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The Situation Room

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) Explains Why He's Not Seeking Re- Election; Armed Murderer Caught, Back In Prison After 14-Day Manhunt; U.S. Says, Kim-Putin Talks On Military Cooperation Troubling; Kim, Putin Meet As U.S. Warns Russia Seeking Arms Deal; Libya: As Many As 6,000 People Killed After Deadly Floods. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. U.S. Senator Mitt Romney opens up about his big decision to not seek re-election. The veteran Republican stressing his concerns about Donald Trump's hold on the Republican Party and citing the need for a new generation of leaders.

Also tonight, an armed and very dangerous escaped murderer is back in prison after his dramatic early morning capture. How police finally tracked him down following a massive two-week manhunt.

And Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin team upholding face-to-face talks, the U.S. is calling troubling. The North Korean and Russian leaders discussing potential arms deal, military cooperation and the fight against, quote, evil forces. I'll get reaction from key White House Official John Kirby.

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

And we begin with the breaking news, Senator Mitt Romney announcing he is not seeking re-election, the Utah Republican and former GOP presidential nominee speaking to reporters just a little while ago about his decisions and the future of his Republican Party.

CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill. Manu, how is Senator Romney explaining this decision?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is citing his age as the prime factor for ending a storied career and politics and a career that has reshaped the Republican Party, even as he finds himself as now an outlier, that same Republican Party, despite leading it as a presidential nominee in 2012. But during the Trump era, he was going toe-to-toe with then-President Donald Trump, still sharply critical of the former president, and a stark warning from his party to pull back from the Trump era and begin to focus again on the bedrock issues that have long defined the Republican Party.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): At the end of a second term, I would be in my mid-80s, and I think it's time for guys like me to get out of the way.

My wing of the party talks about policy and about issues that will make a difference to the lives of the American people. The Trump wing of the party talks about resentments of various kind and getting even and settling scores and revisiting the 2020 election.

RAJU: You have said just that a lot of the party simply does not believe in the Constitution. What do you mean by that?

ROMNEY: There's no question there's some portion of my party and the opposition party who thinks we need to have a strong person, a strong man to put aside the Constitution, for that matter, President Trump. Former President Trump said we should put aside the constitution and reinstall him as president.

RAJU: Trump is really dominating at the polls, and he's probably be your nominee. You're an outlier of the party. There are no signs that what you're saying that the party is going to shift--

ROMNEY: Oh, I'm not talking about the next two years. I'm talking over the next decade or so. I mean, I just-- I mean, populism doesn't work. I quote that M.L. Mankin line, which is to every complex problem, there's a solution, which is simple, clear and wrong.


RAJU: And Romney went on to criticize members of his own party, including those who sought to overturn the electoral results back in 2020. He indicated that Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were disingenuous, those to two senators, for objecting to the electoral results back then.

He also made clear that he disagrees with the idea of impeaching Joe Biden, at least at this point. He says that there's no evidence so far to support the idea of bringing a charge of high crimes or misdemeanors against the current president of the United States.

Biden himself called Mitt Romney also even as Romney himself believed it is time for both Democrats to move on from Joe Biden, Republicans to move on from Donald Trump and to move on from a new crop of leaders, he says, a new generation of leaders, Wolf. He said that people in their 80s essentially should not be in politics. They should focus on bringing up, propping up those other leaders.

Even as he would have faced a re-election 2024, that could have been very difficult, Wolf. He says he thinks he could have won even though a lot of people, Trump supporters, in particular, would have targeted him in that race.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Manu Raju, thanks for that report.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentators Van Jones and Alice Stewart, along with our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, Mitt Romney, as all of us know, has been an independent and unique voice here in Washington.


What is the Senate losing with his retirement?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think it's losing a whole lot. Let's start with a true legislator, a true conservative, a true statesman. Mitt Romney, really in one six-year term, a slightly shy of that, he's only in his fifth year, has done what many senators have not done for much longer. He's truly been a part of significant legislation and he has broken from his party. He has shown true independence.

And he really is one of the dying breed and a senator up on the Senate who has been an independent voice who's willing to break with their party, particularly in the era of Donald Trump. And I think his words right there really set it all.

Just thinking back to the arc of his time as Massachusetts governor, as a Republican in a liberal state, the architect of healthcare to becoming the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, to his time in the Senate, he has had a remarkable career during a very changing Republican Party. Well, the Republican Party that he spoke of does not exist at least for the moment. So, we will see if it returns in a decade, as he told Manu there.

But, Wolf, if I think it is a major loss, one in a series of serious legislators who simply are choosing to retire because of how the Senate is. But he's also saying it's time for a new generation of leaders, clearly sending a message to others in this town who certainly haven't heeded that call.

Let me bring in Alice Stewart. Alice, McKay Coppins released an excerpt from his upcoming biography of Mitt Romney, which reveals part of why Romney is taking this step. He writes this, a very large portion of my party, Romney told me one day, really doesn't believe in the Constitution. He'd realized this only recently, he said. Alice, how do you interpret that?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think the party and many of the people in the party do believe in support and defend the Constitution. What they do also do at the same time is believe Donald Trump, when he stands up to and criticizes the Constitution, and there's a distinct difference. I think the party is a party standing up for the Constitution.

Look, I listen to this, and to Jeff's point, I'm old enough to remember when Mitt Romney was the GOP nominee in 2012. He is a man of character and of integrity and of the policies that this party used to represent. It just goes to show how far we've come in these last few years.

And, look, looking at his announcement, there's the political and there's the personal. Politically, Mitt Romney and his opposition to Donald Trump and his constant and public criticism of populism have really put him out of step with the party. And that's unfortunate because it is good to have someone of his integrity and character in the U.S. Senate.

But, personally, I can completely understand his decision to look at this at his age, what age he would be if he were to run for re- election, and it's time for a new generation. And I applaud him for looking at this from the standpoint of, I've done my job and I'm going to step down.

Unfortunately, too many people in Washington are looking at the longevity as opposed to their legacy they could leave behind if they were to get out at a more reasonable time.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. You know, Van Jones, let me get your reaction to what Romney said about the potential 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump. Listen and watch this.


ROMNEY: I think it would be a great thing if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective party pick someone in the next generation. President Trump -- excuse me, President Biden when he was running said he was a transitional figure to the next generation. Well, time to transition.


BLITZER: So Van, how do you respond?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's speaking for I think 67 percent of Americans who feel the same way. And there is this kind of sense that we don't want to see this rematch. You've heard that over and over again that the polls show that.

But what I just want to say, you know, about Mitt Romney, ten years ago, you know, give or take, he was running against Barack Obama, we hated this guy. We thought this guy was terrible. We thought he was a blow-dried rich dude, out of touch, going to roll back everything we're trying to do. We fought like dogs to stop him from winning. And ten years later, please don't go, man. We need you to stick around, please.

It gives you a sense of how much the Republican Party has changed, I would say deteriorated. And also, it gives you a sense that, you know, if you stick around long enough, people start to recognize, you know, you can have a different politics of the head but the same politics of the heart. This guy cares about America. He cares about the principles, the values. He was a worthy opponent of President Obama. And I can't believe ten years later, I'm on CNN begging the guy not to go. But that just shows you how much things have changed.

BLITZER: Yes, I spent a lot of time covering his run for the presidency in 2012. And it was impressive at the time we watched it and it's been impressive his career in the Senate since then.

Jeff, let me get to the topic of President Biden's re-election campaign.


As all of us know by now, the Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, has a new piece entitled, there you see it, President Biden should not run again in 2024. He writes in part this, if he and Harris campaign together in 2024, I think Biden risks undoing his greatest achievement, which was stopping Trump. What do you see os the significance of this important column?

ZELENY: Well, for this significant for this reason, because President Biden respects David Ignatius. He has heard this for many people, of course, the same argument. But this is different, because it came from a place of admiration.

In his column, he was writing about what a consequential president he believes President Biden has been, but raises the question that only President Biden can decide in his own mind. And he wanted to inject this into the bloodstream to have this conversation.

Most Democrats are not having this conversation should President Biden be running again. So, it's significant because of the byline, because of the well-respected nature of David Ignatius. The president respects him and many people in the West Wing do as well. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, absolutely true, a highly respected journalist. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, the capture of a killer after two weeks on the run, how police dogs, heat-seeking equipment and a lightning storm figured in the apprehension of an escape convict.



BLITZER: Tonight, an escaped murderer is back in prison two weeks after his brazen breakout in Pennsylvania. The relentless manhunt finally leading to his location and capture.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Chester County, Pennsylvania, covering it all for us very dramatic developments. Brian, police, I understand, just released new images of the convict now in custody.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. New images coming to us from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, this is the booking photo of Danelo Cavalcante. He is now in a maximum security prison called SCI Phoenix. That is in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. That is where he's going to serve his life sentence for first-degree murder.

Another picture that we have just received, one of the heroes of this takedown, the dog involved, the dog that brought him down, that really encountered him first when they captured him. This is a four-year-old Belgian Malinois. His name is Yoda. He is the one who took part in this capture, who played such a dramatic role in this very compelling and thankfully peaceful capture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The subject is in custody.

TODD (voice over): Escaped Murder Convict Danelo Cavalcante captured after nearly two weeks on the run.

DEB RYAN, CHESTER COUNTY DISTRICT COUNTY: Our nightmare is finally over and the good guys won.

TODD: A burglar alarm overnight led to a heat signal spotted by aerial infrared. This morning, tactical teams converged on a location inside the search zone.

LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred.

That did not stop him from trying to escape. He began to crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him.

TODD: But he did not have an opportunity to shoot. A canine officer released a police dog.

BIVENS: The dog subdued him and team members from both of those teams immediately moved in. He continued to resist, but was forcibly taken into custody.

TODD: Within five minutes, it was over.

DOUG BREWER, WORKS NEAR CAPTURE LOCATION: It was right back in there from --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right behind a wood pile?


TODD: Police say the rifle Cavalcante had with him was within his reach as he was struggling to get free from the dog. Deadly force was not used despite being authorized.

BIVENS: The gun was absolutely a factor in the threat. The dog is very quick, has the ability to disable someone and take them off guard so that they're not able to do something like fire a gun or use a knife or whatever other thing or escape even.

TODD: Authorities say Cavalcante was bleeding from a scalp wound caused by the dog, but it was not significant.

BIVENS: He looked as though he had been put through an awful lot. He looked tired, wet and stressed, which is exactly what we were trying to do all along.

TODD: Police say there were people who wanted to help him but were prevented from doing so, including his sister, who has been referred for deportation proceedings. Cavalcante escaped 13 days ago while serving life in prison without parole for killing his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in 2021. For the family of the victim --

RYAN: They've been barricaded inside their homes, not feeling safe anywhere. So, for them, this is a tremendous relief.

TODD: Same for many residents.

DARIEL VELEZ, LIVES NEAR CAPTURE LOCATION: It's definitely relieving, scary for people around here.

BREWER: It's nice to be able to come back out and make a living.

TODD: Could he have been caught sooner?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They didn't get a lot of lucky breaks, right? He slipped out of their perimeters a couple of times but those sorts of things happened. They really ran this thing from an incredibly well-organized kind of discipline perspective right from the beginning.


TODD (on camera): While authorities say that Danelo Cavalcante's sister and others did intend to help him while he was on the run, the D.A. for Chester County, Deborah Ryan, told us that the sister did not communicate with her brother during the manhunt.

Ryan said the sister was not helpful to investigators. She is about to be deported. Danelo Cavalcante meanwhile has been charged with felony escape for this episode. Wolf?

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

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us are Law Enforcement Analysts John Miller and Charles Ramsey.

And, John, this truly remarkable capture involved canine dogs, we see that new picture, and an aircraft picking up Cavalcante's heat signal. What can we learn from the way this manhunt finally ended?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: That they used every resource from every available source. You had FBI, SWAT teams, you had FBI technical people with their databases who came up from the Philadelphia office.

You had equipment being staged from Washington. You had the United States Marshals and their team and their technical resources and their specialists in the manhunt business. Of course, you had Customs and Border Patrol on the ground with BORTAC, which is a highly specialized SWAT team that they use, including this canine, and using the canine as a less than lethal option to separate the suspect from the gun is probably what allowed them to take him alive.

[18:20:00] But we have to remember that, you know, for Customs and Border Protection, I think they've lost about nine of these canines in the line of duty. It's dangerous work for them. It's dangerous work for the dogs.

And, of course, you had that DEA aircraft. And the key their, Wolf, was they found a heat signal. But when they said, is that a deer, is that a person? What does it look like? They said, we have a signal, and it appears to be an individual who is crawling, and that was 1:00 in the morning. And so that was something that gave them a lot of grist to say, let's surround that thing, wait for daylight, and then see what it is. And it turned out to be their suspect.

BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. Chief Ramsey, why do you think it did take this manhunt -- why do you think it did take as long as it did to capture Cavalcante, where it was about 14 days or so? Were there mistakes that were made?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, I agree with everything that John just said. But as far as the search itself goes, these things are not easy. I mean, at one point in time, they had an eight-square mile area that they had as a perimeter trying to capture this individual. And it was the different terrain, you had deep woods, you had open fields, you had some urban area, I mean, you had a lot of challenges that they had to overcome.

And so I think they did a very, very good job. I mean, they'll go back and they'll take a look at the entire operation. Obviously, they're not happy that he was able to slip through a couple of their perimeters. But the bottom line is they never gave up, they intensified their efforts, and they eventually caught a break and caught this guy, which is ultimately what you want to have happened.

And the last thing I'll say is this. You know, the state police and all the other agencies that helped did a tremendous job, but this guy never should have escaped to begin with. And we can't lose sight of that Chester County jail and the need to take to do a thorough top to bottom assessment, because that's not the first person has gotten out of there and he shouldn't have to be going through all this like they did with Cavalcante. We're just very lucky that he wasn't able to injure anyone else during that 14-day period.

BLITZER: Very lucky, indeed. All right guys, thank you very much.

And for more on this important story, be sure to watch Manhunt, Capturing a Killer. Laura Coates anchors live from Pennsylvania on CNN Tonight at 11:00 P.M. Eastern.

Coming up, Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin meet face to face in Russia as the United States and its allies are monitoring for a potential arms deal between these two rogue nations. I'll discuss this and more with a top White House official, John Kirby from the National Security Council standing by.

Stay with us. You're in the situation.



BLITZER: North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin today as part of his very rare foreign visit, which could have major implications for Ukraine and South Korea.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is covering the story.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Kim Jong-un is given the Red Carpet tour of Russia's successful space program. According to one reporter present, he asked, quote, a lot of very detailed questions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he's happy to share the knowledge that Kim craves, a sharing of information Washington has been warning of.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: The North Korean leader has shown great interest in rocket technology. They are also trying to develop space. We have good competencies. We will show them our new facility, the new Cosmodrome.

HANCOCKS: North Korea's last two attempts to put a spy satellite into space have failed. Putin showed Kim his presidential limousine, manufactured by Russian luxury automaker Arras, reminiscent of former U.S. President Donald Trump showing off the beast to Kim during friendlier times in Singapore.

Kim praised Putin for standing up against hegemonic forces, a thinly veiled swipe at the United States and the west, even appearing to toast Russia's war in Ukraine.

KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER: I firmly believe that the Russian military and people will inherit the shining tradition of victory and demonstrate their dignity and honor on the frontline of military operation.

HANCOCKS: U.S. and South Korean intelligence predict an arms deal including North Korea providing Russia with much-needed ammunition to use in Ukraine. The symmetry in their weaponry means certain ammo could be used immediately by Russia.

Another possibility, the very public meeting, could be sending a message.

PROF. ANDREI LANKOV, KOOKMIN UNIVERSITY: It might be a signal to Seoul. Be careful, it says. If you, South Koreans, start shipping ammunition to Ukraine, Russia will probably do technology transfer to North Korea. The same message is also going to Washington.


HANCOCKS (on camera): Now, as expected, there was no press conference, no document signed, and as yet, no evidence for the West to know what was decided between these two leaders.

But there is a general assumption, Wolf, that anything, that these two isolated sanctions states agree among themselves is not likely to be good for the United States or for its allies here in the region. Wolf?

BLITZER: That's a good assumption, indeed. Paula Hancock's reporting for us, thank you.

For more on this important story, I'm joined now by CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance, who's live from Moscow.

Matthew, what more, first of all, could you tell us about what Vladimir Putin wants from this meeting?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think as that report just mentioned, I mean, Vladimir Putin clearly is feeling a lot of pressure from that ongoing conflict in Ukraine. It's become a war of attrition, which is likely to be decided by the side that can sustain these high levels of artillery barrages and missile strikes against the other. It's depleted ammunition stocks and weapons stocks on both sides.

So, if Vladimir Putin can secure an arms deal with North Korea, which is believed to have vast stockpiles of Soviet era weaponry, that would be a major boost for his military campaign in Ukraine and also a major blow for Ukraine and its Western allies.

But I think as Paula was saying, it also is the Kremlin sending a message that the relationship between Russia and North Korea could get a lot closer if Putin chooses to go down that path of an arms deal and closer economic and political ties with Pyongyang. He hasn't done it yet, but he could do it. And that could problematize not just Ukraine, but also the security situation in Asia as well.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you very much.

For more on this and other major stories, I'm joined now by the National Security Council's coordinator for strategic communications, retired Admiral John Kirby. John, thanks very much for joining us.

We're waiting to see the exact outcomes of this meeting. But how likely is it that Putin will secure North Korean weapons and production capacity for his war in Ukraine?

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: But we just don't know. Like you said, we're going to be watching to see how these two leaders come out of this meeting and what they decide to agree on. We've been long concerned about a potential arms deal between North Korea and Russia. That's why a few weeks ago we sanctioned three entities that we know were involved with trying to broker this deal.

But, again, it remains to be seen what each side intends to get out of this. We obviously don't want to see Russia get anything that would help them kill more Ukrainians. And we know that at the very least, Mr. Putin is interested in artillery shells from North Korea. We'll see what else they try to broker for.

BLITZER: You've said, John, that North Korea would face consequences if it were to sell more arms to Russia. But as you also said, it's already under a very strict sanctions regime to begin with. How much more leverage does the U.S. really have here?

KIRBY: Well, we'll certainly look at options going forward. We could more aggressively implement the sanctions that are in place. We could also look at additional sanctions, either unilaterally from the United States or multilaterally.

It's interesting, Wolf, that if this deal actually goes through, it would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that Russia themselves signed up to, and so did China. So, we'll work inside the U.N. You know, we got the General Assembly next week. We'll work inside the U.N. to see what other options we might have available to us.

And then the last thing is we're going to continue to call it like we see it. We've been downgrading classified information and making it public about this particular deal for weeks now. And we're going to keep at it. We're going to keep monitoring it. And we won't be bashful about laying it out there for the public to see what these two countries are trying to do.

BLITZER: At the same time, John, how concerned is the U.S. that Putin could help North Korea develop its spy satellite program? And what repercussions would Putin face for taking that step?

KIRBY: Again, just like we don't want to see Russia gain any military capabilities that would help it kill innocent Ukrainians, we don't want to see North Korea's program in any way, shape, or form improve or get capabilities that will further destabilize the Korean Peninsula.

So, again, we're going to watch and see what these two countries, what kind of trade space they have and what they agree to do and we'll see and we'll react accordingly. But one thing is for sure -- well, two things are for sure. We're going to keep supporting Ukraine on the battlefield and we're going to make sure that we can continue to meet all our treaty commitments to South Korea and to Japan to make sure that we continue to look after the security of the Korean Peninsula.

The president has already boosted our presence in the Indo-Pacific, specifically in and around the peninsula. And we won't hesitate to take additional actions if we feel we need to.

BLITZER: Ukraine used British Storm Shadow cruise missiles to launch a major attack on Russian ships in Crimea. Is the U.S. any closer to sending its long-range missiles to Ukraine, the ATACMS?

KIRBY: We're still in active discussions here about these ATACMS, these longer-range cruise missiles. No decision has been made yet. As the president has said many times, it's not off the table and we continue to still debate and discuss that.

BLITZER: On the tentative deal to free Americans from Iran, you insist the Iranian regime won't touch the $6 billion of Iranian funds being unfrozen. But isn't it true that this frees Tehran up to spend more on other nefarious goals, like supporting terrorism and boosting its nuclear program?

KIRBY: Well, to the degree that they continue destabilizing activities and it's -- you know, I can't predict what they'll do going forward here, but we already have pressure in place on Iran, both through sanctions and through our military presence in the Gulf region.


We won't hesitate to take additional actions as we see further destabilizing activity by Iran. But what's important to remember, there's a lot of checks and balances on this money. The Mullahs won't get their hands on it. It'll go directly to the Iranian people for things like food and water and medicine, medical supplies. That's the goal here. The Iranian people will not be punished by this. In fact, they'll be aided by this.

BLITZER: All right, retired Admiral John Kirby, thanks as usual for joining us.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: And just ahead, a new ruling in the Georgia election subversion case as a critical question hangs over the prosecution of Donald Trump. Will he be tried with his 18 co-defendants?



BLITZER: Tonight, a new ruling and legal maneuverings in the Georgia election subversion case against Donald Trump and his 18 co- defendants.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here with me. She's following all of these developments. Walk us through these new developments, Paula, in the Georgia case.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the biggest question right now is what the judge is going to do with the district attorney's desire to try all 19 defendants at once. We know two of them are going to go to trial on October 23rd, but what about the other 17.

And based on comments the judge made last week, it appears that he is poised to divide this trial up into subgroups. But the big question is, well, who's going to be in those groups. How do you divide this up?

It's clear that he has some concerns about doing a trial at this point for people who have appealed to move their case to federal court. We know Mark Meadows and at least four other people have done that. Meadows lost, but he's going to appeal that. We expect the other people, if they lose, they're going to appeal this too. The judge just has said, look, we can't have a situation where we start a trial, we select a jury, and then in the middle of the trial, a federal court comes down and says, actually, this is going to be a federal case. So, it appears that that group of people likely won't go to trial on October 23rd.

Former President Trump has said he too wants to try to move his case to federal court but he hasn't formally done that. And that's the big question right now. When will the former president be tried? Which subgroup will he be in, because these trials are expected to take four months? So, if you have one that starts in October, goes for four months, it's really hard to find any space on the calendar before the election for a four-month trial. We know he has his two federal cases and that New York case.

But tomorrow, the judge in this case, Judge McAfee, he's going to hold another televised hearing dealing with some narrow issues. But we're going to be watching very closely to see if he gives any hints that these larger questions that have a significance not only for these defendants but possibly for the country as we want to know if this trial for the former president will go before or after the election.

BLITZER: And I understand the judge in the classified documents case against Trump has imposed some new restrictions on Trump. Explain.

REID: That's right. So, this case, allegations of mishandling classified documents, but as part of the discovery process, the exchange of evidence with prosecutors and defense attorneys are dealing with classified documents.

And the prosecutors really wanted the former president to be restricted in terms of what he can see, where he can see it, his lawyers have to be present. And the judge has imposed restrictions very similar to what the prosecutors were seeking.

Now, it's unclear if he's going to have a SCIF at Mar-a-Lago or if he'll have to go somewhere else, but the judge also warned once again about any mishandling of sensitive government information and there will be repercussions.

Now, interestingly, his co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, they are going to have serious restrictions on what they can see. And it's unlikely they'll be able to view any of these classified documents without a specific court order.

BLITZER: Yes, they don't have security clearances.

REID: Exactly, and the former president, yes.

BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you very, very much coming up.

I'll speak with CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour on the major news of the day and honor her distinguished reporting career as she marks a milestone right here at CNN.


BLITZER: Officials in Washington, Kyiv and Seoul are monitoring the much-anticipated bilateral meeting between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin in Russia. The outcome of these talks could have major repercussions on all three countries.

And I am joined now by CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour who is now celebrating 40 years -- that's right, 40 years here at CNN.

Christiane, we've got lots to discuss. But first, let's talk about some of the major news unfolding right now. What could today's meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un mean for the war in Ukraine?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Okay. So this has been obviously very, very closely watched and it's the first time this reclusive dictator from the Hermit Kingdom has come out in four years, meeting with Putin, two real pariah leaders under sanctions, and I say all of this because in their final speeches, Putin basically said that there are limits to what we can do militarily together -- clearly indicating about sanctions, about other such things.

But nonetheless, he went on to say we're talking about bilateral issues and deals that we might be able to do, but that led me to believe that there isn't any kind of massive, military exchange of either ammunition or weapons systems that could be used on the Ukrainian battlefield, and furthermore, even if there was, the former British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace who just stepped down and knows all about the Ukrainian battlefield said even if it was, Kim Jong Un has the best 1960s style old military systems and yes, he has artillery shells that are stored up, but that's about it.

We know all sides are suffering from a lack of artillery or rather ammunition and that may help Putin if it actually gets delivered and it is very unclear whether it will.

BLITZER: Christiane, I know you've been at the forefront in reporting another major story, the Biden administration's efforts to bring five wrongfully detained Americans home from Iran. What do you make of the White House defending its proposed release of some $6 billion of Iranian funds as part of the deal?

AMANPOUR: Wolf, this is incredibly important to understand clearly that almost every administration has gone into this kind of deal when they're trying to get their citizens back from Iran, whether it was the Trump administration, the Biden administration and before that. It's been going on for the past 40 years of the Islamic Revolution.

It is also important for people to understand that this money is not American money. It is not taxpayers' money, and it will still be governed by the strict rules of the sanction regime against Iran.


That means this money will go to an escrow sort of account, a special account administered by Qatar and by the U.S. Treasury who will have eyes on, and the funds are only allowed to go to Iran for humanitarian need such as food and medicine and the like.

And, remember, the population is suffering desperately there because of the sanctions, because of Iran's mismanagement of its economy, and it's really, really hard for people. And just to remind everybody, this money is money that Iran was owned from South Korea, not even from the United States. They are not U.S. dollars. It's American money that the U.S. stopped from being transferred by South Korea over the sanctions regime.

And now, you know, they have even somebody who I know, Siamak Namazi, who I interviewed from Evin prison in March, desperate, desperate to come home, only having been arrested and kept for the distinct reason that he was American, along with the other four. So, these are wrongfully detained and they should be coming home.

BLITZER: Christiane, while I have you, I, of course, want to congratulate you on this incredible milestone, 40 years at CNN. During that time, you've inspired us all with your amazing reporting from warzones in Kuwait and Iraq, Bosnia and elsewhere. And I'm so grateful to have worked so closely with you over these decades.

You always say to be truthful, not neutral, in journalism. How have you seen that idea transform over these years?

AMANPOUR: I learned it. And, Wolf, thank you so much and we've worked side by side on so many of these big stories, starting with the first Gulf War with you in Washington and me in the field and to other big stories. I would say that I learned this in Bosnia, when a very similar situation to what's happening in Ukraine right now, Bosnia invaded by the Serbs, was the first war in Europe since World War II.

It challenged our perception of never again because genocide was committed, crimes against humanity, rape as a weapon of war, all the same playbook that Russia is employing in Ukraine today. And when I was criticized by some for pointing that out, the truth of what the victims were experiencing, some people started to say I'd lost my objectivity. And that made me really think about what that meant.

And I understand now, and I did then and I've used it ever since, that objectivity means giving all sides a hearing, investigating all sides obviously, but not drawing false, factual or moral equivalence when there is no equivalence, especially in these kinds of terrible violations of international law and humanitarian law. So I learned that early, and I've been applying that ever since.

And honestly, it comes to play in politics. It comes to play in the climate debate. For decades, we journalists have been trying to play both-side-erism in the climate debate. And look where we are now, there was never any both-siderism, there was never any equality of facts in this debate.

And so this mistaken notion of trying to find an equivalence when often there is none leads us not towards the truth but towards the opposite of the truth. So that's been my attempt to tell the stories as truthfully as I possibly can.

BLITZER: We're also grateful to you, Christiane, for all your amazing reporting over all of these years. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all the great work you do. We are truly, truly appreciative.

AMANPOUR: And you too, Wolf. You've been there nearly as long.

BLITZER: I've been here only 33 years. You've been there 40. I'm almost a newcomer.

AMANPOUR: You're a kid.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, you're great, thank you.

And just ahead, the death toll from the flooding in Libya keeps growing and growing, and thousands of people are still missing.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The death toll from flooding in Libya is rising. As many as 6,000 people were killed, with tens of thousands more missing or displaced.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is covering the story for us. Some images in his report may be disturbing.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bodies are everywhere, dozens, dozens of the dead covered in blankets awaiting identification and burial.

The dead number in the thousands, but so far, no one really knows how many were taken by storm Daniel. Survivors are finding more and more bodies.

Rescue workers and volunteers have retrieved the body of a boy wrapped in a blanket and prepared to put him in a body bag. When his father arrives, overcome with emotion.

Doctors fear so many dead left in the open could lead to an outbreak of disease.

We aren't able to identify all the bodies and bury them, says this woman, identified as Dr. Aisha. We want to provide a humane place, freezers, where loved ones can then identify them.

Access to Derna remains difficult. The flood destroyed many of the roads and bridges leading to the city. This port in eastern Libya has been transformed into a wasteland of mud, rubble, and ruin. The raging waters that tore through the city spared no one and nothing. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (on camera): As far as the death toll goes from this catastrophe, we're hearing a lot of numbers, 5,300, 6,700. The fact of the matter is all of these numbers are preliminary because there are thousands of people unaccounted for. There's no debate about this is a disaster that Libya simply was not prepared for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman reporting. Thank you, Ben, for that report.

And for information about how you, our viewers, can help the victims, go to

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.