hawaii Fire Relief Housing Program. In other words, we are going to take short-term rentals and purpose them to house people. We will be willing to the shelters and getting them signed up. Our expectation is that the state will cover all of the costs to the relief process. We are in coordination right now with FEMA in discussing some of those details. So, we will bring hundreds if not thousands of units online quite quickly.

Meanwhile, people will know whether or not there house is habitable. Even some of the other individuals that are out beyond the perimeter of the fire, they do not have power.

I really do want to remind people what Hawaii is like. It is a spectacularly beautiful place. It is also rural and the most isolated landmass on the planet, which means you do not have access immediately to polls when you want to get electricity fixed all the time. You do not have access to all of the workforce that you might expect, if you could say, bring it from across another state line. This is not to make an excuse.

This is just to explain the reality of the islands, especially in the post- COVID era. So, that's why some of these will take time. But our hearts break for every moment that someone is in a shelter or shares with me on the telephone the story of their lost aunt or uncle.

So, that's where we are right now. There's a lot going on. Millions and millions of dollars have already been donated through Hawaii community foundation. That is amazing and we will never forget the support of the mainland. But some of this response is going to linger into the weeks and months ahead.

BLITZER: As you know, Governor, Hawaii's Emergency Management says that nobody turned on Maui's warning sirens when the fire ants broke out in Lahaina on Tuesday. Did that put people's lives in even more danger?

GREEN: Well, it's been describe to me, and let me tell you that I authorized a comprehensive review this morning to make sure that we know exactly what happened and when.

What we understand is that when those fires reignited in Lahaina in the late afternoon or early evening, they were focusing on fires elsewhere on the island. And the telecommunications were destroyed very rapidly. That is why, normally, we would phone call one another and then through what's often called the Coconut Wireless, where everyone speaks to everyone else in their community, we would know right away that there was danger.

That communication was cut off by the destruction of essentially 1,000-degree heat that was coming down the mountain. That is not again to make any excuse for anyone. And we're going to check and be very safe and sure that we did what we could.

But I have to tell you, this was a very fluid situation across the islands with the storm. We were unable to get helicopters up in the air, for example, to drop water that night because you cannot fly helicopters with gusts of 89-mile-per-hour winds. You will crash your helicopters and kill your pilots. So, these were the considerations and the consideration that occurred in the island setting on the backend of a hurricane. But we will do all that we can to find out how to protect our people more going forward. It's just we have not seen populations like this in the last 30, 40, 50 years ever threatened in an era of global warming, and that's a concern.

BLITZER: A deep concern indeed, and everyone is going to learn lessons from what happened and did not happen to deal with this enormous crisis.

You noted, Governor, that the drought and the winds Maui was facing but the state records show that Hawaii underprepared for wildfires for years, even as the threat grew worse. How much of this disaster do you believe, looking back now, was actually preventable?

GREEN: Well, I think that one could safely say we do have wildfires every year, but we have always been able to contain them. Whether the variables were different this time or not, all I can tell you, as I have been in Hawaii for 23 years, I have never seen the convergence of a fire and a hurricane and gale force winds at the same time anywhere near one of our towns.


It just is not something I've ever experienced.

I actually road out a wildfire in Pahala, which is the southern tip of the island, when I was working as the physician in the National Health Service Corps back around 2003 or 2002, I believe, when more than 1,000 acres burned right near my property. And so, we have experienced these things. They do occur. But that was in a very rural, dry area, where it was mostly grass.

As to placing a responsibility, all responsibility is on all of us. And that is, we do what we can with the resources we have here, far away from the mainland. But this is the first time we've ever experienced this.

BLITZER: Hawaii Governor Josh Green, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you and good luck to all the people of Hawaii. We certainly hope to have you back next week to continue this conversation.

GREEN: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing with the people across the country.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And for more information of how you, our viewers, can help Hawaii wildfire victims, go to, or you can scan the Q.R. code for details. This is really important. People need help, and you can help.

Coming up, the new appointment of a special counsel in the Hunter Biden case and the legal peril for the president's son as he now seems likely to go to trial.



BLITZER: Tonight, the top federal prosecutor in the Hunter Biden probe now has special counsel status, giving him new authority to investigate the president's son. The case is now likely to go to trial after talks with the plea deal fell apart.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is following this story for us. Paula, what is disappointing me for the investigation, and as it moves forward, what is next?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Justice Department said that on Tuesday, Weiss asked to change his designation. Weiss is a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney. He has been overseeing the hunter Biden investigation for approximately five years. And there is no official explanation for why on Tuesday he asked to officially become a special counsel.

But we do have some clues from court filings about what might be going on here. Court filings today reveal that the plea deal that have been negotiated between Hunter Biden's lawyers and the U.S. attorney appears to be at an impasse. It has fallen apart. They went to court, the judge overseeing the case had some questions, had some pushback on the plea deal. There have been talks between the parties. But at this point, according to court filings, it appears that this case is headed to trial.

Now, I want to read a statement from one of Hunter Biden's lawyers, Chris Clark. He says that it is hard to see why Weiss would have proposed such a resolution, the plea deal, if there were other offenses that he could have successfully prosecuted. And we are aware of none. They say they are confident that when all of this is over, their client will go on and live his life successfully.

But in addition to a possible trial, Wolf, now Weiss have to compile a report about his investigation and his findings. The attorney general says he will make that report public. I've also learned that the White House and Hunter Biden's legal team did not get a heads-up about this announcement.

BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. There had been plans in the works, as you know, for Weiss to actually testify before Congress. How does today's development, now that he's special counsel, impact that?

REID: That is not just a question. That is the question, Wolf. Because, now, the Justice Department is pointing to the fact that Weiss has to create a report, and they're saying that will offer transparency. I do not know if Republicans are going to see it that way. It does not prevent him from being able to testify, but, historically, special counsel have testified, Robert Mueller, John Durham, but after they submitted their report.

And it is clear that Republicans are not terribly happy about this and this will continue to be a politically fraught issue.

BLITZER: It's interesting, George, that David Weiss has been investigating Hunter Biden since 2018. So, what is he going to be able to do now that he has not necessarily been able to do over the past five years?

CONWAY: Well, it is not clear that he is going to be able to do more than he has done in the past five years. But I think it is very constructive that he will be required to write a report. And I think it is good for the appearance of Justice for there to be a real, under the regulation, special counsel. I think that is a good move.

BLITZER: Interesting. Norm Eisen is with us as well. Earlier this year, I think this is interesting, your analysis, Weiss actually sent a letter to lawmakers saying that he had the ability to charge Hunter in any venue and did not necessarily need to be a special counsel. So, what changed? Because earlier this week, he said he wanted to be special counsel.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I think what is changed is, after that dramatic court hearing in Delaware, where the judge said, you call this an agreement? You do not agree on whether Hunter Biden has immunity or not. They have tried to put it back together. It has not worked, clearly. So now, David Weiss is going to have to try the case.

And in this kind of a political season, one of the most extraordinary in the history of our country, and one that was already dominated by trials and legal matters, he wants the absolute independence, the transparency, the ability to try this case anywhere in the country. He got that in the order. That is the big change here. He has been forced to go to trial.

Now, Hunter's lawyers are probably signaling that they are going to try to enforce this deal. They're going to say it is a binding contract and the dispute will be, how can it be a binding contract if you do not agree on immunity?

BLITZER: Good point. Gloria, Republicans they have been -- all day, they have been slamming this appointment today, this announcement today. But many were saying something very different not that long ago.


I want you to listen to what the House judiciary chairman, Jim Jordan, said back in June. Listen to this.


REPORTER: Do you think it is time for a special counsel in the Hunter Biden investigation?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): That was the biggest takeaway, right? The biggest takeaway is the U.S. attorney, Weiss, asked for special counsel status and Garland and the Justice Department says, no. Like if a special counsel is not warranted here, when is it?


BLITZER: It's interesting, because now a spokesman for Congressman Jordan says, Weiss, quote, cannot be trusted as special counsel. So, what do you make of that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Be careful what you ask for because sometimes you are going to get it. Well, look, they say Weiss cannot be trusted because they did not like the deal that he was cutting. And they're saying, well, he will just do it again. But, of course, now, he has got more accountability to Congress. They have asked for accountability. Now, they're going to get more accountability because they are going to get a report.

And so they're going to get more of what they wanted and they are likely to get a trial, which is also something they want because that goes into the political year, as Norm was pointing out. So, I do not really understand what it is they're complaining about since they are getting what they want.

CONWAY: They just want the money (ph). There is no good faith. There is no good faith.

BORGER: And sometimes people just want to complain.

CONWAY: That's right. If the Justice Department had appointed a special counsel, making a special counsel early on, they would have said, well, you should have wanted a different special counsel. If they appointed a different special counsel, they would have said, oh, you are delaying the investigation because this guy has been working on it for five years. And it will never stop whatever they do.

BLITZER: As we all know, having covered the stories over the years, Paula, special counsel investigations normally take a long time. But given the fact that Weiss has been investigating this for the past five years, do we expect this time it will go much more quickly?

REID: I do not think they are starting from scratch. This does not start at the beginning nor even just a few steps in. I mean, he has been investigating this for five years. Unless there is some development of which we are unaware, assuming this trial will go forward on the tax charges, possibly the gun charges, well, yes, this should move relatively quickly into trial over the next year.

Now, I think a lot of questions about how Hunter Biden would afford a federal trial, but it is our understanding that the same attorney who helped him pay off the taxes that he owed would also help fund this trial. And they're pretty confident that they have a strong case here and that they will win.

BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts on this, George. Because last month, these IRS whistleblowers, as they call them, testified before Congress that David Weiss, who was the U.S. attorney in Delaware, did not have full authority over the Hunter Biden case. Listen and watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH ZIEGLER, IRS WHISTLEBLOWER: It appeared to me, based on what I experienced, that the U.S. attorney in Delaware in our investigation was constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized by DOJ officials as well as other U.S. attorneys.


BLITZER: So, do you think this move today give some credence to what those whistleblowers were suggesting?

CONWAY: Not at all. We have not seen any evidence that Weiss was hamstrung in any way, and he says he was not. But we will see. Now that he has got a full rein, that he's got a longer leash now, ostensibly, we will see. We will see if any other charges are coming. If they don't, so be it.

BORGER: And maybe this is his way of showing that he was not hamstrung, because he could not come to the same conclusion without being hamstrung, as the whistleblower said he was.

BLITZER: Yes, it is going to be dramatic and important. We will watch closely in the coming weeks and months. Guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, as deadly fires burn, we are getting harrowing stories of survival and escape being reported from Maui.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The governor of Hawaii telling me just moments ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM that at least 59 people were killed in the Maui wildfires. And that number is expected to rise.

Meanwhile, we are hearing very dramatic accounts for people who escaped and survived the fires. CNN's Brian is covering this for us. What's the latest, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're hearing stories of people running from their homes with bare feet to escape the flames with seconds to spare, stories of people jumping into the ocean to get away from the fires. And when people recalled these stories, their trauma and despair are evident.


EMERSON TIMMINS, MAUI WILDFIRES SURVIVOR: Here's all the restaurant, everything that used to be here. It is no more.

TODD (voice over): This footage of what looks like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion was taken by Emerson Timmins, as he rode a bike through the historic area of Lahaina on Maui. His video and narration a horrifying account of how people try to escape burning cars. TIMMINS: The cars that had gotten backed up on the road, the reason that they were there is they were trying to get out. They were trying to escape that fire. But all of the cars got trapped. And all the people were stuck in those cars, trying to get out, and they had to run for their lives. And not everybody could make it.

TODD: Vixay Phonxaylinkham, a tourist from Fresno, says that he, his wife and five children were able to exit their vehicle, barely.

VIXAY PHONXAYLINKHAM, MAUI WILDFIRES SURVIVOR: Myself, my wife and my five kids, we all got on the ocean. We found a boogie board that we hung onto. And we were out there floating. It was so surreal and everything was burning around us, explosions, cars blowing up.

TODD: Embers and degree debris were flying everywhere. He says they held onto each other for about three hours in the water.

PHONXAYLINKHAM: The ocean almost (INAUDIBLE) my kids away a few times. But, yes, hung. We stuck together. We held on. We are not going to die this way. And we are here, we are alive.


TODD: One Maui resident says she, her two children, and their dog were in what she called a fight or flight situation for about 30 hours after barely escaping her house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We stepped out of my front door, and it was just hundreds of feet of black smoke engulfing the town. And it was everything I could do to just gather my kids and gather whatever I could in two minutes to get out of the house.

I mean, we ran out of the house with no shoes. It was just so much. It's so much. It's a lot.

TODD: This video is from Cole Millington showing a completely leveled home. He says after he ran from his home, peeled out in his truck and got on the road --

COLE MILLINGTON, MAUI WILDFIRES SURVIVOR: There were people screaming in the streets. There was no one saying this is where you should go in this is what you should do.

TODD: John Singer says he fought as hard as he could to save his house.

JOHN SINGER, MAUI WILDFIRES SURVIVOR: I sat up on top of the roof and I battled the fire for about three hours. I could not do it anymore.

TODD: He then jumped into the ocean to save himself, he says, and he said when he turned to look back at his home --

SINGER: Devastation. Everything gone.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on camera): Officials say the search for survivors has included teams of cadaver dogs sifting through the remains of neighborhoods. There are many residents still nowhere to be found.

Hawaii Governor Josh Greene says in Lahaina alone, upwards of about 1,700 buildings may have been destroyed. He says it appears about 80 percent of the town is gone.

Utter devastation in Lahaina.

BLITZER: So heartbreaking indeed.

Brian Todd, thanks for that report.

Coming up, we'll have a live report from the 2024 campaign trail in Iowa where Republican presidential candidate hopefuls are descending on the state fair.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Republican presidential candidates including the frontrunner Donald Trump are pouring into Iowa this week as the state fair gets underway. It's a prime chance to meet with GOP voters.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is joining us live from the fair in Des Moines right now.

Jeff, unlike other candidates, Trump won't be sitting down with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

So what are we expecting from Trump tomorrow?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are expecting the former president to spend a couple hours here at the Iowa state fair, of course, talking to some of his big fans, of which he has a lot here in Iowa. Of course, he did not win the Iowa caucuses back in 2016, came in second. But he went on to win the state and the general election both in 2016 and 2020.

But now, this is an entirely different race. He will be coming tomorrow with a group of Florida members of Congress who have endorsed his candidacy over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Why is he doing that? Because DeSantis will also be here at the same time.

So, call it a bit of a political trolling exercise, if you will. But the reality here is that Trump's standing in the race, while he is no doubt the frontrunner, we sat down with the Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds today to ask her about if she believes that he is the far and away eventual inevitable nominee. This is what she said.


ZELENY: Do you think Republicans are wrong to see him as the inevitable nominee?

GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R), IOWA: Well, I don't -- I just said I think it's early. Our job is not to pick the winner necessarily but to start to narrow the field. And that's really what the caucus has done.


ZELENY: And in that interview, she also did not rule out the possibility of choosing a favorite at the end of the Iowa caucus campaign in January, Wolf.

So, she certainly is making the case that this race is a fluid one.

BLITZER: Fluid indeed. Talking to voters there, and I know you are, is there a sense that the race is more fluid than the polls would necessarily suggest?

ZELENY: Wolf, certainly among many Republicans, of course, the former president has his true core supporters, and there are many of those. But there is at least, polls would suggest, at least half of the Republican Party, the field who are looking for someone else.

And we caught up with one voter earlier today. She voted for the former President Donald Trump, but now she has her eye on two other candidates.


SUZY BAKER, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: My favorite two are Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence. I am off of Trump.

ZELENY: Why is that?

BAKER: You know, I think, I like what he did for the country, but he just maybe comes across too crass. Yeah, I don't like -- I don't necessarily like the way he comes across.


ZELENY: So she is at least looking at the Florida governor and the former vice president. But, Wolf, it does underscore the point that this is still a long time to go before the Iowa caucuses open the presidential race. Next week, it hits the five-month mark. So much, of course, can happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff Zeleny reporting from Iowa, thank you. And we'll have more news right after this.



BLITZER: The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announcing every official in charge of Ukraine's regional military recruitment centers has been fired.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has the latest.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a very strident decision by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to fire the heads of all regional military recruitment centers. That's after weeks, maybe months, perhaps, of scandals about corruption, about the personal enrichment of those serving in those places. Here's what he had to say.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are dismissing all regional military commissioners. This system should be managed by people who know exactly what war is and why cynicism and bribery in times of war is high treason.

WALSH: Now, he said that those who replaced them would essentially be veterans from the front, people who were amputees, who perhaps experienced so much injury they couldn't return back to the front line. I think Ukraine's bid to ensure those sending their young to the fight know what their fight truly entails.

This comes after a lot of days of bad news to some degree. Yes, Ukraine says it's still on the front line moving forward, some good news in the southern offensive, they say that they are making important but small gains around the town of Robatinia (ph), but also the previous nights have been tough. We've seen awful video from Zaporizhzhia where there was a children's playground hit by two ballistic missiles, but also, again, this night sirens in Kyiv and news emerging that attacks in the west may have been focused upon a training center, say Ukrainian officials, for pilots for the F-16 program.

Remember, it's so vital for Ukraine to have some element of fight in the skies, their air force depleted over this war, and Russia experiencing air superiority amongst a lot of the front line that we've seen in the south. That makes it very hard for Ukraine to keep pushing forward. And the suggestion really is that these ballistic missile attacks were essentially one or four hypersonic missiles were intercepted by Ukraine, that they're aimed at slowing this advance in Ukrainian forces.


BLITZER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, reporting, stay safe over there. Thank you.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.