Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Special Counsel Seeks Limited Gag Order On Trump; Union Launches Historic Strike Against U.S. Automakers; CNN Team On The Ground In Flooded-Devastated Libya; Hawaii Governor On Wildfire Death Toll & Number Of Missing; CNN Team On The Ground In Flood-Devastated Libya. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Federal prosecutors are asking the judge overseeing Donald Trump's election subversion case to place limits on what he can say. The special counsel's team claiming the former president's public statements have already led to witness harassment.

Also tonight, a ground breaking strike against major U.S. automakers is now under way. For the first time in history all three companies are facing a union walkout. The strike is targeted for now but could expand dramatically in the coming days if workers demands aren't met.

And CNN is now on the ground in Libya where thousands are dead and thousands more are mission after a catastrophic flooding. This hour, we'll bring you a live update from the disaster zone.

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 to the breaking news and straight to new development in the special counsel case against Donald Trump, a new court filing revealing apparent witness harassment directly resulting from the president's public statements.

CNN's Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is digging into this new document for all of us. Jessica, federal prosecutors are say, they need to judge to put a limit on what Trump can say about this case. What's the latest?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The special counsel's team here in this long motion, they are laying out all of these reasons why they want the judge to now step in immediately and order Donald Trump from -- stop him from making statements online and in person, any statements that could end up intimidating witnesses, court officials as well or even the jury pool.

Now, earlier today the special counsel actually revealed that numerous witnesses have in fact faced threats and intimidation because of statements from Donald Trump. So, now, they are asking in this motion, they are asking the judge to do something official about Trump's words.

So, they are laying it out this way. They are saying the defendant's repeated inflammatory public statements regarding the District of Columbia, the court, prosecutors and potential witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice the jury pool, create fear among potential jurors and result in threats or harassment to individuals he singles out.

Put simply, those involved in the criminal justice process who read and hear the defendant's disparaging and inflammatory messages from court personnel to prosecutors to witnesses to potential jurors may reasonably fear that they could be the next targets of the defendant's attacks.

And because of that the special counsel now wants the judge to issue an order officially restricting Trump from making certain comments and the special counsel, they laid out a number of social media posts and comments from Trump over recent weeks that have not only targeted the special counsel, Jack Smith, but also former Vice President Mike Pence, even a prosecutor on the special counsel's team.

What's interesting here is that Judge Chutkan, she already ordered Trump to stop from making disparaging comments. She did that at the arraignment. But, obviously, Trump has not listened. He's continued to post.

So, now, the special counsel wants the judge here to issue an official order in writing prohibiting Trump from naming witnesses, making statements about them, really making any statements about anyone that are disparaging or intimidating.

So, Wolf. This is really a significant move and request from the special counsel's team here, and even though the judge has warned Trump once at his arraignment, this is the team, the special counsel's team asking the judge to make this order official, iron clad, and, really, if she were to do this and issue this order and Trump violated it, there could be serious legal repercussions. Wolf?

BLITZER: It could be indeed, very significant development. Jessica, thank you.

Stand by. I want to bring in some of our legal and political experts for analysis as well. Jennifer Rodgers, the special counsel asking a federal judge for what's being described as a limited gag order against Trump. So, what's your reaction to this?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well it's a big deal, Wolf, and it obviously comes after they have gathered so much evidence about these attacks that have just been really almost done on a daily basis against potential witnesses in the case, the judge, court personnel, the prosecutors, even people in the city of D.C. who ultimately, of course, will be in the jury pool.

So, I think they have thought long and hard about this. They certainly have collected a lot of instances of thief statements. And I think that what they asked for is narrowly drawn enough that it is reasonable. I think the judge probably will accept it. It's possible that she tinkers with the language a little bit.

But what it really means for all parties concerned if the judge signs it and the prosecutors have obviously sought it is that they're willing to try to enforce it.


This is not just we hope he shuts up now, but what it really means is that, if and when he does actually breach this agreement and keeps saying these things they are willing to go back into court and ask for the judge to do something and the judge is going to consider that. So, that's why I think it's such a big deal.

BLITZER: It is a big deal, indeed.

Andrew McCabe, you're the former deputy director of the FBI. Prosecutors are accusing Trump of essentially running the same playbook used to sow doubt with the public about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, and that's pretty significant.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It really is, Wolf. It's interesting, the motion reads in a way that resonates very clearly with the indictment. They actually referred to the indictment. In the motion, they referred to the kind of the overarching allegations that the president willfully and knowingly lied about the election for the purpose of altering the result.

And they are saying that's exactly he's doing here. He is willfully, knowingly lying about the judge, about witnesses, about the process and the court system in an effort to kind of put his thumb on the scale, to prejudice the jury pool, to intimidate witnesses.

And I agree with Jennifer that this is an important next step. It is by no means a gag order. This is not -- that's not what's under consideration here, but this is elevating the warning citing a specific local court rule and presenting it to him, if she passes it, if she does it and I think she will, he's going to be officially on notice. And then the next instances, which I'm sure will come, will result in some real consequences.

BLITZER: Shan Wu, I've gone through this 20-page or so document that has just been released and it's very, very specific. How likely do you think it is that the judge will ultimately move to limit Trump's speech?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it's pretty likely because they have gathered enough evidence. I think, as Jennifer was saying, this is laying a foundation for the judge to rely upon, and, therefore, laying a foundation for potential charges to be brought if he violates it.

I think the difficulty here is actually something raised by Andrew, which is it does very much mirror the charges themselves. And, therefore, when you get into the nitty-gritty of how do you interpret what's harassment or intimidation, Trump's defense counsel will have a strong argument that he's just proclaiming his innocence about the charges because they are so closely related to each other.

So, it will put the judge in a difficult conundrum, but the prosecutors are laying the foundation for this correct approach.

And, ultimately, for the defense council for Trump, they have to be asking themselves too, are they listening too much playing to their client at the risk of actually exposing their client to further charges.

BLITZER: So, let me get back to Andrew for a second. Andrew, you said that you think that the judge will grant this motion. What would it look like if Trump then violated it?

MCCABE: Well, there's a whole host of potential next steps, right? He could be held in contempt. As Shan mentioned he could be actually facing charges. I think another potential consequence if he violates -- if this becomes an order and he violates it would be imposing a gag order on his ability to talk about the case at all.

Now, it's very controversial, and I should note that the defense, Trump's defense has really made his first amendment rights, kind of front and center in their defense to this underlying case. They claim that the entire prosecution is unfairly targeting him for his exercise of his First Amendment rights.

So, any steps that they take in that direction, a gag order or consequences as a result of his speech are going to provoke even more kind of outrage claims from Trump and his supporters that this is all part of First Amendment persecution. So, the judge is really in a very delicate position here.

BLITZER: Alice Stewart is with us here as well. Alice, if Trump does face what's being described as a limited gag order, how do you expect Republicans will react, especially with Trump being a presidential candidate right now?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I expect, Wolf, that it won't be any different than what they have experienced and how they have react in the last several weeks and months since we've had four indictments against the former president.

And, look, I think the request for a limited gag order was really just a matter of time. And based on what we've seen from the former president with his extrajudicial comments not only undermine the judicial system but also, as we have heard, has been threatening to those involved, whether a potential juror or those in this legal process. And you don't have to be a legal scholar to realize this is damaging to the legal process moving forward.

And I look at this from the standpoint of the Game of Thrones statement of it's hard to put a leash on a dog with a crown on his head.


And Donald Trump has always been able and felt as though he can say what he wants to say.

And I spoke with several high-profile Republicans since this news came out this evening and they have said, look, Donald Trump does not abide by the rule of law. He abides by the rule of Trump. And he will continue to do exactly what he's doing. And he is not afraid if there are consequences from him speaking his mind, he's going to continue to speak his mind. And that's the way many Republicans expect him to behave and probably he will do so.

BLITZER: Yes. Prosecutors clearly fear that Trump's public statements could endanger some of these witnesses going forward.

Jennifer, let me get back to you. We learned from Judge Chutkan today, that prosecutors say Trump's statements about the federal election interference investigation have led to harassment of witnesses already and that Trump is aware that this criticism has led to their harassment. So, what do you make of that?

RODGERS: Well, they really did need to lay this foundation, Wolf, in order ask for the order that they have requested. And, you know, one of the things that they cited to is the fact that someone was actually arrested for threatening the life of the judge.

So, Judge Chutkan is sitting there reading this requested motion and you can't help be impacted by, oh, yes, that's right, this person called and threatened my life because of what the former president said about me and the fact that I'm overseeing his case. So, you know, I think they were kind of pretty pointed in using that example.

But that's exactly what they have to say, that this defendant has again and again said things that are intimidating to witnesses, disparaging to people in the process. He's trying to taint the jury pool and the integrity of the proceedings as well as the safety of people involved has to mean that he has to stop it. And this is the first step in making that happened.

I agree with Alice, you know, he may not do it, but the judge then will have tools at her disposal if she chooses to employ them. And if she signs this order, it suggests that she will in order to really make him stop trying to damage this case.

BLITZER: Let's see if Trump stops making these kinds of statements. We shall see fairly soon. Everyone, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the historic strike against the big three American car companies, what workers are demanding tonight as the union threatens to expand the targeted walkout in coming days.

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


[18:15:00] BLITZER: All right. This is in CNN Detroit tonight, where we're following major new developments in the historic U.S. autoworkers strike. Better pay, better benefits and job protections all on the table right now as union and the big three U.S. carmakers remain deadlocked on the first day of this walkout.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is outside a local union headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, for us tonight. Gabe, what's the situation there now?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you the union and the big three automakers are going to be heading back to the bargaining table tomorrow. There were no talks today, although we did hear from the union that they say they have put a counteroffer in front of all three of those automakers. They are now waiting for a response, and we expect to learn more on that tomorrow.

But until that deal is reached, we're going to see more scenes like the one here in Toledo, this factory that is shut down, picket lines at every gate entering this building.

This is a Stellantis plant where, usually, they would be making more than 1,000 Jeeps every day. But not right now. That process is frozen. And this is just one of three factories that are part of this tactical strike. There's this, there is a Ford plant in Michigan as well as a General Motors plant in Missouri.

But what we are likely to see in the coming days, what's really already happening, is additional factories that have to stop their own operation or even lay off workers because they don't have the materials they need or they have nowhere to send their parts.

But, look, the union stands by what they are doing, and we heard from the union president, Shawn Fain, who said that it's possible they will add additional factories to the strike. He spoke at a rally in Detroit just a few minutes ago. Take a listen.


SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UAW: Class war has been going on for 40 years in this country. The billionaire class has been taking everything, and the working class has been left scraping paycheck to paycheck just trying to survive. It's time to put an end to that class war and it's time to pick a side.


COHEN: And I've spoken with a lot of workers here in Toledo who said they are preparing for long haul, that this could last -- the strike could last a while. Here's what the head of the Local 12 union told me about the frustrations he's hearing from members right now heading into the strike.


BRUCE BAUMHOWER, PRESIDENT, UAW LOCAL 12: Our members are willing to stay in for the long haul. When we came out of bankruptcy, our starting pay at Jeep was $15.78. 14 years later, it's $15.78. There's something wrong with that.


COHEN: So, again, Wolf, right now the story at these three factories are in operation that's completely shut down. These workers are going to be here 24/7 in shifts, and the question now is how quickly is that ripple effect really going to bring auto manufacturing in the United States to a complete halt. That it remains to be seen as well as what bargaining will be done tomorrow. But as of now, it seems that the two sides or in this case really four sides are pretty far apart. We'll see if any progress is made tomorrow.

BLITZER: All right. We shall see. Gabe Cohen in Toledo, thank you very much.

For more on President Biden's reaction to this major strike, let's bring in our Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche. Kayla, so what is the president saying about this historic strike?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden is saying that workers are right to demand fair wages, fair benefits, which he said all along in this and other industry negotiations. But in a departure from his previous neutrality, he is now saying the auto companies in particular need to do more.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Auto companies have seen record profits, including the last few years because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of the UAW workers.


Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.

No one wants to strike. I say it again, no one wants a strike, but I respect workers' rights to use their options under the collective bargaining system. And I understand the workers' frustrations.

The companies have made some significant offers, but I believe this should go further. Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW.


TAUSCHE: The support dispatching his acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and his Senior Adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to personally take a bigger role in these negotiations. But it's unclear exactly what role they will play in talks where, so far, the administration has really been serving in more of a peripheral middle man role, just, you know, making sure there are no misunderstandings, that the parties stay at the table. And UAW, so far, has not asked the administration for direct involvement in the talks, rather asking for broader, bigger picture policy changes, like government guarantees that factories that transition to making electric vehicles won't be killing union jobs as they do that.

The Department of Energy has provided some of those guarantees in a new loan program. That has moved the union closer to an endorsement of Biden and it's angered former President Trump in the process, who is now saying that the UAW leadership has sold its workers down the river. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kayla Tausche at the White House, thanks for that update.

Coming up, we'll have more on our top story, Donald Trump now facing a potential limited gag order in his federal election subversion case.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following this hour, federal prosecutors asking a federal judge to limit what former President Trump can say about the election subversion case. This comes as Trump is about to address a conservative conference here in Washington, D.C., his first trip to the nation's capital since his arraignment this summer.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is standing by for us just ahead of the speech. Kristen, how is Trump so far balancing his campaign and his legal troubles?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is just going to get more and more difficult. We know that he is going to ramp up his actual campaigning. He's had about a two-week lull. And until now it has really been in between different events. He's had an arraignment here or an indictment here. But, again, once he starts ramping up those campaign events, it's going to be more and more difficult, particularly as we look at this looming trial schedule. And Trump himself seemed to indicate that he was going to make it even more complicated by saying that he would testify in one of his trials. Take a listen to this.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A new charge suggests you asked a staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn't get into the hands of investigators. Did they do that?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's false. But let me tell you --

REPORTER: Would you testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: Sure, I'll testify about it.

REPORTER: Would you testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: No. It's a fake charge. We didn't delete anything. Nothing was deleted.

REPORTER: So, that's false, the people who testified --

TRUMP: Well, number one, the statement is false. Much more importantly, when the tapes came and everybody says this, they weren't deleted. We gave them 100 percent.


HOLMES: Okay. So, a couple of things here to point out about what he is talking about. One is that this was not a willing cooperation. This was the result -- turning over those tapes was the result of multiple federal subpoenas. But the other thing to point out is him talking about whether or not he would testify under oath.

Now, we have no indication that he actually would. His lawyers have not indicate that had they would allow him to. This would open him up to all sorts of legal liabilities. Plus, we know that former President Trump on multiple occasions has said that he's going to testify and then not end the up doing so. And most of the time that we've seen him testify it has been because a court has ordered him to.

But the other thing to point out here is that if he were to testify, how this would line up with him out on the campaign trial, that is just completely unknown. I'm talking to so many of his advisers, allies who just don't know what this is going to look like, particularly as we see more and more movement in those legal cases. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes is on the scene for us. We'll see how far Trump goes tonight in this later address.

Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Let me get to this breaking news that you're following. What's your reaction to this filing asking for a limited gag order in effect against former President Trump?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, you know, former President Trump has the right to the presumption of innocence, but that doesn't mean he has the right to do and say anything including perhaps the court may be concerned that he uses language that he knows will incite those around him, his supporters to take steps that might lead to intimidation of witnesses.

Look, I know firsthand from my own experience how Donald Trump can whip up his supporters to take steps that go beyond the norms of our society. I was there on January 6th. Donald Trump was responsible for that.

So, I think while we have to be careful that no political actor, nobody on the political stage should unnecessarily have their speech constrained or restrained, in this case, he's a defendant in a case. And if the court determines that what he's trying to do is somehow affect that case, you know, unnecessarily or inappropriately through speech that he knows will lead to action by his supporters, then there's serious cause for concern.


We have to be careful. His speech ought not be unnecessarily restrained, but, you know, he has to also take responsibility for the things that he says and does, and I think that may be where the court's concern come from.

BLITZER: While I have you, Congressman, I want to turn to the UAW strike that's ongoing right now in your home state of Michigan. The strike is limited to just three facilities at least so far, but the union says it could expand and expand dramatically. What's your sense, first of all, how long this will go on?

KILDEE: Well, it's hard to predict how long it will go. It really depends how long it will take for the companies to come back to the table and be more responsive to the request that is being made by the UAW.

Look, I know there's concern about the immediate effect that this may have on all of us, on the economy, et cetera, but a page out of history teaches us that a little bit of effort that somehow can be uncomfortable can be a dramatic improvement for the lives of people.

I think about my own hometown of Flint, the UAW sat down in the factories in 1936, and in 1937 they got that firs UAW contract. Those were tough times, and it took a while, it took 44 days. But what happened after that was tremendous growth in the middle class. And that's what the UAW is fighting for. That's what the men and women of the UAW are out there carrying picket signs for. Not just for their own families but to help rebuild the middle class which is really the heart of the American experience, and so I stand firmly with them, and I'll be with them until they get what it takes to be satisfied that they are getting their fair share of the incredible wealth that their productive hands generate.

BLITZER: The White House, as you know, is sending two officials to Michigan but President Biden called himself the most pro union president in American history, so why isn't he getting more personally involved in these negotiations?

KILDEE: Well, I think the fact that acting labor secretary will be there and that Gene Sperling will be there sends a message and I think the president's comments earlier, I think buttress that message. I can say this as a member of Congress can, and I believe the president believes this as well, we stand with the workers. We're going continue to be supportive of them. But we don't have a seat at the bargaining table.

We sure have an interest in the outcome of these negotiations, and I know that if the UAW succeeds, that's going to be good for the workers of America, and I think the president shares that view. I don't think there's anything wrong with him making that point very clear. BLITZER: Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan, thanks as usual for joining us.

KILDEE: Thank you, Wolf. Good to see you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, relations between North Korea and Russia appear to be getting closer reviving cold war era concerns as both leaders are trying to challenge the existing international order, lots going on.

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



BLITZER: Russia has been rolling out the red carpet for Kim Jong-un's visit amid geopolitical questions about what Moscow and Pyongyang might have agreed to behind closed doors. Brian Todd is covering this story for us. Brian, what's the latest.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is Kim Jong-un's first known trip outside North Korea in more than four years and he's still making it count. Today, taking a look at state of the art Russian warplanes and feeling more concern about how he and Vladimir Putin will continue to scheme against the U.S. and its allies.


TODD (voice over): North Korea's supreme leader beaming as he looks skyward. Kim Jong-un visiting a plant that manufacturers warplanes in the city Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia's Far East. Kim got the red carpet treatment after arriving on his armored train. He climbed up and looked at the cockpit of a Russian fighter jet and was briefed by the pilot.

This comes after Kim met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for several hours at a Russian Cosmodrome on Wednesday, stoking concerns that Kim's regime is supplying Putin with weapons for the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin denies that, and Putin's spokesman says, quote, no agreements were signed during the Putin/Kim meeting.

Do you buy that?

DON JENSEN, SENIOR ADVISER, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: I don't buy that at all. This is Kremlin speak. They say that to calm people's concerning and there are a lot of people who are concerned about this visit this, meeting.

TODD: In fact, an official from South Korea's presidential office says weapons provided by North Korea have already been used by Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine, and the Biden administration believes North Korea delivered rockets and missiles last year for use in Ukraine by Wagner mercenary forces. JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Talks about the provision of weapons by North Korea to Russia to kill Ukrainians have been advancing and continue to advance.

TODD: What would both Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin get from any deal?

NIGEL GOULD-DAVIES, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: Russia on the one hand needs quite desperately needs sources of ammunition and in some cases artillery systems themselves.

TODD: North Korea, analysts say, is looking to get advanced Russian technology for its weapons and possibly the kind of modern fighter jets that Kim just inspected, but it's not just weapons that these dictators need.

GOULD-DAVIES: North Korea needs food. It always needs food. In addition, I think this is worth watching, Russia needs labor. Russia is currently facing the most severe labor shortages since records began.

TODD: And North Korea has been known to send laborers to Russia in the past. Analysts say this rekindled friendship between Putin and Kim while evoking fears of cold war style partnerships of the past also signals a reduction in stature for the former KGB colonel in the Kremlin.


It wasn't that long ago that Vladimir Putin was attending summits with G-20 leaders and doing photo-ops with American, German and Australian leaders. Now he's seen with outcast heads of state like Kim and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

JENSEN: He's no longer on the A list as they say in Hollywood. He's on the B list and the movies of course become more predictable and more boring but are still dangerous.


TODD (on camera): Two analysts we spoke to say what they are even more worried about the North Korea supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia is the possibility that that kind of a deal could open the door for China to start sending weapons to Russia secretly through North Korea. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd, reporting. For more on this I'm joined by Sydney Seiler, his a former National Intelligence Officer for North Korea over at the U.S. National Intelligence Council. Sydney, thanks so much for joining us. The U.S. has warned Russia and North Korea about pursuing an arms deal. So how does the U.S. intelligence community monitor what Putin and Kim will actually get out of their very high stakes and very dramatic meetings?

SYDNEY SEILER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICER FOR NORTH KOREA, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL: Wolf, again, thanks for the invitation. Well, as you seeing the information that we've released until now in terms our understanding of the initial negotiations for some of the arms that have already been provided as well as the White House release a few weeks ago about the upcoming summit, there's efforts under way to follow these actions.

I can't give any more details that, but certainly, too, for both of these countries to maximize the political and diplomatic benefits of this interaction there's going to have to be more of a public dimension to this going forward. Otherwise this just ends up as a one- off highly symbolic with some dark room missile deals, weapons deals that could have taken place in the background anyway, so it's almost a secondary importance at this point to kind of the strategic message that these two sides are trying to send.

BLITZER: As you know, Sydney, this has been a record -- a year of record nuclear provocations from North Korea. Take us inside Kim's head. Do you think he'll walk away from this lavish trip to Russia even more emboldened?

SEILER: Wolf, that is absolutely the biggest concern that I think we have to face here, whether it's merely bus Russia provides some technologies maybe to service some aging soviet era fighter aircraft or to provide some type of assistance to help Kim have a successful satellite launch.

Whatever Russia does for North Korea can actually further embolden both Kim in terms of the capabilities that he will now have as well as the behavior that he would might maybe seek to emulate in terms of Vladimir Putin using military force to achieve strategic objectives, willing to run against the international community, ignore international norms and standards and in that type of behavior if Kim believes he now has a flashing yellow light, that could be potentially destabilizing and dangerous on the Peninsula.

BLITZER: Certainly could be. If North Korea were to provide weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine, do you think that could pave the way for China to covertly do the same thing?

SEILER: I think -- I don't know that China's calculation would necessarily be impacted so much by this deal. I think China's got its own calculation in terms of what it's willing to do, how far it's willing to associate itself with Vladimir Putin's actions, how much assistance China is willing to give to Russia.

You know, there's a reputational risk for China should it appear to closely aligned with Russia's efforts in Ukraine, and I don't know that that a North Korea's support for Vladimir Putin is going to convince China one way or the other.

BLITZER: Former U.S. Intelligence Official Sydney Seiler, thanks so much for joining us.

SEILER: Thank you for the invitation.

BLITZER: Coming up, I'll speak live with Hawaii's governor to get the latest updates on the deadly Maui wildfires and the ongoing recovery efforts.

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



BLITZER: It's been just over a month since wildfires tore across Maui, killing so many people and leaving many, many more missing.

Right now, I want to bring in the Hawaii Governor Josh Green.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, let -- I want to get the latest numbers on how many people are still unaccounted for in these wildfires and how many people are actually dead as a result of the wildfires.

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D), HAWAII: Thank you for having me, Wolf. The number of fatalities has actually dropped from when was projected to be 115. It's now at 97 because the anthropologists have been able to do a more thorough analysis. So 97 people have passed away, and we have report of 31 who are still unaccounted for. Many of those 31 will be a part of those who haven't yet been identified.

BLITZER: Thirty-one, and that number has dropped dramatically as well.

So, can you explain a little bit more how that number dropped so significantly as far as the death toll is concerned?

GREEN: So, the death toll dropped because we have Department of Defense anthropologists who are able to do a lot more advanced genetics. They were able to make sure we weren't tragically comingling any of the people that we lost. For instance, in a car where there might have been several people in first, at first it was thought there were eight people and instead there were five.

So the numbers have dropped. And then the reports are just -- because we've sifted through the reports and discovered a lot of people were safe or in the hospital.

BLITZER: And you expect those numbers to continue to drop?

GREEN: I do. We still have about 23 people who have passed away who we have not been able to identify yet.


And a lot of the 31 reports of missing people also -- you know, that will cover the 23 I'm sure who have not yet been identified. So the number will keep dropping. It went from like 3,200 in the first week, down to 1,200, down to 385, and then, you know, you reported 66 or so, and now, it's at 31.

BLITZER: That's interesting indeed. As you will know, there are still many unanswered questions about some of the significant issues with Maui's power grid and its warning sirens when the wildfires broke out. What is the update, if you can share it with us, on your attorney general's investigation into the state's emergency response?

GREEN: Yes. So she's interviewing people from all walks of life, particularly county officials and state officials, finding out when and where people responded. A lot of that comes from data from 911 calls also. We've been talking to the mayor's team and they're working with us.

We just are getting all the information. A lot of information comes from just where people were located with their, you know, devices, so much information. Basically, we want to get to the bottom of it and share the information with everybody, and we also want to better know how to protect our people, where to put power liners underground, where to make fire breaks, how we have sirens used in a better way, all these things. And we hope to help the world prepare themselves for these potential fires.

BLITZER: You got to learn the -- lessons learned so important.

Looking ahead, Governor, you have plans to reopen west Maui on October 8th. How challenging is the road ahead to rebuild that area and settle residents into long-term housing?

GREEN: It's super challenging. I felt an obligation after what we experienced with COVID to be clear and direct. So I announced exactly one month after the fire that another month hence on October 8th, we would open up West Maui. We don't expect a lot of people at first, although I was just with some travel executives, and they did share that people are rallying around the world to come and help us recover.

We do want people to travel to West Maui as long as they can be kind and respectful, which they are. That will help us heal. I have 7,415 people in hotels right now, which over the next two weeks will be transferring themselves and transitioning to long-term rentals.

That's a big lift. We were able in two weeks to get everybody out of shelters and into hotels. And in another two weeks most of those people will be in long-term rentals. But, look, we have now 15,000 people who are unemployed on Maui alone as a result of the fires. And I need them to heal, I need them to be able to pay for their children's food and education and clothes.

So, I want to say mahalo to the world for caring about us and coming here in a safe and appropriate way to help us heal.

BLITZER: Governor Josh Green of Hawaii, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Hawaii right now. We appreciate always getting an update from you. Thank you.

GREEN: Thank you for caring for us.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the magnitude and aftermath of the deadly floods in Libya is looking even worse right now even as aid and volunteers begin to arrive in the country. CNN is the only American network to have a team on the ground right now. We'll have a live report from the scene, when we come back.



BLITZER: We're getting a sense of the overwhelming damage and loss of life caused by the flooding in Libya, where thousands are dead and missing and entire neighborhoods are wiped out. CNN is the only American television network on the ground in Libya right now.

And our correspondent Jomana Karadsheh is joining us on the phone right now. She's over there.

Jomana, what are you seeing where you are?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Wolf, we spent the day here in Derna out on the streets. And I can tell you that our team has covered wars and natural disasters, has never seen anything like this before. I mean, we know what caused the catastrophic flooding here where two dams burst and sent violent currents through the city. And seeing what it has done is truly shocking and just heartbreaking.

It was so powerful and devastating that pretty much destroyed everything in its path. And we're talking about entire neighborhoods that have been erased -- buildings, infrastructure, cars, homes that were swept into the Mediterranean Sea.

And then you have thousands of people, more than 5,000 estimated dead right now, 10,000 unaccounted for. You've got entire families that were killed. And nearly a week since this happened and we still have bodies that are washing up back on the shore.

And, you know, while we're walking around today, we met survivors, people who really feel traumatized by what they survived, and what they witnessed. People were grabbing their children in the middle of the night when this happened at 2:13 in the morning and just running from floor to floor to try and escape a wave that was more than 20 feet high.

The water kept rising from one floor to the next. One man that we spoke to said that they ended up on top of tanks on the roof. It is just unimaginable. And when we speak with Libyans here, everyone here is in a state of shock. They dealt with loss and death, but this is different. Nothing could've prepared them for a catastrophic event like this one.

BLITZER: Jomana Karadsheh, be careful over there. Thank you very much.

Finally tonight, we remember a very dark chapter in American history. Sixty years ago today, four young Black girls lost their lives in a racist church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson spoke at a ceremony.


JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT: If we are going to continue to move forward as a nation, we can not allow concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth, or history.


BLITZER: May those who perished in the bombing rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah and I want to wish all of our Jewish viewers a happy new year. Shana Tova.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.