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Hunter Biden Indicted On Three Gun Charges; Judge Says, Trump, 16 Other Georgia Co-Defendants Won't Face October Trial; Potential Autoworkers Strike Now Just Hours Away; Kim Jong Un's Russia Trip Enters Second Day; Doctors Without Borders: At Least 5,000 Killed In Libya Floods. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, the U.S. Justice Department indicts Hunter Biden on three felony gun charges. The president's son now facing potential prison time for allegedly buying a firearm while addicted to cocaine and lying about his drug use.

Also tonight, new developments out of Fulton County, Georgia, where a judge rejected the district attorney's plan to try Donald Trump and all of his co-defendants together next month. What it means for the case against the former president and the timing of this election subversion trial.

And we're now just six hours away from a potential auto worker strike that could have devastating economic consequences here in the United States. Is there still time for the union and the automakers to reach a deal?

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

Let's get straight to the breaking news in the Hunter Biden case, three federal charges against the president's son unveiled today by the special counsel. The indictment stems from a firearms purchase he made in 2018 while struggling with a drug addiction.

CNN's Kara Scannell is on the story for us. Kara, what can you tell us about these criminal charges?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this indictment alleges that Hunter Biden had violated three federal laws relating to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, one count of him falsifying or making a false statement on an ATF form that he was required to fill out to purchase this gun.

And on that form, he said that he was not using or addicted to illegal drugs at the time. Hunter Biden has been public in a memoir that he wrote about his drug use and his addiction to crack cocaine.

A second charge of repeating that false statement on a form that was given to the gun dealer and then also another charge, a felony charge of possessing a gun while he was using or addicted to cocaine. So, three serious criminal charges.

And this is a real reversal from what he initially had struck a deal to avoid any prosecution on the gun charge if he had met certain conditions for a period of 24 months. That deal was widely criticized by Republicans and under scrutiny from a federal judge, it had fallen apart.

Then the special counsel, now Special Counsel David Weiss, he was the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney overseeing this five-year investigation, he asked to be elevated to special counsel status. That brings us to where we are today with this new indictment.

Now, Hunter Biden's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has slammed the indictment and the political atmosphere around it. Here's what he said in his statement. The evidence in this matter has not changed, but the law has and so has MAGA Republicans' improper and partisan interference in this process.

Hunter Biden possessing an unloaded gun for 11 days was not a threat to public safety, but a prosecutor, with all the power imaginable, bending to political pressure, presents a grave threat to our system of justice.

Now, Lowell is saying that they are going to fight these charges. He's saying that he believes the deal that they struck, that non- prosecution deal, is still valid, and also saying that the gun charges today are unconstitutional because of important Supreme Court rulings and subsequent rulings by federal appeals courts.

Now, these are serious federal charges, and if convicted, Hunter Biden could face prison time. The statute of the maximum penalty on one of the charges alone is the maximum of ten years in prison, although that is at the high end. That's not something that a first-time offender would likely face, but certainly the possibility of Hunter Biden going on trial next year when his father is seeking re-election. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kara Scannell reporting for us, thank you.

Let's go over to the White House right now where CNN's Kayla Tausche is standing by. She has new details as well. Kayla, how does the White House navigate this?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one day at a time and from a relatively safe distance, at least publicly. The White House is deferring to the Department of Justice, running the investigation and also deferring questions to Hunter Biden's personal legal team, which you just heard, issued that blistering statement, slamming the special counsel, whom the White House had previously said was running an independent investigation.

Now, behind the scenes, Biden has resisted advice to keep more distance between himself and his son because of his ongoing legal troubles. Biden and his son speak regularly. They remain incredibly close. And Hunter Biden, the younger Biden, attends many White House events with the president in a public capacity. Biden confidants have told me that no one in the White House will cross the president on this issue, though they have given him this advice in the past.

Now, the president has to grapple with not only an ongoing impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill by Republicans who are evaluating, investigating whether the president had any role in his son's business dealings but also that prospect of a criminal trial for not only his son but also the former president coinciding with the 2024 election.


Today, it was business as usual for Biden, who was giving a speech in Maryland half an hour talking about his economic programs. But he did allude to some of those clouds forming overhead toward the end of his remarks where he said this. He said, there's a lot more we could talk about. I wish I had a chance to take all your questions, but I'm going to get in real trouble if I do that. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Kayla, thank you, Kayla Tausche at the White House.

I want to bring in our legal and political experts for more analysis right now. Andrew McCabe, let me start with you. Hunter Biden faces these three felony firearm counts. Are these charges, based on everything you know, warranted and appropriate?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I would say they're appropriate in that these are simple charges. And based on the information that's already in the public record, it appears there's a factual basis for them. So, it doesn't appear that the that the grand jury didn't have a reason to vote for this indictment.

However, the question is why, when we look at the fact that charges are very, very rarely ever brought against defendants on circumstances like this, particularly when the gun that is allegedly unlawfully possessed wasn't involved in another crime.

By The Washington Post report today, they did an analysis of all federal firearms charges for unlawful possession from the period of October 22nd -- October of 2022 to March of '23, charges under circumstances like these comprise only 3 percent, 3 percent of all unlawful possession charges.

So, with the rarity of this circumstantial basis for these charges, it raises some very serious questions about why they're being brought in this case.

BLITZER: Norm Eisen is with us as well. Hunter's attorneys, as you know, Norm, they say these charges are barred by the defunct plea agreement they negotiated with the prosecutors. What do you make of that argument?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a serious argument, Wolf, and it's one of a number of legal hurdles that the prosecution is going to have to overcome. Both the prosecution and Hunter Biden agreed to a diversion agreement as part of that larger plea deal that fell apart under questioning by the judge. Hunter's lawyers say that's still enforceable and he's been performing under the agreement. They've told the court that they are going to move to enforce that. So, you can expect that they'll file motion papers to say, hey, we have a contract, you're breaking it, and that is a significant hurdle that prosecutors are going to have to overcome.

BLITZER: Let's bring Jamie Gangel into this conversation. Jamie, this indictment, as you well know, comes as the House Republicans are beginning an impeachment inquiry into President Biden's involvement with his son's business dealings. How do you see the political fallout of this on the president?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are two completely separate issues, but, Wolf, fair or unfair, Hunter Biden's problems are his father's problems, because in politics, there is reality and there's perception.

We just had a recent CNN poll where 61 percent said they thought that President Biden had at least some involvement in Hunter Biden's business dealings. Let me just say for the record, there is no evidence of that. And these gun charges are completely different from that.

So, the problem is that even though none of this has anything to do with Joe Biden that we know, he is running for re-election and this is going to unfold during the campaign.

BLITZER: And let me get Gloria into this as well. Gloria Borger is with us. Trump and Republicans, Gloria, have repeatedly complained about what they call the weaponization of the U.S Justice Department under President Biden, yet the Department of Justice is now criminally prosecuting his own son. What do you make of that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was talking to a White House source today, who basically made that same argument about the DOJ in terms of Hunter Biden, saying that if Hunter Biden had a different name, he would not have been indicted, that this is completely political. And so, if you want to turn the tables here, it's the Democrats, not publicly, and the White House not publicly, but believing privately that this is a political move. And so now they're feeling it.

And the Republicans are still talking about weaponization because they believe that the Justice Department did this indictment to avoid the other things that are coming down the pike, which they believe are more serious. That is the Burisma problems, for example, the China problems, for example, the foreign lobbying.


So, you know, both sides are now kind of thinking, okay, this is political.

BLITZER: You know, Norm, we did some checking today. We discovered that the gun possession law Hunter Biden is accused of breaking was declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court just last month. That ruling only covered those three states. But how could it potentially impact this case?

EISEN: Well, it is another one of those legal challenges that we're talking about for the case that prosecutors will have to jump, Wolf, that led them not to charge the case in the first place, to have a diversion agreement, a side deal setting these charges aside.

The Supreme Court has said that you have to read the Second Amendment as it was understood at the time the Constitution was first adopted. And there were no limitations at that time on gun possession in connection with drug or other substance abuse.

So, we've had not only the Supreme Court speak, we just had this identical law struck down by another court of appeals, there's also a bad decision in the Third Circuit, the court of appeals that covers Delaware, while not directly on point, it signals that they're dubious. So, that's another problem prosecutors have.

It's hard to understand how in a normal circumstance prosecutors would have brought a case with this many challenges.

BLITZER: Andrew, how do you see it?

MCCABE: I think that's absolutely right. I think there are legitimate questions about why the case was brought under these circumstances, and now prosecutors are facing a very uncomfortable path forward. We'll see how it plays out in the courts. But I think that all signs are that Hunter Biden will defend himself vigorously and that might just work out for him here.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, the latest developments in Donald Trump's legal troubles, what a judge's ruling today means for the timing of his Georgia elections subversion case.

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



BLITZER: A Fulton County Judge in Georgia says prosecutors will not, I repeat, not be able to try Donald Trump and his Georgia co-defendants together next month.

I want to bring in our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid She's with me here in The Situation Room. Paula, tell us about the judge's decision today and the arguments about whether the defense can actually interview what members of the grand jury?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with the schedule here. The judge has decided that, yes, on October 23rd, two of the co-defendants, Kenneth Cheseboro and Sidney Powell, they will go to trial. But the other 17 defendants, including former President Trump, their trial will be pushed back, and they'll talk about scheduling at the end of the year.

But, Wolf, if the reason this is significant really for the country is that if you look at the calendar for next year, it is impossible to find a block where you could place a four-month-long trial among the former president's other legal obligations, his two other potential federal trials, and at least one other criminal state trial and a civil trial.

So, it appears this decision means it is highly unlikely that former President Trump will face criminal trial in Fulton County before the 2024 election. I mean, that's really the big headline out of today and it's unclear when other people may be tried, but it appears he wants to keep the other 17 together as a group.

Now, as you also mentioned, defense attorneys expressed an interest today in talking to members of the special grand jury. And the judge said, okay, I'm open to that but this has to be something that is voluntary and he wants defense attorneys to submit questions so he can kind of vet what it is they're asking about.

I say they're interested in exactly what happened during that process. They want to talk about witnesses, other things that happened. And prosecutors had expressed some reservations because of what this special grand jury has already been through.

We know many of their identities or what purports to be their identities have been posted online, they've been doxxed, they faced threats, and prosecutors just really don't want them to have to go through anything else.

So, to really compromise here, the judge says, look, you can ask them questions, defense attorneys, submit them to me, but this has to be voluntary. They have to be willing to talk to the defense attorneys.

BLITZER: Major points, thanks very much. We always learn something from you, Paula. I appreciate it very much.

Let's dive deeper right now with CNN Legal Analyst Michael Moore. He's is a former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Michael, thanks so much for joining us.

This decision not only gives Trump more time but also a full preview potentially of the prosecution's case against Cheseboro and Powell. How big of a win is all of this for the former president?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, Wolf, I'm glad to be with you and Paula tonight. It's a big win, but not unexpected. I think when we listened last week to the hearing and to the questions that the judge posed and to the concerns, frankly, that he raised about scheduling and just the logistics of trying to do this trial, you could see this coming. And I do think the preview will be important for the former president or other members of the defense team as they think about their case.

It still remains to be seen if there's a possibility that some of these defendants might be broken off into smaller groups and tried separately. But as it stands right now, I think Paula is right, that the likelihood that the case against the former president is tried before the election, those chances grew pretty damn today.

BLITZER: So, when do you see this later trial potentially happening?

MOORE: I think it's probably likely to be scheduled sometime in 2025. There are so many motions that will need to be heard. And, typically, federal cases will take precedence over state cases. So, lawyers, for instance, if you're called if you're called to be in trial both in a federal courtroom and a state courtroom, typically, you're going to find yourself in the federal courtroom and the state judge will have to reschedule your appearance.


And so I think that's what you'll see here.

The case is also complicated just by the length. You heard the state talk about the need to put forth 150-plus witnesses in this case. And so I think even the trial judge was skeptical that the case could be tried in four months and mentioned that it could, in fact, go eight months.

And if that's the case, and we'll know a little bit after we watch the Chesebro-Powell excursion in October, once we see that, we may have a better feeling about the actuality of how long the case will take. But there's just not a place on the calendar next year for this case to fit, even though it's been touted as maybe the more detailed case right now. But I think you'll see Jack Smith's case take priority over this one.

BLITZER: Interesting. How unusual, Michael, is this request from the defense to actually speak to members of the grand jury? How do you see the judge ultimately ruling on this?

MOORE: Well, it's unique. And it's unique because they'll speak to members of the special grand jury. They heard this case for about eight months, as they made recommendations to the district attorney about who should be prosecuted.

We've seen that report come out. What's unique is not just the request but the fact that we don't use special grand juries in Georgia hardly at all. I mean, it is they rarity to have a special grand jury in session and to have the ability to go and to question them, to see a transcript of those proceedings, criminal defendants just don't get that opportunity.

And so here, this is important to the defense and we'll see what they glean. I think the judge is probably handling right.

And I will say, as far I've been impressed with his rulings and with the way he moves the case quickly, he's decisive in what he does, but it tells me that this case will continue moving on some pace. But we'll see how the questioning of the special grand jurors go. There's nothing new from the special grand jury being able to talk. You remember the foreperson that special grand jury made sort of a number of media appearances right after that.

So, I expect they'll find, as they knock on these doors, some open doors of willingness to at least relay some of the information that went on in the grand jury. They will not be allowed to speak on deliberations and such as that, and, obviously, that deals more, you know, in a general sense with a regular criminal grand jury. But here, special grand jury has been clear that they're willing to talk about the case.

BLITZER: Michael Moore, thank you very much.

Coming up, the latest on negotiations to avert a U.S. auto worker strike with a midnight deadline now just a few hours away.

Plus, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unleashes a tirade against Republican hardliners, daring them to hold a vote on ousting him.



BLITZER: The midnight deadline to avert a potentially devastating auto worker strike is closing in, closing in fast. The White House confirmed President Biden spoke with leaders for both sides today as a deal still appears to be far from reach with, what, less than six hours to go.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is tracking the last minute negotiations in Detroit.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just a few hours left to avoid a historic strike against the big three automakers. If there is no agreement by midnight, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis could see the first strike action from some of the 145,000 members of the United Auto Workers Union, who are demanding better contracts.

SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS: If the companies give us an insulting offer, if they keep playing games, if they refuse to bargain in good faith, then we have the power to keep escalating and keep taking plants out.

YURKEVICH: UAW President Shawn Fain laid out a targeted strike approach the union plans on using if no deal is reached, starting with striking at a few locations at first and then reacting to how negotiations go from there.

DAVE WILLIS SR., UAW LOCAL 1166 PRESIDENT: You have to stand together and back to back and arm to arm and show these people we're here.

YURKEVICH: Negotiations, which began at the automakers' facilities but have now moved to UAW headquarters in Detroit, have grown increasingly heated as the sides get closer to the deadline. JIM FARLEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Right now, it looks like they're spending more time on the targeted strike than -- a historic strike of all three companies rather than a historic deal.

FAIN: They want to scare the American people into thinking the auto workers are the problem. Corporate greed is the problem.

YURKEVICH: All three companies have made multiple offers, but none so far meeting the union's demands, which include a 40 percent wage increase over four years, restoring traditional pension plans, restoring cost of living increases and job protections during the shift to electric vehicles.

FAIN: We're still very far apart on our key priorities.

YURKEVICH: The impact of a strike could be huge. The last strike in 2019 against General Motors cost the company $3.6 billion over six weeks. A strike against all three could mean a $5 billion hit to the economy in just ten days.

ROBERT TAYLOR, AUTOWORKER: It's going to affect a lot of businesses and it's going to affect the down-trickle to a lot of smaller companies.

YURKEVICH: Those disruptions are exactly what union members are hoping will get them the deal they want.

KYM DIESELBERG, AUTOWORKER: We have been taken advantage of it too long and it's about time.


We're not just fighting for unions, we're fighting for everybody because corporate greed has gotten completely out of control.


YURKEVICH (on camera): And at this hour, Wolf, General Motors, whose headquarters is just behind me, submitted a new economic proposal this morning, offering 20 percent in wage increases over the next four years, matching Ford's offer. Stellantis' last public offer was 17.5 percent in wage increases over the next four years.

And people may be watching, wondering how does this affect me, the everyday consumer? Well, we know from one analyst that the three automakers have inventory to get folks through the end of September. However, if this strike goes on into October, that is where consumers may be seeing fewer of the big three automakers cars on the lots.

And, Wolf, tonight at 10:00 P.M., we will learn from UAW President Shawn Fain exactly where he plans to have these targeted strikes. We have 5.5 hours to go to the deadline. It is possible there could be an agreement, but the clock, Wolf, it is ticking.

BLITZER: It certainly is, and the stakes are really enormous. Vanessa Yurkevich in Detroit, thank you. Up on Capitol Hill here in Washington, Kevin McCarthy is daring Republican hardliners to follow through on threats to oust him from the speakership.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is following a supporting story for us. Melanie, what are McCarthy and other House Republicans saying tonight?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, it has been quite contentious, Wolf. And the frustrations really boil down to deep divisions over spending and how to keep the government open.

Conservatives on the right, they want more spending cuts, they want more border security provisions, and they do not want Kevin McCarthy to rely on Democrats to fund the government. And some of them are even warning that they would make a motion to force a vote on removing Kevin McCarthy as speaker if he did go down that route.

But Kevin McCarthy is making clear he is not afraid of those threats. In fact, I am told that during a closed or conference meeting this morning, he said, bring the effing motion, essentially daring his critics to do it.

But let's take a listen to a little bit more of what everyone had to say today.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Threats don't matter and sometimes people do those things because of personal things. That's all fine.

You know what, if it takes a fight, I'll have a fight.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm concerned for the speaker that he seems to be a little rattled and unhinged in a time when we need focus and strong effort. Whether or not McCarthy faces a motion to vacate is within his own hands.


ZANONA: So, a risky gamble right there for the speaker and just a remarkable level of turmoil inside the House GOP at a crucial moment of governing. They are just weeks away from a potential government shutdown. There is still no clear solution in sight, though they are still trying to find consensus on a Republican-wide plan with a short- term funding bill.

But, ultimately, Wolf, it may come down to Kevin McCarthy having to choose between keeping the government open or keeping his gavel.

BLITZER: Yes, the stakes here are enormous as well. Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Joining us now with some analysis, the former communications director for Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi, for that matter, Ashley Etienne, and CNN Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings. Scott, McCarthy is daring these hardliners, Republican hardliners, to try and oust him, think he can ride it out as he did back in January. How much danger do you think the speaker is in?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's in some danger, but I admire the pluck in him standing up to these bullies, because he just can't run the house under constant threat of bullies who really have no interest in getting an outcome at all. That's really the biggest danger here, is to the whole Republican Party that it winds up getting blamed for a government shutdown, which is typically what happens when we have these government shutdowns.

So, I like Kevin McCarthy standing up to these folks. He's obviously in some amount of danger, but he's got his eye on the correct ball here, which is pass the funding bills and keep the government open, try to get some Republican concessions, but don't plunge the party into a brand of chaos at a time when you've got Joe Biden on the ropes.

BLITZER: And let me bring Ashley back into this conversation. Ashley, you actually ran the war room for House Democrats during the first Trump impeachment. The roles right now are reversed. How should Democrats combat this?

ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR V.P. HARRIS AND SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I mean, here's the reality, is then we actually had the evidence. You recall President Trump gave us the recording of his call with Zelenskyy asking for dirt on Joe Biden.

And at the time, I thought, wow, how brazen is this? But it became very clear to me why. It's because there's a crisis of leadership in the Republican Party.

Now Wolf, I've never told this story before, but in that impeachment war room on the Senate side, a senior Senator in the Republican Party came over to the war room day two of the trial and said to us, enough is enough, you've proven your case, but we're not going to do anything about it.

And for me, this reminds me, or it sort of gets to what Senator Romney said yesterday, that there's this growing faction within the Republican Party that doesn't believe in the Constitution.


There is a crisis of leadership here. And for me, it feels like they're allowing the president of the former president of the United States to test this theory that he can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, except for this time, on the other end of the gun is American democracy and the Republicans continue to pull the trigger.

BLITZER: As you know, Scott, former President Trump just sat down for an interview with Megyn Kelly during which he seemed to suggest the Biden impeachment inquiry is political payback. Listen and watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think had they not done it to me, then I'm very popular in the region. They like me and I like them, the Republican Party. Perhaps you wouldn't have it being done to them. And this is going to happen with indictments too.


BLITZER: So, what do you make of this?

JENNINGS: Well, I think retribution is not the correct reason to pursue impeachment. I think evidence is the correct reason to pursue impeachment, and we're not having an impeachment yet, we're just having an inquiry and they are trying to pull together what they think is going to be a trail of evidence that leads from Hunter Biden's dealings to Joe Biden.

That's the correct reason to go down this road. I'm not yet convinced they're actually going to impeach the president. I don't know if they'll ever pull together enough votes, but I don't think an investigation or an inquiry is unwarranted.

But if you're going to tell the American people that, hey, the only reason we're doing this is for political revenge purposes, then you're destined to come up on the losing end of public opinion on this thing. And, traditionally, you want to try to come up on the right side of public opinion when you take such a major step. So, I don't think it's helpful to the Republican cause for it to be said that this is nothing more than political revenge as opposed to something that's evidence- based, which it has to be.

BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts, Ashley, on another political development. The former speaker, Nancy Pelosi, joined our Anderson Cooper last night, where she appeared to give a not so ringing endorsement of your former boss of the vice president, Kamala Harris. Watch this.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Kamala Harris the best running mate for this president?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He thinks so, and that's what matters.

COOPER: Do you think she is the best running mate, though?

PELOSI: She's the vice president of the United States. So, people say to me, well, why isn't she doing this or that? I said, because she's the vice president. That's the job description.


BLITZER: What's your reaction, Ashley, to that?

ETIENNE: Well, I mean, I think the part that you neglected to include is her compliments of the vice president, where she says you can't count her out.

The one thing I'm surprised that the speaker didn't get into, which is something she knows all too well, and I know all too well, having worked for the two most powerful women in politics, that women leaders are not given any grace, absolutely none. And they're held to a higher standard than their male colleagues. And then you add race as a factor.

So, this is a conversation we've not had as a nation about how women leaders are treated differently. But here's the reality. I think this situation is overblown. I know very well how much the speaker respects the vice president and respects the president's decision to choose her. This is just another attempt to divide the ticket and it's not going to work, I don't believe.

BLITZER: What do you think, Scott?

JENNINGS: Well, it wasn't just Speaker Pelosi. Earlier today on CNN, Congressman Jamie Raskin gave a similar kind of an answer, refusing to commit to say that Kamala Harris is the correct running mate for Joe Biden.

You had the David Ignatius column this week, who's a well-regarded left-wing columnist for The Washington Post, saying one of the reasons that Joe Biden shouldn't run again is because Kamala Harris is going to be an albatross on that particular ticket.

So, you do have a lot of concern in the Democratic Party. It strikes me she is going to be on Joe Biden's ticket if he goes through with this, but I don't think she's going to be of much help if you look at the polls.

BLITZER: All right. Scott Jennings, Ashley Etienne, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, Kim Jong-un's visit to Russia is now in its second day with questions about Pyongyang's relationship with Beijing looming in the background. Well, a live report from South Korea when we come back.



BLITZER: All right. There's more breaking news we're following. Donald Trump is now speaking out on potentially pardoning himself if he won back the White House. Listen to what the former president said during an interview on NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, if you were reelected, would you pardon yourself?

TRUMP: I could have pardoned myself. Do you know what? I was given an option to pardon myself. I could have pardoned myself when I left. People said, would you like to pardon yourself? I had a couple of attorneys that said, you can do it if you want. I had some people that said it would look bad if you do it, because I think it would look terrible.

I said, here's the story. These people are thugs, horrible people, fascists, Marxists, sick people. They've been after me from the day I came down the escalator with Melania, and I did a great job as president. People are acknowledging, great economy, great jobs, great this, great that, rebuilt the military, space force, everything. I could go on forever.

Let me just tell you. I said, the last thing I'd ever do is give myself a pardon.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now from CNN's Kristen Holmes, who's watching all of this unfold. Kristen, what's your reaction to that response from the former president?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this is really interesting, because he has largely avoided this question.

Now, a couple of things to point out here. He did also say that he was likely to not consider giving himself a pardon, because, as he continues to say, he did nothing wrong, so he wouldn't have to do that. But that information about back in 2020 is something that was reported at the time, but we've never heard from Donald Trump.

And it wasn't just him. It was that him, his friends, his allies, he was considering giving a preemptive pardon to himself and those around him essentially on the grounds that he believed that these political opponents would come after him after he left office.

Now, ultimately, he obviously did not decide to do that. But when we're talking about Donald Trump and pardons in his final days, this was not something that he was stingy with. We know in those final days, the final hours of his presidency, he actually pardoned 74 people and commuted the sentences of roughly 70 others, and that included one of his close friends, Steve Bannon.


He has not been shy in pardoning people who are close to him who were involved in various legal activities. So it's something to watch carefully.

But again, this is something that we've asked him before. We have shouted these questions out for him. He has never acknowledged it or engaged with it before.

So interesting to hear him, one, essentially have to say he's not considering it but again, that's not that prizing when you add the caveat that he always says he did nothing wrong. But also looking back to the final days in 2020 admitting saying he was considering giving himself a preemptive pardon at that time, Wolf. BLITZER: Interesting. Kristen, I want you to stand by.

I want to bring in our political analyst as well.

Gloria, what do you think?

BORGER: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that he could do that now. But don't forget, he says he wouldn't do it but we don't necessarily believe him in that. If he were really in trouble, you know, I'm not so sure what he would try to do.

This is a man who took classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and thought they were his own and said to Kristen Welker that, you know, he can do anything. And so, if he can do anything, and he's in trouble, who knows what he would do? But I'm not -- I'm not a legal person here.

BLITZER: Let's get Norm Eisen. Give us the legal perspective.

BORGER: Can he? Could he?

EISEN: One of the oldest precedents in Anglo American law is that in Dr. Bannon's case. I wrote about -- I wrote about this, an essay with Larry Tribe during the Trump administration when self-pardon was being discussed, and the principle of that case is that no person can be a judge in their own case. It's never been resolved as a legal matter.

BORGER: Right.

EISEN: Nixon's office of legal counsel four days before he resigned, issued an opinion. The lawyers' lawyers within the Department of Justice know Richard Nixon could not pardon himself. So, there is a federal opinion memo. Probably if he tried, it would fail, but nobody really knows.

GANGEL: The other thing to keep in mind is there are some places where even if it was tested and got to the Supreme Court and on a federal case, he can't pardon himself in the Georgia case because that is a state case. And first of all, he has to become president again.

But the other thing is he's talking about pardoning himself before he left office. Let's just remember you cannot pardon yourself, correct, Norm, for things you have not done yet. So things like the classified documents case, you couldn't see down to road into a blanket pardon forever.

EISEN: Certainly, the Supreme Court would not treat the presidency as essentially a blank check to authorize yourself and other people to commit crimes by giving an open pardon. You can do preemptive pardons where before someone is charged and we know people asked for this at the end of the 2022 election interference case. They asked Trump to give them preemptive pardons. He didn't do it.

The -- you're right about the state cases are not being pardonable.

GANGEL: Right. EISEN: However, the president will make an argument. We had some arguments of this kind. For example, when he was subpoenaed by the state of New York by the Manhattan D.A. well, while I'm in office, maybe I can't pardon, but you can't prosecute me. So that would be another place where battles would be joined.

Finally, he wouldn't have to pardon himself because he could just order DOJ to drop the case. So --

BORGER: That's what he didn't say. He didn't say that but he's talked about that publicly.

BLITZER: Let me get Scott Jennings into this, as well.

Scott, you're still with us. How would all of this have played out among Republicans if Trump pardoned himself?

JENNINGS: Oh, gosh. If he had pardoned himself at the time, I don't know. You'll remember in the wake of January 6th, there was sort of chaos in the Republican Party about what to do about Trump but it abated after there was some initial thought they were going to hold him accountable, they ultimately did not.

So, my assumption is that would have ratcheted that up. I mean, I'm glad that he didn't do it, and if he gets elected president, he shouldn't do it. I would just point out, though, that if either Trump or Biden wins, they would be in a political situation where they would never be facing re-election again and as someone pointed out earlier, at that point, you're really not accountable to the voters ever again so what you say today you could go back on tomorrow.

I would also say I think there's a relative question for Biden. Hunter Biden is in trouble. He's indicted today. He may get indicted on other things in the future. I think this was a great question to Donald Trump but I think somebody needs to ask the current president as well about his own son.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens in that front.

Everyone, thank you very much for jumping in on the breaking news and we'll be right back.



BLITZER: As Kim Jong Un wrapped up his second day on his visit to Russia, the two nations appear to be getting closer. The Kremlin announced that Vladimir Putin has accepted the invitation to visit North Korea and that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would be visiting next month.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is covering the story for us. She's in South Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is Kim Jong Un's first known trip outside of North Korea in more than four years. Not to China, the country that has propped his country up for decades but to Russia, historically, North Korea's second closest ally.

PROF. ANDREI LANKOV, KOOKMIN UNIVERSITY: He's basically hedging against possible change in China's position. China might make a deal behind his back with the Americans. China might get into serious economic trouble.

HANCOCKS: Beijing has said the Putin-Kim meeting is a matter for those two countries but in recent years has made a clear move towards Russia as relations with the United States worsen. Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin 40 times in 10 years. That is according to U.S. think tank, CSIS, in bilateral and multilateral settings. The Kremlin says that another meeting is upcoming.

While China is not believed to have provided arms for Russia an unclassified report by U.S. intelligence says that it has given technology that is helping Moscow in its war in Ukraine. Xi's no show at the recent G20 in India also points to his diplomatic priorities.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's actually gone beyond just this meeting. The meeting that China held, of the BRIC nations, bringing in Iran and other countries was an effort to show that China could organize an alternative bloc to the West. And, of course, Russia is a part of that.

HANCOCKS: South Korean intelligence accesses the idea of bilateral military drills between Russia and North Korea was pitched by Russian defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, when he was in Pyongyang in July, interaction Pyongyang is not generally party to but could learn a lot from military cooperation. Experts believe it could include China.

LANKOV: I think that it is possible and highly likely because it will be seen as a kind of symmetric answer to their recent joint military exercises near the Korean peninsula by the Americans, Japanese and South Koreans.


HANCOCKS (on camera): Now, little unites more than a common enemy and Russia, China, and North Korea would all like to see an alternative world order. A world where the U.S. is less powerful and also where U.N. Security Council resolutions have a little if any bite -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea, for us. Thank you.

In Libya, meanwhile, the death toll from catastrophic flooding is up to at least 5,000, according to Doctors Without Borders.


But officials fear that number could rise substantially. CNN is the only American television network on the ground in Libya right now. Our correspondent Jomana Karadsheh is on the scene for us near the

city of Derna. She's joining us by phone.

Jomana, what do you see?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Wolf, you know, we've been on the road, from Benghazi to Derna for more than six hours now and we haven't reached the city yet and this is a drive that will usually take about three hours. But so many roads and bridges have been damaged and destroyed and you have so many routes that have been cut off, that it's a very challenging journey to get to the devastated city of Derna. And that's not just only us, those who are trying to reach that city, trying to bring in the relief and the aid that it is so desperately needed right now.

Wolf, this is a catastrophe on a scale that Libya has never seen before. By all accounts, Derna is a ghost town right now. Some have described it as the city of the dead.

As you mentioned, the death toll is continuing to rise by the day. Thousands killed, no one really knows the number but what we're hearing from some officials is 5,000 but then you also have thousands of others who remain unaccounted for.

And Derna was not only hit by this natural disaster, the catastrophe is caused by the devastating flooding after the two dams broke, sweeping entire neighborhoods and infrastructure, sweeping into the sea. And with every day passing right now, the feeling is, the concern that the search and rescue operations that have been ongoing, they are still being able to find survivors and believe it's going to be more into a recovery operation.

And already, Wolf, the morgues, the hospitals are already overflowing. They -- you know, you've seen the images probably of the dead bodies that piled on the sidewalks and they really don't have the means and capacity to deal with so much death on this scale. They don't even have enough body bags. That's how dire the situation is right now.

This is a country that is not prepared to deal with this. This is a country with no functioning state. The infrastructure has been decimated by years of constant corruption, mismanagement and neglect and many Libyans are blaming that for the tragedy and what happened with that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jomana Karadsheh in the scene for us in Libya, Jomana, thank you very much.

Other news we're following, law enforcement officials are revealing new details right now that they're learning about the escaped Pennsylvania killer's nearly two weeks on the loose one day after he was captured and sent back to prison.

CNN's Brian Todd has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, authorities are sharing new details of what convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante is telling them about his nearly two weeks on the run.

ROBERT CLARK, SUPERVISORY DEPUTY, U.S. MARSHALS: It was wearing on him. He was becoming desperate and he had thought about surrendering.

TODD: But he wasn't ready to risk death to elude capture, according to Robert Clark of the U.S. Marshals Service.

CLARK: He wasn't willing to trade his life for it.

TODD: Several times, he was almost caught.

CLARK: Three times during the investigation, law enforcement officers were very, very close to stepping on him within ten yards.

TODD: He was finally captured on Wednesday, within the search zone, after a trip burglar alarm led to a plane spotting a heat signal. An eyewitness says Cavalcante looked beat.

JIM MARTIN, SAW CAVALCANTE APPREHENDED: He looked very tired. He looked soaked, like he was either in the, streamer soaked from the rain last night, he just looked drenched.

TODD: Clark says Cavalcante admitted to several burglaries, stealing a backpack, boots, a van, a gun, and some food.

CLARK: He told us the first three days he didn't eat anything. The first time he ate, he obtained a watermelon from a farm and he actually opened it with his head, he said, and the rest of the time he was drinking from stream water. In order to elude law enforcement officers, he would hide his fecal matter under leaves and under shrubbery.

TODD: But search teams kept up the pressure.

CLARK: He said he noticed the area was surrounded, the planes, the helicopters, when that happened he actually buried himself in almost impassable thickets. For two days, he didn't move.

TODD: And the audio messages broadcasted from helicopters also made an impression.

CLARK: We actually had a Brazilian speaking law enforcement officer asking him to surrender, advising him to surrender. He said he heard the messages and he thought, well, they have a Brazilian working for them, now.

TODD: Meantime, the dog who jumped on him and held him down is set to return to his post in Detroit, being hailed a hero.


TODD (on camera): Robert Clark continues to reiterate the investigators did not receive any helpful while he was on the run. Clark said the fugitive had no communication devices on him when he was caught. Cavalcante is now in this maximum security prison behind him, where he will serve his life sentence, wolf?

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

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.