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Giuliani Still Can't Find Lawyer As Meadows Fight Georgia Arrest; First GOP Debate On Eve Of Trump's Georgia Arrest; Sheriff's Staff Threatened Ahead Of Trump Surrender; 115 Dead, About 850 Still Missing After Maui Wildfires; Eight People Rescued From Stranded Pakistan Cable Car. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 22, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, we're following breaking news involving two of Donald Trump's co-defendants in Georgia. Rudy Giuliani struggling to find a lawyer as Mark Meadows is seeking an emergency order to avoid arrest.

Also this hour, an update on threats against the sheriff's office just ahead of Trump's surrender at the Fulton County Jail on Thursday. Are law enforcement officials there prepared?

And Trump's Republican rivals are little over 24 hours away from their first debate on the eve of the former president's arrest. GOP Candidate Asa Hutchinson joins us live this hour to discuss his debate strategy and Trump's decision to snub the event.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We're keeping a close eye right now on Fulton County Jail and the courthouse where multiple Trump co-defendants were arrested or involved in new legal maneuvers today. We're also following breaking news on two of the famous Trump allies indicted with the former president in Georgia.

CNN's Paula Reid is outside the courthouse in Atlanta. She's got details. Paula, you have new reporting on Mark Meadows' bid to get the Georgia election subversion case tossed. What are you learning?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Mark Meadows is hoping to move the state case in Fulton County to federal court where he believes he would be successful in getting it dismissed.

And we're just learning that the district attorney here in Fulton County, Fani Willis, has subpoenaed two people to serve as witnesses in that dispute. Now, both of these individuals listened in on that infamous call between former President Trump and the Georgia secretary of state, where Trump was pressing the secretary of state to find him the votes needed to flip the state.

Now, it's unclear if these witnesses will testify at a hearing on Monday, but we know both Mark Meadows and former Justice Department Official Jeffrey Clark, they are both trying to get their state cases moved to federal court and they're also now trying to get a federal judge to intervene so that they don't have to surrender by that Friday deadline that the district attorney has imposed.

BLITZER: You also have exclusive reporting, Paula, on Rudy Giuliani's legal struggles in Georgia. What are you learning there?

REID: That's right. Well, he has legal struggles across the country right now, Wolf. And he is facing seven-figure legal debt, which has made it difficult for him to retain counsel and to get an attorney. And right now. we have learned that former New York police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who is also an unindicted co-conspirator in this case, is working closely with his longtime friend and ally, Rudy Giuliani, to help him through this process.

Now, Bernie Kerik in his role as a New York police commissioner has a lot of experience with this process. He also held a leadership role in the corrections system in New York. So, he knows what this process is like, and he's trying to help Giuliani find a Georgia lawyer, which is what he needs for someone to sign his bond agreement.

But it's unclear when Giuliani will come to Georgia to surrender. At this point, it does not appear he has an attorney, but he does appear to have the support of one of his unindicted co-conspirators.

BLITZER: Interesting. Paula, I want you to stay with us, as we're joined by more of our legal and political experts.

And, Evan, let e start with you. How do these subpoenas fit into Meadows' effort to try to fight the D.A.'s case?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Meadows is saying, Wolf, that he shouldn't even have to turn himself in. He's trying to force this federal judge essentially to move more quickly, to remove him, his case, from the state court. And so I think, obviously, it's not a bad argument for him to make.

The problem with Meadows' argument is obviously that he -- you know, what he's charged with is doing things that go outside of the role of being a chief of staff. And so that's part of the issue for him and what he's going to confront.

And as you can tell from what Paula just said, the Fulton County D.A. appears to be meeting him halfway here by saying, okay, let's talk about that infamous phone call to Brad Raffensperger and the pressure, because Meadows spoke on that call, not only the former president, and the pressure they put on state officials to try to find those 11,780 votes. That is part of -- is clearly part of what they're going to rebut what Meadows is making his argument on.

BLITZER: Let me follow up with Laura. Laura, how likely is it, do you think, that Meadows will succeed in getting this case moved to a federal court?


LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, this is not a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination for actual Mark Meadows. In order to get it removed, there are certain criteria. One, you had to actually show that there was something about what you were doing under the, quote/unquote, color of the office, meaning this was in your job description to do. Remember, states are in charge of elections, not the federal government, not the chief of staff or a president of the United States.

Another issue, of course, is that you have to have some kind of federal viable defense. What would the defense be in terms of actually not part of your job description already to do so, why would they make sense?

But there is benefit to him that he hopes to be able to try it, nonetheless, and that is I'm sure he's hoping to get a jury in a different area other than Fulton County. Demographics might be more in his favor, he might believe, maybe the voting patterns in his favor. But what does not change here, Wolf, is it would still be state charges against him. It would be handled in a federal courtroom, yes. But it would still have state charges. If convicted, a state conviction would stand. And so it would be unpardonable as well.

And so the benefit is the gamble of the jury pool. And if you remove, you go from somebody appointed by Brian Kemp in this current judge to now somebody appointed by President Barack Obama, more seasoned as well on the bench. So, if you buy into the philosophy that who appoints you might determine your fate, maybe he thinks Russian roulette is appropriate.

BLITZER: I want to bring Jamie Gangel into this conversation. You're doing a lot of reporting on this. We know Rudy Giuliani doesn't have a lawyer yet in Georgia. What happens if he doesn't show up by Friday noon that he's supposed to show up for this arrest?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, he'll get arrested. I mean, that potentially is --

PEREZ: Bernie can help him with that, because Bernie has experience --

BLITZER: Bernie Kerik.

PEREZ: Yes, I mean, he was in prison.

GANGEL: It's interesting that we have this reporting now about Bernie Kerik helping him, as Paula reported.

Let's just remind people about their relationship. It's actually not a surprise that Bernie is helping him. He's a loyal friend. He was -- when Rudy was running for mayor, he was his driver, he was his bodyguard. Rudy made him police commissioner.

That said, Bernie Kerik also was convicted on eight felonies. Then Rudy helped convince Trump to pardon him. I mean, these two are very, very close. So, it's not a surprise that Bernie wants to help him.

What is a problem, though, is Bernie doesn't have the money to help Rudy. Bernie is not a lawyer. So, he's helping him as a loyal friend. How this translates into finding Rudy a real lawyer to defend him is still the question.

BLITZER: Yes. Giuliani apparently doesn't have any money to pay for a real lawyer right now. So, we'll see what happens on that front.

COATES: One thing, money is one thing. This is not the ideal defense client, as well. I mean, everyone deserves to have the presumption of innocence, of course, and I hold that very dear. But this is also somebody with so many cases against him, somebody who doesn't appear to be, through our reporting, would have the viable defense of, say, another person, somebody who is well-versed in RICO, well-versed in the ideas of what the conversations had, his own discussions in Georgia with the two women who are mother and daughters for the election officials as well. This is somebody who comes with a lot of baggage, and perhaps for many lawyers, the juice is not worth the squeeze.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point too.

Paula, you're also doing a lot of reporting on this. How unusual is all of this that Rudy Giuliani is relying on Bernie Kerik, for example, for this kind of help?

REID: Wolf, it's incredibly unusual. We have a former U.S. attorney, former New York mayor, who made a career prosecuting RICO, now facing RICO charges in Fulton County, Georgia. He can't find a lawyer because he's in seven-figure legal debt, because he has so many legal problems. And it appears that the only person willing to stand by him right now is the former New York police commissioner, who is also an unindicted co-conspirator in this case.

Bernie Kerik was also -- has his own conviction. It was pardoned, as Jamie noted, by former Trump, who is also, of course, a defendant in this case.

The other big question that makes this even more unusual is that among the bond requirements, there are limits on the extent to which you can talk to defendants. And it's unclear if Rudy Giuliani could be restricted from talking to unindicted co-conspirators, which would mean he couldn't talk to Bernie.

BLITZER: That's a good point, too.

Laura, Trump's bond agreement orders him to not to try to intimidate witnesses or obstruct the administration of justice directly or even indirectly. But just hours after this agreement, he slammed the Fulton County D.A. on social media. He's really pushing the boundaries, I suspect, of this order.

COATES: I mean, this was probably totally predictable, which is why maybe it was included in this particular order.


But at the same token, if it was predictable, he certainly would have known what could happen if he actually were to violate it.

It's the very first time, though, in the now four indictments he's actually had this warning beforehand, before he's done something on Truth Social. Remember in the Judge Chutkan matter, when Jack Smith came out to say, aha, let's get this in that order.

One of the issues here will be, because of the volume of cases, of course, a statement he makes on Truth Social or otherwise, to which case will it be ascribed? How general must it be? How specific must it be for him to say, it's about this person in this moment, enough to actually incur the wrath of the judge? And even in that, Judge Chutkan in the kind of reverse psychology said, all, right, the more this happens, the closer this trial dates becomes. And so he's in for quite a reality check.

BLITZER: He certainly are right, as you always are. Laura, thank you very much. Thanks to everyone.

And this note, be sure to watch Laura Coates anchoring CNN Primetime later night, 11:00 P.M. Eastern

And just ahead, Republican candidates are fine-tuning their strategies for a Trump-free debate. I'll talk with one of the contenders who will be on the stage tomorrow night, former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson.

And we'll also take you inside the scramble to respond to threats against officials in Georgia just ahead of Donald Trump's arrest.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Eight Republican candidates are gathering in Wisconsin for a presidential debate unlike any other. The frontrunner, Donald Trump, set to skip the event as he prepares for historic fourth criminal arrest.

CNN Political Director David Chalian is in Milwaukee for us. He's got a preview. David, which candidates have qualified to debate and how will they try to seize attention without Trump on stage?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a good question, Wolf. Well, the debate stage is set. The Republican National Committee announced the eight candidates that qualified. And then today, it was revealed how the stage will actually be displayed with the candidates.

Take a look here. With no Donald Trump in the race, he obviously would have been at center stage, Wolf. You have Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy in the center of the pack. You then see on either side of them Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, then down to Chris Christie and Tim Scott. And then at the ends there, you have the former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, and the North Dakota governor, Doug Burgum.

But, obviously, this is a debate without the dominant frontrunner, and that's going to impact the debate. Now, the Fox moderators have indicated that Donald Trump will be a topic that comes up. There will be questions about that. So, he will be looming over this debate even though he won't be here.

But to your point, how does someone breakthrough in some way? Because it's so critical for these candidates not named Trump, Wolf, to seize this moment, this first big introduction to Republican primary voters, to put forth their own agenda, their own policy perspectives, and try to start coalescing the wing of the party interested in a non-Trump candidate, Wolf.

BLITZER: How critical is Wisconsin, David, where this debate will be held to winning the White House in 2024?

CHALIAN: Well, as you know, it is one of five states that Donald Trump won in 2016 but that Joe Biden flipped blue in 2020. This state was decided by less than 1 percent, Wolf. This is a true battleground of battlegrounds, and it will help determine who is the ultimate winner in this race.

The Republicans are hosting their first debate here because one year from now, this is where their nominating convention is going to be. This is where the Republican nominee will be crowned in a sort of kickoff to the fall general election campaign.

And part of choosing this as the home for the Republican convention and one year away, the first debate, is to have a footprint here in a major battleground state. It's also why we saw President Biden visit here last week ahead of the Republicans. Both sides are going to contest this state all the way through, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. David, stay with us. I also want to bring in Democratic Strategist Jamal Simmons and CNN Political Commentator Geoff Duncan into this conversation. Geoff is the former Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia.

And, Geoff, I'll start with you. What do you think is a winning strategy for these eight Republican candidates tomorrow night?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Donald Trump not being there is really a gift to these eight and some are going to squander it and try to pander to the 35 percent die-hard supporters of Donald Trump. But there's going to be a number of them that really play out to the 65 percent, which is if you're keeping score at home, over 50 million Republicans still that identify as persuadable.

I think if they put a plan in place, it makes sense about how they can have conservative solutions to Joe Biden's problems, and if they can have a strategy as to how to win and if they can call honest balls and strikes on Donald Trump for just, quite honestly, lying to the Republican Party, taking us in the wrong direction, and putting us in this position to start with. If they do that, I think they can come out of this with head and shoulders above the field. BLITZER: Interesting. Jamal, as Geoff said, Trump will still be what they say, the elephant in the room over at the debate. Other than the already vocal Trump critics, do you think the rest of the field will be willing to actually directly criticize him?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It doesn't seem like they're willing to directly criticize him, Wolf. Look, there's an alternate universe that exists inside the Republican Party. Right now, we saw on the poll the other day, Iowa caucus goers, 64 percent of them say that they will probably vote for Donald Trump in the caucus, 64 percent. But then we saw an A.P.-NORC poll that said 64 or 65 percent of Americans said they will definitely or probably not vote for Donald Trump in a general election.

So, if they're trying to get nominated in the Republican Party, it's all MAGA all the time. You've got to appeal to these MAGA caucus goers and primary voters in order to win.

And here's the danger. Let me tell you, here's the danger for Donald Trump in not going to the debate. This is like a talent show. And I know Donald Trump thinks he's the biggest star. But it's always possible somebody is going to have a breakout moment and sing a good song, and they will be the one everyone is talking about.


Donald Trump won't be on stage to steal that limelight back. He's going to have to wait and try to do it through a social media post or some other factor. But he won't be there to sort of squash that fire while it's happening. And I think that is the one danger for him for not showing up at that debate.

BLITZER: Interesting. David, as you noted, DeSantis and Ramaswamy will be both at center stage tomorrow night. What does the lineup on the stage reveal to you about a strategy -- about strategy tomorrow?

CHALIAN: Well, as you know, the DeSantis campaign has made clear in terms of expectation-setting, they are prepared for all the arrows coming their way. So, if indeed that plays out, DeSantis will be there at the center taking a lot of the heat. He is the second place candidate right now, although he's far behind Donald Trump. He is the closest contender.

Ramaswamy, for his part, has seen himself as somebody who is sort of the next generation of the Trump movement, sort of Trump 2.0 in many ways, and sees it as part of his mission to sort of stop DeSantis in his tracks here.

So, having them center stage, seeing where, since both are not interested in sort of taking the Chris Christie approach and actually going directly at Donald Trump and taking him on over all of these indictments and the like, the two of them will largely, I assume, try to avoid that and actually try to engage each other on some of their policy prescriptions to differentiate themselves in front of all these Republican primary voters who will be watching. BLITZER: Geoff, you were the former Georgia lieutenant governor and you testified in the Fulton County case. What's your reaction to Trump's strategy to turn himself in in Georgia the day after the debate?

DUNCAN: Well, he's always tried to campaign in the media, right? That's just kind of his M.O., and so be it, right? He's going to turn himself in. I'm just one of those Americans that's dumb enough to believe that a president with 91 indictments in multiple state and federal jurisdictions shouldn't be the president of the United States, or even be considered in the conversation.

I think an interesting point to make is every single person I'm betting on that stage tomorrow does not believe the election was rigged, does not believe Brian Kemp, Geoff Duncan, Brian Raffensperger, Gabe Sterling or any of us did anything wrong. In fact, we ran a great election. They're just, with a few exceptions, too chicken to say it.

And I think, ultimately, where this is tracking is the weight of 91 indictments, the weight of multiple jurisdictions chasing Donald Trump every minute of every day is going to be more than he can bear. And I don't believe he's going to be the nominee and this is the chance for somebody to step up and be the adult in the room, which I think is what America is waiting for.

BLITZER: We shall see. Jamal, what's your reaction to that?

SIMMONS: You know, I keep thinking about all these candidates on stage except for Chris Christie and a couple of others who are just kind of being chicken. They just don't want to take on Donald Trump. And I think when you're running for president of the United States, people want to see you fight for yourself, fight for them. And if you're not willing to fight Donald Trump, who's the big cahoona here, then I don't know they're going to trust you for that.

Meanwhile, you've got Joe Biden who's up on air with one of the, I think, great ads of the campaign so far. He's talking about trusting the American people and using their voice to tell us about the Biden economic plan.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we'll take a closer look at the security concerns facing Fulton County officials just ahead of Donald Trump's expected surrender on Thursday. I'll discuss the story with the former Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson. He's standing by live. You see him.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: As Donald Trump's co-defendants begin turning themselves in at the Fulton County Jail ahead of Friday's deadline, there are concerns right now for the security of local court and law enforcement officials amid reports of them receiving threats.

Brian Todd is covering this story for us. Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from sheriff's office employees to the district attorney herself, several officials in Fulton County have received threats, according to our sources, and a key concern is whether a court order aimed at restraining Donald Trump's rhetoric is going to do anything to tamp down the anxiety.


TODD (voice over): The surrender of former President Trump and his 18 co-defendants creating an atmosphere of fear and concern this week in Fulton County, Georgia. A source telling CNN employees with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office are being threatened, threats even made against their homes because of the role they play operating the Fulton County Jail where Trump will surrender this week.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think what we are seeing in Fulton County right now is a really troubling development on some of the concerns we've had around security issues surrounding Donald Trump's three prior first appearances in criminal court.

TODD: Other Fulton County officials have received threats of violence as well, including District Attorney Fani Willis, who's bringing the charges against Trump in Georgia. A source recently telling CNN, Willis has gone given additional security protection near her residence.

Willis has shared with officials messages she's received of a sexualized and racist nature.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I've probably been called the N word more times in the last 2.5 years than most people combined.

TODD: Willis has said that security concerns have been escalated by Trump's rhetoric.

Trump, in denying wrongdoing in Georgia, has called Willis racist, a, quote, lunatic Marxist, and has accused her of having an affair with a gang member.

MCCABE: The attacks are baseless, they are completely false, but they're very effective in appealing to his die-hard supporters, people who are really energized and attracted to what he says.


TODD: As part of the conditions of his release on bond in Fulton County, Trump has been ordered by the court to, quote, make no direct or indirect threat to co-defendants, witnesses, victims, or against the community. That includes posts on social media.

What if Trump violates that order?

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And if he were to violate that, then he could theoretically see himself behind bars.

TODD: But there are threats targeting Trump as well. Court filings say a woman in Illinois has been threatening to kill Trump and his youngest son, Barron, to shoot them, quote, straight in the face. Federal Judge Esther Salas, whose son was shot and killed at the door of their home in 2020, worries about the overall climate of fear.

ESTHER SALAS, U.S. FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: I'm also concerned about the language that is being used by our leaders, both on the right and left when we question the justice system, when we start to perpetuate false narratives about judges being in cahoots with conspiracies.


TODD (on camera): Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe says what he's worried about most with these trials coming up is not the large, hostile crowds around courthouses but the individual lone wolf inspired by violent rhetoric who could target a court or city official connected to these cases. Those people, McCabe says, are the hardest to find and, of course, the hardest to stop, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. This is so, so disturbing. Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you very much.

Joining us now to discuss this story is the former Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson. Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

How concerned are you by these threats to Fulton County employees? How are officials working behind the scenes to try to ensure everyone's safety?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: First, Wolf, I have a lot of confidence in law enforcement in the state of Georgia, in Fulton County. They've had a lot of time, many months, in anticipation of this indictment to plan for this moment.

What is most disturbing to me are the threats directed against law enforcement personnel of a very personal nature. And I believe it's time that those who command a public voice, those who have a microphone, who have a loud voice, should be deemed to intend the consequences of their words.

There is no excuse for extremist, irresponsible rhetoric. I've said many times on this network and elsewhere, those who engage in extremist, hateful, irresponsible rhetoric make unacceptable behavior acceptable, and for the violent few among us, violence inevitable.

In terms of the planning for the arraignment, for the appearance in a couple of days, Wolf, I'm sure there's been a lengthy, extensive dialogue between the Secret Service, between the D.A.'s office, between Georgia law enforcement down to the minute, planning for Mr. Trump's appearance in Atlanta.

BLITZER: And he will be, of course, accompanied by Secret Service agents. The Fulton County district attorney, as you know, Mr. Secretary, had to beef up her security. And just last week, a Texas woman was arrested for threatening to kill the judge overseeing Trump's federal election meddling case. How much does Trump's rhetoric, do you believe, contribute to this current threat environment?

JOHNSON: I think the overall rhetoric in today's political environment contributes to much of what we see today, much of what we hear in terms of threats. I believe that, for example, January 6th was just the tip of the iceberg, but we should have seen it coming, given the rhetoric, given the accusations of a rigged election.

It is most alarming to me today, Wolf, that a sizable percentage of the Republican Party believes that the 2020 election was stolen, contrary to all evidence, contrary to every court ruling out there. And in this circumstance, when you have an elected official, when you have a public figure, when you have a host of a cable news show engaging in irresponsible rhetoric, they should be deemed to intend the consequences of their actions.

BLITZER: You heard Trump's racially coded attacks against Fani Willis. Trump has also used similar tropes against two African-American prosecutors in his other cases, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and the New York attorney general, Letitia James. What's your reaction to that?

JOHNSON: My reaction to that is, first of all, if any sort of gag order is imposed on former President Trump, the judge who imposes that order has to be prepared to enforce it and think through imposing a gag order on someone who's a candidate for elective office in the midst of a campaign.


But, you know, equality in law means that everyone who comes before the court has to abide by the same set of rules. And Donald Trump now is in a new phase where he is a criminal defendant in four different cases, in multiple jurisdictions. And as a criminal defendant, he has to be expected to abide by the rules.

BLITZER: He certainly does. Jeh Johnson, thanks so much for joining us, I really appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, my one-on-one interview with a Republican presidential candidate preparing for tomorrow's big debate. The former arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, is standing by to join us live.

And the harrowing rescue of schoolchildren trapped in a stranded cable car dangling hundreds of feet off the ground.


[18:40:01] BLITZER: Eight Republican presidential candidates have qualified for tomorrow's debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, including the former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson. He joins us live from Milwaukee right now. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, I'm sure Trump actually posted about you on his Truth Social account earlier this morning saying this, and I'm quoting now from that account. Ada, that's what he called you, Ada Hutchinson is too boring, he's at less than 1 percent and heading south, zero chance. Governor, what's your strategy to stand out during tomorrow's debate and have a breakthrough moment?

ASA HUTCHINSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I think Donald Trump is getting a little bit weak on his nicknames. That doesn't mean a lot. But in terms of this debate, the fact that I'm here is a breakout moment for the campaign in and of itself.

This is really my first opportunity on a broad scale to introduce myself to America, talk about my record, my vision for this country. And so that's the opportunity I have. I'm very excited about being on that stage.

BLITZER: You've said, Governor, you intend to prosecute Trump from the debate stage. But what can you actually say to change the minds of Trump supporters?

HUTCHINSON: Well, whenever I use that phrase, in a political sense, I want to make sure we describe the challenge to win in 2024 with Donald Trump. That's the case that has to be made that we have to have a different direction for our party and for our country if we're going to win.

And so that's going to be part of the discussion and the debate. And it's a case that has to be made in addition to what I want to do, my vision for this country, and the contrast with the other candidates, which is part of it as well.

BLITZER: You've signed that pledge to support whoever the Republican nominee is because you say you don't expect Trump to be the nominee. But in our CNN poll of polls, Trump is, look at this, up 40 points over his nearest rival. So, what exactly are you expecting to happen to change that?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I just came back from Iowa, the Iowa State Fair. And what you see on the ground is not reflective in those polls. And the polls are accurate, but I think the voters in Iowa and other places are saying, we've got to look at a different option. And those numbers will move in the late fall and early winter. This is going to be a late deciding race, and part of it is they don't know where they're going to go.

And so that's why this debate is so important, the contrast the different candidates. And as you see voters making decisions, you'll see those numbers change on Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Trump is scheduled, as you know, to surrender himself at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia one day after the debate. Are you concerned, Governor, that this will ultimately overshadow the debate and prevent anyone from really achieving a post-debate bump?

HUTCHINSON: Every appearance he has in court, every hearing, every filing overshadows everything else. And so, sure, and that's the reason that it's not fair to the voters to have four criminal cases pending against you and you can't even attend a debate, and you can't go to functions, how's the voters are going to be able to make a fair decision? But also, how can you effectively lead whenever you have those distractions?

And so it's not good for our country, but that's where we are. And we've got to make our case on this debate platform, and people will be listening.

BLITZER: As part of Trump's $200,000 bond, he's been ordered not to use social media to intimidate potential witnesses or co-defendants. Do you think Trump is really capable of following that order, and what should happen if he breaks that rule?

HUTCHINSON: Well, if it happened to anyone else, I know what would happen. I've been in court. I've seen judges hold defendants accountable. And I would expect that to happen in this case. And so there's a lot of leverage a judge has over those matters. And we'll see whether Mr. Trump decides to follow the instructions of the court, just like every other participant in the court system has to do.

BLITZER: Governor Asa Hutchinson, thanks so much for joining us.

HUTCHINSON: Great to be with you, Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: And stay with CNN for analysis of the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 race. It all begins tomorrow at 11:00 P.M. Eastern.

Coming up, imagine dangling 900 feet in the air for 14 hours. That nightmare was a reality for eight people including six children in Pakistan today. We're going to bring you details of their harrowing rescue. That's coming up next.

Plus, two weeks after flames ripped through Maui, Hawaii's governor says 87 percent of the burn zone has now been searched. We're going to talk to the FEMA administrator. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: Two weeks after the deadliest American wildfire in a century, Hawaii's governor now says 87 percent of the burn zone on Maui has been searched with hundreds of people still missing.

Let's get an update right now from the FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell. She's joining us live from Hawaii.

Administrator, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all you're doing.

How long do you anticipate it will take to complete this search? And what more can FEMA do to help people get answers two weeks after this disaster?


You know, I had an opportunity to get a full brief from our urban search and rescue teams that are on the ground in Maui. And while we are 87 percent complete, where we find ourselves today is in an area that now require some heavy equipment to go through the last bit of structures that have been burned, to go in there and make sure that we are doing a thorough job in accounting for everybody that may have been perished in the fire.


And so, we still expect several more days for these teams to continue to go through this area. But, again, we are doing very deliberately to make sure that we cover every square inch. And as we continue to work with the community and with the local officials, we already have everybody out of non-congregant sheltering. They are all either in a hotel room or maybe an Airbnb or staying with family and friends.

And we have a joint housing task force here on the island that is made up of the state, supported with our federal partners and the American Red Cross, to talk through what these long term solutions are going to be. And as people start to make decisions about what their next steps will be.

BLITZER: It is so, so important what you and FEMA are doing.

I want to get -- I want to get your thoughts on this -- the president's trip to Maui. You were there with him. Yesterday, you have defended the president's handling of this crisis. But should he have been out front speaking publicly from the very start? This was the deadliest fire the U.S. has faced, what? In 100 years?

CRISWELL: This is definitely the deadliest fire that we have faced. And that is why I go out immediately at the president's direction to get in these communities, to better understand and assess the situation, so I can provide the president with the most accurate information about what the impacts are.

And that is exactly what we are able to do. I was here just a few days after the fire happened. I talked with the governor and met with officials. I saw firsthand, truly, the devastation that this community -- to make sure I had the right information for the president, and then he made sure that he is directing the entire federal government to continue to bring all of our resources in to help this community during this phase, but, more importantly, during the long term recovery phase.

BLITZER: You told --

CRISWELL: So, he's been very engaged -- (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Yeah, I'm sorry for interrupting. But I want to get your thoughts.

You told our Kasie Hunt that FEMA's disaster relief and had actually run out by mid September. What actions are you taking, Administrator, to ensure you have the funding you need for Maui in the long term?

CRISWELL: Yeah, we have been monitoring wildfire relief disaster funds very carefully. And, you know, as we do our analysis and we make our reports to Congress, monthly, we take into account situations just like this so we can make sure that we always have enough funding to support lifesaving activities. And that is exactly what we did. And we know that we have enough money to continue to support the ongoing lifesaving efforts.

What we may have to do is delay some of our recovery projects into the middle -- from the middle of September into the next fiscal year, so we know we can always have enough money to continue these lifesaving efforts that are still ongoing in Maui, and any other potential ones that might come as we're starting to see a very active Atlantic hurricane season.

BLITZER: Yeah. So important, FEMA administrator, Deanne Criswell, thank you so much for all you are doing.

And this note to our viewers, for more information about how you can help Hawaii wildfire victims, go to, or text Hawaii to 707070 to donate.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: A group of Pakistani school children and their teachers endured a harrowing ordeal today, dangling hundreds of feet above the ground for hours, after a line carrying their cable car snapped.

CNN's Ivan Watson has this report.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lone cable car hangs 900 feet over a ravine, in a mountainous for northeast Pakistan, with six children and two teachers trapped inside. The students, between ages 10 and 15, were on their way to school Tuesday, when one of the cable snapped, leaving the car dangling by a single cable over the valley below.

Officials say that the cable car had done multiple trips Tuesday before the cable broke part way through its journey. It was a race against time to save the passengers, who were said to have no drinking water, two of them reportedly slipping in and out of consciousness. Pakistan's military scrambled to help save the group. By the initial rescue attempts by helicopter failed, after strong winds made the car to unstable. A large crowd on the mountainside watched in horror as the cable car was left tilted at a steep angle.

Rescue personnel were able to give the passengers nausea medication after getting reports of the children vomiting. One child was also given heart medication, according to officials.


WATSON: The crowd cheered with joy as the special forces officer, hanging from a helicopter, carried one of the students safely away from the valley.


WATSON: Several hours later, another two children were brought down with the help of local zip liners. One of the trapped teachers, aged 20, called a local broadcaster from the cable car.

TEACHER (through translator): The authority should rescue all of us as soon as possible. The cable broke off!

WATSON: The situation grew dire as light fell, and authorities were forced to pause helicopter rescues. So, a makeshift stretcher was connected to a pulley. Soldiers and locals worked together, desperately pulling on the ropes until another student was brought down, and then another.

Their efforts finally paid off. After more than 14 hours, all eight passengers were brought to safety, a harrowing ordeal for children just trying to go to school.

Ivan Watson, CNN.


BLITZER: Finally, tonight, I want to thank the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for honoring me with a Lifetime Achievement Award when the News Emmys are presented next month. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of so many talented journalists whom I have worked with during my 33 years here at CNN. I am so grateful to them, and to the Academy, for this honor.

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.