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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Death Toll Rises To 11 In Condo Collapse, 150 Unaccounted For; Barr On Trump's Election Fraud Claims: It Was All B.S.; Former Pres. Obama Stresses Protecting Voting Rights To Avoid "Further Delegitimizing" Democracy; CNN Gets Access To Urgent Building Inspections And Repairs In The Wake Of Condo Collapse. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 28, 2021 - 20:00   ET


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were in Georgia at a Trump rally. And everybody was so pumped up for January 6th. They said the election was going to be overturned, and one man there used almost that exact phrase when I said, what happens if on Wednesday, January 6th, the election isn't overturned. He said, "There could be a Civil War."

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Donie, thank you very much for that incredible reporting as always.

And thanks to all of you for being with me. Anderson starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening from Surfside, Florida. I'm John Berman, in for Anderson tonight.

Families and friends are holding on to hope that their loved ones may still be found alive even as authorities in this beachside community announced a short time ago that an 11th body was pulled from the wreckage of the Champlain Towers South Condo today. That leaves 150 unaccounted for, almost six days since the tragedy that has touched at least nine countries and multiple faiths, and put safety on the minds of anyone in America who lives in a high-rise building or plans to vacation in one this summer.

The Mayor of Surfside today promised that search and rescue efforts will grow in size and intensity with crews working in 12-hour shifts with few breaks are facing increasing odds at this hour.

Lightning being just the latest issue with officials tell telling CNN tonight that rescuers are standing on a giant piece of metal. Three of the victims including the latest has not been named. This is what we know about the eight other victims.

Antonio and Gladys Lozano, a couple who were about to celebrate their 59th anniversary. We're going to have more on their remarkable story in a moment and hear from their son and grandson later in the broadcast.

Also, 46-year-old, Ana Ortiz and her son, Luis Bermudez, 26-year-old with muscular dystrophy. His aunt said he only had movement and the use of one hand, but he used that hand to draw and to paint. Also, 80- year-old Leon Oliwkowicz and his 74-year-old wife, Christina Beatrice Elvira, and there's Manuel LaFont, a 54-year-old father of two who shared a passion for baseball with his son.

According to "The Miami Herald," both his children were picked up by their mother just hours before the building collapsed.

And Stacie Fang, a 54-year-old mother whose 15-year-old son was pulled from the rubble alive on Thursday, her sister told "The New York Times" that the boy wants to know what happened to his mother. We all want to know, she said.

And that really is the central question this hour. What happened? Why did it happen?

Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has the latest on the search for answers as to how this could have happened to begin with.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As new evidence emerges of past inspections, cracks, and potential danger, this short surveillance camera video itself remains the best clue so far as to how and why the Champlain Towers South fell in what forensic engineer, Joel Figueroa-Vallines calls a clean collapse.

JOEL FIGUEROA-VALLINES, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, SEP ENGINEERS: It was a pancake effect so it was almost symmetric and vertical. And what that causes is the structure to come straight down instead of collapsing sideways or collapsing in any other trajectory, which would mean that whatever caused it which is unknown at this point would have caused the structure to have a clean vertical collapse of those towers.

GRIFFIN (voice over): But while engineers continue to speculate from afar, in reality, the answer lies like the victims trapped under rubble. The 40-year-old structure was due for massive repairs.

An alarming 2018 inspection report warned of abundant cracking in concrete columns and several instances of deteriorating rebar especially on the condo's pool deck and in the parking structure garage underneath the building.

According to the report, failed waterproofing was causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slabs below the pool deck and entrance drive. As dire as that may sound, several engineers CNN spoke with say the 2018 report did not foresee a catastrophic collapse and minutes from the Condominium Association Board meeting the following month shows that a town official told residents it appears the building is in very good shape.

Champlain Towers South was in the process of recertification, a Miami- Dade County government structural and electrical assessment of any building 40 years old. According to the Condominium Association attorney, the building had multiple inspections and was in the process of extensive work, which would have cost $15 million.

Structural engineer Jason Borden examined Champlain Tower just last year.

JASON BORDEN, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, SURVEYED SURFSIDE CONDO BUILDING IN 2020: I saw things that I typically see when we're looking at buildings when we're preparing to do this type of investigation or study.

I saw cracks in the stucco facade, I saw deterioration of the concrete balconies. I saw the cracks and deterioration of the garage and plaza level. But those are all things that we're accustomed to seeing and that's why our job exists.

BERMAN: Any cause for alarm in what you saw?

BORDEN: What I saw, no.


GRIFFIN: The lack of alarm is now sending chills through residents in other aging buildings along this beach and beyond. Inspections underway. Voluntary evacuations for the Champlain Towers sister building and a rush to find the answer to why this building just fell.

Forensic engineers caution, that answer could yet be months away.


BERMAN: And Drew Griffin joins us now. Drew, the town of Surfside has hired a structural engineer to study this collapse. You know, what is he saying tonight?

GRIFFIN: The name is Allyn Kilsheimer. He calls this a huge puzzle that he and his firm need to figure out. He's already begun. He's visiting the site, looking at plans, collecting all the information he can about what happened.

And then he puts this through this meticulous computer assisted process of elimination, John, ruling in and ruling out various possibilities and combinations of possibilities that could cause this. But as so many structural engineers have already told us, this is a process that is going to take months -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Drew Griffin, thanks so much for looking into this for us.

Now some photos of the basement level garage obtained by "The Miami Herald." They come from a contractor who took them just 36 hours before the collapse and tells "The Herald," he was shocked by the lack of maintenance. Here's what "The Herald" reporter told CNN just a short time ago.


SARAH BLASKEY, MIAMI HERALD: He saw a bunch of standing water -- this is the basement garage, under the pool deck -- a bunch of standing water and then enter the pool equipment room where he saw cracks in the concrete. Everything that was just described that rebar, degraded concrete, and thought wow, why haven't they maintained this building better?


BERMAN: Perspective now from Asher Cohen, a forensic engineer who evaluates damage to residential and commercial buildings, and architect Kobi Karp, whose firm specializes in high-rise residential developments and is based in Miami.

Asher, we just showed those photos there taken 36 hours before this collapse. What did you see in that?

ASHER COHEN, FORENSIC ENGINEER: Yes, we saw spalling. You know, and again, which is well documented. We saw significant spalling of some of the -- what looked like a beam below the -- what I understand is the south end of the pool structure below that, and we saw evidence of spalling in other photographs in that inspection report.

Again, it was noted, and it has been noted continuously that the spalling alone doesn't explain this, at least to the degree that it was and there's a real mystery here. And obviously, what we expect as pieces get removed from the site, and they reexamine those, test them, send them to laboratories, we will have a better idea.

We really hope, of course, sooner than later that we have a more clear idea as to what factors contributed to this.

BERMAN: Kobi, what does your eye tell you about those photos? And again, a bit more of reporting, according to the contractor, a lot of standing water, an unusual amount of standing water in that area.

KOBI KARP, ARCHITECT: You know, I read the report, and the water is very, very concerning. And in the report is actually a sentence that states that maybe this event is actually in other locations in the building.

So for example, if the waterproofing has failed where the pool deck is, has the waterproofing also failed where the roof is? What happens then is the connections over time fail. And this event did not happen in the past 24 hours or the past 24 months. It took time to be done. And nobody was working on the building in the middle of the night.

So, if the event really happened the past 24 hours or the past 24 months, the failure could have been on top, it could have been in the middle and/or it could have been on the bottom. Nobody really knows. It's purely speculation.

BERMAN: The photos that we saw in "The Miami Herald" actually are from a spot that didn't collapse, the collapse happened in a different spot. But there is one sentence in this article, which makes you wonder. The question is, was that more widespread across that whole level? If it had been, how much of a concern would that be to you?

COHEN: Yes, well, again, it was and we saw evidence of spalling throughout the parking garage. Again, it's well documented that at this point, we recognize there was spalling to the extent that we saw below the south end of that pool structure, maybe not to that extent, but again, we did see evidence of that in that 2018 report.

As Kobi said, this is something that occurs over many, many years. When we see failures, we see that progressive failures of concrete structure to give you plenty of time to understand, hey, we have a serious issue.

What's so puzzling here is the fact that it happened so rapidly, with again, with a lot of engineering eyes on it, at least over the last several years, there's been plenty of experts who have come by and we just don't understand what other factors at this point.

BERMAN: But what about that Kobi, when does it go from major structural damage as we saw in the 2018 report to major structural damage you need to fix today?

KARP: Look, this building is not old. This building is young. I was in high school when this building was being built.


KARP: What's interesting here is when we design buildings, we design that everything is sloped to drains so that the water runs off, especially here where the water has salt in, it has salinity, we try to get the water away and drained away from the structure, from the steel as fast as possible.

But like the engineer said, if this really was a waterproofing issue, where the water continuously was able to percolate into the concrete and into the steel, then it's like a cancer, it grows and keeps on growing and expanding.

The point of arrival could have been someplace from the top. It could have been someplace at the bottom, we just don't know.

But this goes against anything that we do in maintaining these buildings. We need to maintain these buildings, and if we do not maintain the waterproofing, we don't maintain the structure, it is like not maintaining ourselves, we will fail.

BERMAN: You know, in one point here, I mean, it's going on, the search and rescue effort is going on right behind this building that we're seeing right here. The Mayor of Miami-Dade County pointed out yes, this is a search and rescue operation. But it's also an evidence gathering operation right now. They are trying to piece it together, so they can analyze forensically what's happening.

One of the things that some engineers who have looked at the collapse, video of the collapse, and also looked at the different pictures that we've seen, like the ones today told "The New York Times" and "The Miami Herald," they're of the mind that this collapse started at the bottom, maybe in the garage or the pool at the bottom level.

What do you make of that? How do these new photos, for instance, contribute to that theory to you?

COHEN: I don't know if the new photos, certainly the big piece of evidence is when we look at that video, we can see that that central portion of the building collapses. And we look at that column support at the south end of that central portion and it appears, given what we can see, and again, remember, we're just looking at the south side.

I think, important to remember is what if we had video from the north side? You know, that's the limiting factor here.

Mind you, that video alone is telling. But I strongly suggest to everyone that what we will do is when we examine all the information, the physical evidence, we're going to start to see better and much more clearly what specifically, what factors and multiple factors likely contributed to this issue.

And again, you know, it's not to say that we're not looking at corrosion. You know, trying to say, oh, spalling happens. It's not something to be concerned, of course, it's of concern, but spalling alone and the extent that we're seeing here, it's still a puzzle. We really have to look at it and we have to examine them.

BERMAN: What would cause a column, if it was that column or a column like that to collapse on itself? What could cause that?

KARP: The weakening of the joint, it's like, we're standing on two legs. But if one leg if, if I get a nail in my knee, and I cannot stand on that, I can try to balance, but when I'm a building, I cannot. I have to follow the motion of the weakness, the direction of the failure. And what Asher is talking about is how the building collapsed on to itself, yet the front facade was standing, and then it moves back.

Now the interesting thing is, as pure speculation, other people are asking me, Kobi, how could it be that I don't see any material of the roof material that was being placed on the existing building? The building is still standing? Yes, if it was placed, where was it placed? Was it placed on the building that failed? And if so, where was it place? Was it placed on the joint where it failed?

And so it gets back to what Asher is saying, some folks are saying no, the failure is down below as some people saw a sinkhole. Some people are saying, maybe the materials were not spread around and they were loaded in where people thought was the safest, which is by the sheer wall. And maybe that's where the weakest point was, because the water membrane was not protecting it for years, and maybe that's where the failure was.

And then you start to look at it from a different perspective. Like he said --

BERMAN: A combination of things.

KARP: Yes, maybe you need to look from the north rather from the south. And it's like an accident, and four people on four corners see the same accident in four different ways.

BERMAN: You know, one of the questions is, as we're hearing from our reporters, we're hearing from you and other engineers who took a tour of the building. I talked to a guy who looked at it last year, they saw things but nothing they saw then was alarming to them then. What do you think the chances are Asher, that one of the things that emerges from this is that people like you, and people like you designing these buildings, look at things differently, start to see evidence like this and maybe worry more now because of it.

Do we need to change the way we look at things

COHEN: It goes without saying, we're absolutely going to look at things with more scrutiny. And especially once we start to uncover things. We have a tried and true process in the forensic world where we examine all of the factors that go into whatever it is that failed. And we put together a hypothesis and we examined that and test it.

Now, we'll have contributing information, significant information as we learn what happened that absolutely will be incorporated into the engineering community, the architectural community, and the inspection community as a whole.

What we see moving forward from here, I hope will be improvement and this never happens again.


COHEN: So, absolutely.


BERMAN: I mean, I think the people living in these thousands of buildings that ring the Coast of Florida and up the East Coast, too, they want to know. I mean, they are looking at things differently, too.

They appreciate the work you're doing. I appreciate you joining us tonight and I thank you both very much.

KARP: Thank you.

COHEN: Thank you.

KARP: Thank you for your time.

BERMAN: We're going to continue to cover this conversation after the break with the Mayor of Suicide Charles Burkett with the latest on their investigation into the cause of the collapse.

And later, a profile of the couple we mentioned earlier found in the rubble. You'll hear from the son and grandson of a husband and wife who were about to celebrate 59 years together.


BERMAN: More now on our breaking news. Questions and theory surrounding the collapse of the high-rise condo here in Surfside including new photos of the basement level garage obtained by the "Miami Herald." And as our Drew Griffin reported this hour, the structural engineer hired by the town said he has already begun the examination, cautioning that the review could take some time.

I'm joined now by the Mayor of Surfside Charles Burkett. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.



BERMAN: You know, I've been watching you over the last several days since the morning of the collapse and one of the first things you said when you were speaking to the public was buildings just don't fall down like this. They just don't fall down like this, which is why the investigation is so important. Can you give us the latest on where that investigation is?

BURKETT: Well, as I've always -- as I've said, repeatedly, you know, as far as I'm concerned, the number one priority here is pulling these people out of the rubble, and we're going to focus only on that. The second priority is supporting the family.

With respect to the investigation, what we're doing right now, staff -- I've directed staff to pull out every scrap of documentation that we have, which includes going to our boxed files in storage, bring them back, scan them, put them on our website and put them out for the world to see.

You know, we're going to start to piece together exactly what happened. And that will be -- you know, there's plenty of time for the investigation, but there's not plenty of time to save lives. And that's where I'm mostly focused today, tomorrow, next indefinite time.

BERMAN: How long do you think that transparency will tell you?

BURKETT: No, listen, I sent to the Mayor of Dade County, a BBC article, which talked about survivability in building collapse situations. And, you know, it was 17 days. And, you know, we're not even anywhere near that.

So -- and listen, I'm not saying 17 days is the limit.

BERMAN: Right.

BURKETT: You know, my position is going to be in -- and I'm not the decision maker here. But if someone asked me for my opinion, it's going to be like, we need to pull everybody out of there and be sure that we've got everybody and then we can close the case and move on to the next phase.

BERMAN: I do understand that saving lives possibly inside that rubble is the priority -- is the priority, then the families of the people who may be trapped there, the priority.

BURKETT: We can't walk away from possibly saving somebody.

BERMAN: But there's a safety issue for other people living in some of these towers now. BURKETT: Let me tell you, the first night I came out here, when I was

told there was a building collapsing, I came out expecting to see a balcony down, and half of the building was down. Those rescue guys and gals were out here.

They told us to move back because there was a danger of the rest of the building falling down. As I moved back and followed instructions, they surged forward went into the building and brought more people out.

BERMAN: And their courage is -- it's amazing. And they want to save lives. Their job is to save lives. And I know it's frustrating for them that it is what it is right now in terms of that. Again, though, part of your job isn't just for the people who are trapped in that building, it is for the other people who live in these other buildings that ring here who want to know that we're safe today.

BURKETT: My main priority right now is the people in that rubble.


BURKETT: Okay, the second -- the second thing we do is we support the people. The third thing is we've got a building that's identical to the one that fell down. It has the same contractor, the same name, presumably the same plans, presumably the same materials and the clock is ticking on that building, too.

What we did for that was we sent our building inspector in there with an inspector we hired, an eminent inspector, the inspector who actually did the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks, and who also did the FIU Bridge when it fell down. So, he is one of the best in the business. And he went into that building where people were fearful because they were calling me, they were saying, listen, is my building safe?

I couldn't tell them it was safe. Okay. They went in. They did a cursory inspection. They walked through it. They came back, they called me and they said, listen, Mr. Mayor, we didn't see anything that jumped out at us that gave us the impression that this building was going to fall down tomorrow.

But having said that, we need a full-blown sort of investigation.

BERMAN: You've read the 2018 engineering report.

BURKETT: I have.

BERMAN: What were your feelings?

BURKETT: Well, listen, there are findings there. There are serious, significant issues in that report. It should have been addressed. Now, it probably should have never gotten that bad prior to 2018.

BERMAN: It should never have gotten that bad.

BURKETT: It probably -- you know, again, if it had been maintained correctly, it probably wouldn't have gotten that bad.

BERMAN: I want to ask you, obviously, you spent so much time on site with the families. You had an experience where you saw a 12-year-old girl and this moved you. Tell me about that experience and your contact with this girl says --

BURKETT: I do three passes a day at the site. I do one first thing in the morning, I do one around midday, and I do want at the end of the day, whatever that time is in it. The other night, it happened to be nine o'clock or so.

And as I was doing my pass, I noticed this beautiful, beautiful little girl sitting there looking at her phone. And she would -- I recognized her because a couple days before I had talked to her, and I didn't remember which parent was in that building, but I knew she had a parent in that building. And I said to her, "Are you okay?" And she said -- she just looked at me, you know, like she was sort of lost.

And I said, "What are you doing?" And she said something -- she -- you know, I could see it was Hebrew on the, on the screen and she named the prayer in Hebrew and I didn't get it. She had to say it three times. Then she finally said, "It's a prayer." And it hit me.

I mean, she was sitting there praying about now, I know her father, who is in that building and her uncle, who is in that building. So as I -- you know, and I told her, I said, "Listen, I'm here for you. We love you. We're supporting you. And if there's anything you need, you ask for the Mayor of Surfside, and I'll come make it happen." And I walked away, and I got home. And I felt worse, because I could have done more.

And as I was driving around with my police escort today, I told the story to the police officer and said, "What? Do you want me to find her?" I said, how are you going to do that? I'll look.

I came back from a meeting, and she had the little girl's name on a piece of paper. And at the same time, someone had called into the City Hall and said, I know where she is, too. She was at the community center eating lunch.

I walked over from Town Hall, I sat down next to her. And we started talking, we had lunch. We had French fries together. We exchanged numbers.

Now it turns out, her mom is in financial distress because the father was supporting, you know, the mother lived in a building just down the street and they were separated. So, the little girl was going back and forth between the mom and the dad.

Thank God, she was with the mom that night. But the mom needs help and we've set aside some money already. I put her in touch with our save our -- site and her mom is going to get the help she needs and the little girl is going to get the thing she asked me for, which was a comfort puppy.

So, you know, listen -- and it's just -- it's -- you see this little girl. She is beautiful. She's kind. She's sweet. And you know what? She doesn't say a word. She sits there in silence and prays for her dad.

BERMAN: Listen, I can tell how much this meant to you.

BURKETT: No, but it's the face of this --

BERMAN: Think of what it meant to her.

BURKETT: No, but you know what? Listen. It's the face of this crisis. A little girl who's lost her dad. It's tragic. She hasn't lost her dad yet. I told her we're going to -- we're going to do everything we can. But she is missing her dad.

So, you know -- you know, I'm hoping for a miracle. What? You know --

BERMAN: We could use one.

BURKETT: We could use many. So we're praying -- we are praying and we're hoping.

BERMAN: Mayor, I really appreciate you being with us. I'm sure that girl appreciates is also. Thank you for the work you're doing.

BURKETT: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Up next, a son's heartache. He lost both his mother and his father in the condo collapse. He lives in Champlain Towers just across the way from his parents. He could see into their apartment from his balcony. What happened when he discovered their apartment was gone when 360 continues.



BERMAN: Again, our breaking news the death toll from the condo collapse here in Surfside, Florida has risen to 11 with 150 people unaccounted for.

As we mentioned earlier, among those killed are Antonio and Gladys Lozano. A couple emigrated from Cuba years ago, they were living out their dream in the seaside condo and one of their sons lived in a complex in another tower with a view of his parent's apartment. He talked with "360's" Randi Kaye and what he shares is, is just incredible.

Here's the report.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Antonio and Gladys Lozano lived on the ninth floor at the Champlain Towers in Surfside Florida. It had been Antonio's dream to live on the beach. Their son Sergio had dinner with them at their condo just hours before the building collapsed. SERGIO LOZANO, PARENT'S DIED IN CHAMPLAIN TOWERS COLLAPSE: After dinner, I had -- I work early in the mornings and hugged my mom. Good night. Kiss my dad. That was it. No more.

KAYE (on-camera): Never imagining that would be the last time --


KAYE (on-camera): -- you saw them.


KAYE (voice-over): Sergio returned to his condo in Champlain East, the same complex but two blocks away, only to be awakened at around 1:30 in the morning by a terrible noise.

LOZANO: I thought it was a tornado outside my apartment. I opened the door. I told my wife, oh my god, (INAUDIBLE). She goes, what do you mean? (INAUDIBLE), what do you mean? My parent's apartment is not there.

KAYE (voice-over): Through tears, he said that his parent's apartment wasn't there that the building was gone. Sergio says he used to be able to see into his parent's kitchen from his own apartment.

LOZANO: I could see my mom cooking from my apartment. One night would fall. Their kitchen, where my dad would sit and watch TV. It wasn't there. It's just like, no.

KAYE (on-camera): As the search continued, were you -- did you have any hope that they would be found alive?

LOZANO: I did. I was just praying to God that they wouldn't quit. And that they were together.

KAYE (voice-over): When officials told him his parents had died in the collapse. He says they told him they were found together.

LOZANO: Was told they were in bed together. That's the end of the romantic story (INAUDIBLE).

KAYE (voice-over): The Lozanos had been married 59 years. Antonio was 82, Gladys was 80. They first met in Cuba when they were 12 years old. After Antonio came to the United States, he sent for Gladys and they got married on Miami Beach. Antonio later became a successful banker. Their son says they often joked about who might die first.

LOZANO: My dad would say to my mom, if you die, I don't even know how to fry an egg. I'm going to die. But my mom would say that if my dad would die, I don't know how to pay the bills. That was told my mom (INAUDIBLE). But they died together. It's not fair being crush, being destroyed. It's not fair.

KAYE (voice-over): Next month would have been glad to San Antonio's 59th wedding anniversary. Instead of planning a celebration, their son Sergio is planning a funeral. Now more than ever, he's grateful for happier times. Like when he took his parents to Europe and how his mom cried visiting the Vatican. Sergio son is also cherishing those final moments. He remembers one of the last things his grandfather told him was that he was proud of him.

SERGIO LOZANO JR, GRANDPARENT'S DIED IN CHAMPLAIN TOWERS COLLAPSE: You hear that news that same day. It's just it's unimaginable, unimaginable.

KAYE (voice-over): The Lozanons behind two children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. A family that's in pain but at peace, knowing Antonio and Gladys are still together.


LOZANO: They're just too amazing, (INAUDIBLE) amazing people.


BERMAN: Fifty-nine years, and they're still together. Randi Kaye joins me now.

Randi, that -- that's overwhelming. It's overwhelming --

KAYE: Yes.

BERMAN: -- to hear him talk about his parents. They were found together. He had such joy in their life. And it's so clear that Sergio is still dealing with their death. Has he been back to his own apartment yet? I mean, what is he going through having looked out his window and seeing the building gone?

KAYE: Yes. And then he raced down to the street and he was stopped. They were all the police were already on the scene. And they said, no, no, it's not safe. This whole building could come down. So he -- he'd run down the street after he saw that it was gone.

But he has not been back to his apartment in the East tower. He just says it's too emotional. And he would have flashbacks. Right now even when he sees a glass door, which is what he opened that night and saw that his parents building was gone. He's having these terrible flashbacks.

And now he's planning their funeral as I said, instead of a celebration for their anniversary. And all of their belongings are gone in addition to their clothes, so he doesn't even have a pretty dress as he said or a nice suit to put his mother and father and he told me he has to go now go shopping for his dead parents so he can bury them in something beautiful. I mean, it's just it's unimaginable. He's depressed (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: At least he has the memory though and the remarkable memories to have there was a story. Randi, thank you so much. And please give our -- if you talk to Sergio, give him our love.

KAYE: I will.

BERMAN: And we were thinking about him.

We're going to have more on the condo collapse coming up. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Former Attorney General Bill Barr is quoted in an upcoming new book as saying the former president's claims of widespread election fraud were nonsense, although he used a much stronger word. In a book called Betrayal by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, Barr says, he went ahead with what he said were unofficial inquiries.

Barr said, Karl says that Barr knew Trump would ask him about the allegation at some point and he wanted to be able to say he looked into them, and that they were not true. That is, of course quite a remarkable turn from what Barr was saying, while all this was going on. Here's a sample.



BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion. For example, we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he made from people who could vote he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to. OK.


BARR: That kind of thing happens with mail and berets. And everyone knows that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But in fact, you have no evidence that foreign countries can successfully swear elections with counterfeit ballots do you?

BARR: No, I don't. But I have common sense.


BARR: I think there's a range of concerns about mail-in ballots. There's so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed. I think, I think it would be very bad. But one of the things I mentioned was the possibility of counterfeiting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have evidence to raise that specific concern?

BARR: No, it's obvious.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (on-camera): During your tenure as Attorney General of the United States, how many indictments have you brought against people committing voter fraud?

BARR: I couldn't tell you off the top of my head, but several. I know of --

BLITZER (on-camera): Like a handful.

BARR: I can't -- I don't know.

BLITZER (on-camera): But several does it sound like too many?

BARR: I don't know. I don't know how many we have. I know there are a number of investigations right now. Some very big ones in states.


BERMAN: Some perspective now from CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, asked you here there are many times when the former Attorney General indulge election conspiracy theories leading up to the election. But now in this excerpt of Jon Karl's book, he's quoted as saying, quote, my attitude was, it was put up or shut up time, if there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit. We realized from the beginning, it was just bullshit.

So, it's a long way --


BERMAN: -- from the theories, he was still getting over the summer to that. But what do you make of this?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, the Donald Trump, among other things, was the great reputation destroyer. You know, virtually everyone who served in his administration came away with a diminished reputation. And that goes triple for William Barr, who had a more or less respectable tenure as attorney general briefly under George Herbert Walker Bush. But he used his position, not as the people's lawyer, but as Donald Trump's lawyer throughout his two-year tenure.

And, you know, in the lead up to the election, when Donald Trump was starting to breed these conspiracy theories, based on nothing, based on no evidence, that mail-in ballots were prone to fraud. As we heard in all those clips, the Attorney General was fomenting and encouraging that speculation.

Now, at least he had the decency when confronted with an actual election with actual votes cast to point out to the President, that there was nothing here that there was no fraud, but, you know, he is trying to repair damage that he insignificant part caused himself.

BERMAN: How much of it do you think his reputation rehab?

TOOBIN: I think it's, it's a lot, but, you know, he has a long way to go because he has a lot to answer for not just about the election, but about the way he misled the public about the Mueller report, the way he interfered in the cases of Donald Trump's friends like Roger Stone, and asked to give them special leniency. You know, his reputation took perhaps the biggest hit of anyone associated with Donald Trump. So, the fact that he and his admin -- and his justice department at long last did the right thing on the post election period. You know, that's better than nothing, but he has a long way to go.

BERMAN: Do will this play any role in the various legal investigations underway? There's a criminal case still in Georgia, looking at President Trump's conversation with the Secretary of State urging him to find votes for Trump to win that state. So, what are the attorney -- former Attorney General's comments? What impact might they have?

TOOBIN: I don't -- I mean I trust the line prosecutors in the Justice Department to do the right thing which is to investigate that and see if there is a crime there and then prosecute them if there is -- if there is a case to be brought. The tragedy of Bill Barr's leadership of the Justice Department is that it wasn't people with integrity, leading these investigations.

It was partisans like Barr himself, and from everything I can tell the good guys are back in charge. That is the career people. The people with integrity are back in charge in the Justice Department, and I think they'll wind up doing the right thing.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.


So, when it comes to -- when it comes to fostering the big lie, Republican officials in some key states seem to be bent on punishing elected officials for following the rules. Details coming up.


BERMAN: Today, former President Obama stepped up his criticism Republican attempts for not only attempting to curtail voting rights, but to also punish election officials for sticking to the rules. He appeared via Zoom at a Democratic political fundraiser.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And rather than supporting the Secretary of State of Georgia or the, you know, Commission in, you know, Arizona, that had done the counting and performed their duties properly, et cetera. What you saw was Republican elected officials all side with the president out of fear, I guess, leave many of these folks who were Republicans themselves and who would just -- were just doing their jobs hanging out to dry.


BERMAN: Specifically Republican lawmakers have targeted Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.


CNN's Sara Murray has the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Arizona it's an overt political power grab. The GOP led state legislature advancing a measure to strip Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, of her ability to defend election lawsuits. Instead, that power could wind up with the Republican Attorney General.

KATIE HOBBS (D) ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: We're certainly considering legal options. But what this is, is nothing more than a partisan, blatant retaliation against my office, from coming from folks who are, you know, basically leading by conspiracy theory.

MURRAY (voice-over): The partisan play in the battleground state of Arizona, just one of a host of provisions allowing legislators and others in Republican run states to seize power from election officials. The shift comes after those officials went to extraordinary lengths in 2020, both to ensure Americans could safely vote during a pandemic, but also to stand up to attempts from former President Trump and his allies to overturn the election results.

NORM EISEN, STATE UNITED DEMOCRACY CENTER: These kinds of efforts to have partisan bodies, state legislatures take away decision making power from election professionals of both parties is really a hangover from Donald Trump's big lie of the 2020 election.

MURRAY (voice-over): Hobbs stood by the results showing Joe Biden won Arizona in 2020, rejected unfounded claims of election fraud and his criticize the haphazard GOP led audit in Maricopa County.

HOBBS: I'm a Democrat who oversaw an election that they didn't like the result of.

MURRAY (voice-over): Now, she's facing the fallout from the Republican legislature. The move to limit her powers only proposed to last until January 2023, when Hobbs term ends.

HOBBS: If there was any question whether or not this is a blatantly political move. That expiration date should tell you that it is.

MURRAY (voice-over): In Georgia, Republicans already passed a bill taking aim at another election official, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger,

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: We made sure we ran an honest and fair election.

MURRAY (voice-over): He stood up to Trump's attempt to overturn Biden's win in Georgia. And then the legislature passed a measure removing Raffensperger as a voting member of the state elections board.

RAFFENSPERGER: I believe it's bad policy. At the end of the day, we need to be able to hold counties, you know, accountable. But the challenge is when you have an unelected chairman of the state election board, who's going to hold them accountable? They don't report to the voters.

MURRAY (voice-over): Republicans championing these measures say they protect election integrity and ensure local officials don't overstep their authority, but to some voting rights advocates, that explanation rings hollow after an election year with record turnout and still no evidence of widespread fraud.

EISEN: It has nothing to do with election integrity, and everything to do with the opposite. It's an attack on our democracy.


BERMAN: And Sara Murray joins us now. So Sara, Arizona's governor who I should point out is a Republican. Is he expected to sign the bill that strips Secretary Hobbs of her powers?

MURRAY: They do you expect he's going to sign it. This is part of a broader budget bill. And so, when I was speaking with Katie Hobbs earlier today, she said she fully expects the governor is going to move forward with that, that he is going to sign in as she pointed out, they're already thinking about their next options. She said essentially, all legal options are still on the table as of now, John.

BERMAN: All right, Sara Murray, terrific report. Thank you so much.

Up next, the urgent building inspections prompted by this disaster here in Surfside, Florida.



BERMAN: Tonight, as crew searched the rubble of the condo collapse here in Surfside, Florida, there is urgent work being done at other buildings in Florida to make sure it doesn't happen again.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us now with that. And Brian earlier in the day, you were in Sunny Isles, it's a city just north of yours, just up the street from here. And you were going on some of these initial inspections. What were they looking for? What did they find?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, they're looking for just cracks in the foundation, compromises in the rebar, just any kind of spalling crumbling that they can find significant damage. And they were finding a lot of it at this complex, the Winston Towers. It's this complex of seven buildings, many of them with a similar layout to the Champlain South Complex where the pool is on the side of the building, the garages underneath the pool.

And these buildings are about the same age if not older than the Champlain Towers Complex. They -- there was just a ton of cracking, exposed rebar exposed so-called post tension bars, which are take the place of rebar, there's steel bars that reinforce the concrete when those get exposed, especially when there's salty air coming in from the sea. That's a problem and they've got to replace it. Now, some of this looks kind of horrific to us. But these building inspectors said, it's not enough to make you worried about the building coming down, but we have to address it. And then you realize that they've got to do this for thousands of buildings in South Florida just like it.

But they're being very meticulous, they're very being very transparent about the process. It takes a while, takes them two to three years more, they started this process of identifying this and repairing this building six months to a year before this happened. It's going to take him another two to three years to complete that work.

And when you figure that that's going to go on for buildings, thousands of buildings in South Florida now, you see what's ahead of this --

BERMAN: It's building after building.

TODD: That's right.

BERMAN: Just drive up and down the coast here, it goes on forever and ever. I'm curious though, you saw stuff with your own eyes --

TODD: Yes.

BERMAN: -- that look bad, and they were showing you things, but they basically said it's not so urgent that they have to fix it immediately or the building will come down. What does concern them? What would concern them?

TODD: You know, look, what you get the impression that exposed rebars what really is that's a telltale sign. These thin beams of metal that are inside the concrete columns, when those get exposed, then sea air gets to them. They get corroded, they get rusted. That's a problem. And again, they have to get to it quickly, but they have to be meticulous, and they have to look at every inch.

BERMAN: So they do this?

TODD: Yes.

BERMAN: And what happens now with this information. They looked.

TODD: Yes. OK. So they've got to then bring the structural engineers and these are expected -- the inspectors look first with city officials right next to them, then they bring the structural engineers in who really give them the meticulous kind of OK, this needs to be repaired in this timeframe.

The structural engineers are really who know the business. But it costs I mean, it's the condo owners who have to foot the bill for this and at this complex where we were $25,000 per unit. So, if you want a small condo unit there you'd have to pay 25 grand to -- for your share of these repairs. Some people don't have that money.

BERMAN: No and you go on much higher than that. And do they have the sense -- Brian, we have about five seconds left. Do they have the sense that they're looking at things differently now than they did before these inspections?


TODD: Absolutely. And they're going back to buildings, John that they've already re inspected to do it again now, in the wake of this.

BERMAN: Brian Todd, really interesting to be part of this inspection, this new phase, I think for these condos that line the coast here in Florida. Really appreciate your report.

TODD: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right, the news continues now, so let's head over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.