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Judge Rejects Meadows' Bid to Move Georgia Election Interference Case to Federal Court; Meadows Loses Bid to Move Case to Federal Court as Report Reveals Georgia Panel Recommended Charging 39; Police Say, Search Perimeter for Fugitive Inmate Shifts West; President Zelenskyy on Ukraine's Counteroffensive; White House Situation Room Gets $50 Million Makeover. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 08, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM, and we're following major breaking news. A decision has just been reached in Mark Meadows' bid to make his case in the sprawling Georgia election interference probe moved to a federal court.

A federal judge has just rejected the former Trump White House chief of staff's arguments, dealing a major setback not only to Meadows but also potentially to former President Donald Trump, who just yesterday notified the judge overseeing the case that he too may try to move his case from state to federal court.

CNN's Sara Murray is following all of these important developments for us. What more can you tell us about this monumental decision?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have been waiting for this ruling right? Because Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff was the first one out of the gate saying he wants to move the charges against him in state court to federal court. A big part of the reason that he was doing this was because he wanted to go to federal court and argue essentially that he had immunity from these charges and that they should be tossed out.

And what we are now hearing from the federal judge is that Mark Meadows did not meet the threshold he needed to meet in order to move this to federal court. In fact, the judge says the court concludes that Meadows has not met even the, quote, quite low threshold for removal.

Now, the judge does note this is a novel case. This is a racketeering case. But he goes on to say that the court finds that the color of the office of White House chief of staff, which is what Mark Meadows needed to prove that he was acting under the color of the office, did not include working with or working for the Trump campaign.

So, essentially, these activities that Meadows engaged in after the 2020 election allegedly related to trying to overturn Georgia's election results had more to do with campaign work than had to do with his White House work. So, they don't meet the threshold.

The other thing I think is important to note is that the judge goes on to say, even though he is making this decision about the Meadows case, it's not going to have any effect on the outcome of other defendants. He's essentially going to let them go forward, put their arguments forward.

We know Jeffrey Clark, who's a former Justice Department official, has a hearing scheduled to do this. We know a couple of people who served as fake electors for Donald Trump in Georgia also have a hearing schedule, because they want to move to federal court. So, the judge is saying, I will hear all your arguments separately, and I will decide them. But it certainly doesn't portend well for them that Mark Meadows did not meet the bar here.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Stay with us. I want to bring in our legal and political experts to discuss this important development right now. And, Jamie Gangel, how significant is this?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very significant, even though, as Sara points out, this ruling, the judge said, does not necessarily mean it will carry over to other people. It does set a bar.

So, I think it is bad news in that the judge is saying, you know, you have exceeded your role as chief of staff. So, that kind of argument is going to stand for other people.

The judge also mentioned the Hatch Act, which limits what an employee can do that is political versus federal.

So, I think that this is going to be bad news for other people who want to go in this direction. One thing I think we should remember, Donald Trump wants to delay these cases. His goal is to push all these trials past the election. So, even though this ruling has come down, I don't think it means he won't try to do the same thing.

BLITZER: Let me get Gloria's reaction. This is a lengthy 49-page decision that was just released.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And we're just going through it. But I think my colleagues here have gotten the crux of the matter, which is that what the court is saying is that Mark Meadows kind of overstepped and that he wasn't acting as a chief of staff should act. He was actually acting as an adjunct to the Trump campaign.

And when you mentioned the Hatch Act, Wolf, you're not supposed to do that. When you're working in the White House, you work for the government. You don't work for a campaign. And there's a line here that says the Constitution does not provide any basis for executive branch involvement with state election and post-election procedures, period. It is not your job.

[18:05:00] That was not part of your job. So, you can't claim that this should be moved because you were just doing your job because that's not your job and you are acting unofficially.


GANGEL: Just to add one quick sentence here. It says, when questioned about the scope of his authority, Meadows was unable to explain the limits of his authority other than his inability to stump for the president or work on behalf of the campaign. So, once again, it shows there is a clear line, but he didn't want to define it.

MURRAY: And I think to Gloria's point, too, about the difference between, again, state and federal responsibilities and running their elections, the judge gets to that in this order. We saw, you know, some of this play out in the Meadows hearing where Georgia secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was a witness and essentially said the federal government doesn't play a role in certifying our elections.

In this order, the judge says, the court concludes if it were to agree with Meadows arguments regarding removal, again, removal to federal court, the court would have to turn a blind eye to the express constitutional power granted to the states to determine their election procedure.

So, he's, again, saying, this was a state job to decide how they were going to certify their elections, to decide to certify their elections. This wasn't something that fell under the role of the White House chief of staff.

BLITZER: I want to bring in Michael Moore, a former U.S. Attorney, who's also carefully taking a look at this decision. The ruling says, as you know, Michael, that Meadows himself testified that working for the Trump campaign would be outside the scope of a White House chief of staff. So, what do you make of this decision?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with all of you, too. It's not necessarily an unexpected decision. We thought it could go either way, I mean, and just getting the order. So, it strikes me that there would be an appeal directly from this. It's interesting to hear some of the recitations as it relates to the federal government's role in state elections.

There are about 12 federal agencies that participate in monitoring state elections. And you can kind of go down the list. DOJ makes sure voting rights are protected. That's something that is in the purview of the federal government. DHS, Department of Homeland Security, monitor cyber crimes as to relates to election, even though those that are held in state when they have all federal offices.

So, there will be arguments to be made and there may be some room at the 11th Circuit and certainly at the Supreme Court, when we talk about what role it is. I think the question is, was there a federal involvement in certifying it? Certainly, there is not.

But an inquiry into the election, I think, may be an issue that comes up on the appeal. I expect we'll hear that. I don't think this hurts Trump necessarily. I think there will be some other people who will not find necessarily a favorable ear in the court. But certainly this, as it relates to Trump, ends up delaying things. I think Jamie's correct. This case now goes to the 11th Circuit. This appeal will. It will wander its way to the Supreme Court. You heard even the trial judge earlier this week as he was suggesting that those appeals are causing him concerns. He thinks about scheduling those cases and postponing those trials.

BLITZER: Amy Lee Copeland is with us as well, a former federal prosecutor. Amy Lee, what do you think this means for Trump? His lawyers, as you well know, have signaled that he will try to move his case from a state court to a federal court.

AMY LEE COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey, Wolf. Well, his lawyers actually said, we're thinking about it. They didn't make a commitment, and they have 30 days from the date of his arraignment, and I would say from here when he filed the former waiver arraignment to make that decision.

I think all of us think that Mark Meadows, if anyone, had the best chance of getting the case removed because he did have some duties that he said were inarguably for the president.

You know, it was interesting, the breakdown in this order. The court said, look at the heart of the matter when you consider what the act is. You can't just say that any old act is enough. You can't say that scheduling calls or setting meetings were overt act. Here, it had to go to the heart of the matter.

I think Mr. Trump's problem is going to be is that all of these calls went to the heart of the matter. He was acting as Candidate Trump rather than President Trump. And I'm sure his lawyers are going to give this matter a close read.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Sara. I understand you're getting more information on how this order was unfolding and what happens next.

MURRAY: Yes. I mean, I want to talked a little bit about -- again, we talked about the Hatch Act and whether or not that was going to be a persuasive argument for prosecutors who said this sort of defines, and if you're a federal official, you can't be engaged in this --

BLITZER: If you're getting paid by the federal government, you can't get involved in politics.

MURRAY: Right, exactly. And the judge writes to this in his order and says the Hatch Act is helpful in defining the outer limits of the scope of the White House chief of staff's authority, the state argues, and Meadows agrees, that he is bound by the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity.

These prohibitions on executive branch employees, including the White House chief of staff, reinforce the court's conclusion that Meadows has not shown how his actions relate to the scope of his federal executive branch office, federal office or removal is thereby an opposite.


Again, this is an appealable decision and I think just because this is something Mark Meadows lost does not mean that this is a route that Donald Trump's attorneys are not going to go down. I think the reason that they said they may remove to federal court is that they wanted to see how this was going to play out for Mark Meadows. They wanted to see what arguments maybe seem persuasive to the judge and what arguments fell flat because this will be the same judge who is ultimately going to hear the arguments from Donald Trump if he tries to move this case to federal court.

And to Michael Moore's point, this was something that came up in the scheduling back and forth about, are we going to go forward with all of these 19 defendants going to trial in October of this year or is it just going to be Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell. And so it will be more for that state court judge to chew over, as he tries to set out a schedule for these folks.

BORGER: You know, it's interesting here because it's very clear that the judge believes that Meadows was acting as a campaign operative, complete campaign operative. And it said -- this says that the evidence deduced at the hearing establishes that the actions at the heart of the state's charges against Meadows were taken on behalf of the Trump campaign with an ultimate goal of affecting state election activities and procedures. And then says, and I think you mentioned this before, Jamie, that Meadows himself testified that working for the Trump campaign would be outside the scope of the White House chief of staff.



BLITZER: It would be a violation of the Hatch Act.

BORGER: Exactly. So, Meadows himself said it and then he was acting as a campaign appendage, essentially, on behalf of the president.

BLITZER: Yes, absolutely. Michael Moore, give us your insight into how things will unfold from here as a result of this.

MOORE: Well, remember that the president and the vice president are, according to the special counsel, exempt from the Hatch Act, and so that argument will not be an obstacle to him to try to move -- to have this case removed. I think you all are right that this was, sort of, a dry run. He got to watch the judge, listen to the arguments, and now see the outcome of the game. And he can choose which arguments were persuasive and what evidence he thinks necessary, his lawyers will, what evidence necessary to try to convince the judge to remove his case.

Going forward, I think that without any question, this will be appealed by the Meadows team. I think you will still see efforts by Clark and others to move forward as well, to have the case removed. If nothing else, it is a strong case for a delay.

And remember that despite what I think was a clear telegraph from the judge in the superior court that he is not intending to try anybody but the two defendants, Chesebro and Powell, in October.

Any effort to say, I filed to remove my case, I'm appealing, that's a delay that he will have to then calculate into whether or not he wants to try to waste court time should an appeal or an effort or a new motion to remove be successful.

So, this delay plays into their hands. It's clearly not a good day for Meadows, having lost a motion that he brought, but I will suggest there's another page to be turned in this book, and the 11th Circuit will have to make a decision on whether or not the chief of staff has a right to play certain phone calls for a president.

I hear all the comments from the D.A. about this is not something that's within his purview and he's acting on behalf of the campaign, but he is, and his efforts and the things that they outline, as acts, overt acts, that furthers the conspiracy, or acts typically done, like scheduling meetings, making phone calls and all.

So, this question of, can he do it for the president to have a legitimate business, legitimate reason that could be articulated. Again, there are about 12 agencies, federal agencies, that the president oversees himself. And by definition, that means the chief of staff is involved in. Is there some federal interest that can at least be enunciated in state elections?

Not a good day for Meadows but not the end of the road for Trump and the other defendants.

BLITZER: Well, let's check in with CNN's Kristen Holmes. I know you're working to get reaction from Trump and his campaign. What are you learning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, we've reached out for a statement. But we haven't got anything officially yet. We know Trump is in South Dakota, has a campaign rally later tonight. So, of course, we will be watching there.

But what I'm hearing from Trump advisers, Sara is really spot-on, that this Meadows case was not meant to be a deciding factor. Yes, they have signaled. They have not said definitively whether or not they're going to try to move this case to federal court. But Meadows was something they were watching carefully.

We know the lawyers were actually in the courtroom, Trump's lawyers, that day trying to, again, pick up what these arguments were going to be. They're waiting for this decision to see what might work for Donald Trump that didn't work for Meadows or the judge didn't like that they might want to maneuver around.

And that's really what this is about. Is this going to be a slam dunk? Now, obviously it's not. The Meadows thing is a blow. If this had gone through smooth sailing, I think the Trump people would feel a lot more confident in their case.


But it doesn't mean that they're not going to try and move this case to federal court. It means that they're going to use the information that they gleaned from this Meadows case from this decision from this judge and then put that forward when they do eventually, which we are expecting them to, again, not confirmed, move try and move this case to federal court.

BLITZER: Let me get reaction from our Alice Stewart as well right now. What kind of reaction are you getting, Alice?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot of people are not surprised by this, given they know exactly what Mark Meadows was doing when he made that call to Brad Raffensperger. And you can look at this basically and see that Mark Meadows was, in essence, the canary in the coal mine here. And this ruling signifies danger for the other co- defendants who are looking to change this to federal court.

And, look, Mark Meadows has an excellent team of attorneys, and, no doubt, they will appeal this decision and delay this inevitability. But the reality is, he clearly, in his role as chief of staff for a president of the United States, should not have been engaged in what his campaign activity. And there's no question about the fact the call to Raffensperger was campaign-related and he was not in his authority as chief of staff to do so.

So, look, I think this is going to be a big rallying cry to others who are looking to potentially try to move this case as it's not going to happen. And, look, clearly this is going to move full speed ahead and he's going to be tried just along with the others in this RICO case. And, in my view, this decision by the judge was the right one because he clearly was not acting as a chief of staff in his role.

BLITZER: Good point. Van Jones is with us as well. Van, how do you see this?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, you know, shame on Mark Meadows for even going through this charade. Those of us who worked in the White House, and let's just be honest, we're all friends here, that Hatch Act is like a hatchet over your head every day. When the campaign is going on, campaign staff, including chief of staff, go through great lengths to have nothing to do with the campaign, nothing at all, because nobody wants to touch that third rail.

And it's inconceivable that a chief of staff would somehow think, oh, it's my job to literally do the opposite and get involved after the campaign, trying to fix stuff, it's just ludicrous. I just want people at home to know, anybody in Washington, D.C., anybody who's ever worked in the White House, knows it is ludicrous for a chief of staff to behave the way he behaved.

For him to pretend that was under the color of his job, if that's true, then everybody in that building should be able to do whatever you want to do during the campaign and afterwards, but it's not true. It's a white glove test. You do not want to get anywhere near the election if you are playing that role. He knows it. Everybody in D.C. knows it. It's a charade, it's a sham, it's a scam. And I'm glad that the judge pointed it out.

BLITZER: All right, Van, I want you to stand by. I want to go back to Sara.

Sara, this comes as we all know as the Georgia special grand jury report was finally released, recommending charges for 39 people, 21 of whom weren't charged. Tell us about this.

MURRAY: Yes, that's right. I mean this was a report that was under wraps essentially until we could get through the Fulton County district attorney actually unveiling her indictments against Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants. This is the sum of what was months and months of work behind closed doors, hearing from 75 witnesses from a special grand jury that can investigate but cannot issue indictments.

They can, though, recommend indictments. And as you said, they recommended a lot of indictments. They recommended 39 people should face charges, including 21 people who Fani Willis ultimately decided not to charge. And those include some big names. That includes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Grahams. And that includes two former senators from the state of Georgia, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both lost in their runoff races. It also includes a number of advisers to former President Donald Trump, Boris Epshteyn, who's an adviser and attorney to the former president, Michael Flynn, who is Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Burt Jones, who served as a fake elector for Donald Trump in Georgia and is the current lieutenant governor in the state of Georgia.

So, this is really interesting because it gives you an idea of sort of the scope of wrong doing that this special grand jury saw and also the limitations that prosecutors saw. You know, I know that they went through name by name on this list that they got from the special grand jury and looked through the facts and said, do we have enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these people committed crimes. Because that's the bar you want to go with if we're actually going to bring charges, if we're actually going to try to bring something like this to trial.

And we've seen a lot of outrage, I think, today, from Graham, from Loeffler, from others, essentially saying, you know, this is criminalizing people doing their jobs, or, you know, this is a witch hunt or whatever. But, ultimately, the district attorney did not bring charges against these people, which I think is important to note.

BLITZER: Yes. Let me get reaction from Amy Lee. Amy Lee, walk us through why the district attorney, in your sense, would decide not to pursue indictments despite the recommendations from members of the special grand jury.


COPELAND: Well, eight of the people that didn't get indicted had immunity agreements in place. And most of those or all of those folks were the fake electors that came in and apparently sat down with her. So, that accounts for eight of them.

The other ones, as the other commentators have noted, the grand jury only has to find a probable cause determination. Is it more likely than not that someone has committed a crime? When you try a case to a trial jury, the standard becomes beyond a reasonable doubt. She clearly wanted to focus her case on the people that she thought she had enough evidence against to meet that much higher standard and that could account for it.

I think some of the interesting things, Wolf, were in the footnotes. There are two grand jurors that said they weren't comfortable with indicting any of these fake electors because they seemed to be doing their civic duty and then there were several grand jurors too who noted they didn't want to indict the senators because they thought they were just blustering, that they were pandering to their base, basically.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Amy Lee. I want to go back to Michael. You're there in Georgia. I want you to watch what the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, told me about his phone call with Senator Lindsey Graham in the days immediately after Trump lost the 2020 election. Listen to this.


BLITZER: You came away with the impression that he essentially wanted you to look for ways to toss in mail-in ballots. What exactly did he say to you?

SECRETARY OF STATE BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R-GA): Well, he asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters. And I got the sense, implied that then you could throw those out, put any, really, would look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures. So, that's the impression that I got.

Well, it's just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out.


BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Senator Graham today said it would have been irresponsible to not ask questions about the election. Does his defense actually hold up, Michael?

MOORE: Well, I didn't think his call at the time was appropriate but we don't know what was said to this special purpose grand jury. We don't know if the senator got in there and put some local slang on them and convinced them that he shouldn't be charged, that he was just trying to do his job, as any good senator from South Carolina would, even though he was meddling across the state line a little bit. But we don't know.

And we don't know, as well, what Raffensperger may have testified to the special purpose grand jury. And that is whether or not he felt like he was being directed to do something. Was there some intimidation to do it? Did he feel like he was pressured to do it? I think those questions sort of remain unknown to us. So, that could have easily played into a decision on whether or not to move forward as well.

Likewise, it's not like we have the Trump confession tape. I mean, we have that tape from the call that was made to Raffensperger, and Raffensperger has been very clear that he felt like he was being pressured by the former president and even the former president made some reference that there could be some criminal problems to Raffensperger if he didn't do these things.

So, when you have those kinds of contrast presented to a body of citizens that are just trying to make a decision, one can clearly seem so much worse that they then decide, you know, should we move forward with another one? So, you have some dissention in the votes, as we see on the special purpose grand jury report. They didn't all vote the same.

I do want to point out, when we look at those votes, one thing that was particularly interesting to me is that they have, in fact, not a unanimous decision as it relates to the former president. Now, that's -- it's a very small margin, there's one vote. But, remember, this is a body that works only with the prosecution. And they hear no defense evidence. They hear no closing arguments. They hear no cross- examination. But there was this one person who felt like they could not indict the former president. That's the thing to watch for in a trial.

Can you convince 100 percent, which you have to have a unanimous verdict, can you convince 100 percent of the jurors that the former president was guilty here? There's at least one holdout saying he shouldn't be charged at all.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. And, Jamie, how striking is it to see that so many of these jurors actually thought that Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, should have been indicted?

GANGEL: Right, absolutely. But it was a mixed vote. On his, it was rather low. I think it was 13 votes.

Can I just go back for one second to what Michael was talking about, about that one hold out, because he and I have discussed this over the last couple of weeks? That is a very significant fact to a prosecutor, because they are worried that one person is going to hang a jury.

So, whether it was Lindsey Graham or Donald Trump, you know, Fani Willis and her prosecutors are looking at this as the signal of when they have everything in their favor, which is what they have with the special grand jury, they don't have a defense there.


They look at that and they say, what's going to happen in a real court, in a real trial? Are we going to get this case done. BORGER: With a real jury that you have to pick and you have to make sure that you -- or try to make sure as much as you can that you're going to get a unanimous conviction if you're Fani Willis. And this, I think, would be concerning to her, the way these votes turned out because they were far from unanimous. There is one -- I don't know if it was the same person -- abstention constantly. And you have to look at that and say, wait a minute, you know, this is -- we presented one side and we're still getting people who are saying no.

MURRAY: One thing I do want to point out, though, that was unanimous, and we learned this a while back, but it's worth remembering is, look, this was a special grand jury that was divided on a lot of these votes when it came to individual indictments. May be like Michael Moore said, they were swayed by local flare when it came to a couple of the witnesses who testified.

But they did agree unanimously, there was no widespread fraud that would have overturned the election in Georgia. And they heard from witnesses across the spectrum. They heard from people who deeply believed that there was voter fraud and that it needed to be investigated and that it still needs to be investigated.

And, again, this is not, you know, a monolithic group. These are just, you know, people chosen from everyday course of life from different political parties that still reached this unanimous conclusion.

BLITZER: I want to go back to CNN's Kristen Holmes who is getting reaction from Trump and his campaign on this report that was released today. Go ahead, Kristen.

HOLMES: Yes, Wolf. So, a lot of this is expected. He talks about politics. He says it's a witch hunt. But there is something that gives you an idea of how exactly Trump's team is going to spin this narrative. As we discussed time and time again, this is something they like to do. They want to play it out on in the court of public opinion.

So, this is what Trump posted on Truth Social today and I'm just going to read you a part of it. He says, essentially, they wanted to indict anybody who happened to be breathing at the time. It totally undermines the credibility of the findings. And then, of course, he adds, election interference here.

I was told my advisers before he even issued this statement that this idea that this report undermined any kind of action that they took was something that they were going to really be doubling down on, the reason being twofold. One, they believe that because this report showed so many people that the grand jury wanted to indict particularly a sitting U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham, that this, in some way, undermines the report in general.

Again, they did not end up indicting these people. They did not end up indicting a sitting U.S. senator, but because that group was so large.

The other thing they point to was the interviews that the forewoman of the grand jury gave. Essentially, what they want to do is paint this as somebody who -- and we saw those interviews, she was smiling in some of them when she was talking about these indictments on our air as well -- paints this as a larger picture of a group of people who wanted to indict, as Trump says here, anybody who is breathing at the time.

That is the narrative you are going to start hearing from Trump and his team. That is what I was told before this tweet or this post even went out. And that's what we're going to continue hearing.

And, again, Wolf, we're waiting to hear from Trump tonight. It will be the first time we'll actually see him since he was arrested in Georgia. And one thing to point out, and I know we've said this time and time again, of all of his legal hurdles, Trump has really been the most angry and the most agitated for months, before he was even indicted in Georgia, about this Georgia case.

He continues to maintain that he did nothing wrong. He continues to say, not only was this phone call a perfect, beautiful phone call, but he also says that lawyers were on the phone call. That was part of his new defense that we've been hearing really since January, that because these lawyers were on the call, someone at some point should have raised to him that what he was doing was illegal if they had a problem with it.

Again, these are there arguments. I am telling you what their arguments are, what his arguments are and where his mentality is on this, because this is a case that really does angers him more than many of his other legal entanglements.

BLITZER: Yes, good reporting, Kristen, thank you.

I want to go back to Alice Stewart. Alice, Trump, as you just heard, he's slamming these prosecutions as political. But is there a breaking point, Alice, where GOP voters get Trump legal fatigue, given all the charges that have been leveled right now?

STEWART: It doesn't appear that's going to happen with his solid base, the base of MAGA. Because we're seeing poll after poll, even the recent CNN polling shows that these legal indictments, one after the other after the other, are not swaying people and they're not moving.

The reason because he is saying, as we've indicated, he is painting this picture as a weaponization of the DOJ. Even the candidates who are running against him for president are saying that this is a criminalization of politics. And they're not looking at the details of any of these cases.


They're not looking at specifics, whether we're talking about Atlanta or Mar-a-Lago or we're talking about January 6th or even up in New York.

They are looking at this from the spectrum of any of these actions, any of these indictments, are weaponization of the DOJ. The problem is there are other people who are looking at the specifics of these and are looking at the actions and the activity of not just the president but those that are co-conspirators and those who have also been indicted and realizing this is not right. This is too much. This is a distraction from what Republicans need to do moving forward.

So, there are a lot of rational Republicans that are not part of the MAGA wing of the party who are saying, enough is enough. The indictments are too much. We need to look at a candidate who is out for my best interest and my future and not their past grievances. And the indictments and the legal issues are too much.

And as we know, this Georgia case will be different. If these move forward, and they are in a timely manner, they will be on television. They will be televised. And it's one thing for Donald Trump to go in a rally and hold court with his base, but when he's in court answering questions from a district attorney, that's a whole new ball game.

And he's not going to be able to spin it no matter how much he would like. He's not going to be able to say there was widespread voter fraud when we're seeing in this instant that there was not. And that is really going to make a difference for those that are open minded about what we're seeing with all of these indictments against the former president.

BLITZER: Yes, so many, indeed. Van, I don't know if you noticed, but there's a footnote in this special grand jury report that says, one juror thought the senator's humoring Trump's election questions were simply just pandering to their base. What does that do to democracy?

JONES: Well, I mean, you know, we've had this conversation about how, you know, one juror in a case can throw the whole case out. But I think the most important thing here is that you've got a tough prosecutor down there in Georgia. She is not messing around. She threw the book, the library, and half of at everybody that Donald Trump knows. And one of them tried to squiggle and run away today, Mark Meadows, and the judge said, nope, you've got to go back down there and face the music.

And that should send a message to anybody who gets pulled into some of this Trump foolishness. There's going to be more Trump foolishness, that there is a law in this country. There's a Constitution. There's a system here.

And the fact we have to -- you know, the problem with wrestling with a pig, is you get a lot of slop on you and the pig likes it. So, Donald Trump is having a good time. The system is getting a little bit banged up. But we're not going to put up with this. We're not going to put up with this.

And I think that's the message from this judge. And the reason you've got a 40-plus-page explanation is because if anybody does want to read it the way Alice points out, there are people paying attention, there's an education process here. The whole country has got to go back to civic class. We have rule of law in this country. We have division of power, separation of powers, and you can't sit up there as chief of staff and whatever you want, you pretend like you did know better. Mark Meadows knew better and most of these people knew better.

But I guarantee you, the more that our judges stand up and hold people to account, the less foolishness we're going to have from Donald Trump and other people like him going forward.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Sara, it's -- I want to get back to the breaking news on Mark Meadows. It's notable that Meadows actually decided to take the stand in this case. Was that potentially, from his point of view, a mistake?

MURRAY: Well, I mean, one of the things that's striking to me, again, in looking through this judge's order is how many times he refers to things Meadows said when he was under oath, when he was being questioned by his own attorney, when he was being questioned by prosecutors.

Look, it is a risky thing if you are a criminal defendant, which Mark Meadows is, to be sworn in and to testify, because that means now this is part of the record, now this is something that is available to prosecutors in this case. It gives you an indication of how desperate they were, I think, to move this case to federal court, the fact that Meadows and his attorneys decided to take this risk.

I've heard from a lot of defense attorneys who thought it was not necessary for Meadows to do that, that they could have made their case or tried to make their case in other ways. And it begs the question of what's going to happen to these other folks who want to try to move their case to federal court, if they are going to put their clients under oath to take the stand to try to make this case.

I don't think that Donald Trump and his attorneys are going to do this. I don't think they're going to take the risk. Even if they really want to see Donald Trump move ahead in this case in federal court, I don't think that they're going to have him swear an oath and answer questions when he is a criminal defendant.

BLITZER: Even though he said it in a radio interview this week.

MURRAY: He always says --

BLITZER: I'm anxious to go ahead.

MURRAY: He always says he wants to testify. He never does.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, everybody standby. Thanks very much for following all the important breaking news and we'll have much more on all the important news right after this.



BLITZER: The manhunt -- ninth day -- law enforcement officers involved in the case. We're also now learning about new fallout from the brazen escape.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the ground for us in Pennsylvania covering the pursuit and the investigation. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a short time ago in this area behind me, we saw helicopters flying very low, and we saw an officer moving along the edge of a farm field with his hand on a weapon. As law enforcement remains on edge, we do have new information tonight on that fallout escape of this --


TODD (voice over): Tonight, a source tells CNN the prison guard who failed to -- has been fired. Convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante crab walked up between two walls of the Chester County prison and then escaped off the roof, a breach that triggered what is now an intensifying manhunt.

Tonight, more law enforcement officers than ever, up to 400 officers are tracking Cavalcante. The lead search commander now says a break-in at a home last night could be connected to the fugitive.

Was it related to this?



We have not conclusively proved that it was. But, again, in that area, and until we can rule it out, we'll operate off the belief that it very possibly was.

TODD: And a dramatic shift in the search perimeter. This is previous area, but it's now shifted north and west, with just a portion of overlap in the middle.

It comes as we get new details on a sighting CNN reported last night. The perimeter shifted because of a newly discovered trail camera picture of Cavalcante that had been captured Wednesday night in the area of a massive preserve called Longwood Gardens.

TODD: Do you believe you have him contained?

BIVENS: I hope so.

TODD: It was the second time in three nights that he had been picked up by cameras in the Longwood Gardens area.

BIVENS: For whatever reason, whether he's comfortable there, whether he found what he needs there.

TODD: Today, CNN got access to the law enforcement command post. Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens and his team took us through their command and control and dispatch hubs, featuring a digital map of police units.

BIVENS: You can see the perimeter. So ,this is updated real time. TODD: It's a beehive of activity, with officers getting deployment orders, helicopters coming in and out.

A resident who lives inside the perimeter where Cavalcante is now believed to be on the move, says the manhunt is aggressive.

KEN CROSSLEY, LIVES IN SEARCH PERIMETER: There's state police and the border patrol and the other local police have been zipping around, doing -- so there's always constant coverage of the area.

TODD: Robert Clark of the U.S. Marshals told us what his team is doing to push Cavalcante into a corner.

ROBERT CLARK, SUPERVISORY DEPUTY, U.S. MARSHALS: Our guys are in literally the woods, going through bushes, checking sheds, checking uncleared houses. We are in line with the search and the tactical teams.

TODD: And new information on Cavalcante's time on the run in Brazil, after allegedly committing a previous murder. Bivens says Cavalcante hid out in the jungles.

BIVENS: It's my understanding that the search was not intense, and after a period of time, he was able to simply slip away. That is not what his experience is going to be here.


TODD (on camera): And we've just learned that it was private trail cameras in this area behind me that captured the images of Cavalcante on the move. But, Wolf, those trail cameras were not transmitted in real time, so law enforcement didn't get them right away.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you.

There's other important news we're following right now, including a Philadelphia police officer just posted bail after facing charges for murder and other offenses in connection with a fatal shooting of a motorist during a traffic stop.

The local district attorney released body camera footage of the shooting earlier today, which contradicted the initial police reporting of the incident. A warning to our viewers, this video you're about to see is very disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands. (BLEEP). I'll (BLEEP) shoot you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 413. Shots fired, shots fired, 100 West Moreland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: And joining me now to discuss this story is CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. John, what does this video show us? What's your assessment?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, on August 14th, there was a car chase of Eddie Irizarry, a 27-year-old man who was, according to police, driving erratically.

But what you saw there was it's only five seconds from the time that police actually make that stop, as he goes the wrong way down a one way street, until they open fire on the car with Irizarry inside.

So, the question is, how does this happen, why does this happen, and why do police give an account about what happened it turns out not to be true?

So as you see, they approach the car. What we don't hear here is that the partner of the officer who fires the shot yells, he has a weapon, he has a knife. And what we see, by a careful examination of the video, is what appears to be a knife in the hand of Eddie Irizarry as the car is being stopped.

Here's the problem. Nowhere in the Philadelphia P.D. tactics or training is it authorized to shoot somebody whose car door is closed with the window up because they have a knife. It's not a direct threat to you. So, the question remains, did that officer believe when the other officer said he has a weapon that that was a gun? Did he mistake the knife for a gun? All of this will have to come out at trial because right now he is charged with murder in the first degree and a number of manslaughter charges.


BLITZER: Yes, very dramatic indeed. John Miller, thank you very much.

Coming up, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy just sat down for an exclusive new interview with CNN. What he says about the challenges his country is facing and its slow-moving counteroffensive.


BLITZER: Now to an exclusive new interview with the Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria pressed Zelenskyy about the ongoing counteroffensive which is moving slower than Ukraine's allies had hope.


Here is a part of their important conversation.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Everyone is wondering about the counteroffensive. There was a sense that it was slower than expected. Now there is some hope that it is speeding up.

Can you give us a sense from your perspective, what -- how is it going?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: It depends on many directions, on many cases and issues, how to speed up counteroffensive, but remember that we need the resolve. The resolve -- we need -- we have to get our land. We have to get to de-occupy the land.

And it's also not about the land. It's about the people because the frozen war is not the peace. We have to think about Putin, he want to take a lot of our country, to destroy a lot of our families, houses and et cetera, because -- because if he understands, why he -- why he destroy, he understand that Ukraine will never go back, go away from our land.

We'll never do it. That's why he has to kill us. He want to do it.

That's why when we speak about the counteroffensive, it depends on many cases. Of course, we gave a lot of time for Russians. We gave a lot of time to prepare to mine --

ZAKARIA: To put the mines in it.

ZELENSKYY: To put the mines in the fields, on the big territory. And so, you see the defending lines.

ZAKARIA: And that's because you were waiting for --

ZELENSKYY: For the weapon. That's why I said -- yeah. That's why what I said. It depends on many issues. We -- look, we waited too long. It's true.

No, I'm thankful to partners, to United States, EU, other partners. I am thankful very much. President Biden and -- by the way, we have -- to Congress. By the way, we have to understand, we -- of course, we waited too long. They put mines.

Then when we been ready from the point of view of our partners, because the decision to give us, for example, Bradley and other kind of weapon, the decision, it doesn't mean the result.

ZAKARIA: You don't get them immediately?

ZELENSKYY: Of course, you don't. Of course, you don't. So something still underway. Until now when we are sitting and speaking about it, when counteroffensive, when a lot of different people said that it's too slow, but it's still on the way.


BLITZER: And you can watch Fareed's complete interview with President Zelenskyy on his show "Fareed Zakaria GPS" that airs Sunday 10:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Still ahead, we'll take a closer look inside the newly renovated and upgraded Situation Room over at the White House. Stay with us.



BLITZER: President Biden is in India right now for the G20 summit and major meeting of global leaders. The president has already met with the Indian Prime Minister Modi and there's a lot on his agenda right now over the next few days.

But before he left here in Washington, President Biden managed get a sneak peek at the White House's new and improved Situation Room, which just finished a year's worth of renovations.

CNN senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche has the story.


KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the stuff of political legend. The White House Situation Room where history happens in real time got its own modern day Hollywood makeover.


TAUSCHE: THE SITUATION ROOM's director said Biden was blown away when he saw it this week. With stone slabs from Virginia, mahogany paneling from Maryland, LED lighting, high rise monitors and handmade seals to swap in if the meeting is helmed by Biden, Vice President Harris or National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the renovation took a year and more than $50 million to complete.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's on time and on schedule to be back on station here in the not too distant future.

TAUSCHE: The secretive high security complex beneath the Oval Office is actually five rooms, most called whizzer for the WSHR acronym used by those in the know. The conference room known was whizzer JFK was built for John f. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion. That's where President Biden huddled with world leaders in the days leading up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and President Trump watched drone footage as U.S. forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: It was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it along with General Milley, Vice President Pence, others, in THE SITUATION ROOM. And we watched it so clearly.

TAUSCHE: Around the corner, there is the watch floor where intelligence and media feeds, including CNN, are piped in 24/7.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, prepare us for war.

TAUSCHE: And a smaller room, famously depicted in 2011 as President Obama and his national security team watched navy SEALs raid the compound of Osama bin Laden.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is where we actually had a live view of what was happening. And so as you can see, it's a pretty small conference room. We were all jammed up in there.

TAUSCHE: That's now two cubby offices with the old room removed and rebuilt at Obama's library in Chicago. In Washington, the top secret complex is now open for business and its director says the upgrades now make it feel just like the movies.

Kayla Tausche, CNN, the White House Situation Room.


BLITZER: A very nice other Situation Room over at the White House, I, of course, prefer my Situation Room right here.

Kayla, thank you very much for that report.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. My situation room. You can always follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter and Instagram, @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. THE SITUATION ROOM is also a podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.