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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Hawaii Wildfire Second Deadliest In U.S. In A Century; Arraignment Delayed Again For Carlos De Oliveira, Mar-A-Lago Staffer Charged In Trump Docs Case; Pence Defends His January 6 Actions In Iowa Remarks: "I Chose The Constitution, And I Always Will." Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired August 10, 2023 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, the White House confirms that five Americans, held by Iran, are a key step closer to freedom. Four were moved out of an Iranian prison, today, joining the fifth, already under house arrest. Three have been held for years.

The White House calls the ongoing negotiations, for their release, delicate, and says they never should have been detained, in the first place. This is just the first step, and one included the U.S. unfreezing $6 billion, in Iranian funds, for food and medicine. A source says a prisoner swap is also expected.

The news continues. So, "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, Maui, still burning, and the death toll is climbing, as the second deadliest U.S. wildfire, in a century, incinerates paradise. This hour, the Governor will deliver a new update, and we'll bring it to you live.

Plus, yet another not guilty plea, from Donald Trump, in one federal case, as the Special Counsel is asking, for an aggressive trial date, in the other, Trump also not happy with the date they are seeking.

What are friends for, by the way? A new expose, on Justice Clarence Thomas, has ignited a new uproar, as the list, of lavish gifts, from billionaires grows. An entire 737 just for him?

I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

Tonight, we're waiting to get a new update, from the Governor of Hawaii, and the Mayor of Maui, a news conference that we should note, is set for this hour, as fires continue to devastate the island. The death toll has now climbed to 53 people. And officials are warning that that number could only get even higher.

President Biden issued a Disaster Declaration, to unlock federal resources, and address the catastrophe, while on the road, today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii. But not just our prayers. Every asset we have will be available to them.


COLLINS: They're going to need it. The historic town of Lahaina has been left in ashes. The fires are now reported to be about 80 percent contained, as winds are dying down. But the scenes that are left behind are absolutely devastating. People are comparing it to a warzone.

Look at this before and after image. You see that large building there, on the right? That's the Lahaina Shores Beach Resort. It's still standing, tonight. But it doesn't look like anything else around it is.

Here's another before and after. That's an elementary school, with a green-roofed building, in the left picture. It's above the Marina Inlet. You see that beautiful blue water nearby. On the right, that's the after photo, a total hellscape.

The full scope of the devastation likely won't be known, for several days. We do know Military personnel, from the Coast Guard, are helping with the search and rescue missions, that are happening, that are underway in Hawaii, tonight.

Today, the Pentagon announced that more than 100 National Guardsmen have been activated, to help with those response efforts.

And joining me now, is Jeff Hickman, the Public Affairs Director for Hawaii's Department of Defense.

And Jeff, I'm so grateful you're joining me, tonight.

I know the Hawaii National Guard is conducting these search and rescue efforts, are going, basically from house to house, from our understanding. I mean, what are they seeing? Can you just kind of describe the devastation for us?


VOICE OF HICKMAN: No, it is a practical warzone. And the Governor, that's what he said today. For him, it's a war zone.

I've seen war zones, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it is. Everything is completely wiped out. That used to be the capital of Hawaii, during the wailing times, in Hawaii, and it was a bustling town. And some of those buildings were still there, all made out of wood. And that whole waterfront is gone. So, a lot of history. The world's oldest or our biggest banyan tree gone.

That school you mentioned, my mom taught there. There's people who have a lot of connections to that area. And a lot of things we're going to have to rely on now are just memories. COLLINS: What's it like to see the school that your mom taught at, in the condition that it is, after that fire?

HICKMAN: It's unbelievable. And, you had to wait until the sun came up to see it. And thank goodness, the winds died down.

VOICE OF HICKMAN: The fires are still smoldering in the town. But to see it just flat, and completely gone? I mean, all of those buildings, I used to run in between it, when I was small, and she taught there.

HICKMAN: I just spent an anniversary there, with my wife, and family, driving down Front Street. It's going to have a long-lasting effect for that community.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, I can't even imagine. And before you can even think about the recovery, the rebuilding efforts, I mean, the search and rescue missions that are underway, right now, we talked about those being conducted, by the National Guard. I mean, how does that even work? How are they going through this? They're the only people allowed in these areas, I should note. What are they seeing so far?

HICKMAN: Yes. We're assisting the Maui Police Department and Fire Department, other first responders. We have 30 soldiers, and airmen, from the Hawaii National Guard, assisting with that mission.

VOICE OF HICKMAN: We have another 30 assisting the Police with the checkpoints, just guarding the area, to keep people out. The public is not allowed in there yet. And it's going to take months, for the process, to begin recovery.


HICKMAN: We've got to go in first, building to building, house to house, block by block, and look for bodies. We have a wide search and rescue team that that's their specialty. FEMA and with the federal government's help, they're sending people, as well, a lot of the emergency support functions, coming down.

We're going to have to actually bring in counselors, and chaplains, to assist with our soldiers, and airmen, who see what they see. I'm sure that the Police and Fire are going to need it too.


HICKMAN: But they're going to first go through, try to find as many bodies, and loved ones, missing personnel as they can.

Then, next is a little bit of cleanup.

Then, it's allowing the business and the homeowners to go in, and grab their effects. So, the public's not going to be in, allowed in, for a long time. And it's going to be a very long process, before they can rebuild.

COLLINS: Yes, we know the FEMA Administrator has just arrived, in Hawaii, tonight, Deanne Criswell, as well. When it comes to what they're looking for, do you know many people are still missing, at this hour?

HICKMAN: Unconfirmed reports. But we've heard up to 1,000. And just living here in Hawaii, everybody knows somebody on that island.

And so, their connections on Facebook, you see it, as they're posting pictures, you know, "Has anybody seen my uncle? Has anybody seen my family? Has anybody seen -- " you know, people posting pictures of their dogs that they had to leave so fast, they left their dogs, in the house, and they don't know if their dogs are still alive, or if their house is still up?

So yes, the number is very high. Like you said, the death count officially is 53, right now. I'm sure it's going to go up. But the families, and the people, who are missing someone, and what they're going through, on top of losing everything, it's, we can't put into words.

COLLINS: I mean just to hear you say that a 1,000 people you believe are still missing tonight is astonishing.

HICKMAN: Yes, that's a very, very high number. There's lists that people are sharing. There's a lot of Red Cross that's really helping out.

You know what, the State is actually stepping up and showing its Aloha. They're giving so many blankets, food and items that Maui, and the State has seen a -- slowdown on the items, people are giving so much, because they want to help, in some way. So, we're trying to steer a lot of people into giving money. And so, word is getting out on the best way to donate and the best way that you can help.

We've had people from the mainland U.S., calling "Do you need doctors? Do you need help? We'll help." And people are just reaching out. And it's great to see, at this time.

COLLINS: Yes. We're going to speak to a doctor, who is helping out, on the ground, in just a few moments.

But you talked about these search and rescue missions, as these national guardsmen, and the Police officers, are going through, and trying to find people, but potentially also recovering bodies.

I mean, what's the biggest challenge, with an effort, like that, given that so many of these neighborhoods, are just incinerated, that roads are blocked, that there's ash everywhere?

HICKMAN: I think one of the biggest challenges is the whole -- the National Guard is a community-based organization. They're made up of people, from that community.

I heard somebody else say it today, on the radio, imagine, going to the neighborhood, and going to houses you know, and finding somebody, or even a neighbor, someone you knew of? But I would say that would be the hardest part, is being from that community, and then going in there, and just having to do your duty, assist those first responders, and everybody else, to try to get back to, a sense of recovery, and the build-back. So, to me, the hardest part is being from there, and knowing what used to be there, and what's there now.

COLLINS: And how -- you grew up there. How long have you lived there?

HICKMAN: I lived there, my -- all the way up until high school. So I grew up in Kihei. And there's a fire, on the -- near Kihei, on that side of the island too. There are three on Maui, now, and they didn't affect the urban area nearly as much as Lahaina.

But everybody went to Lahaina. Lahaina was the great resort town there, that the best Halloween was on, right there, on Front Street. Everybody goes there for the fishing. The water is beautiful. The beaches are gorgeous. Tourists flock there, because the water is just amazing. And it isn't -- it was a neat town. And I'm sure it's going to build back and be stronger than ever. But it's going to be a while before that happens.

COLLINS: And I know we're speaking to, in your official capacity. But I mean, this is just so clearly personal for me. I mean, did you ever -- have you ever seen anything like this?

HICKMAN: Being in the National Guard, we share a lot of stories with other National Guardsmen, from other States.

And the California National Guard, and what they had to do, with the Paradise fire, and some of those other fires, in the last decade, and hearing their stories, of what they had to do, seeing their pictures. Because we're all in Public Affairs, so we see the photos and the video.

And it looks just like that. And we never thought that that would happen here.


You're talking, a town that got enveloped. There are some 80 mile per hour gusts. And it happened at night from a hurricane that didn't even hit Hawaii. It just feels that a whole bunch of things aligned the wrong way, and it just surprised everyone.

But no, we never thought that it could happen, and I've never seen anything like this.

COLLINS: And what are you hearing about how busy hospitals are? I mean, have you heard anything about the number of injuries, and what that looks like, from that perspective?

HICKMAN: Oh, yes, I heard there was about 30 burn victims. There's three that are in critical. I think those guys have been evacuated to O'ahu for follow-on more serious service. I heard there was a firefighter, who is in stable condition, so he's doing OK. And that's just so far.

There's still people on that side of island. They're doing bus evacuations. So, the visitors, they're taking them to the Kahului Airport, and they're either flying home, or they're flying to O'ahu, to stay in the convention center, which was set up. Or, if they're a resident, then they're being taken to a shelter.

And one of the big concerns that we have now is, the amount of resources, we have, for the island. So, we're trying to get the visitors out that can go out and go home, and then take care of the residents that are there, and preserve what we got, though.

Right now, we're busing people out slowly. There are still roads that are closed. There're still buildings. And other fires that are brush fires are, like you said, they're more contained than they were, yesterday. We have two Chinook helicopters from the Hawaii National Guard, assisting with fire suppression. And they told us, yesterday, they could see a difference.

So, yes, a lot of things are changing. And they're going to start moving in a different direction. But yes, it's, yes, it's just amazing. This is something we've never seen and never expected.

COLLINS: I mean, yes, I just, I can hear it in your voice, that you're just -- how surprised you are, by this, and what you're being forced to deal with. You, not just you, and your neighbors as well.

HICKMAN: It's a little bit of comfort, knowing that whatever, I'm going through, the long hours I'm doing, to get messaging out, like this, coming on your show, and getting this, share the message, of what our great first responders, and National Guardsmen are doing. But to get to hear the stories. And so, it's an honor for us to do that.

But just imagining the people, who lost their homes, their businesses, pets, friends, and what they're going through? Nothing. So, if we got to work hard to do it, we will.

COLLINS: Yes. And of course, those estimated 1,000 people that are still missing, tonight.

Jeff Hickman, I know that there's a lot going on, right now. And we thank you, for your time, tonight, and for joining us.

HICKMAN: Thank you very much, Kaitlan. Mahalo.

COLLINS: I want to bring in Dr. Reza Danesh, a private doctor, on Maui. He founded MODO, which is a non-profit that provides free health care.

And Doctor, I know that a lot has been going on, for people, who are in your profession, have your skills. We just heard from Jeff, who was talking about the hospitals. And they are dealing with burn victims. What are you seeing on the ground?

DR. REZA DANESH, FOUNDER, MODO MOBILE DOCTOR: So, first of all, thanks for having me. And you're absolutely correct. A company that I started, and we did a non-profit, called MODO For The People, and we just got accredited with a 501(c) in June. It couldn't happen at a better time.

I've been in Yarnnakarn (ph) Island, finding COVID, and doing house calls, as a concierge doc, and have these mobile units out here. And I realized, on Wednesday morning, which was yesterday, I knew the fires were happening, everyone got the warnings.

My clinic is in Wailea, which (inaudible). We didn't know what was happening in Lahaina at all. Nobody had text messages or images or anything like that. Once the paramedics kind of got there, and you know each other, they kind of text, "Hey, Doc, there's bodies on the ground, a lot, and they're around," and I realized this was serious.

So, I kind of decided to just open up my clinic, make it free for anyone that needed it, called in extra staff, and rounded up people, in my mobile unit that I'm actually sitting in, and headed out, to the field, just to help.

I went to the shelter they set up, at War Memorial. And then I went to Maui High. Everybody just gave me food and water and supplies that they thought I would need, for Lahaina, which was a good call.

I had my own medical stuff. And I hit the ground running, and called the Mayor. And luckily, they allowed us to get through that roadblock, and we went through another road, and which was very scary, at the time, because I didn't realize what I was walking into, and how devastated the road, and the damages were. Trees were on the ground. Huge concrete blocks were pulled out.

There were -- it was basically, it did remind me a little bit of COVID, and the Pandemic, like how you see images, in New York, it was like a ghost town? But being there, just while it was still fresh, and hot, like an atomic bomb had gone off? I still could smell the stuff. I could still feel the heat. I could see small flames. I could see trees burning.

And then, as we rolled through, in my big red van? I'll show you guys, on a tour, in a minute, if we have time. People came out of the woodwork, like survivors. And I realized, "Wow, have we done a sweep through in this area?"


Now, we had another shelter on the west side, but like, how are people going to get there? The shelter is a couple miles away.

And a guy came up to me, like "Hey, I'm here to help."

He's like, "Food."

I'm like "What?"

He's like, "I haven't eaten in two days."

COLLINS: Oh, my goodness.

DANESH: And I'm like, "Yes, thank god, I have some."

So, I did a lot of basic stuff, providing water and food. And then, I started capturing some patients that have had eye injuries, respiratory issues, people just kind of in shock and denial, some people refusing to go with me. They want to sit where they were. They're looking for their dogs. It was like very traumatic for me. And I'm an ER doc.

COLLINS: I mean?

DANESH: And I trained in UCLA in L.A., and I've seen a lot of trauma. And, but to be there, on the ground level, it was, you know, I've seen earthquakes, in L.A., I've seen floods, out in Hawaii, from rains. But this was something nobody expected. I don't think anyone knew how severe it was. And I was the first medical team, and the only one that is on foot.


DANESH: The Red Cross is set up in shelters.

COLLINS: You actually --

DANESH: But the --

COLLINS: Yes. I'm right. You actually ended up helping a woman. I think one of the most devastating things that we heard about this is people were literally jumping into the water, because it was the only safe place for them.


COLLINS: And you actually helped a woman, who had to do just that just to escape from the fires.

DANESH: Yes. So, I kindly was, it's like bedside manner. You ask someone, "Hey, how did you get hurt? Hawaii? Where are you from?"

And I was dealing with her stress, and cuts, and wounds, and respiratory issues and, and asked her like, "So," and I hate to be nosy and ask, but I was like, "So what was it like, you know?"

And she's like, "Well, I just looked out the window, and I saw the fire. And we kind of got a small warning, but not enough."

And you can't predict that. And I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus, by saying they didn't get enough warning. But it's just like, how can you predict this?

She said, she saw the flames coming. She grabbed what she could, left her bird to burn, left her other pets. And I don't know how she was holding it together, talking to me. And she just started running to the ocean. So, I'm really envisioning the scene of like sunset time, running to the ocean, for your life, jumping in the water. And then, she was like, people got on rafts, surfboards, and paddled out, she was like, I don't know if the Coast Guard found those people, like those people are out at sea for all I know.

And she's telling me, her friend, who had a lot of respiratory issues, and had some smoke inhalation, hung on, she hung on, for seven hours, before things cooled off, and they swam back to shore, to walk or recuperate. And she goes, "My friend died."

And I was like, "Wait, so your friend was in the water, holding on next to you, and she died?" And I started having flashbacks, so like the Titanic, and thinking of that movie scene, I'm like, "You can't make this stuff up, like this is real."

COLLINS: Yes, it's just it's --

DANESH: And my heart goes out to her. And I just said, "Can I just record this video?" And I became kind of a newscaster after I treated her. And that's how a lot of people saw that.

But she wasn't the only one. We had another guy propel three storeys, down with a Roorkee (ph) hat.

I'm like, "Were you in the Military?"

He's like, "No, I just always had this rope. I used to be a climber. But it saved my life."

He said he felt the walls were so hot, he knew not to open his front door. So, he went out the window. But everyone in is building died.

COLLINS: That's just --

DANESH: And he was just a straggler, survived, like --


DANESH: -- like some people found buildings, some found buildings that didn't burn, and they hid behind it. I don't know how they survived. And nobody had reached out to them.

Because -- I'm lucky. I think the power was out. But I was driving over electrical lines, and doing some kind of crazy stuff. It's like my calling and my mission to go out there. And I had my nurses, and team, with all the medical supplies. So we're able to like triage like 20, 30 people there. And then, we went to another shelter that was on the west side.


DANESH: And there, and I saw them the main problem. The problem people don't realize, it's not like "I'm an ER doc. I'm there to help burns," like the burns people, they die, or they survive. And if they survive, they have a very low likelihood, especially in a rural island, provide, because we don't have a burn center.


DANESH: They have to be transported --

COLLINS: I mean, Doctor, just to hear your stories, and to hear you being one of the first people there, I mean, it's just amazing. We know that you have a lot of important work that you're doing, right now.

We're grateful, Dr. Danesh that you joined us tonight. Thank you. But we're going to let you get back to that. Thank you for your time tonight though.

DANESH: Yes, thank you so much, for this. OK.

COLLINS: Thank you.

And for those of you, who are watching at home, and want to be able to help, you heard from Jeff there, just a few moments ago, talking about the outpouring of support.

CNN's Impact Your World Team has vetted organizations. They are aiding in these recovery efforts. And you can find out how you can help these wildfire victims, in Hawaii, at Or you can just text HAWAII to 707070 to donate.

We will also stand by, tonight, for that news conference. We are going to get an update, from the Governor, from the Mayor, from the officials, there, on these rescue efforts. We'll bring that to you live, as soon as it begins.

Also, Donald Trump is now ripping the Special Counsel, over the date that Jack Smith requested, for his election interference trial. It's quite soon. We'll tell you more, next.



COLLINS: The Special Counsel, Jack Smith, said he wants to put Donald Trump on trial, in the election interference case, as soon as January 2nd, 2024, nearly three years after the Capitol attack, about two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Prosecutors don't think it will take more than four to six weeks, they say, to present their evidence. Of course, then the Trump team would also get to go. This also means Trump could be in the courtroom, and on the campaign trail, at the same time.

In the other Jack Smith case, the former President's co-defendants appeared in court today, to face new charges, in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation.

Trump bodyman, and his initial co-defendant, Walt Nauta, pleaded not guilty. But once again, the court is now facing a delay, as Carlos De Oliveira, the latest co-defendant, who was added in that superseding indictment, showed up without a Florida-licensed attorney. His arraignment has now been postponed to next week.

I should note, you don't see Trump, in those videos, alongside the attorneys, and the two co-defendants. He also pleaded not guilty, to the new charges, against him, but he waived his appearance at today's hearing.

Joining me now Jennifer Rodgers, CNN's Legal Analyst, and former federal prosecutor; and David Kelley, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Thank you both for being here.

Jennifer, this is a really aggressive schedule. The prosecutors are putting this forward. They say that they want not just this, to give Trump's lawyers, the bulk of their discovery, in the next two weeks. I mean, compared to a normal timeline, how remarkable is that?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, NYU LAW SCHOOL: It's really, really tight, Kaitlan. I mean, we're thinking about cases when we were in the U.S. Attorney's Office, a run-of-the- mill case would probably take usually nine months.


So, it's not that it can't get done. If they have a dedicated prosecution team, a dedicated defense team doing just this, and the court makes space for it? It's feasible in theory. But I think it's pretty tight. I can't imagine they can do it that fast.

COLLINS: Well, and Trump is obviously not happy about this. He's saying that he can't believe Jack Smith scheduled it for the day after New Year's Day. But he said he thinks it should happen, if at all, after the election.

I mean, his team does get to suggest their own timetable. I imagine they're not going to agree with this one?

DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: No. What I think is happening is that Jack Smith starts off, it's kind of like a bidding war. So, he puts in his bid, knowing he's not going to get it. But maybe there'll be kind of a march to the middle. So that maybe if they don't start in January, maybe they can get to May.

I agree with Jennifer. It typically is about nine months before you get to trial. It can be done sooner. And I think that the discovery, in this case, is probably less complex than the discovery in the documents case.

And the reason being is that the documents case has a lot of classified information, the substance of which I don't think is really relevant, but the fact that they have to sort through, some of the classified information issues. So, I think that can be longer. And I think the point here is this can be done faster. So, I don't think it's unreasonable for him to come and bid kind of so low. But I think it's going to, at best -- look, I don't think it's likely to go before the election. But I think it could reasonably and prudently be scheduled, sometime in the spring, summer.

COLLINS: And normally, when we talk about a speedy trial, we're talking about a defendant's rights to a speedy trial.

But what prosecutors noted today was making the argument about the public's interest, in a speedy trial.

And Molly Gaston, one of the prosecutors said it's difficult to imagine a public interest stronger than this one, in which the defendant is the former President, charged with these three charges, but saying that, obviously, it's a matter of public importance, and it merits in favor of a prompt resolution, given he's running for office.

I mean, does that work for the judge?

RODGERS: Well, what underlines all of this is the notion that if he wins election, again, he will have this case dismissed. I mean, he will have a way, to just get rid of this altogether by appointing --

COLLINS: He said he would fire Jack Smith.

RODGERS: He'll fire Jack Smith. His A.G. will dismiss the case, if it happens to be resolved by then. He'll pardon himself. I mean, there are a bunch of different ways it can happen.

But that's not something you say to the judge, because that's not really codified in this Speedy Trial Act. But that's really what we're talking about here. You have to get it done beforehand, or else he'll be able to make it go away.

COLLINS: What do you make of what happened, David, in Southern Florida, today, where you see Walt Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira, walking out with their attorneys, out a court.

But Carlos' attorneys were essentially arguing for a delay to August 25th, because he does not have Florida-based representation that has actually signed on to this yet. The judge said, "No, we're going to do this on Tuesday."

KELLEY: Yes, the Southern District of Florida is pretty strict, about outside lawyers coming in. I've been there and have had that issue before.

And I agree with the judge, it shouldn't take that long. And I think that he's now testing the patience of the judge. You need to get somebody. There's somebody in the Southern -- that's licensed to practice, in the Southern District of Florida, has to be available, to come in, at least as a pro -- to be local counsel, for, some attorney.

So, saying that 25th is too long, is more than reasonable. He should get his act together, and get a lawyer, and move forward. COLLINS: Walt Nauta did the same thing though. He delayed in getting a Florida-based attorney. We were hearing from sources that it was it was a delay tactic. Do you think this is also a delay tactic?

RODGERS: I think it's all a delay tactic. I mean, we're talking about a matter of, months before the election. Every week counts.

I mean the notion that they got a week out of fighting over a totally routine protective order, in the January 6 case, this stuff, with the lawyers, and the documents case? I mean, it's just death by a 1,000 cuts. Every time they can push it back a little, a little? Next thing, you know? You can't try it until after the election.

COLLINS: And we will find out about that protective order, tomorrow, at 10 AM.

David Kelley, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you both.

KELLEY: Thank you.

RODGERS: Thanks.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, Donald Trump, as he is in court, and dealing with his legal troubles, he's also keeping everyone guessing, about whether or not he'll be at the first Republican debate, in just a few days from now.

Four other candidates have signed the loyalty pledge required to take part. We'll tell you whom.

And we're also waiting for the news conference. It is going to start any moment, in Maui. We'll see the Mayor and the Governor of Hawaii, scheduled for 9:30 Eastern Time, 3:30 Local.

We'll be back in just a moment.



COLLINS: Butter sculptures, fried dough, and a lot of Iowa voters. 2024 presidential candidates are either in or headed to Iowa, for the State Fair, tonight.

Donald Trump, in that State, holds 44 percent of the support, among Iowa Republicans. That is more than double his closest rival, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, according to a new poll, from the New York Times and Siena.

Joining me tonight, Jamal Simmons, who is an aide to both President Biden and Vice President Harris, and is now a CNN Political Commentator.

And Doug Heye, former RNC Communications Director and a Republican strategist.

Once -- or one, let me say, congrats to you.


COLLINS: And we're very glad to have you here with us.

SIMMONS: It's exciting to be here.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It's a handsome for sure (ph) that CNN is going up a lot with this.

COLLINS: Yes, exactly.

HEYE: With this guy.

COLLINS: And you will -- our viewers would see you very often.


COLLINS: Doug, everyone is in -- everyone and their mother (ph) is in Iowa, right now, including Vice President Mike Pence. Obviously, they're all there, shaking hands talking to people.

But Mike Pence actually got asked, on January 6, from one voter, who had traveled there, to see him. And he said he thought people deserved to know that Trump pressured him to overturn the election.


MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People deserve to know that on that day, the former President asked me to choose him over my oath to the Constitution. I chose the Constitution, and I always will.



COLLINS: Trump is denying that saying he never asked him to disregard the Constitution.

I mean, we all saw what happened. But what do you make of the fact that this is something he's talking about, at the Iowa State Fair, in the middle of these 2024 primaries?

HEYE: Well, one, I would say you left short the number of fried foods that are available, at the Iowa State Fair. It is a very, very long list. It's part of the reason that candidates go there, Republicans or Democrats.

COLLINS: I'm sorry, Doug. I got to interrupt you. We need to go to Maui. That is where officials are giving an update, on the catastrophic wildfires.

This is the Governor. [21:35:00]

GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): -- to bring our State back.

What we saw was the utter devastation of Lahaina. We walked from end to end, today, as a team, Mayor Bissen, for the County, Senator Schatz, at the federal level, and myself, plus, all of our teams. And what we saw was likely the largest natural disaster, in Hawaii state history. You'll recall in 1960, we had one year, into statehood, a tsunami, that hit, and took 61 lives, on the Big Island.

We are seeing loss of life, here. As you know, the number has been rising, and we will continue to see loss of life. But we have extraordinary professionals, working on this job. We also have seen many hundreds of homes destroyed. And that's going to take a great deal of time to recover from.

But that's why we come together. We come together to give comfort to people. And, like I said, we will prevail. But we come together now, to talk about the specifics of resources.

This morning, at 12:10 AM, my team and I submitted the proposal, to the federal government, for Presidential Disaster Declaration.

And exactly six hours later, we were honored to receive, in the affirmative that the federal government will be supporting our full recovery, which means that there will be grants for individuals, from FEMA, there will be support, for rental aid, there will be support for small businesses. And this is just a small piece of what's going to be necessary.

But the financial aspects of the recovery will help blunt the loss of life, because all of us will have a loved one, here on Maui, that we know of that lost a house, that lost a friend.

We talked to many people, today, not just at the shelter, which was something to behold. And we appreciate all the volunteers, like we appreciate the incredible work of the firefighters and police.

But we talked to an old gentleman, who hadn't seen anything like this ever, in his life, a wildfire that took a whole city. His neighbors have all lost their homes. His home was intact. But he was in tears. This is a gentleman that doesn't cry easily.

We saw young men on bicycles, riding through Lahaina. They also had much loss to share. They lost their houses, and they don't know where to turn.

So, what we're telling you is we will rebuild.

Today, you're going to hear from not just me, as Governor, but you're going to see what Senator Schatz, will be able to begin, working on, and proposing for our aid.

Also, we have experts from FEMA, of course, our local leadership, our State Senator, and Mayor. But let me say this, a couple of things, we are going to need to house thousands of people. It's our intent to initially seek 2,000 rooms, so that we can get housing for people. That will mean, reaching out to all of our hotels. And those in the community will ask people to rent those extra rooms, or their ADUs, or the Ohana that they have in their property.

We will create a program so that that's available. It will be deeply subsidized, in my opinion, to make sure that for the many months that people need to find a home, they can have a home here. We will have to make the hotels full, as we do this. They're part of our economy and our community.

We're also going to call to action, for people, across the State. If you have additional space, in your home? If you have the capacity to take someone in, from West Maui? Please do. We'll find a way to connect you.

Please consider bringing those people into your lives, especially if you have a space that you can otherwise rent. The State will find resources, because the federal government will be in full support. President Biden spoke to me, directly, and said that they will be here with us, all the way.

We'll take questions at the end. But I know there are several experts here that are going to address you. And we understand you're hungry for information.

Let me just say this upfront. We respect that. We know how important it is that you do your jobs. But we're just about 48 hours in. And there's tragedy, on the roadside. There's tragedy, in the homes, in Lahaina. And we're trying to be very careful, to respect the dignity of people, who have had such loss.

So, if we've been, at any time, more difficult to communicate, it's because we're trying to also respect what they've gone through. We'll get you a lot of information, as we go forward.

So, I'll pause there and give back to Michaela (ph).


At this time, I'd like to welcome our Maui County Mayor, Richard Bissen.


In an event like this, I think we all understand, goes through several phases. We have been in the phase now, of fighting fires and saving lives. I appreciate the patience the media has had with us, allowing us to go through that phase.

Soon, we'll be in the recovery, rebuilding phase as the Governor has spoken to. We know that's going to be a long process.

[21:40:00] I really want to speak to our citizens, our residents, our visitors, our businesses, who have suffered tremendous loss, and probably inconsolable grief. I think, for us, the message is, we're going to try, our very best, to identify those that have perished, so that the families can have that closure, and can have that understanding.

We're also going to try and connect our families, with those, who are in our shelters. As you understand, this was an emergency. People left without taking anything with them. In most cases, they had no choice.

So now, we're at that phase, where we want to make sure those that are in our community, whether they're at a hotel, or at a shelter, or staying with a family or a friend, that we can try, and match them back with their families. A lot of work being done by all the good people, here, to make that happen.

And again, as the Governor spoke to it, we will rebuild. And that's really what we have no choice but to do.

Until you see the devastation that we all witnessed, maybe through photographs, before this morning, but in-person today, it's difficult to describe. But there are lots of people that will need a lot of help. And our goal, as government, is to provide that help to people.

I do want to also speak to the folks, who did not -- whose homes were not damaged. And I know the question, on your mind, is "When can I get back to my home?" Just as soon as we can try to provide the certainty that we have recovered, those that have perished. And that's really our goal, right now.

We're hoping to find people that might just be injured. A lot of time has passed since the incident. So, we're still in that phase.

But please allow us to complete this process before we allow people back into the homes. There's no power, there's no water, back on the west side, either. So those are both things we're trying to restore as well.

We also want to make sure we can provide enough shelter space, space that are shelters, for folks. We're kind of at the limits, in some of the central Maui ones. And we'll have to be creative with our team, after this, to try to get more for folks, out in the west side.

So, we're very cognizant of the main things that people want to know. "Where's my family member? When can I move back to my home? And what's the long-term plan?"

I mostly however want to thank all the partners, the allies that we have, in our federal government, our state government, our federal county government, support, and of course, our public. Your patience, your vigilance, we continue to ask for it. Thank you.


I now like to bring up U.S. Representative, Brian Schatz.



SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): It's fine, fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.

SCHATZ: No, I lost that race.


SCHATZ: Aloha, everybody. I just have a couple of things to say.

First of all, we are unified, from the federal, to the State, to the County government, and especially including the community.

We were fortunate enough to be in the Emergency Operating Center. And I've been in a lot of EOCs. And I have never seen such an extraordinary group of individuals, who are professionally and personally dedicated, to disaster response, and of course recovery. And so many people have so many personal relationships, that they're kind of managing, having to be a first responder, but also worry about their own families. And so, we all want to thank them.

But Josh got a call from the President. I just got a call from the Vice President. Leader Schumer called, and assured me that he was going to do everything he could, in terms of a disaster supplemental funding bill.

And one of the best pieces of news, which was fortuitous, this week, is that Bob Fenton, from Region 9, who has been a longtime friend of Hawaii, through FEMA, through wildfires, other wildfires, through volcanic eruptions, through floods, and tropical storms, is here, and is one of the most knowledgeable people, on disaster response and recovery that you could possibly get.

And he's here physically with us, walked Front Street, has done all of it, and is going to stay, for the duration, even as the FEMA Administrator, I think, arrives, at tomorrow evening.

So, we are united. We are not underestimating the task, in front of us, in the next couple of days, and couple of weeks, but also a couple of years. This is going to be a long period of recovery. But we will rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mahalo Senator Brian Schatz.

At this time, I'd like to bring up Major General Ken Hara.



I like to start off, again, by offering my condolences and prayers to everyone, from Maui, to include the visitors. It was just extremely saddening, to see all the destruction there.

But I was fortunate to be able to see it firsthand, and now realize the amount of support that we're going to require, from the federal, state, colony, and the private. And I was talking to Governor Green, and said, this has got to be an all-of-nation approach.

Because of what I saw, we'll be activating what we call the Joint Task Force 5-0 (ph). So that's a Dual Status Commander. I'll be appointing Brigadier General Stephen Logan, who's currently my Deputy Adjutant General. He will be the Dual Status Commander. So, he'll have the authority to command both Active Duty and National Guard forces.

I've been in close contact with Admiral Aquilino, who is the Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and General Charles Flynn, who is the Commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, and they have said they will provide the State whatever Military resources we need, for response and recovery.

I did ask, and we did formally request several capabilities, and resources, from FEMA, and from the federal government.

I'll allow Administrator Fenton, to go into the details of what he's approved.

But it's going to take a long time, as the Mayor and both the Governor alluded to. So much destruction, it's going to take time to rebuild. And we're going to need that all-of-nation approach that I talked about.

Thank you.


At this time, we'd like to bring up Robert Fenton, Region 9, FEMA Administrator.

ROBERT FENTON, REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: Appreciate it. And first, our condolences and prayers with those that lost friends and loved ones during this event. We want to be with you, not only now, but through the recovery in the years to come.

Also, message is safety. Make sure you continue to heed the warnings of local officials. Don't wait. Listen to them, and heed their warnings.

As all the speakers, before me, talked about, is unity of effort. I just like to say, one team, one fight. But this is really going to take a whole-community effort. So, it's just not government, at the federal, state, local level. It's business, private sector, non- profits, the citizens of Maui, all come together, to work together, to help recover.

The devastation that I saw today is significant. I've been on many fires, in my career. I've been in FEMA for 26 years, been to the biggest fires in the country. And the downtown area has significantly damage, and a lot of lost structures down there. Some of the programs that we will bring, and that are important here is the ability to provide direct federal assistance. What does that mean? That means I have the authority, under the (ph) President, to task other federal agencies, to provide support to Maui, and the State of Hawaii.

And some of those missions, I'm sure, are going to be in the debris removal area. Household Hazardous Waste that usually U.S. EPA does for us, the Corps of Engineers usually removes debris for us.

And many other missions include potentially generator missions, mass care, commodities, and also bringing in some search and rescue teams that help with cadaver dogs, so look for human remains, and they're on the way in right now, both from California and Washington. And we'll integrate them and support the great fire department you have here.

Our Individual Assistance Program is the key program for individuals. For those that are survivors, who either lost loved ones, or you can't get back to your house, or you think you've been impacted by this storm? Go ahead and phone the 1-800-320-6632 FEMA number. Again, that is 1-800-320-6632 --

COLLINS: All right. Right now, officials, in Maui, are providing an update, after catastrophic wildfires there that have killed 53 people.

We heard from the Governor Josh Green there, at the beginning, saying that they are going to continue to see loss of life, saying this is the largest natural disaster, in Hawaii's state history. He said there's going to be a need to house thousands of people, who were there, pushed out of their homes, or had to evacuate.

We sadly learned earlier that the death toll in Maui has climbed to 53. Right now, though, rescuers are still searching for many others who are missing. We heard one estimate earlier, from someone, from the Hawaii Department of Defense, who said he believes a 1,000 people are still missing, tonight.

We will keep monitoring this press conference. We'll bring you, new updates as they come in. And for more information, about how you can help those, who are those Hawaii wildfire victims, go to, or you can text HAWAII to 707070 to donate.

We'll be right back in just a moment.



COLLINS: Back with our panel now, as we are turning to the presidential candidates, who are in Iowa. It's that time of year again, for the State Fair.

And now, something that is coming up, while they're all there, the loyalty pledge that so far, only four GOP hopefuls have signed, ahead of that first debate.

Back with me, Jamal Simmons, and Doug Heye. Thank you both.

Doug, let me start with you. Because Trump has said, last night, that he is not going to sign this pledge, to support the eventual nominee. I mean, obviously, it's a requirement, to participate, in the first debate. But this is what he said about it.

HEYE: Yes.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I wouldn't sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn't have. I wouldn't have certain people as somebody that I'd endorse.


COLLINS: What happens if he doesn't sign the pledge? They're going to let him on the debate stage, you think?

HEYE: If Donald Trump wants to be on the debate stage, he's going to be on the debate stage. The reality though is he doesn't want to be. And politically, it's smart for him not to be.

Ultimately, if he's on that stage, he's going to allow every opponent to get all of the oxygen that he brings into a room, and invite himself, for a lot of criticism, from his own party that he doesn't want to have.


So, he may do a separate event. But he's not going to be at the debate. His advisers are telling him, "Don't do this." And I think anybody rationally who works in politics, when they're working for an incumbent, who has a big lead, which is sort of where Trump is, right now? That's what you advise.

COLLINS: But Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, who is someone, no stranger to tension, with Donald Trump, tweeted today --

HEYE: Yes.

COLLINS: -- in response to that, "Every Republican running for President would be better than Joe Biden." He's Republican governor, not surprising that he would say that.

But he said, "Any candidate who does not commit to supporting the eventual nominee is putting themselves ahead of the future of our country," and says this is basically "Political games."

SIMMONS: So first of all, Donald Trump has been putting himself ahead of the future of our country, since with 2016? Is that when he showed up?

And I just find it very hard to believe that Donald Trump will let an event occur, again, with so many lights, so many cameras, so many remote field reports, from every network, and he will not be present, or be a part of it.

I think that we are looking at -- I'm not sure how he gets there. I'm not sure what kind of maneuvering he does. And it certainly won't be, because it's the smart thing to do, or the rational political thing to do. Because Donald Trump is a little bit more casino-owner barker than he is rational, political (ph).

COLLINS: Well and there's been a tactic by the other Republicans --

HEYE: Yes.

COLLINS: -- to try to goad him into coming. I mean, does that work? Does that appeal work to him?

HEYE: I don't think so, because he could be, the riverboat casino. He could be on the other side of the river, and holding his own event, he'll get as much attention as he wants to.

He is the show, and he knows that he's the show. He doesn't need to bring his spotlight, to those other people, and let them steal from his limelight. So, he's going to do something potentially. It doesn't need to be what everybody else did it -- wants to do. And that's how he's always operated.

COLLINS: I don't even know, if we need the word, "Potentially," in there. I think he definitely --


HEYE: Fair enough.

COLLINS: -- doesn't show up.

But you used to work for Vice President Harris.


COLLINS: I wonder what you made of what Nikki Haley did today, when she signed this pledge. She posted this picture, and she crossed out, they're calling it the "Beat Biden" pledge. They crossed out Biden, and she wrote it's the "Beat President Harris Pledge." I mean, you worked for the Vice President. What do you think she'd make of that?

SIMMONS: Yes, I think, this is, first of all, a really complicated argument that Republicans are trying to make, because it's asking voters, to do two things.

One of them is maybe even imagine Joe Biden being president, right? And so, Joe Biden might be president, but then you might get Kamala Harris. So, it's just too complicated. Voters usually don't do strategic voting. They vote for who they want, the top to the bottom.

If I were a Republican candidate, I would say either I want Joe Biden to be president, or I don't want Joe Biden to be president. I wouldn't worry about the Vice President. And it seems a little bit like Nikki Haley, is auditioning for Vice President. And if she wants to be Vice President, she should just say so.

COLLINS: Doug Heye.

Jamal Simmons, welcome to the CNN family.

Glad to have you both, tonight.

HEYE: Thank you.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right. If you look at Senator Tommy Tuberville's website, you will see this description. Quote "Tuberville lives in Auburn, Alabama, with his wife Suzanne."

But tonight, The Washington Post has us asking, if he actually lives in Florida. The Post Fact-Checker, Glenn Kessler, reports that last month, Tuberville sold the last of the properties that he owns, in the State of Alabama.

The Senator has not responded, to our request for comment. But his office did tell the Post that his primary residence is in Auburn.

But Kessler found that records showed that house is actually owned by Tuberville's wife and his son. Instead, the Post says the campaign finance and property documents show the home that actually bears his name, is a beach house, in Florida, in the Panhandle, worth millions of dollars, and where he's lived, for nearly two decades.

I mean, he even said this, in 2017.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Six months ago, after 40 years of coaching football, I hung up my whistle and moved to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, with the white sands and the blue water. What a great place to live.


COLLINS: Let's be clear, no one is saying that Senator Tuberville broke any laws. And he has spent plenty of time, in Alabama, specifically in Auburn, where he coached the Auburn Tigers, and the football team, from 1999 to 2008.

But it is also the first time, not the first time that he has faced accusations, of being a carpetbagger. In 2017, he decided not to run for Governor of the State, when questions about his residency were raised.

To add to that the Birmingham News reported that Tuberville voted, in the midterm elections, not in Alabama, but in Florida, in 2018.

To run for governor, in my home state of Alabama, you must be a resident there, for seven years. But to run for Senate, you only have to be a resident for at least one day. I think you see where I'm going with this.

In 2019, The Post reports that Tuberville registered to vote, in Alabama. That was nine days before he launched his Senate campaign. Now, I should note, as the Washington Post does tonight that during his campaign, Tuberville did not shy away from these allegations that he didn't really live, in the State.


TUBERVILLE: Yes, I'm not an everyday resident of Alabama. That's going to be brought up.


COLLINS: "Not an everyday resident of Alabama." I should note that did not seem to negatively affect his campaign. He was, in the end, elected in a landslide.

Thank you so much, for joining us, for what was a very busy hour, tonight.

"CNN PRIMETIME" with Laura Coates, starts, right now.