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Fulton County DA Says She's Prepared To Start Turning Over Discovery By Mid-September; Hearing Monday On Moving Meadows' Case To Federal Court; Trump Fundraising Off Arrest, Mug Shot In Georgia; Investigators Recover Prigozhin Plane's Flight Recorders; Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), Is Interviewed About Trump Fundraising Off Mug Shot; CNN Investigates Final Moments Of Prigozhin Flight; Negotiator Bill Richardson On U.S. Soldier In North Korea. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 25, 2023 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a day after Donald Trump's historic jail surrender in Georgia, all 18 of his co-defendants have turned themselves in. We're tracking what's next in the former president's legal battles as he's fundraising, fundraising off his unprecedented mug shot.

Also this hour, Russia says it's recovered flight recorders from the plane crash believed to have killed failed mutiny leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. CNN is investigating the final moments of the flight as the Kremlin is denying accusations that Vladimir Putin was behind it all.

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

Tonight, prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia are pushing ahead with their case against Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants after the former president's dramatic arrest and defiant mug shot. CNN's Sara Murray is following all of the developments for us.

Sara, what are the next steps in this case?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's all sorts of court wrangling that has to happen next in order for this to proceed. I mean, one of the steps is that all of the defendants in this case have to be arraigned. We know the district attorney's office has asked for these arraignment to take place the week of September 5. The judge has not yet weighed in on a timeline for.

This is also something that in Georgia can happen remotely either on Zoom or you're able to waive arraignments if the judge allows it. So we're waiting to see if this is a situation where Donald Trump could be appearing in a courtroom in the next couple of weeks or if essentially he and the other defendants are able to waive these initial steps. Now, we're also learning from a new filing from the district attorney that she is ready to get the ball rolling on sharing discovery. She said essentially that the defendants in this case should supply the district attorney's office with a large USB drive and that by mid- September, she's willing to hand over the first batch of the discovery materials. The other fight that's playing out is whether this case and whether all the defendants in this case are going to be showing up in the Fulton County court system or if this is going to move to federal court. We have this big hearing coming up on Monday where Mark Meadows team is going to make their case for why they believe that this should be removed to federal court. We're expecting there to be live witnesses as part of this sort of evidentiary portion of this hearing.

One of the witnesses that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has called is Brad Raffensperger who, of course, was pressured by Donald Trump to find the votes needed for Trump to win the 2020 election in Georgia, which he of course lost. We've seen similar moves by Jeffrey Clark and Cathy Latham, other defendants in this case to also try to move to federal court. So we're going to be looking for signals of what the judge in this case might have to say more broadly about the pool of defendants, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Sara, one defendant has already asked for a speedy trial. How fast could this move to trial?

MURRAY: That's right, Ken Chesebro, again, one of these attorneys who was working with the former president in the aftermath of the 2020 election was pretty quick out of the gate and saying and he has the right to do this in Georgia, he wants a speedy trial. And the judge has already said, OK, we can get the ball rolling, we can move ahead in October 2023. One of the things the judge said in this order, though, is at this time, these deadlines do not apply to any co- defendant, making clear that he's going to set this trial date but for Ken Chesebro only.

Now today, just within the last hour or two, we also saw Sidney Powell, another one of these attorneys who was working with Donald Trump in the aftermath of the election, again, go to court and say she also would like a speedy trial. So we're waiting for the judge to weigh in on the timeline for her. This calls into question what the timeline is going to be for all the rest of the defendants in this case. The DA's office has said hey, we're ready to go, we can bring everyone to trial in October 2023, a timeline other attorneys have thought is unrealistic. And we've already seen Trump's team say they don't think that's realistic, they don't want to go with that date, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, another one of Trumps co-defendants just had an actual bail hearing. How long could this defendant actually remain in custody?

MURRAY: Yes, this is Harrison Floyd. Again, he's one of the lesser known co-defendants in this case. He's been essentially accused of being part of this harassment campaign against some of these election workers. He's the only one of these 19 defendants who did not pre negotiate some kind of bond with the district attorney's office. He showed up at jail, he turned himself in, he was detained there, and he appeared before this judge today who said she was not going to be releasing him on bail. She said he asked to appear before the judge who has been assigned to oversee this case.


Now, in -- during this hearing, Harrison Floyd made the argument that he could not afford an attorney. They said that, you know, essentially you don't meet the requirements needed for a public defender. So he could still be sitting in there through the weekend while we wait for the judge who has been assigned to this case in Georgia to weigh in on his bond conditions and whether he can be released, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, I want you to stay with us. I want to continue this conversation with some of our legal and historic and political experts, wanted to discuss the historic angles of this Georgia case as well.

And Norm Eisen, let me start with you. How significant is this announcement from Fani Willis that she's prepared to begin handing over discovery by mid-September?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, it shows that there's a reason she's taken two and a half years to prepare this case. She knows full well that she could get hit with a speedy trial demand. And so, she's ready to go. She said, send me a two terabyte, that is not a small drive, a two terabyte drive, and I'll start giving you discovery. So she's used to this. She's prepared.

It means, I think, we're going to have at least one and now Sidney Powell is getting in with Ken Chesebro. So, likely to have these lawyers who will be tried as soon as October 23.

BLITZER: Former Federal Prosecutor Kenneth White is joining us right now, as well.

Ken, Mark Meadows, will have a hearing this Monday, as we just heard, on his attempt to try to move his case to federal court from the state court. Is this likely to be approved? And how could that impact the other 18 defendants?

KENNETH WHITE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Wolf, it's not clear yet whether it will be approved. Most legal commentators think that he has an uphill battle. In federal court, he has to show not just that he was a federal officer, and that he was doing things related to his office, but also that he has a colorable federal defense. And it's depending on how the judge sees it, it could be very difficult to indicate to the judge that he was doing things that were what's called necessary and proper to his office, and that's what the law requires. A judge in New York rejected, you might remember Donald Trump's attempt to move the New York case to federal court on that theory.

And we may be seeing Mark Meadows having an uphill battle demonstrating that the things he did here for Donald Trump regarding the election were necessary and proper to his exercise of his legitimate office. BLITZER: Norm, let me get back to you for a moment. We know Fani Willis, the judge -- the district attorney, I should say, has subpoenaed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for Monday's Meadows hearing. What could be the significance of his testimony?

EISEN: The hearing that we'll have on Monday is an evidentiary one, Wolf, it's like a mini trial. Mark Meadows is going to go in there and he's got to carry the burden to show that his acts were official and necessary and proper. If he meets that responsibility, and while it's an uphill battle, it is an area of law that is very friendly, usually, to federal officials. It's not a slam dunk for Fani Willis. That's why she's bringing in her witnesses like Brad Raffensperger who will say presumably, listen, Mark Meadows was on that call to me where Donald Trump demanded 11,780 non-existent votes at the end of the process.

There was nothing necessary or proper about that. So she can persuade the judge Meadows hasn't met his legal burden. It's going to be a battle. And we'll just see how it turns out.

BLITZER: Tim Neftali, the CNN presidential historian is with us as well.

Tim, Trump's team is printing, and as you know, he's selling his mug shot and everything from shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, does this seem at odds to you with the seriousness of the multiple felony charges he's now facing?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it's at odds, but it's not surprising. After all, they want to undermine the seriousness of the case against the former president. Let's just step back for a moment and get a sense of the context here. Sixty years ago, Martin Luther King was arrested in Fulton County for attempting to get the right to vote to the people of Georgia. Six years later, the formerly the most powerful man in this country has now been indicted for attempting to prevent the people's right to have their vote counted in that very same Georgia.


The mug shot is a dramatic symbol of how our country has changed. We still have mountains to climb but we're in a much better place than we were 60 years ago. And right now, the institutions of justice in the state of Georgia are defending what all those civil rights activists were trying to achieve 60 years ago, the right to vote and the right to have your vote counted. This is a seismic moment for our country.

BLITZER: Sara, I know you're there on the scene for us. You were there, you were there, so give us a sense of what it was like.

MURRAY: You know, it's sort of a surreal experience, I think, both for what we saw yesterday, but also what we saw throughout the week. I mean, to see the former president have to arrive, you know, at this jail and get this full experience, people kept telling us, you know, when you go inside the jail it really feels you can, you know, get a sense of how the walls are crumbling, the scent of the place that you know that even though Donald Trump was only going to be in there and was only in there for a brief amount of time, that you still sort of get the weight of that experience in the way that you don't, you know, in his previous arrest where he just turned himself in at the courthouse. I think the other part that was surreal is that, you know, it was really a parade of surrenders throughout the course of this week. It wasn't just Donald Trump having to show up at jail, it was Rudy Giuliani, it was Mark Meadows, you know, it was the people who were in his inner circle around the 2020 election and then people who fanned out from that who tried to essentially carry out his bidding. So I think, just in terms of the size of the spectacle and then, you know, the actual backdrop of this happening at the jail, it was unlike something that we have ever seen before, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this has never happened in U.S. history before. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, the Trump campaign is fundraising off the former president's historic mug shot. We're going to have a live report from New Jersey, standby.

And we're also following the latest developments in the investigation into the plane crash that apparently killed the Wagner leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Investigators have recovered the flight recorders from the deadly plane crash outside of Moscow, which apparently killed the Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and nine other passengers and crew members on board. CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is covering the story first. He's joining us now live from Berlin.

So Fred, what is Moscow actually saying about this crash?


They're saying that the investigation as they say is in full swing, not just having now recovered the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, but the Russians now also saying that all 10 bodies have now been recovered from the wreckage as well. And they've been brought to a forensic lab where the Russians are saying that DNA testing is going on to confirm whether or not the 10 names that were on the flight manifest, of course, including that of Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, whether those were really the people who were actually on the plane. At the same time, we have for the first time now heard from the Kremlin spokesman, from Dmitry Peskov, he was on a conference call with journalists earlier today. And he ripped into some of the speculation that was going on that possibly or maybe the Kremlin might even behind the downing of the aircraft. He called that what he said an absolute lie and essentially accused western media of doing that.

One of the little sort of nuances of that conference call that was quite interesting is he was also asked whether Vladimir Putin himself might attend the funeral of Yevgeny Prigozhin and he said that timings for that are so unclear at this point in time that he simply couldn't comment on. However, what we are seeing now, Wolf, inside Russia and also among Vladimir Putin's allies is more people now commenting on this case. In fact, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian strong man, he came out now and he said he couldn't imagine that Vladimir Putin could have been behind the downing of the aircraft but he also said that he had warned Yevgeny Prigozhin to be very careful.

Also interesting what's going on inside Russia where you do have sort of smaller memorials to Yevgeny Prigozhin and the others who were killed popping up in various Russian cities, we were listening to some of the things that folks were saying around those memorials, people who are laying down flowers and other ways commemorating Yevgeny Prigozhin saying that they believe that someone like him could not be replaced in an organization like Wagner. That of course right now is the big discussion that is sort of going on is that if the leadership of Wagner was really decapitated in this plane crash, in other words, Yevgeny Prigozhin and some of his very important deputies that Wagner could very much become a very different company than it has been in the past, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Very interesting. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much.

Let's get some analysis. And I'm joined for that by the historian Anne Applebaum who was also a staff writer at The Atlantic. And I'm also joined by Georgetown University Adjunct Professor Jill Dougherty, who's a former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief.

Anne, let me start with you, you're heard Putin's thinly veiled condolences and the Kremlin's denial. But do you have any doubt that Putin was actually behind all of this?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I think if you look at the record, if you look at the number of people who have been killed or poisoned over the last few weeks and months and years in Russia, if you look at Putin's past denials, his claims, for example, that he didn't invade Crimea, when in fact his soldiers had invaded Crimea. If you look at the number of times he's lied and has been shown to lie, it's pretty hard to believe that he wasn't behind this as well, unfortunately.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point.

Jill, how does Putin actually benefit from Prigozhin's presumed death, both politically and economically?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIA AFFAIRS: Well, I think he gets the spoils from, you know what Prigozhin had. And Prigozhin had an empire, a business empire. So let's start with that. I mean, he had immediate empire that interfered in the American 2016 election. He had Wagner, which was extremely important.

That's really where all the money came from, lucrative deals in Africa where Wagner essentially would be paid with like blood diamonds and minerals. And that was enriching Prigozhin, but it was also enriching the Kremlin. So, I think if the Kremlin can establish control over that, it's useful economically.


Politically, it's more, I think, tricky, because Prigozhin had a message, and that was, the elites are ripping off average people. And that's very difficult. I don't think Putin can, at all, you know, claim that, but he can take over and they're already doing this, the communications empire that Prigozhin had. So, that would be online and all sorts of other ways of spreading propaganda.

So and militarily, he gets Wagner fighters back under control of the regular, you know, defense ministry, and that is extremely important to Putin. He does not want any rogue soldiers running around out of control.

BLITZER: Good point. You know, Anne, there's a long history, as we all know of Putin's critics mysteriously dying. But this marks the first time it's happened to such a close ally, at least someone who was a close ally. In fact, you say Prigozhin actually helped create Putin. How significant is that shift?

APPLEBAUM: Yes, this is a real change in the past to people who've been mysteriously murdered, assassinated in their stairwells. In one case, an opponent of Putin assassinated very just across the street from the Kremlin. These have all been people who were critics. More recently, there have been a series of deaths of business people and other members of the elite who seem to be less than enthusiastic about the war. But Prigozhin is somebody who's different, Prigozhin helped create Putin.

He was essentially running Russia's foreign policy in Africa. He was supporting dictatorships. He was, you know, stealing gold and diamonds. He was part of the creation of Putin's legend. Remember that he ran the internet campaign that tried to help elect Donald Trump in the United States in 2016.

And so, assassinating him or arranging for his plane to be blown up or suggesting maybe that someone would like to get rid of him however it happened marks, you know, a different -- it's a different moment -- it's a different -- it's a different kind of death. It means that inside the Kremlin, inside the most inner of the inner circles, people are starting to fight with one another and beginning to disagree about how this war is being run and what should be the end of it.

BLITZER: Anne Appelbaum and Jill Dougherty, ladies, thank you very much for joining us.

Still ahead, a CNN analysis of the Prigozhin plane crash video reveals new details of what happened. We'll share it with you when we come back.

Also coming up how Donald Trump is trying to profit off his new distinction as being the only U.S. president, past president I should say, with a mug shot.


Donald Trump is making sure the world sees the defiant mug shot he took in Georgia in a Georgia jail. The former president posting the photo in an attempt to energize his supporters and bring in campaign cash. Trump is back in New Jersey tonight. CNN's Alayna Treene is there as well.

Alayna, nearly 24 hours after Trump landed in Atlanta. What's he doing now?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump is still at his golf club near where I am now at Bedminster. And he's going to remain there all weekend. And I spoke with some of his advisers. And they told me that he's going to have a pretty light schedule this weekend, no real scheduled events. They want to give him a break after the busy week.

And I think part of that is it's because it was a very deflating process for Donald Trump. We know that he did not want to go to Georgia yesterday. He also did not want to have that mug shot taken even though of course, you are seeing him posted, he rejoined X formerly known as Twitter in order to share that and fundraise off of it. But he still is very frustrated by this process. And I think embarrassed in some ways, as well.

And his team does, though, recognize the monetary value of that image as well as hyping up these charges and trying to get at least a short term political boost from them. Now, I also just want to share with you, Wolf, some reporting I have behind the scenes about that mug shot. I was told by his team that they had talked about it before he went and took it and they gamed out what they wanted him to look like. And the former president himself landed on wanting to appear defiant in that image. He did not smile purposefully, he wanted to come off pretty serious.

I also want to share just -- you know, I was in a motorcade with the former president and his aides yesterday as they were traveling to the jail and back to the airport. And I was picking up on the vibe that they weren't really sure how it was going to go yesterday. We know that when the last time he was arraigned earlier this month in DC, he was pretty somber. He didn't take questions when talking to reporters, even though he said he would. And I thought that was going to be the vibe yesterday, and again, we didn't hear him take questions from reporters either. But for the most part, his team says that they thought it went as well as it could yesterday. So, even though he is frustrated by this, they do think that it went as well as it could, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Alayna Treene on the scene for us, thank you very much.

CNN Political Director David Chalian is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on how Trump's Georgia arrest is impacting the 2024 campaign. David, only two of Trump's GOP rivals have been on the campaign trail since he surrendered last night. What are they saying? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, it's a little bit of a repeat of what we saw on the debate stage.


Remember, they were all asked about this topic specifically to raise their hands or not if indeed they would still vote for Donald Trump, Wolf, if he's convicted in any of these cases. Six of the eight did so as you recall. You know, Ron DeSantis in Iowa today, he's sticking with the message that he uses quite often when he's asked about this, which is, he believes that if the Republican Party looks backward at January 6th, 2021, and the events in thereof, they will be lost.

And he's saying the candidates can't get consumed by this. They can't have this overshadow everything. He's looking forward. That's his way to sort of avoid it and just pivot to his own message. The Vivek Ramaswamy reasserted his pledge to pardon Donald Trump, unequivocally even after this. He also was out and about today with a little bit of bravado about his -- how he sees his relation with -- shift with Trump going forward. Take a listen.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I expect President Trump to serve as one of my most meaningful -- probably my most meaningful advisor and mentor when I'm in the White House.


CHALIAN: Now, I don't know if Donald Trump is really up for the job of being somebody's advisor or mentor, even when they're in the White House. You heard Donald Trump responded to Ramaswamy's debate performance this week by saying, this guy was so nice to me. I'm not even sure he's actually running against me. So clearly, Ramaswamy is trying to position himself as an alternate version to Trump in case Trump somehow collapses. He's the dominant front runner in the race. Ramaswamy wants to be there as the person to absorb his support.

BLITZER: We shall see if that happens. All right, David, thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Yes. Sure.

BLITZER: I want to turn right now to the key presidential battleground state of New Hampshire. We're joined by the state's Republican Governor Chris Sununu. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, the dominant front runner for the Republican nomination is now selling, he's actually selling merchandise featuring the mug shot taken during his fourth arrest last night, featuring everything from t-shirts, beverage coolers, bumper stickers, and coffee mugs. What do you make of that?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It's Donald Trump. I mean, we shouldn't expect anything else unfortunately. It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing for America. I think it's embarrassing for him. I think he's embarrassed. But he's going to do everything he can to try to monetize it, try to use it to his advantage, kind of keep this drama going because that keeps him in the headlines. And again, like, as long as -- the more we talk about him, the more we're not talking about other candidates in the Republican Party. And that's his real path here.

Now, the other night at the debate, we weren't talking about him, we were talking about a future of the Republican Party, we could see it, we could hear from it, we could see the debate back and forth. And it didn't have him in it. And a lot of Republicans were like, hey, this is going to work. There is a future here without Donald Trump. So he's just going to do anything he can to keep himself in the news, keep him up on social media, and hope that his name just kept -- keeps getting repeated. Because anytime that conversation switches to those other candidates, that's when his numbers start to drop like in Iowa and New Hampshire.

BLITZER: You wrote an important op-ed this week, Governor, with the headline, if Republicans narrow the field, we will beat Trump. But in our CNN poll of polls, Trump is already the first choice for 57 percent of Republicans, a clear majority. So what exactly are you expecting to happen, that potentially could change that?

SUNUNU: So the national polls shouldn't shock anyone. But if I made that they're not very meaningful, the polls where the conversation is happening, Iowa and New Hampshire, he's 10 points or more below that, right? And so that's why Iowa and New Hampshire becomes so important. So the two things have to happen, Republican voters have to say, well, he can't win in November of 24th. He's not the future of this party. So we have to move on.

And at the same time, the candidates themselves have to say, if it ain't happening, I got to get out of this race, don't stay a minute longer than you absolutely have to in this race. And if you do, the rest of the Republican Party is going to be pretty upset because we know that when it's one-on-one, in a Republican primary, Trump would lose. So my sense is, you've already seen a winnowing of the field, which I think is great. We're down to eight candidates other than Trump. We saw that on the stage the other night.

I think later in November, December, if you're still in those low single digits, you know, great effort, everybody, but you got to get out of the race and clear the field. You get five or six going to Iowa, three or four coming to New Hampshire. And then you're down to a one-on-one race very quickly after New Hampshire. That is exactly how you beat Donald Trump in the primary.

And you let the Republicans kind of bring a futuristic message, a healing of America message to that general election that's going to happen. And that puts us in the driver's seat to win races, not just the Presidential, but the Senate races, the gubernatorial races, all of them are no longer anchored down with that Trump thing of yesteryear.

BLITZER: Trump didn't participate, as we all know in Wednesday's debate. But have you seen any evidence, Governor, that anything happened during the debate to shake up the race at least for now? [17:35:01]

SUNUNU: Oh, sure. Look, I think the debate show three or four candidates really serves everyone did pretty well. They -- no one -- if anyone was expecting a clear front runner to come out of the debate, that's not going to happen when at most, you get 12 minutes of speaking time out of two hours. And that's all they really had at most. But what you did see was energy passion, some, you know, kind of debate on conservative issues going back and forth.

Some were very good about kind of capturing the moment. I think Nikki Haley and Mike Pence kind of reinvigorated their campaigns. Vivek really introduced himself to a large part of the electorate that had never really seen him before. And Governor DeSantis, I think took the opportunity by not getting attacked, to look directly in the camera and remind folks why he was the second place guy in the race behind Trump.

And then you have Burgum and Chris Christie and others, they did a great job. I think they were trying to -- they should push to get a little more airtime. That's a hard thing to do. But they all did very, very well. And most importantly, everybody came out, that I talked to, came out after that and said, boy, that was an exciting debate. It didn't fall flat. Everyone kind of got -- you kind of got to see where they differed, where they were aligned. But overall, conservatives were really happy with how that turned out.

BLITZER: It was very lively indeed. The former Republican, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, he talks about what he saw as the low light, the low light from that debate when the candidates were asked if they would support Trump, if he were actually convicted, if he were actually a convicted criminal. Listen to this.


LARRY HOGAN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: That was the low light of the entire debate. I mean, I was embarrassed and disgusted by it. For, you know, six people would raise their hand and say, I would put a convicted felon in the White House. It's just beyond comprehension.


BLITZER: What do you think, Governor? Should Republicans continue to support Trump, if he's the Republican nominee, and is actually convicted in one of these cases?

SUNUNU: Well, two things. First, you shouldn't be surprised that those folks raise their hand. Obviously, their path here is to kind of get some of those Trump voters, a lot of those Trump voters don't believe he's guilty of anything. They think it's all political. So you have to understand, you know, when you're on that stage, you don't even had to sign a pledge that did support Trump. Right now, whether that pans out ultimately or not, who knows?

And between now and a year from now, right, when we decide, really and figure out who this candidate -- who this nominee is going to be, you know, what's he guilty of? Where are the court cases? I mean, so many things are going to change in the race. So, you know, you can try to answer that question now. I think it's a more important question around March of next year. Where is Biden, right? And I keep asking that question, a lot of us are. Where's his health? The Hunter Biden stuff is very real and is not going away anytime soon.

There's a lot of pressure by other Democrats realizing that maybe five more years of Joe Biden isn't in the best interest of the Democrat party. So even that side of the ticket is going to have a lot of pressures that changed his thing from now and then. So again, it's I'm not saying it's not a worthwhile question, but so many variables will change between now and the time we have to figure that out. And I'm still very much a believer, if the candidates themselves have the discipline to get out of the race, Trump loses.

It's really quite that simple. It's not complicated math. He cannot hold over 50 percent of the vote in a challenge race. He's not holding it in Pennsylvania. He's not holding it New Hampshire. He's not holding it in Iowa. Just amongst Republicans, he can barely hold 42 percent. So that leaves a majority of, you know, the base Republicans that not with this guy saying thank you for your service, nothing personal. But we're moving on.

BLITZER: Republican New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, thanks so much for joining us.

SUNUNU: Thank you, sir.


BLITZER: Just ahead, as investigators start reviewing the evidence, we'll take a closer look into what may have caused the deadly Prigozhin plane crash in Russia. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As Russia's investigation into the deadly plane crash that apparently killed Yevgeny Prigozhin and nine others gets underway, there are still very serious questions about what may have caused it. CNN investigative producer Katie Polglase has a closer look.


KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER (voice-over): Falling from the sky, the plane reported to be carrying the Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. Coming two months after he launched a mutiny against Russia's leader Vladimir Putin, he was widely seen as a man on borrowed time. As footage started to emerge on social media of the crash, CNN's open-source team began piecing together what happened. The aircraft associated with Prigozhin is RA02795. It makes frequent trips between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

CNN geolocated the main crash site to here. And you can see the same tail number visible amid the debris. The plane had left Moscow at 5:55 p.m. local time, 12 minutes later, the location is no longer detectable. But public flight tracking site Flight Radar 24 still receives information on its altitude.

(on camera): The last minute of the recorded flight is key. You can see here the flight's altitude is erratic. It's going higher and lower before it eventually plummets. Now aviation experts told us this is highly unusual. And it suggests those on board were trying to stabilize the plane after something happened to it. In other words, the disruption was not big enough to obliterate everyone and everything instantly.

(voice-over): Expert opinion is split on what exactly happened, likely an explosion, perhaps a bomb on board or a missile hitting it, or even something else. Whatever it was, was clearly powerful as the plane is visibly falling without a wing. The tail ends up over here, 2.6 kilometers away from where the rest of the debris lands.

Videos show fires at the crash site. Some are graphic. Human remains strewn amid the debris. Since then, Russian authorities have taken the bodies away for examination and began an investigation. But many have already made up their minds as to who they think was behind the Wagner aircraft's violent end.


Katie Polglase, CNN, London.


BLITZER: Coming up, it's been more than five weeks since U.S. soldier Travis King crossed the demilitarized zone into North Korea. We'll get an update on the efforts to try to make contact with the regime to try to bring him home.


BLITZER: We're following the efforts to secure the release of U.S. soldier Travis King more than five weeks after he crossed the demilitarized zone into North Korean custody.


Joining us now to discuss this, the former New Mexico governor, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson. He's a negotiator with years of experience bringing detained Americans home from hostile regimes. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. I understand you're actually in touch with Travis King's family, what's your status with them? And what efforts are you taking to try to secure King's release?

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well, the family, the mother, Claudine, Travis King's, grandparents, his uncle contacted us. And with that my organization, myself, Mickey Bergman and others proceed to try to help secure the release a Travis King. He is a troubled young man. He went across in an unauthorized fashion. But nonetheless, we need to bring him back.

So we've started that effort. I don't want to get into too many details. But the fact that the family has reached out to us, you know, the prime contact is the U.S. military, the U.N. command. They're communicating with the North Koreans, but I think it's important that we find ways to support the family, and bring Travis King home.

BLITZER: Have you had any contact at all, Governor, with the North Korean officials? And if so, what exactly have you heard from them?

RICHARDSON: Well, I don't want to get into that, Wolf. You know, it's -- these things are sensitive. What I think is very important, is that there be a line of communication with the North Koreans, whether it's our military, the U.N. Command, other countries, NGOs, human rights groups, civil society groups. And this is why I was a bit disappointed that the Biden administration renewed what the Trump administration did, and that's a travel ban that was going to expire in September, but they renewed it.

And I think that's a mistake, because that's the way we communicate with the North Koreans, American civil society groups, food groups, vaccines, ways that we can go people to people humanitarian efforts that would precede the enormous geopolitical differences that we have with the North Koreans.

BLITZER: I know you have contacts there, Governor, I went with you to North Korea a few years ago. Do you plan to travel to North Korea to try to negotiate King's release?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, I don't want to get into that I think the prime and negotiating is, is the military, but we're going to try to bring him back. He's been gone five weeks. He's a troubled young man. He made a mistake in going across, but that doesn't mean we don't try to bring him back. He's an American soldier and American military man. He's got a family, a wonderful family, and it's our obligation to bring him back.

And we don't work for the government, but we find ways to cooperate with them. Sometimes there's a little tension, as you know, but the objective should be to bring them back. And I don't want to get into all the details, you know. But I think it's important that we bring them back as soon as we can.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope that's what happens. Ambassador Richardson, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck.

RICHARDSON: All right, thank you.

BLITZER: All right, for more on this, I want to bring in our national security correspondent Kylie Atwood who's been doing extensive reporting on all of this. Kylie, what do we know first of all about the Biden administration's own efforts to try to secure Travis King's release?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the State Department, the Pentagon, they've been saying that they have made multiple efforts to reach out to North Korea to discuss Travis King, but they haven't received any response. The only response that the U.S. and its allies have received is through the U.N. Command, which is there at the border where Travis King crossed over from the North Koreans, essentially acknowledging receipt that they have reached out regarding Travis King. But there's no substantive conversation over the matter right now.

And when you talk to us officials, they're not exactly surprised by that. There's two reasons for that, Wolf, we should know that Biden administration officials have not been in regular contact with the North Koreans for the last two and a half years of the Biden administration. So it's not like they're active channels of communication that they could have tapped into. There are channels that they can use, but they just haven't been active.

And then the other factor to consider when you talk to U.S. officials is the North Koreans are probably trying to figure out how to leverage this situation. It appears that they weren't expecting Travis King to cross over. We don't definitively know that. But they have ended up in a situation where they have an American in their hands. So how they leverage that, how do they try and engage with the U.S. on that. They're probably trying to figure that out right now.


Now U.S. officials say they're not in touch with Bill Richardson who just spoke to you there. But notably, Richardson has traveled to North Korea, as you noted, Wolf, multiple times. So he potentially presents a unique opportunity here. He wouldn't say if he is in touch with North Koreans on this right now. He called it sensitive. But of course, this is an area for us to watch as the U.S. government and others independently are trying to get Travis King back to the United States. Wolf?

BLITZER: And Richardson has just been nominated for a Nobel Prize for all of his efforts over the years to bring Americans home from these hostile regimes. Kylie Atwood, thank you very, very much. Let's hope it works this time.

Coming up, the legal hurdles ahead for Donald Trump in Georgia hours after his fourth criminal arrest and his first mug shot.



BLITZER: Happening now, Donald Trump's criminal prosecution in Georgia is moving into the next very critical phase hours after he was arrested, processed and given an inmate number at the county jail.