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Kim Jong-Un To Meet With Vladimir Putin In Russia; Putin And Erdogan Meet To Discuss Grain Deal; Burning Man Exodus Begins; Congress Set To Return Facing A Shutdown Problem; President Biden Campaigns In Pennsylvania; Biden "Not Worried" About Autoworkers Strike As Deadlines Nears; Escaped PA Murderer Spotted On Surveillance Camera; TSA: U.S. Sets New Summer Air Travel Record. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 04, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, a meeting between two of the most dangerous U.S. adversaries may be in the works. We'll tell you what the U.S. is saying about Kim Jong-un's efforts to engage with Vladimir Putin.

Also tonight, Burning Man festival-goers finally get the green light to go home after a rare downpour in the desert left them trapped for days in a wet and muddy mess.

And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is getting heat from GOP hardliners as Congress prepares to return to work and the nation once again faces the threat of a government shutdown.

Welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta and this is a special edition of "The Situation Room."

We begin with news of a potential bilateral meeting between two of Washington's biggest rivals, the news that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may meet face to face in Russia with President Vladimir Putin in what would be a rare foreign visit. CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is covering this story for us. Kylie, what kind of a signal would this meeting send?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, if there is an engagement of this type between President Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, it could signal that what we have been told by U.S. officials are actively advancing engagements between the two countries on an arms deal have actually reached the point for leader- level decision, right?

And that is key, that is hugely significant, according to the NSC spokesperson, Adrienne Watson. It's Kim Jong-un who is expecting to have an engagement with President Putin in Russia. He didn't say exactly when U.S. information expects that is going to happen, according to "New York Times," which first reported this. They said it's likely to happen this month. Now, when it comes to the backdrop here, Jim, we have been hearing a

lot from U.S. officials over the course of the last weeks, as they have said that there is actively advancing engagements between the two countries on this potential new arms deal. We saw Russian Defense Minister Shoigu travel to North Korea back in July.

According to U.S. officials, he was trying to convince North Korea to sell to Russia ammunition. There was a follow-on meeting between by additional Russians to North Korea following that meeting. And then we also know, according to NSC, that Kim Jong-un and President Putin have actually exchanged letters talking about advancing the relationship between the two countries.

So, it looks like there has been a backdrop, you know, some significant work going into this over the course of the last few months. We don't know exactly what would be in this arms deal, but according to the NSC spokesperson, John Kirby, the U.S. intelligence believes that it would include ammunition for multiple different kinds of Russian defense weaponry.

That is hugely significant. And also, raw materials for Russia's defense sector. And that's a key area too, because we know that Russia has long been plagued by the sanctions that have been put on them due to this war. According to John Kirby, the fact that Russia is even looking to North Korea for this support signals desperation and weakness. It's an area that we'll continue to watch to see when this potential engagement actually happens.

ACOSTA: Yeah, a lot to keep our eyes on here. Kylie Atwood, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, President Putin met with his Turkish counterpart to discuss a potential rival of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. CNN International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is covering this story for us in London. Nic, what happened during this meeting?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, I don't think anything really new happened. Perhaps that's not a surprise. President Erdogan, who's trying to be a sort of peacemaker here, walked that fine line between Russia and Ukraine, talk to both, try to keep the options open on the table to find a way forward, went into this saying the world is watching President Putin.

But that seemed to be part of Putin's calculus here to get Erdogan in and then to get his grievances about the grain deal out into a bigger public audience.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): By inviting the Turkish president to grain deal talks in Russia, Vladimir Putin got a big platform to vent his grievances with Ukraine's Western backers.

[17:05:00] VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translation): The West,

to put it mildly, deceived us about humanitarian goals by the humanitarian Black Sea initiative to assist developing countries.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But just hours ahead of the meeting, Putin's drones were destroying vital grain stores in Ukraine, as they have done with increased intensity since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal in July.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to Sochi hoping to convince Putin to accept a new U.N. grain deal. If he had success, it might be slow coming.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translation): I believe we will be able to reach a solution which fulfills the expectations soon.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The deal was in fact two deals in parallel, one with Ukraine, one with Russia. Inspectors checked cargoes as grain ships exited the Black Sea and entered Turkish waters. It lasted for a year before Putin unilaterally pulled out. His reasons for exiting the deal, apparently rooted in Western sanctions, imposed as a result of his illegal and unprovoked war of choice. Potentially now leveraging the grain deal to roll some sanctions back.

PUTIN (through translations): What we saw is that there was a refusal to renew deliveries of the agricultural spare parts. And also, there were problems with them, financial settlements and transaction fees.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Erdogan wants to be peacemaker, but in Sochi seemed to scold Ukraine and legitimize Putin.

ERDOGAN (through translation): In order to be able to take common steps with Russia, Ukraine needs to soften its approach. Putin rightfully does not approve if 44 percent of the grain goes to European countries.


ROBERTSON (on camera): It's not the sort of language you would have expected from somebody who is trying to sort of bring the two sides together and not appear to be biased one way or another. Putin, for his part, said, look, I'm ready to revive and get into discussions about the U.N. grain deal, but only if I get what I want. And by that he said, you know, we need to get these restrictions on our exports, as he describes it, on agricultural products exports, we need to get those lifted.

But at the same time as saying that, he is upping the ante, adding pressure, pushing through a separate deal, a workaround, if you will, grain deal, whereby he exports Russia's grain to Turkey, and then Turkey on ships it to the rest of the world, which again puts Erdogan in hardly an unbiased position, because Ukraine has been saying all along, don't allow Putin to get away with this. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much. For more on all these developments, I'm joined by CNN military analyst Mark Hertling and Spider Marks. General Hertling, let me go to you first. How concerned are you about what I think is going to be a big headline in the coming days, this potential meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un to discuss weapons negotiations? What do you think?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You know, Jim, you open this whole thing by saying these are two of Washington's biggest rivals. They are also two desperate leaders of the world's most noted pariah states.


HERTLING: This will generate a lot of attention. It's showing that Mr. Putin is scrambling for help. Nic's report on Turkey is in the same category. But when you're talking about leaders going by armored train to meet in Vladivostok to exchange on one hand Kim Jong-un giving Putin artillery weapons, artillery ammunition, and potentially getting back ballistic missile capabilities from Russia for his programs, you're just seeing two leaders who only are allied with one another right now, and they're having more and more problems with executing their foreign policy.

So, it will generate a lot of discussion. There are also indicators that Russia and North Korea want to do exercises and training events. That would be an interesting thing to watch. But across the board, these are two of America's most strongest foes, and it's going to be problematic.

ACOSTA: Yeah, and Spider Marks, I mean, how would Russia use more weapons from North Korea in its war against Ukraine? What are your thoughts on all this?

JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, clearly, as Mark described and as we saw with the previous reports, Russia's in a desperate situation right now. This is a very tactical move. There's nothing strategic about a long-term relationship with North Korea unless Russia wants to have a very provocative partner that will do some dirty work and will allow Russia to reap the benefits of that if North Korea is willing to do that, which they routinely are, but won't have any of the accountability as a result.


But additional weapons from North Korea to Russia, not surprising at all. They share the same type of caliber weapons systems, so it's an immediate plus-up. But again, this is not going to strategically alter the outcome of the fight in Ukraine. What it really describes is that Kim Jong-un is looking for a partner. Beijing has been distancing itself from Pyongyang, appropriately, I think, but Moscow is now stepping in and trying to achieve some type of a relationship that's not dissimilar between Putin's relationship with Xi and that Xi really sees Russia as a vassal state. Putin would love to be able to have that kind of a relationship with North Korea.

ACOSTA: And General Hertling, how effective are these weapons that Russia is seeking to buy from North Korea? Would they have a significant impact on the battlefield as a smack of some kind of desperation on Putin's part that he's going down this road?

HERTLING: Yeah, its desperation, Jim. These are not precision weapons across the board. What, as Spider just said, these are large caliber artillery shells, not precision weapons, not the kind that you can point and hit a target within a 10 foot or 10-meter circular error. There's just a lot of quantity.

Now, quantity has a quality all of its own, don't get me wrong, but we have seen Ukrainian forces using precision weapons with great effects, and they're knocking out a lot of Russian artillery pieces. It is turning the tide in the counterfire fight. So, I don't think personally, from a military perspective, that this is going to have a great deal of significance, as Spyder just said, on the Ukrainian battlefield.

ACOSTA: And Spider Marks, why do you think Putin is turning to Kim Jong-un right now? Is it in part some desperation?

MARKS: It's an attempt to achieve a global stage, yet it's a bit of drama on a very small stage, but at least it's external. Look, he's been dealing, Putin has been dealing with a whole host of internal challenges, right? And most recently, he's reasserted himself in terms of a powerful position within Russia. But he enjoys domestic popularity, but anything over the border, he does not.

He's an international pariah. There's nothing that he is doing right now that increases his position on the stage other than with other autocrats. Just like Mark described. You've got these autocratic leaders. They're exchanging notes with each other. They are, without being facetious, they're really brutal actors on a stage and they continue to address issues in a very hard-edged way. There's nothing open about these discussions.

ACOSTA: All right, General Hertling, Spider Marks, thanks to both of you for that. We appreciate it, as always. Appreciate your insights.

Coming up. Burning Man Festival goers are free to leave at last after days of being stuck in the muddy rain-soaked desert. This is a special edition of "The Situation Room."



ACOSTA: Tonight, tens of thousands of attendees at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada are finally getting out of the rainy muddy mess they've been stuck in for days. The weather now allowing them to safely leave the secluded desert location. CNN's Nick Watt has been following their ordeal. Nick, departures began a couple of hours ago. It sounds like they're finally getting out of this logjam there. Give us the latest.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the latest, Jim, is what you just saw, which is very, very long lines. Organizers have actually suggested to people that maybe they want to wait until tomorrow. Seems like a lot of people are ignoring that advice. The other thing organizers are telling people is leave nothing behind. Take all your stuff with you, leave the desert as you found it. This year, sticking to that is going to be harder than it's been in the past.


WATT (voice-over): The Exodus underway. That sunshine you see is the savior, drying the mud just enough for tires to grip, not sink into sludge.

PAUL ROMERO, ATTENDED BURNING MAN FESTIVAL: It was impossible to function, impossible to move around. A lot of struggling people in what became very cold, very storm-like conditions. People's tents and entire camps became pretty much destroyed.

WATT (voice-over): More than 70,000 people were basically trapped for days.


WATT (voice-over): Trapped in this makeshift desert city that pops up in Nevada every year around Labor Day, filled with campers and creators, fun lovers and those with their freak flags flying, that culminates in the man burning.

ZOHAR KENNARD, ATTENDED BURNING MAN FESTIVAL: We planned on leaving right after the burn, which is Saturday night, and then it started raining on us. Everybody took their shoes off, started dancing in the mud, it was great, and then the reality sunk in that we couldn't leave.

WATT (voice-over): Chris Rock and some other celebs decided to take the only uncomfortable exit available.

THOMAS WESTLEY PENTZ, DJ AND BURNING MAN ATTENDEE: He had his New York Knicks jacket on and he just got up with us and started walking. And we walked about three hours in the mud and he was happy it was me. I think Cindy Crawford walked with us, Kaia Gerber, Austin Butler. It was a challenge, but it was honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip.

WATT (voice-over): Thousands of others stuck it out, many embracing the ethos of self-reliance that surrounds this festival.

UNKNOWN: I was waiting for the looting, honestly. I thought that would have been great. But, no, like, it's really beautiful, actually, when you go into the camps, everybody was helping each other out.

WATT (voice-over): Burning man, raining man, suck it up, stick it out.

BOBBY WHITE, BURNING MAN ATTENDEE: I have my RV here and all my other camp mates have either RVs or big rental trucks or things like that, and getting those out was basically impossible. I mean, sure, you could have walked out, but what am I going to do with all my stuff?

WATT (voice-over): All this chaos caused by less than an inch of rain. UNKNOWN: Even just the slightest bit of rain makes everything super

slick. When you walk around to your feet, you have like five pounds of mud on your feet.

WATT (voice-over): Why? Well, this is a desert. Nothing much grows, so the soil isn't lovely, loamy and absorbent. It's just miles of gray clay.


Most years, this is a dusty, not a muddy mess. And under an inch of rain? Well, that's still two or three months' worth of rain in this arid land within just 24 hours. Tonight, they will finally burn the man for those that remain and pray for no rain.


WATT (on camera): And the forecast is looking good. No rain in that forecast. You know, if there's one positive, one silver lining that comes out of these dark clouds, festival goers tell us is that perhaps this will reinforce one of the central ethos perhaps of this festival, which they call radical self-reliance.

The organizers tell people, when you come to this environment, it is a very dangerous environment. You need to bring everything you need to survive. So, the message, do not show up with just a pair of hot pants and a tiara, you need radical self-reliance. You need to prepare to go to the desert, Jim.

ACOSTA: In other words, don't be a stick in the mud. All right, Nick Watt, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Up next, members of Congress are on the brink of a high stakes fight as they get ready to end their long summer break.



ACOSTA: Tonight, as members of Congress are getting ready to return from their August recess, a new government shutdown showdown is brewing. And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is at the center of it all, getting hit with demands from GOP hardliners. CNN's Melanie Zanona is working the story up on Capitol Hill for us. Melanie, some House Republicans are threatening to make this a lot more complicated. What do they want?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, well, conservative hardliners are really digging in with their demands. They have a whole host of demands because they really see this as an opportunity to try to get some of their key priorities enacted. And they said they will not vote for a short-term spending bill unless some of the following is included.

A major boost for border security and other immigration reforms, defunding parts of the Department of Justice, including some of those probes into former President Donald Trump, start an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, not related to funding, but of course they're trying to get that through, and no more money for Ukraine.

Now, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tried to get conservatives to back down. In fact, he held a conference call last week with his members, sources tell me and my colleague, Manu Raju. And in that call, he argued that they should be saving these funding fights for later in the year when they actually do long-term funding bills and argued essentially that now is not the time or place to be having these fights.

But of course, Jim, it is complicated for McCarthy because he doesn't want to risk enraging those members on the far right who he needs to support him in order to continue leading his conference. So, a very complicated and challenging dynamic for Kevin McCarthy and just not a whole lot of time to figure it out.

ACOSTA: Yeah, Melanie, I mean, a couple of those items you mentioned, I can't imagine them getting through the House, let alone the Senate. But how does the Senate play into this?

ZANONA: So, the Senate does want to see more funding for Ukraine. As a reminder, the White House has requested a supplemental funding package be tied to a short-term funding bill. And that supplemental request very strategically included both disaster aid and more money for Ukraine. Conservatives, of course, want to see those two issues de- linked. As we mentioned before, they do not support more money for Ukraine.

But in the Senate, there are both Democrats and Republicans who do want to see more money for Ukraine, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell. So, it really tees up a massive showdown, either at the end of this month or later in this year. It's going to be complicated. And I really think Congressman Mike Simpson, he is a GOP appropriator, summed it up best when he told me, "I tell people to buckle up. It's going to be crazy for September, October, November, December. The next four months are going to be wild."

So, it's not just the short-term funding fight. Once they hopefully get over that bridge, they're going to have more hurdles that they're going to have to overcome, Jim.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. All right, Melanie Zanona. Thanks so much for that.

On this Labor Day, President Biden is working on setting himself apart from former President Donald Trump. Here's the president in Philadelphia earlier today speaking to a group of union workers.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERUCA: When the last guy was here, you were shipping jobs to China. Now we're bringing jobs home from China. When the last guy was here -- when the last guy was here, your pensions were at risk. We helped save millions of pensions with your help. When the last guy was here, he looked at the world from Park Avenue. I look at it from Scranton, Pennsylvania.


ACOSTA: CNN's consumer reporter, Nathaniel Meyersohn, joins us now. Nathaniel, on this Labor Day, what is the state of labor unions right now in the United States?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN CONSUMER REPORTER: So, Jim, I would say it's a mixed bag right now for labor unions. On one hand, you see really strong support from Americans for labor unions. About 70 percent of the country approves of unions. But that's not translating into higher membership rates.

In fact, union membership rates are at their lowest level on record. Just about 10 percent of the workforce was unionized last year. That was down from 20 percent in 1983 when the Labor Department first kept track of that data. So strong support for unions not translating into strong membership numbers.

ACOSTA: And Nathaniel, we're seeing more talk of strikes. Tell us about that.

MEYERSOHN: Yeah, Jim, it's really been the summer of strikes. The number of strikes has gone up about 40 percent this year from the same time last year. Hollywood, of course, is on strike. We've seen teachers go on strike, nurses. And this is being driven by the tight labor market and low unemployment rate.

Employees feel like they have a lot of leverage right now, and they're going on strike over, demanding higher pay, benefits and also working conditions.


ACOSTA: And auto workers could be close to striking. What's the latest there?

MEYERSOHN: Yes, we could see a major auto strike. About 145,000 UAW members are threatening to go on strike against the Big Three in the U.S. Ford, GM, and Stellantis. The deadline for the strike is September 14th. And the two sides seem far apart right now. The union wants to see an increase in pay, return of pension plans, and looming over these talks are the transition to electric vehicles, the auto industry's transition to EVs. EVs take a lot less labor than gas powered cars, so EVs are a particularly contentious issue right now in these talks.

ACOSTA: All right, CNN's Nathaniel Meyersohn, very interesting. Thanks very much.

Let's get more on the political climate on this Labor Day. We're joined by Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, the Deputy Whip of the Progressive Caucus. Congressman, great to see you. Thanks for joining us on this Labor Day. You know, President Biden is downplaying the likelihood of a UAW strike. He says he's not worried. What do you think? Are you worried about it? REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS DEPUTY WHIP: Jim, first of all, happy Labor Day. This is clearly a situation where we need to stand with UAW. Look, our taxpayer dollars are going to the three big auto companies to build new factories. The CEOs, like Mary Barrara have had a 40 percent increase in their salaries. And UAW is saying if you're getting massive subsidies from taxpayers, then UAW workers should get a raise, and those jobs should be as good as traditional auto jobs. They're 100 percent in the right, and many Democrats in the House are going to stand with them.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, the President touted his economic achievements today during a stop in Philadelphia. He says the U.S. has the strongest economy in the world. But in this new Wall Street Journal poll that came out just in recent days, 59 percent of voters disapprove of his handling of the economy. What's going on here? What do you make of this disconnect between the White House messaging and how Americans feel? Because there are a lot of metrics out there that say that the economy is doing fine. But Americans aren't saying that when they're asked by pollsters. What's going on?

KHANNA: Well, the President is right tout two specific accomplishments. He did save 300 pensions. I'm here in New Hampshire and Labor Day. And President of Teamsters acknowledged that President Biden helped save many of those pensions. Second, President Biden has brought back manufacturing jobs, semiconductor manufacturing jobs, and many battery plants. Those are just facts.

But here's the thing, Jim. Look, prices are still too high. Gas prices are high. Food prices are high. People have had a tough time. So we have to recognize that there's a lot more work to do. President Biden is trying to reverse the decline of the working class for the last 40 years. He's making progress, but there's more work to be done.

ACOSTA: And the federal government will shut down at the end of the month unless a funding bill is passed. Lo and behold, here we are at the end of the August recess. We're talking about this again. As you know, Republican hardliners are signaling that they're going to dig in their heels unless their demands are met. We were just talking to Melanie Zanona about this a few moments ago. Several of these items sound like just complete non-starters for Democrats. Are you confident a deal can be reached to avoid a shutdown?

KHANNA: I'm hopeful if they are reasonable at all and talk about actual issues of finance. But to demand that we defund Ukraine and the aid to Ukraine, I mean, I was on a CoDel with Republicans who would not support that position. Many Republicans in the House believe that we need to stand with Ukraine or to demand that they launch impeachment increase. This has nothing to do with providing Americans with the child care, with the food assistance, with the Social Security that they need. So the question for Kevin McCarthy is, is he going to be a reasonable negotiator or is he going to cave to the extreme right wing of his party?

ACOSTA: And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says Republicans could soon vote on a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden, something obviously the former president has pressed Republicans to do on truth social. What do you make of this? Is this a serious threat? Are we going to be talking about impeachment here in the coming months? What's going on?

KHANNA: Unfortunately, I think it is a serious threat from the extremes, but this is not what the American people want. This is not what Republicans or Democrats in my constituency are asking for. And there is no evidence to justify it. So I think what people want is to solve their issues, childcare, the fact that the rents cost too much, the fact that wages haven't kept up with the cost of living, that's what they want us to do in Congress. And I think it would be a political mistake for the speaker to go down that road.


ACOSTA: And Trump's trial in the federal election. Subversion case brought by the Special Counsel Jack Smith, that scheduled to go into trial and begin March 4th, the day before the all-important Super Tuesday primary. You recently suggested that the dates for these trials could potentially impede Trump's ability to have a, quote, fair fight in this race. Can you explain that? Why do you think that March date stands out for you?

KHANNA: Well, I support the judge's decision on the March date. I said that the judge would take all the factors into consideration, and ultimately, it's not for members of Congress, Democrats or Republicans, to be talking about that. It's for the judge to make that decision. I wish we would just have members of Congress say, look, we defer to the judicial system. And I have confidence in the judge to take all the factors into account and make a fair decision, which I think the judge has.

ACOSTA: But do you think that's going to be a problem? It sounds like you indicated in an earlier interview that you thought that was going to be a problem if this was scheduled right around Super Tuesday. Doesn't the trial have to happen at some point? It can't be pushed back until after next year's general election, can it?

KHANNA: I agree with that judge. And all I was saying in the interview is that the judge will take all the factors into consideration and make a determination, and she has. And I support the judge's decision. And I believe that we should, as Americans, support the judge's decision while weighing all the equities. I think the judge has made the correct decision here.

ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

KHANNA: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right. And just ahead, law enforcement officials are hunting a dangerous escaped killer in Pennsylvania, and they're turning to an unlikely source to convince him to turn himself in. This is a special edition of the Situation Room.



ACOSTA: In southeast Pennsylvania, a dangerous escaped murderer was spotted at least four times over the weekend, just days after breaking out of a local prison. CNN's Polo Sandoval is covering the story for us. Polo, tell us about this latest sighting.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the latest of these four confirmed sightings was actually a Pennsylvania state trooper that had visual confirmation of this escaped inmate from afar. However, that 34-year-old convicted killer was eventually able to escape. However, that gave authorities an additional reason to really hone in on a particular area there in southeast Pennsylvania.

I want to show you also it's more or less a geography or at least a map to show you just how concentrated these 2 square miles are. It's actually not far from the Chester County Prison, which is where Danelo Cavalcante escaped on Thursday, just west of Philadelphia there. And it does give you a better sense.

This is why they've set up this hardened perimeter, because all four sightings have happened there. In addition to that residential surveillance video that you and I talked about just yesterday that appears to show Cavalcante with a backpack over his shoulder. Authorities today couldn't explain how he may have gotten his hands on it or if it could potentially contain the provisions that have kept him still hiding five days into this search.

But we also heard from one of the U.S. Marshals that's been participating in this massive manhunt as he explained how Cavalcante may have been able to hide and continues to hide at this hour.


ROB CLARK, U.S. MARSHAL: This is a five foot tall gentleman, 120 pounds, and this is a heavily, heavily wooded area. It's very, very thick back there. There's a lot of hiding spots. There's a lot of ravines back there.


SANDOVAL: There is still a lot of fear and anxiety there in that part of Pennsylvania. We also learned today that the inmate's own mother is now assisting investigators. She recorded audio that is being played through speakers on helicopters and on the vehicles of some of these authorities. And in that recording, in her native Portuguese, she is pleading with her son to turn himself in peacefully.

But I have to tell you, Jim, as you hear from investigators today, they are very confident that this will is at least approaching an end. The question exactly is how that will play out. And I will say that trooper that was behind that latest sighting did report that he appeared more at least the fugitive appeared worn. So authorities believe that he's growing increasingly stressed, more frustrated, and with that, potentially more dangerous and desperate. Jim?

ACOSTA: Absolutely. Once that desperation sinks in, he could be very dangerous. And Polo, what do we know about how this inmate escaped?

SANDOVAL: You know, here we are five days after this escape, and authorities are still not releasing any details. I will say that we did hear from the Chester County District Attorney today during that latest update. She did acknowledge that prison officials have identified what was described only as vulnerabilities and that those were in the process of being addressed.

However, that District Attorney made very clear that she wants the attention to remain on this massive manhunt and did say that eventually she will be in a position to share that information as this is just the latest person to escape from this prison facility in southeast Pennsylvania. So a lot of questions still to be answered in that department.

ACOSTA: Yes, a lot of questions, not a lot of answers. All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you very much.

Coming up, as the holiday weekend comes to a close, we'll tell you the best time to hit the road, as millions of Americans do the same. But first, the legends surrounding the birth of that uniquely American art form, rock n' roll, have long been dominated by performers like Elvis and the Beatles. Now the new CNN film Little Richard: I Am Everything, takes a closer look to reveal another icon behind the origins of rock n' roll, one man who brought it all to life, Little Richard. Here's a preview.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little Richard was the first thing I remember as far as rock and roll is concerned

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One time Elvis came backstage and Elvis said, well, Richard, don't you ever worry about anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will always be the true king of rock n' roll.


ACOSTA: All right, be sure to tune in the powerful all new CNN film Little Richard: I Am Everything premieres tonight at 09:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.



ACOSTA: As the holiday weekend comes to a close, millions of Americans are heading home, either by air or by road, and it's going to be a busy one. In fact, as CNN's Pete Muntean reports, this weekend breaks an all-time summer air travel record. PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Jim now begins the rush home, and it will be a big one. A survey taken just before the long weekend found that more than half of all Americans plan to travel for Labor Day, meaning a climactic end to a record breaking summer for travel.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Labor Day means the rush to get back to work here near Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which connects the beach to D.C. and Baltimore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty bad. Pick the time that you go carefully.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): It is only one of the hotspots from coast to coast expected to be clogged with traffic on Monday. AAA projects popular routes like Palm Springs to San Diego and the Jersey Shore to Manhattan will see the worst congestion of the holiday weekend. In the skies, air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration are planning to handle 43,000 flights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come early, be prepared, have a good mindset.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The TSA says after this weekend, this summer will set a new air travel record, with more than 227 million people screened at airports since Memorial Day. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says flight cancellations are going down, but the latest numbers from FlightAware show it is delays that have increased. This summer, some 25 percent of flights arrived late by an average of 57 minutes.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: This year we have seen significant improvement. That doesn't mean that the system was immune from some tough travel days this year and this summer.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): AAA says even still, travelers remain undaunted, booking 4 percent more domestic trips compared to last Labor Day weekend and 44 percent more international trips, with destinations like Vancouver, Rome and London topping the list.

SCOTT KEYES, GOING: Flights and trips over to Europe and down to Latin America booming right now with numbers that are significantly higher than what we saw pre pandemic.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Those who stayed closer to home are in for some of the highest gas prices of the year. The national average for a gallon of regular is now $3.81.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that like everything else, it just keeps going up. And timing is not the best.


MUNTEAN: The gas prices from here near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are below the national average, but the traffic is above average. The best advice from state officials to avoid it, wait until late on Monday to make that trip home or even put it off until sometime on Tuesday. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, thanks to Pete Muntean for that report. Stay safe out there.

In the meantime, Labor Day may mean the unofficial end of summer, but for about two thirds of the United States today, it's feeling more like the middle of July. CNN's Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center. Chad, I tried to take my dog out for a walk. It was not happening. He just did not want to go. It's too hot. And I think everybody else feels the same right now. What can you tell us?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know it was hotter like three or four weeks ago, but somehow this heat feels hotter than that. It's just like we just want fall to be here, right? It's like, where is it already? Well, it's almost in Chicago. And the storms that really affected Burning Man, they have moved away and into parts of Montana, no longer any effect there. But the heat is now on in the Midwest and also in the east but for some spots only, maybe one or two more days.

We will break 400 record highs across the country this week alone. But all of a sudden, yes, there's a cold front coming. And, boy, is it really going to help out Minneapolis. Today, Minneapolis was 98 degrees. In less than 48 hours, it's going to be 69. That's going to be the high. Now, it's going to take a couple of days to get to New York, even another day or so to get to Chicago.

But it is on the way. Not yet for D.C. Temperatures, upper 90s, feeling like 105. That humidity just will not release. Here's Chicago, though, down to 62 for a morning low, 58 for a morning low on Friday morning. Those have opened the windows and let the cool air in kind of days still a little delayed to get to you.

For New York City, you're still going to be above normal, 94 for your Thursday. But that thunderstorm right there is the beginning of the cold front that does release the heat for the eastern half of the U.S. It just seems like it's just taking too long. But let Labor Day be a couple days longer than it should be, and we'll still have summer for two more days.

ACOSTA: Yes. And Chad, as I like to say here in Washington, we're getting the weather we deserve. But some of this heat is so hot that I suppose this is one of those moments where we need to remind folks they probably should check on their senior citizen relatives. It's that kind of heat. I can't believe those temperatures we're seeing in the D.C. area.


MYERS: Yes. And, you know, everybody traveling. We just had that story from Pete Muntean, people in the car, you know, the driver goes into the truck stop for a couple minutes to go get a hot dog or something like that, you know, you can't be leaving people pets and elderly in the cars. They need to absolutely be inside with you.

ACOSTA: Kids as well, little kids in the backseat check on all of that, please. All right, Chad Myers, happy Labor Day. Thanks so much as always. We appreciate it.

Coming up, we'll go live to the Nevada desert. Chad just mentioned that for the great escape from the Burning Man Festival where a fun holiday weekend turned into a muddy, mucky mess.


ACOSTA: Happening now, new revelations about a possible meeting in Russia between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. The U.S. disclosing new information about what these ruthless opponents of the West want from one another.

Also tonight, CNN is on the scene as tens of thousands of festivalgoers are finally able to leave the desert venue where they've been trapped by a muddy mess after a rare and rapid downpour.