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Macron to Speak with Pope Francis About Notre Dame Fire; Firefighters Extinguish Notre Dame Flames After 9 Hours; House Committees Subpoena Banks Over Trump's Finances. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 16, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:12] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Poppy and Jim today. It is mid-afternoon in Paris where the Notre Dame Cathedral is finally no longer burning. Many of its most cherished art works and artifacts are safe and already hundreds of millions of euros are pledged for rebuilding, but less than 24 hours after engulfed one of the world's endured, the pain is raw and the damage still being assessed.

Investigators say it appears this fire was accidental, but their ability to investigate is still limited over concerns about structural weaknesses. The wooden lattice work roof is a loss along with the iconic spire, but much of the inside survived, including the organ, at least some of the rose windows and the crucifix.

We have a couple of pictures I want you to take a look at. The shot on the left is before the fire, on the right the view today.

CNN's Melissa Bell is joining us now.

Melissa, what's being done to check out the structure's soundness so that they can go in and investigate and figure out what has been saved and what hasn't?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the efforts continue on the part of the emergency services this entire area remains cordoned off. And I'd just like to show you there, you mentioned one of those roads windows. Have a look at that, you can see it there, that one still intact and just above the firemen going about that inspection. They're making sure that -- they're looking into, rather, the structural soundness of the building itself, of the edifice.

We've been hearing from France's junior Interior minister who says that they believe for the time being from what they can tell so far that the structure is sound enough but that it could have been more compromised with just half an hour longer. That means that if the fire had lasted half an hour longer than it did and bear in mind that it raged for nine hours overnight then the overall soundness of the structure could have been compromised and the damage here could have been so much worse than it was.

CABRERA: Tell us about the herculean efforts to save the relics and the art works. I mean, that does seem to be an area where people are a little bit more optimistic despite how devastating the images of the fire and the cathedral burning we've all seen have hit us.

BELL: That's right. And when the crowds were gathered here yesterday and especially the Catholics who gathered here, Ana, that we spoke to who were singing hymns, who were praying for the Notre Dame to come out as intact as it could, for the fire to be brought to an end, what they were really concerned about, what they kept telling us were the relics. There is of course the question of all that extraordinary artwork that Notre Dame contained, but also the relics. Bear in mind that this is the cathedral that contains the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Christ as he made his way to his crucifixion. Also a part of the True Cross and one of its nails.

Now what we're hearing is that a human chain was formed overnight by firemen, policemen and helpers just to try and get those artifacts out as quickly as possible. Now those relics we understand are now being kept at Paris town hall, should be transferred to the Louvre tomorrow in order to be stored until the cathedral can be rebuilt -- Ana.

CABRERA: And speaking of rebuilding, what do we know about those efforts?

BELL: Well, a huge fundraising effort is getting under way, so many pledges have been made from across the world, from private donors here in France. The government of course is going to be contributing substantially and tomorrow Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is going to be launching a nationwide fundraising effort in order to be able to spread in a sense the privilege of being able to contribute to the reconstruction of this cathedral that means so much to so many here in France.

That effort can be distributed as widely as possible. But clearly it's going to take a lot of money, Ana, and it's going to take a lot of time to be able to restore this cathedral to its former glory.

CABRERA: Melissa Bell, in Paris for us, thank you for the very latest information.

I want to bring in Anne Lester. She's a professor of Medieval History at Johns Hopkins University.

And Professor, I know you've spent a lot of time within the walls of Notre Dame. What's your assessment of the devastation we're seeing so far?

ANNE LESTER, PROFESSOR OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: That's right, I've spent years of my career visiting Paris, going to the cathedral, thinking about the phasing of its building and how it was used over time. And this has obviously been utterly devastating. There is some comfort, as was suggested, that many of the relics it seems were able to be saved and preserved.

At this time of year, particularly for Catholics, the preservation of the Crown of Thorns and the relics of the True Cross, the nail, things that had been kept there really from the 12th century onward, the Crown of Thorns from the 13th century, it was a really heroic efforts that I think mean a freight deal for the history of the Catholic Church.

[09:05:10] There is much more concern about, of course, the building itself. While we see that a lot of the limestone, the stone work, the masonry of the building seems to be intact, I would imagine there is great concern about the vault itself. It has collapsed in the central point there, we saw where the spire fell into the cathedral.

The question is, is the vaulting going to hold on either side of that, particularly as it's been saturated with water? What's very clear is that, though there are some rose -- the three main rose windows have survived, which is wonderful news, there's a great deal of other glass, historic glass, that has been lost. And we still need to figure out how much more has been lost in the interior, things that were carved from wood, other statuary, painting, things that were not movable as the relics and as some of the other sacred objects from the treasury were. So it's going to take a long time, I think, for them to assess the damage that's been done.

CABRERA: I mean, thank goodness the twin bell towers are still standing, but as you mentioned, that medieval roof structure called the forest because it took so many trees they said to make it, that is believed to be among the biggest losses of this cathedral at this time.

Some 13 million people visit Notre Dame every year. Tell us about what that experience of just walking into the cathedral is like for visitors.

LESTER: Yes, I mean, it's absolutely stunning. Absolutely breathtaking. Notre Dame was the first cathedral I ever sat in front of and ever walked into. I remember the first time I saw the facade sculpture and all of a sudden and I think this happens to many people you're looking at a building you know is made of stone but it literally comes alive as you begin to see the details of the figures, how they move in space.

As you enter the building, I mean, what medieval people were able to capture with a cathedral like this is a sense of the divine. And you know, I think whatever religion you may be, to enter a kind of sanctuary space like this is an incredibly moving experience. The play of light, the different registers of space as you move, you walk through kind of darkened corridor, but the upper clear story, it's called a clear story for a reason, it just floods that space with light. Meant to be a symbol of divine light and enlightenment.

This was the location of the first university ever in Paris, was based around the community connected to Notre Dame. This was the first location of the invention of certain types of music out of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I mean, it really is an incredibly moving cultural space and cultural experience. And it was a space that was built really by the people of France.

I think of the cathedral like many cathedrals as the people's building. It is not a royal building, though, to be sure. It pictures images of kings and certain notions of kingship and the royal history, but it was a space created for and rebuilt successively for the people of France who would come on pilgrimage to visit the site.

CABRERA: Yes. And developed after so many years and centuries. I know the first foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander III back in 1163. It was completed, the whole cathedral was completed in the 13th century. And then, you know, like the spire was added on later. There are some just incredibly beautiful aspects of architecture and meaning, like you said, from not just a religious perspective, but a historical feat as well.

Anne Lester, thank you very much for your insights.

I want to bring in our Jim Bittermann now who's a longtime resident of Paris and parishioner of Notre Dame.

Jim, for you I understand this disaster is personal.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly. I mean, the first seven years I lived in Paris I was overlooking the back gardens of Notre Dame, on (INAUDIBLE) Saint Louis, and it was my Paris church. My daughter was baptized there. So in fact it is a tremendous personal loss, but I think it's more than that, it's a loss for the country, a loss for the world heritage.

There's just nothing like it. And I think now thoughts are turning towards reconstruction and it's amazing how people have stepped forward. You mentioned in your interview just a minute ago the kings of France building the original Notre Dame. Well, now the modern-day nobles of France are stepping forward in what is almost a pledging contest between some of the most notable fortunes of France.

[09:10:04] For example, L'Oreal Foundation and the Bettencourt family which money from L'Oreal have pledged 200 million euros to support the reconstruction. Bernard Arnault, who is the head of LVMH, has pledged the LVMH business. It has pledged 200 million euros as well. Francois Pinault was another rather rich Frenchman. He's pledged 100 million from his various foundations.

Total, the energy company, pledging 100 million. So all in all there is a lot of money coming in. It's not going to be resources necessarily that are lacking here. In fact, it will be more the expertise and the idea of bringing forward the kinds of stonemasons and roof workers and people that can restore the building in the fashion that it was originally built -- Ana.

CABRERA: It's hard to imagine that they'll be able to bring it back to its old glory, but pray and hope that that is, in fact, what happens. Some have seen this fire as somehow symbolic of what "The New York Times" calls the anguished restless state of the French nation.

Do you buy that, Jim?

BITTERMANN: Well, it's interesting. I tell you, Ana, one of the things that's happened is that people have gotten so united around this symbolic destruction and loss and tragedy that, in fact, they've kind of forgotten some of the other political problems that are going on. For example, Francois Macron -- Emanuel Macron last night who was supposed to address the nation and address the concerns of the yellow jackets who have been causing so much havoc in France, in fact, has put that off now and it's not clear when he's going to speak to that.

His party and then other parties have now followed, have called off their campaigning for the European parliamentary elections which are coming up. So, in fact, there is some -- I think there is some sentiment here that political concerns are being put aside in the name of pulling together this moment of what is some national anguish -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jim Bittermann in Paris for us. We appreciate that. Thank you, Jim.

Still to come, we're going to stay on top of all the developments with the Notre Dame Cathedral. We're live in Paris.

Next we'll head back. Plus, his wife was killed while she served this country in Afghanistan and then Jose Gonzalez Carranza was separated from his 12-year-old daughter and deported to Mexico by ICE.

And rising star Pete Buttigieg speaking out about his remarkable rise in popularity, but will it last?


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I've gone from being viewed as, you know, adorable six weeks ago to now plausible.


BUTTIGIEG: But you still -- but yet --


[09:15:00] CABRERA: Welcome back. Continuing our breaking coverage of developments in Paris this morning. French President Emmanuel Macron says he will speak with Pope Francis later today about the devastating fire at Notre Dame. Meantime, French officials say it's expected to take two days to secure the cathedral enough to recover the remaining artworks still inside. Let's go back live now to the scene of Notre Dame Cathedral and CNN's Melissa Bell is back with us.

Melissa, I understand you have some new information.

BELL: That's right. We're learning more about the run up to the evacuation of Notre Dame. You know that it was just before 7:00 p.m. local that this fire broke out, that the plumes of smoke emerged from the roof of the nave of Notre Dame, those flames quickly followed.

We now understand from sources within the fire brigade that in fact, the fire alarm here, the internal security system had gone off at 6:20 p.m., so considerably before that, and that was what had allowed the evacuation of the cathedral. It then went off again at 6:43 because no fire had been detected, no fire had been spotted, no one had found any.

The building remained evacuated and it was when it went off that second time that the fire brigade came and found the fire raging. Of course, by then all the difficulties that we know that security services, emergency services had to get to the cathedral itself and deal with this incredibly difficult fire to bring under control which in the end raged for nine hours.

Now, we're just expecting to hear from France's junior Interior Minister in the next few moments about the very latest in that investigation. Investigation of course, we know is not looking into any criminal act. Indeed, authorities believe that this was an involuntary fire begun by mistake.

An awful lot of attention of course as well this afternoon here in France on the structural damage that may have been caused. We now know that although there are vulnerabilities inside the structure overall, it is considered fairly sound, and was not too badly compromised by the fire. But we've also learned that had that fire lasted just half an hour longer, said France's junior Interior Minister, the building could have been fatally compromised and indeed collapsed, Ana.

CABRERA: Just incredible details you were able to provide for us, Melissa, nine hours this final rage, we know there were some 400 firefighters who responded to Notre Dame, but obviously because of the historical significance and the craftsmanship of this -- of this cathedral, they had to be very careful in terms of how they went about trying to get this fire under control. What more can you tell us about how that strategy came to be as they tried to tackle the flames?

BELL: Well, we know a great deal about their thinking about this thanks to France's civil security service which tweeted fairly quickly after Donald Trump had, Ana, and in English significantly when he suggested that flying water tankers could have been used to try and extinguish the flames from above.

[09:20:00] That they made the decision that this was simply not possible in this case because any water dropped from the sky would -- could have terribly much more compromised the building, could have caused much more damage than in the end was caused. And in the end, what we're finding this morning is almost a sense of relief from authorities, from the persons who gathered all around to inspect what damage was done at how much of this structure still stands.

I mean, in the end, although the fire took a long time to bring under control, the fact that they were able to do so, that the fact that they were able to extinguish it without causing too much structural damage is pretty remarkable. In the end, we know that perhaps the biggest loss inside was what is known as The Forest, that extraordinary workmanship at the very top of the cathedral.

All that wood, trees that were felled between 1160 and 1170. So many of them, Ana, that this was a part of the roof structure that was known as The Forest since that's what it had taken to build it. Of course, that is what went up in flames, that was part of the fuel that allowed this fire to rage on for as long as it did.

But beyond that, so much was saved, the exterior stone work, so many of the artifacts inside and crucially for Catholics around the world, those amazing relics that were housed here inside Notre Dame Cathedral that were saved, that are now being stored in the town hall, we understand they're to be taken to the Louvre tomorrow.

And at some point, when this long and very expensive process of rebuilding the cathedral as much as it can be rebuilt is achieved, the relics will finally be able to come home.

CABRERA: OK, Melissa Bell, we know you're staying on top of the latest in the investigation and any other developments. I want to turn to CNN's Hadas Gold also on the scene in Paris for us. Hadas, we, you know, saw the sights and sounds there yesterday from, you know, the looks of horror on people's faces to the reverend singing, we heard, that was so beautiful and somewhat serene. What are you seeing and hearing there today?

HADAS GOLD, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, now it's sort of the aftermath of that shock. There are still thousands of people coming to the streets, to the Seine around Notre Dame to take a look at what is happening, see what is left of Notre Dame. There is still the feeling, though, though there is sadness, there is hope.

And what really struck me last night was not only the quiet from the number of people that were out, and you still kind of get that quiet today, but also that people were still at the Bistros drinking wine. And when I talked to some of them, they said that they -- they were toasting Notre Dame, that they were toasting Paris because they wanted to celebrate life and celebrate Notre Dame.

CABRERA: And Hadas, I'm looking at these images again, we're told the fire is out, but we don't know exactly when officials are going to be able to get in there because they have to make sure everything is structurally sound in order to put people in there to do further investigation.

Are you seeing that area completely cordoned off or are people rushing to get a look at what's left?

GOLD: People are trying to rush as close as they can. Some of the tourist boats along the Seine have started up again, so we've seen some of those boats go by. But they have cordoned off parts of the area, it's not nearly as cordoned off as it was yesterday where we saw actually -- I saw police forcibly removing residents from the area and getting them out.

We do know that there have been several of residential buildings right around Notre Dame Cathedral that had been evacuated and they will be likely out of those buildings for several days while the investigation goes under way. Because we have to keep in mind, they don't know how stable the structure is, yes, it is still standing, and, yes, fire burns wood.

But still the stone has been affected not only by the fire, but also by the water. And we've seen some images from inside the cathedral where the water seems to be almost a foot high, you can see clear through the roof, there's going to be a lot of work done. Keep in mind, this is an 800-year-old cathedral. It has survived world wars, it has survived a lot, and now to see it destroyed like this is really heartbreaking.

CABRERA: Indeed it is. Thank you Hadas Gold from Paris for us this morning. Democrats back here in the U.S. are working to get their hands on the president's tax returns. And they're not just going after that, they're going after his bank records as well. President Trump's lawyers are fighting back and we are just moments away now from the opening bell on Wall Street, investors will be watching the U.S.-China trade battle.

Negotiators say good progress is being made and talks are ongoing. Stay with us, you're watching CNN.


CABRERA: In two days, Thursday morning, the Justice Department says it will release the redacted version of the Mueller report. White House officials tell CNN they think public opinion is already set after Attorney General Bill Barr's summary conclusions.

They don't think it will be moved much by the report's release, but they are a little worried it could give Democrats ammunition to use against the president. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say they will subpoena the Justice Department for the full report without redactions if they do not receive it this week. Bill Barr says don't expect it.

Meantime, the fight over the president's finances is also escalating. Congressional Democrats issuing subpoenas now to Deutsche Bank along with other financial institutions with ties to the president. And the battle over obtaining President Trump's taxes is heating up as well.

The deadline is in one week for the IRS to hand over the returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Democrat Richard Neal. The president's lawyers tell the U.S. Treasury Department that this request is unconstitutional and to deny it. Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell with the latest. Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Ana, that's right. So the House Intelligence, the House Financial Services Committee have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, looking for -- asking them for any documents relating to loans that they have given to Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.