Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Rudy Giuliani Makes Desperate Appeal To Trump To Pay Legal Bills; DeSantis: If We Keep Fighting About What Happened In 2020, GOP Is Going To Lose; Sen. Reed On Stalled Military Nominations. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired August 16, 2023 - 21:00   ET





COLLINS: -- hard way there's a huge price to pay, for pushing Trump's election lies. And the ex-President, who demands loyalty, doesn't often reciprocate. What my sources are saying about a Mar-a-Lago meeting and Giuliani's big ask?

Plus, the prosecutor in Georgia, with an ambitious trial timeline, she wants Trump in court the day before Super Tuesday. Could the 2024 front-runner be in front of a judge, for most of that election year?

And Hawaii's governor says that more than 1,000 people tonight are still potentially missing. As FEMA is acknowledging challenges with the relief efforts there, we'll get an update, from a top official, and a new look at some of the harrowing scenes, on the ground.

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

We begin, tonight, though, with some exclusive new reporting, on the hundreds of thousands of dollars, in legal fees that Rudy Giuliani is now staring down, and the desperate attempts that he has made, to get former President Donald Trump, to cover them.

With his attorney in tow, I am told that Rudy Giuliani traveled to Mar-a-Lago, in late April, on a mission, to make a personal appeal, to Trump, to pay his legal bills.

By going in-person, Giuliani, and that lawyer, Robert Costello, believed that they could help explain face-to-face why Trump needed to assist his attorney with those ballooning legal bills. They argued that really it was in Trump's best interest to do so. But apparently, it fell on deaf ears.

Trump is notoriously strict, about digging into his own coffers. He did not seem very interested, I'm told, in covering everything that Giuliani and Costello wanted. One source says that he verbally agreed to help, but he didn't commit to any specific amount or timeline.

Another source tells me that Trump really only agreed, to pay a small fee, from a data vendor that was hosting Giuliani's records. I'm told that was about $340,000. All in total, Giuliani's legal fees are in the seven-figure range.

Giuliani's trip to Mar-a-Lago has not been previously reported. We're telling you about it first, here, on THE SOURCE, tonight. But it does indicate the level of financial stress that he has been facing, for months now.

Some people in Trump's inner circle were actually surprised by Trump's unwillingness, to pay for Giuliani's bills, given he could find himself, under intense pressure, to cooperate, with federal and, now, state prosecutors, who have charged Trump.

Giuliani already sat down voluntarily, with Jack Smith's team, this summer, two back-to-back sessions. He's now a co-defendant, in the election interference case, in Georgia. He is facing 13 criminal charges, like Trump, and potentially serious prison time.

It's not out of character, for Trump, to not want to pay legal fees. This is something we have heard from many of his attorneys, in the past, including his former attorney, Michael Cohen, when I sat down with him, last month.



One thing that we know for certain is that Donald does not pay legal fees. Donald doesn't pay fees at all.

There's a pattern to what he does. He will pay a little bit, fall behind, pay a little more, fall bigger behind.


COLLINS: I'm joined now by former White House Counsel, under President Nixon, John Dean.

John, good to see you again.

I mean, what do you make when you hear that Rudy Giuliani is going to Mar-a-Lago, making this desperate plea, try and get Trump, to pay for his legal fees, and Trump not really reciprocating on most of that?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that Trump is aware that during Watergate, for example, the payment of legal fees got lawyers in a lot of trouble, as did joint defense agreements.

The fact that he's not paying though is a pattern of this man. As Michael just said, he just doesn't like to pay his bills. So, he will have people come after him, to get the fees. He had an agreement with Michael. And Michael had to go to court, to get his fees paid.

So, Kaitlan, there's no surprise here. And Trump, I think, is willing to tough it out. He doesn't think Rudy will flip. COLLINS: But that is a concern. I mean, I think people, you know, the Michael Cohen effect, people have said that Trump has kind of changed his tactics, there, because of a concern, of it turning into a Michael Cohen situation, potentially.

DEAN: I doubt that Rudy will. Rudy knows the inner workings of the system better than most, as a former U.S. Attorney, from the Southern District of New York. He knows particularly the RICO law. He will try to poke holes. He will think he can prevail.

He, certainly, at the motion stage, the early stages of this proceeding, is not likely to flip. It's only if the government of Georgia can overwhelm him, and he realizes he's going to go down, and maybe he can save himself, some years, by cracking a deal.


COLLINS: I sat down with Bill Barr, Trump's former Attorney General, of course, as you know, the other week. And he had this to say, about what he has seen, he says, happen to people, who were in Trump's orbit.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: He leaves, in his wake, ruined lives, like this, the people, who went up to Capitol Hill, these individuals, many of the people who served him in government that got sucked into things. And he just leaves all this carnage, in his wake.

COLLINS: Do you think he cares about that?

BARR: No, he doesn't care about that. Loyalty is a one-way street for him.


COLLINS: John, do you think Rudy Giuliani winds up as more carnage here, if he hasn't already, in some people's view?

DEAN: I think he will. I think he's in deep trouble. The government's case, it looks like it's overwhelming. His federal issues have not been resolved. Trump could not pardon him, in Georgia, if indeed he is convicted, in Georgia.

I don't think Trump is going to make it back to the White House. I think people are starting to get a glimmer of what that could be. And they don't want it. Maybe more Republicans will do that before the primary vote? I don't know. They're slow-learners, apparently. So, I think Rudy is going to get destroyed by this. It's sad, but true.

COLLINS: I mean, yes, what does he -- if he is as out of money, as his attorney was arguing in court, today, that he is? I mean, that whole -- the entire reason his attorney was in court, today, was arguing that he could not pay part of what he has been ordered to pay, as part of that Smartmatic lawsuit.

I mean, what does he do, in that situation? Does he represent himself? I mean, what options does Rudy Giuliani have, at that point?

DEAN: Well, he can get a court-appointed lawyer, at some stage. Representing yourself is the worst option, because you'll -- anyone, who represents himself is likely to make bad decisions, about that representation.

I think Rudy is likely to go into Chapter 11, or bankruptcy of some sort. I understand his apartment is on the market. It could raise several million dollars. But he probably has a lot of debt he has, to handle immediately, as well. So, I think, bankruptcy, as a potential, and maybe a court-appointed attorney.

COLLINS: I mean, that would be kind of remarkable, in the worst way, if someone, who was once known as America's mayor, the role that he had after 9/11, is then potentially, as you predict could happen, being represented by a court-appointed attorney, and filing bankruptcy to cover his legal fees.

DEAN: Yet -- it has a Shakespearean element about it. Although I don't really think of Shakespeare, when I look at Rudy, and some of the news clips of him recently, it does have that kind of tragic tale that is being told in front of us. So, we'll have to all watch. And no one wishes him ill. But he's gotten himself where he is.

COLLINS: What do you make of what we saw out of Georgia overall, the District Attorney, there, saying that she wants to have a March trial date. She's actually asking for March 4th of a trial date. I mean, whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen.

But does that seem realistic, just given the makeup of this case, how complex it is, the fact that there are 19 co-defendants here?

DEAN: I think what's going to slow down the Georgia case is the others will file a kind of motion that Mark Meadows has filed, to remove the case, to federal court. While the State proceedings will continue, it will bog things down a bit.

And I don't really believe, from my talk, with lawyers, who've really studied this body of law, about removal, that they are going to remove the case, to federal court. And if they do, it's still the same Georgia prosecutors, and the calendar could be even clearer, at the federal level. I don't know. It's just a different jury pool, broader, wider. So that's what's likely to slow it down, Kaitlan, is the removal proceedings.

COLLINS: So, you don't think that they're likely going to be able to get it moved, from a State proceeding to, as Mark Meadows is doing? But also, we are told by sources that Trump is also likely to do. You don't think that's likely?

DEAN: I don't. It just it's hard to envision this, as official behavior, of any of the people.

When you read that indictment, and you read what has been included? Mark Meadows was not just setting up meetings. He was not arranging telephone calls. That's done by secretaries, staffers, White House operators. He's in the thick of this. And as the indictment brings out is much different than his motion.


So, I don't think they're going to prevail. And many of them don't even have federal standing to remove. Those, who are the fake electors, for example, and it's just limited, to those, who were in federal office, when these events happened.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, and to bring this, full circle, Rudy Giuliani is also saying, he's going to potentially make that argument, though. I mean, he obviously did not work, for the federal government. We'll see what the courts decide.

DEAN: Not a chance.

COLLINS: John Dean, thank you for your perspective, tonight.

DEAN: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: So, as we noted, even Rudy Giuliani's attorney is saying that he is essentially broke. And that Donald Trump is not going to be helping anymore, we are told by sources.

That stands in stark contrast to the millions that Giuliani once made, working for Trump. Actually, $9.5 million, in 2017. $5 million, in 2018. Those, according to disclosures that were made, during his divorce.

The connection between Giuliani's reputation and the fate of Trump are so intertwined. I mean, everyone remembers, when Giuliani stood, in front of the soon-to-be-mob, on January 6th, and said this.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: If we're wrong, we will be made fools of.


GIULIANI: But if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail.


GIULIANI: So, let's have trial by combat.


GIULIANI: I'm willing to stake -- I'm willing to stake my reputation, the President is willing to stake his reputation, on the fact that we're going to find criminality there.


COLLINS: If you're surprised, tonight, to hear about the struggles that Giuliani is having, financially, you probably shouldn't be. The money problems make sense, when you just take a step back and look at how much legal trouble the New York Mayor, the former Mayor of New York is facing.

A $2.7 billion defamation suit by Smartmatic.

Giuliani also already owes $90,000 as punishment for not complying with an order to turn over records, in a separate defamation suit, in which he's already acknowledged making false statements about election workers.

That's before you get to the $10 million sexual assault and harassment case, in which his former assistant has tapes and text.

And now, the 13 criminal charges that the Fulton County District Attorney brought, this week, against Giuliani, Trump and 17 others.

It doesn't stop there. All of this is coming as Giuliani is also facing disbarment proceedings, both here in New York and in Washington. That means that right now he cannot make money, from practicing law.

Giuliani has firmly embraced his role, as the face of Trump's election lies, something that Trump himself personally ordered. He spent months, speaking at increasingly bizarre press conferences. And his reputation, today, is not as it once was.

It is now the guy, who stood outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping, pushing election lies, like this one.


GIULIANI: After all, Joe Frazier is still voting here. Kind of hard since he died five years ago. But Joe continues to vote.


COLLINS: Before that happened, before we were at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, in Philadelphia? He was the Mayor that America watched walk through the cloud of dust, on 9/11, who graced the cover of Time Magazine as a quote, "Tower of Strength."

He was once the most popular politician, in the country, and at a time the leading candidate, for the Republican nomination.

His incredible climb started with the same type of law that he is now charged under, in the State of Georgia.

This is a man, who, according to The New York Times in 1989, quote, "Long asserted" that "he invented the use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act," now known as RICO, "to pursue the Mafia commission."

He was so associated with the law that when CNN did a story, in 1988, Giuliani was the face of a wave of RICO prosecutions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, called RICO, for short, passed by Congress in 1970, prosecutors love it.

GIULIANI: The activities of organized crime, the drug dealing, the extortion, the labor racketeering, the murders, the executions, they've also been around, for a long time. And the government up until now has been virtually ineffective, in dealing with them.


COLLINS: It's a legacy he's still clinging to, even now.


GIULIANI: I'm the same Rudy Giuliani that went after the mafia. I haven't changed one bit.


COLLINS: Few people know exactly how much Rudy Giuliani has indeed changed, more than my next guest, Andrew Kirtzman, who has literally written a book, two of them actually, on the former Mayor. We're going to talk about what he thinks happened to Rudy Giuliani, right after this.



COLLINS: On a night, when we were just talking about Rudy Giuliani's desperate pleas, to get Trump to help pay for his legal bills, falling on deaf ears, at Mar-a-Lago, let's dig into what a remarkable fall this truly has been, for the former Mayor of New York.

Andrew Kirtzman is here. He is the Author of "Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America's Mayor."

Andrew, thank you for being here.


COLLINS: I mean you just heard us talking about the troubles that he's facing, now trying to sell his Manhattan place. I mean, this is a very different Giuliani than the one that, when you first started covering him, the way he was living, how he was --


COLLINS: -- how he was doing.

KIRTZMAN: Sure. Well, Giuliani used to buy his suits off the rack at Rothmans, I think, for $400 apiece. People around him would always comment about how money was so not important to him, that it was all about power to him.

What changed was 9/11, right? He became one of the most beloved people on the planet. A poll said that he was more popular than the Pope, at one point.

And he opened up a consulting company, Giuliani Partners that made $100 million, in five years. He became stratospherically wealthy. He bought six houses, 11 Country Club memberships. I interviewed --



Judith Giuliani, his ex-wife, spoke to me, at length, for my book. And there was a quote in the book, which was kind of amusing and harrowing, which was, "We were spending $250,000 a month on sheer fun." I mean, he was living a very, very lavish lifestyle, spent it recklessly, divorced Judith Giuliani. Had to, you know, gave a lot away.


And now, the legal bills are, he's just drowning in legal bills. And the fact that Donald Trump won't bail him out is just absolutely tragic.

COLLINS: I mean, he --

KIRTZMAN: It's extraordinary.

COLLINS: He gave $340,000. We're told that Giuliani has seven figures in legal fees that he is facing.

KIRTZMAN: Yes. I mean, he's being sued for defamation, right? He's under criminal -- he's -- and under indictment, a criminal investigation, in D.C. There are civil suits against him, right? The Ruby Freeman, the woman, the election worker, in Atlanta, is suing him. He's representing himself, in some cases, because he's burning through his money.

COLLINS: You've covered him for 30 years. I mean, does this surprise you?

KIRTZMAN: Nothing surprises me, when it comes to Rudy Giuliani. I mean, the reason I've been covering him, for 30 years, is that he's such a complex over-the-top larger-than-life figure, right? I mean, he's an opera fan, and he's kind of -- his life is an opera.

I mean, he's almost escapes death, on 9/11. He busted the mob, right? Ran for president, and had this extraordinary flame-out in 2008.

Goes to Ukraine, leads to one presidential impeachment. Tries to upend democracy, under Trump, leads to a second impeachment.

I mean, there is no story, like Rudy Giuliani's. His is one of, I guess, the most extraordinary political rise and fall stories of our time.

COLLINS: So, what happened to him? When people ask that quote, I mean, that is the question of Rudy Giuliani, it feels like. KIRTZMAN: Right.

COLLINS: From people, who saw him, at the White House, when he was having the press conference, where his hair dye was running down his hair.


COLLINS: He's at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

That is the question is what happened to Rudy Giuliani?

KIRTZMAN: I think in a word, it was desperation.

I think that his rise to power was so extraordinary, hero prosecutor, hero Mayor, a presidential candidate, who was leading in the polls, for a full year, in 2008, in the Republican primary. He lasts just four, excuse me, eight weeks, in the Republican primary, drops out in total humiliation, with only one delegate, and falls from grace, loses his 9/11 Halo.

And suddenly, he's out in the wilderness. And who comes to his rescue, but Donald Trump? And he literally houses (ph) him, in Mar-a-Lago, soon after the election. He had fallen into depression. He was drinking. I mean, Giuliani had kind of hit rock-bottom. And it was Donald Trump, who was kind of his ticket back to power.

In 2016, it was Donald Trump, who needed Rudy Giuliani. When he was running for president, in 2016, Trump didn't have any political friends. He needed Giuliani. And Giuliani needed Trump. Because no one was calling Giuliani, for his endorsement, except for Trump.

COLLINS: Do you think that's why Giuliani was so willing to do what Trump -- I mean, he went to Ukraine, and looked into all of that. Trump was telling, people in Ukraine, Ukrainian officials, "Talk to Rudy Giuliani" --


COLLINS: -- instead of the Attorney General, like he worked at the Justice Department. Trump put him in charge of going out and pushing all of his election lies. I mean, Rudy did all of it, and some.

KIRTZMAN: Right. I mean, Giuliani -- after all of Trump's election lawyers, campaign lawyers, the United States Attorney General had told Trump that he had lost the election? There was only one man telling him he would -- he had won. And that was Rudy Giuliani.

And that, of course, predictably, he put Rudy Giuliani, in charge of the election situation, when trying to turn around the race. I mean, Giuliani was there with Trump, when they turned off the lights, at the White House, a last man standing, telling him that he had still won. The fact that Trump now is not paying his legal bills? It's remarkable. It's remarkable.

COLLINS: But it's not really surprising. I mean, that is Trump's M.O. KIRTZMAN: Right.

COLLINS: I mean, Michael Cohen, people, they say this is kind of what he does.

I mean, what about the fact that Giuliani is now facing -- I mean, he's not just in over his head at legal fees. He is facing criminal charges in Georgia, for the same law that he used to use here, to go after members of organized crime.

KIRTZMAN: Right. I mean, the irony is extraordinary. I mean, RICO is not just a legal statute to Giuliani. RICO is part of his personality. It's part of his story.

I mean, Giuliani tells the story over and over how back then, when he was still number three, in the Justice Department, he was overhearing the television, with Joe Bonanno, who had like -- Mafia Don, who had inexplicably written an autobiography, talked about the condition, like The Godfather scene, where all the Godfather -- all the mobsters sat around, and kind of made their big decisions.

And according to Giuliani, he had this kind of light-bulb moment, where he's like, "I can use RICO, and charge them all at once." And that's what he did. And he was successful. And it made him world- famous and an American hero.


For the Atlanta grand jury, now to indict him on RICO charges, it's kind of like a stabbing a knife, to the heart of the Giuliani story. He must be devastated by it.

COLLINS: Andrew Kirtzman, I mean, your book, you have enough material, for more books, I would say. The rise and fall -- the rise and tragic fall, I should note, of America's Mayor Giuliani. Thank you, for joining us, tonight.

KIRTZMAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: And if you want to know more about the Rudy Giuliani story, given of course, there is so much there.

Saturday night, at 8 o'clock, the CNN Original Series, "WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICA'S MAYOR?" asks how the man considered a hero, in the aftermath of 9/11, became the architect of Donald Trump's election conspiracies.

Also, coming up next, for us, tonight, the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, has now proposed a date, for Donald Trump. How his court calendar is lining up, with the political one, and the complications, there.

Also, new reporting, on Trump's current thinking, about whether or not he's going to show up, for that first debate, one week from tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, asking a judge, to set a trial date, for March 4th, 2024, adding to Trump's dizzying calendar, of overlapping court dates and the campaign trail.


After Trump is facing a civil trial, here in New York, in October, he could stand trial, in Special Counsel Jack Smith's election conspiracy case, and the defamation suit, all in the midst of the Iowa caucuses.

While Fani Willis' case, in Georgia, could start one day, before Super Tuesday, if it goes, as she is asking. That is when voters in more than a dozen States are also going to go to the polls. Georgia voters, eight days later, are going to be casting their primary votes. And this doesn't even factor in the classified documents case, and when that could happen.

Trump and his 18 co-defendants in Georgia, tonight, have nine more days, to voluntarily surrender, which we are told is going to happen, at the Fulton County Jail, in Atlanta. So far, we are told that no one has turned themselves in. And instead, Trump's attorneys are right now in talks, about the details of what that surrender will look like, and when it could happen.

Discuss more, tonight, with two political veterans, Van Jones, a former Obama administration official; and Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican strategist and pollster. I mean, we have all the legal questions for this. But also, there is the political aspect, because we are now in an election year.

There's new polling out that says he's still enjoying strong support, from Republicans. No surprise there. More of them want him to run than they did even in April.

But when it comes to the general, 74 percent of Republicans say that they would support Trump in November 2024. But only 53 percent of Americans say that they definitely would not back him. I mean, do Republicans see that? Are they looking at these numbers?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Republicans are looking at Joe Biden, and are going, "There's no way America is going to vote for that guy. We can put up Donald Trump, and he's a fighter, and he'll win."

And that's why a lot of these attempted electability arguments that you've seen folks like Ron DeSantis try to subtly make in the primary, saying, "Well, I'm a winner. I'm the one who knows how to win." The unspoken contrast there being Donald Trump doesn't know how to win. Republican voters just don't really buy that.

Now, that doesn't mean that he's guaranteed to be the nominee. And it certainly doesn't mean that if he is the nominee, he'd be the next president, as many Republicans really think.

But I do think that this general election, a lot of those polls show it not too far apart between Trump and Biden, in a hypothetical rematch. Republicans do not think that he is the political poison that, say, some Independents think he is.

COLLINS: I mean there are numbers to back that up. The new Quinnipiac poll shows that a hypothetical matchup between Biden and Trump is a virtual tie.


COLLINS: I mean, what does the White House say, when they see those numbers, especially when they see all the indictments and charges and problems?

JONES: I think they probably -- that sound you hear is them banging their heads against the wall.

Because the economic numbers are starting to look a lot better. You're a year out from the IRA being passed, the Inflation Reduction Act being passed. That looks like it's going really well. Jobs are being created. And they're getting zero attention, because their main candidate is getting indicted all the time. And folks seem to like it, like this is nuts.

And, by the way, the people, in the Republican Party, who apparently like all this stuff, they wouldn't hire someone, who had 91 felony charges, against him. They wouldn't give that person a job interview. And yet, they're willing to put someone like that in the White House. It is bizarre.

COLLINS: It's also completely sucking up all the oxygen out of --


JONES: All the oxygen.

COLLINS: All, I mean, maybe every single last bit of it.

I mean, Ron DeSantis was in Iowa today, where he has basically been stationed, for the last several weeks. He was asked about these many indictments. He says he thinks the Republican Party needs to move on.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we are fighting about what happened in 2020, or January 6th, 2021, if that is what the election ends up about, Joe Biden is going to be hanging out in his basement in Delaware again. Not a care in the world. And Republicans are going to lose.


COLLINS: I mean Trump is holding a news conference, on Monday, to finally prove his fraud claims. This isn't going away. It's still something that Trump is making an unavoidable topic.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: No. And that calendar that you just showed, at the start of the segment, really confirms that not only is this not going away. This is going to be the thing, dominating the headlines, in the heat of Republican primary season.

And even if I'm skeptical that these charges actually make any Republicans, really more likely to vote for him? But it certainly solidifies those around him. It makes them feel like they need to take defensive action, stand by their guy, and keep supporting him, almost as a way to kind of just stick it to the other side.

As long as that's the narrative around the primaries, it will make it very hard, for many of these other contenders, who the polls show Republicans really like. Ron DeSantis, they like Tim Scott. They like Vivek Ramaswamy, all these folks. They're just not picking them, in the primary, right now. Donald Trump still owns the conversation.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, and Mike Pence is having to say today, Trump -- Georgia was not stolen. Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, also had to say that recently.

I don't even know what you're going to say about this. But Marjorie Taylor Greene was asked about this, and she basically had this -- she was asked about that, and whether or not because of that, where she was unhappy, with Brian Kemp, for saying that, if she would challenge him if he ran for Senate. That is something that he's rumored to do.


That's not the point of her quote. But she said "I haven't made up my mind whether I will do that or not... I have a lot of things to think about. Am I going to be a part of President Trump's Cabinet if he wins? Is it possible that I'll be VP?"

JONES: Look, first of all, who is Marjorie Taylor Greene? Who is it? Who are you talking about? She's never passed a bill. She's never chaired a committee. She's never done literally anything at all, except to be an obnoxious controversialist.

But she might be the VP? I mean, in this completely upside-down bizarre world, her word matches up against a successful governor, and the former Vice President. And that's the world that we're in.

Donald Trump made that world, where if you're just obnoxious enough, and crazy enough, and have enough lunatic tweets, you can dominate the conversation. He's doing it. She's doing. It is not good for America, though.

COLLINS: I mean, what would those Senate confirmation hearings even look like?

JONES: It will --

COLLINS: If she has been nominated to a Cabinet post?

JONES: It would just be a circus inside of a zoo, on fire.

COLLINS: A circus inside of a zoo, on fire. Is that what you said?

JONES: That would be -- that would be the hearing. COLLINS: All right. Van Jones, Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you both.


COLLINS: Up next, rescue workers are getting more access, to areas that are cut off previously, in Maui. The Governor though, of Hawaii, says, right now, they still believe more than 1,000 people are missing. We'll get an update, on the ground.



COLLINS: President Biden announcing today that he and the First Lady will visit Maui, on Monday, after Republicans, including former President Trump, criticized his response, to the tragedy, so far.

Should note, he has also declared an emergency declaration for there. He's also spoken to multiple officials.

But on Monday, the Bidens are going to be able to see firsthand, the devastation, from the deadly wildfires that have claimed at least 110 lives, according to the latest counts.

Tonight, officials are warning that that number is going to rise, they believe, as Search and Rescue teams, are continuing to comb through, the aftermath. That is wreckage that the Hawaii governor, Josh Green, described to me, as reminiscent of 9/11. It's that difficult to be going through this, not only finding people, but also identifying those that they do find.

So far, about a third of the burn area has been searched, as this painstaking process, of identifying victims continues. Officials have even had to ask relatives, to provide DNA samples.

Joining me now, again tonight, is Jeff Hickman, the Director of Public Affairs, for Hawaii's Department of Defense.

And Jeff, it's good to see you again. And thank you for coming back on.

Can you just kind of describe, we spoke the other day, what is the search operation like, on the ground, right now, as it stands, tonight?

JEFF HICKMAN, HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: And thank you for having me again.

The search has -- the efforts have increased multiple times, over. They went from 20 search canines to 40, coming from 15 different states.

VOICE OF HICKMAN: That just shows you the Aloha and the effort that our nation is taking, in getting Maui exactly what they need. And right now, the search, you said, one-third of the area's searched. The death toll will go up. More bodies will be found. And we'll start to bring closure to those, who need it, and identify those missing.

There's Assistance Centers helping those who are missing. There's the civilian lists going around, and DNA being collected, to help make the match, and help people find those who are still missing.

COLLINS: The last time that you and I talked, you estimated about 1,000 people were missing. Where does that number stand, tonight?

VOICE OF HICKMAN: Oh, that hasn't changed. They're still estimating many, many more people to be found there. With the teams increasing in size, both from the National Guard, FEMA and local first responders, firefighters now are able to leave the fires.

There's still some fires burning in hotspots. But now, they can they can assist the others in the area that's affected. And that's really, it's great. And with that effort, they're going to start going into buildings. And when they do that, the numbers will go up a lot.

I was able to talk to a Search and Rescue team member, from the Hawaii National Guard. And he let me know that the first thing they do, is they walk through the area. And the first thing they do is they listen, for anybody, who might be making a noise. And that's just that's heart-wrenching.

HICKMAN (on camera): But on that team is searchers and fatality Search and Recovery personnel, who when they do find a body, with compassion, and care, and time, they take that body, and get it back to where it can be identified.

It is taking a long time for the search, to discover, and then recover the remains.

VOICE OF HICKMAN: So we just ask, for patience, during this time.

COLLINS: You mentioned that when these search team goes in that they're listening for sounds. I mean, are they hearing anything?

VOICE OF HICKMAN: No, sadly, they're not. And that's just, it's part of the process. It's the steps that they take. There's hope. But that's one of the steps they do. Then, they go back with a fine-tooth comb, and go over the area multiple times. And it's sad. But they're getting better at their job.

And the motivation is the families. And this is a community-based organization. These are Guardsmen, who are from the area. This is their community. They're used to cleaning up debris, maybe protecting people, from going down certain roads, during lava or floods. This is brand-new.

COLLINS: You mentioned those that are there. I mean, this is not what their normal jobs are. But, I mean, what other kind of experts have been brought in? Because, I mean, the Governor, last night, was comparing this, to the aftermath of a warzone, or he said it looks like ground zero, after 9/11. Obviously, different situations. But he was saying that is the kind of expertise that they are needing, people, to come in, and help identify people.

VOICE OF HICKMAN: Yes, they're bringing in complete teams. FEMA is with over 400 personnel, on the ground, assisting not just the people of Maui, but assisting in the process of identifying, bringing in experts, from around the world, to the little island of Maui. And with their expertise, it is actually helping the process.

On top of that you have grief counselors. You have chaplains. You have community outreach.


You still have people, who may be on the mainland, around the world, or somewhere other than Maui, and they're the ones missing people. And it's really hard to connect to those personnel, to the ones on Maui. It's not just Maui people missing Maui people. There might be some international people, who are missing, family and friends. And they're finding challenges, as well.


VOICE OF HICKMAN: So, it's a very well-rounded situation. And we're trying to help Maui get a handle on that.

COLLINS: Jeff Hickman, we are thinking of you, and everyone that you're working with, and all of those Search teams. Thank you, for joining us, tonight.

HICKMAN (on camera): Mahalo, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Of course, we will continue to monitor updates there.

Also, back here, now three branches of the Military do not have confirmed leadership, tonight, because of Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville's hold, on Military promotions.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is here. He'll join me next, about how he believes this is impacting Military readiness.


COLLINS: Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, calling out Senator Tommy Tuberville, and demanding that Republican leaders intervene, in his ongoing efforts, to block top Military nominations.

The Alabama Republican is stalling the nominations, in protest of the Pentagon's abortion policy.

[21:50:00] And as of tonight, his hold has left three Military services, as you can see here, without Senate-confirmed leaders, for the first time ever, in U.S. history. The Army Chief of Staff, the Marine Corps Commandant, and the Chief of Naval Operations, all filled, on an acting basis. More than 300 Military officer promotions are currently on hold, in total.

Joining me now, to discuss, Democratic senator, Jack Reed, who is the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And Senator, thank you for being here.

I mean, the Pentagon says it's not changing its policy.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you.

COLLINS: Tuberville told me, he's not lifting his hold, until they do.

Where does this leave the Military, tonight?

REED: It leaves the Military in a very precarious position. We have key leaders that are not in place, in very sensitive areas.

I just returned from Wiesbaden, Germany. And there, we have coordinating all our activities, for the Ukraine. And the nominee for Deputy Commander of that organization is not in place. And the Commander can't assume all those responsibilities. It's an incredible job.

We have the Commander in our Pacific Fleet who is not in place. We have the Marine Corps Commander, in Japan.

This is also an effect that sort of cascades downward, because it sends signals to very promising young officers, colonels, lieutenant colonels, that they're just political pawns. And it's very, very destructive. And it's also very destructive and disruptive for the families.

COLLINS: And you said --

REED: You have a --

COLLINS: You said earlier this week that Republican leadership, because of the effects that you just talked about, on Military readiness, but also on the families, that Republican leadership needs to tell Tuberville, in public, what they are saying in private.

What are they saying in private?

REED: Well, I think, in private, they recognize, many of them, the detriment and the need, to move quickly. And -- but that's all very nice. But they have to come out, very publicly, on the floor, and say, this is an issue, about the readiness of the United States, and the professionalism of our Military forces.

And we have to move and confirm these officers. Otherwise, it gets worse and worse and worse, both for the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and guardians, and their families. And the family issue cannot be ignored.


REED: This is unbelievable (ph).

COLLINS: We've spoken with several of those families.

REED: Yes.

COLLINS: We've spoken with several of those families. They talk about, I mean, it affects whether or not they can move, whether Military spouses can start new jobs, getting their kids in schools.

REED: Right.

COLLINS: I mean, we talked about that with Tuberville, directly.

But the Senate is on a five-week recess, right now. Senator Schumer does set the schedule. And technically, some of these nominations could move, individual.

And I understand what Tuberville is doing is unprecedented, because usually they are all done together.

REED: Right.

COLLINS: But couldn't Democrats force a vote, on some of these stalled nominees, alone?

REED: Well, if we had to vote on all these nominees, and we've asked the Congressional Research and others, they estimated it would take about 30 days, if we were working, seven days a week, and 24 hours a day, to get these nominations through.

That means we can't do the supplemental appropriation for the Ukraine, which is absolutely critical, for the success of the Ukrainians, and for our and NATO's success. We couldn't talk about, debate, a continuing resolution to keep the government open.

And if we pick and choose one or two, what about the rest of those men and women? They'll be left behind. One of the things about being in Military is you don't leave people behind.

We have to get this done, as we've always done, which is unless there is an objection, based on facts, to a nominee, these nominees will move forward. And that's what we have to do.

And it's the Republicans, who are going to have to stand up, on the floor of the Senate, and say, "This is wrong. We must go ahead and confirm these officers, for their own satisfaction, their own reward for service, and also for the safety as a nation."

COLLINS: But what happens if they don't?

REED: Well, I think they're shirking their responsibility, frankly.

We have been on the floor constantly, asking for, to pursue these nominations, to talk about these nominations.

You get some indications. I think Senator McConnell said initially that, oh, he doesn't support this. But that's a lot different than going in, and saying, "We're going to get this done." And I think if they did that? That would send a signal that there are other ways, to protest his objection, to DOD policy. And they're more appropriate than this.


This is just seriously harming our national security. And we have to stand together, both as Republicans and Democrats, more importantly, as Americans, who value and respect the service of our men and women in uniform.

Frankly, the irony is, some of these people would be the first in line, with their American flag pins on, telling how much they enjoy and support the Military. Now, it's time to stand up and support the Military.

COLLINS: Senator Jack Reed, thank you, for your time, tonight.

REED: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Up next, a former aide, to the indicted New York congressman, George Santos, now has an indictment that matches his boss'.


COLLINS: A former campaign aide, for indicted Republican congressman, George Santos, has been indicted.

Samuel Miele is charged with impersonating a high-ranking staff member, of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's, in an attempt to raise money, for his boss, the known serial liar, George Santos.


Miele pleaded not guilty. And the indictment says that he asked more than a dozen contributors, to fund Santos' campaign. And he also got a 15 percent commission from it.

Prosecutors allege that he wrote a letter to Santos, back in 2022, saying, quote, "Faking my identity to a big donor." He also wrote, "High risk, high reward in everything I do."

Something he said did turn out to be true.

Thank you, so much, for joining us, tonight.

"CNN PRIMETIME" with Wolf Blitzer, starts, right now.