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At This Hour

Condo Collapse Kills One, Massive Search and Rescue Underway; Soon, Biden and Harris Meet with Lawmakers on Infrastructure; Rudy Giuliani's New York Law License Suspended over Election Lies. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 11:30   ET



LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a building that was built in the 80s. It has 130 units. And according to the mayor, nearly half of them collapsed overnight.

I spoke to one man who was inside when this happened. He talked about the incredible relief he felt when firefighters got to his balcony. Listen to the rest of this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This rumbling was very different, very strange. And something was not right in this sound. It was too strong, too violent. It almost felt like a shockwave.

AARON MILES, WITNESS: I looked down the hallway and it is a very long hallway, probably 100 yards, 75 yards, and there was nothing there. It was just a pile of dust and rubble and paint falling from the ceilings.

I thought that any minute we could be that same pile of rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just got louder and everybody started to panic and we grabbed our children and started running out of the door. And as we went down the stairway for the exit, emergency, everybody was screaming and panicking. And once we got down the lobby, it was nothing but dust and debris.


SANTIAGO: I also spoke to a woman who was walking back home from her job when she says that the building collapsed. And what she described was the dust, that the dust took over the area and spread for blocks.

We should mention that there is also a small hotel right next to this building. The evacuation has been completed of that building and those folks are now being helped by Red Cross. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Leyla, thank you for your reporting. We're going to get back to Leyla as the news develops.

Back with me now is Tom Von Essen. He's a former FDNY commissioner. He led search and rescue operations in New York after the 9/11 attacks.

Commissioner, I was just looking, Governor DeSantis said just a little while ago that, they he put it is, we're bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we are seeing and the videos and pictures coming in. And the mayor of Surfside seemed to suggest the same, that just because the way the building, he said, just pan caked, it is leading him to think that they are not going to be successful in finding people alive. What do you think of that?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FDNY COMMISSIONER DURING 9/11 ATTACKS: Well, I mean, I don't know if it might be too soon to think we're not going to find people alive. But I know it is not too soon to know for a fact we're going to find more people that aren't. Not everybody could have survived that and there had to be a lot of people in that building if 55 or 60 units fell at 2:00 in the morning in a building where they haven't been able to contact more than 50 people yet.

So, I know that there is going to be more fatalities but I'm really hoping and wish for the rescuers' sake and the family's sakes that there are rescues. And I think there will be. I know the night of September 11th, they told us that there would be no survivors. And I was in shock that night during collapse experts say and tell us that. But it was because of the weight and for the compact of the debris and it was so dense that -- and height.

But I think this building, you have hope that there will be people that are underneath some heavy piece of material that they are breathing and if we can get to those folks, I hope we're going to have survivors. They could be right. We don't know. But we need to act as if there is hope and that we can save as many people as possible.

BOLDUAN: That is exactly right. You know, the mayor said something this morning kind of about what he saw happen, and I want to play for that you to get your take on it. Listen to this.


MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: There is no reason for this building to go down like that unless someone literally pulls out the supports from underneath, or they get washed out or there is a sinkhole or something like that, because it just went down.


BOLDUAN: And now we have since then, commissioner, seen that surveillance video of the collapse. I mean, what could have caused this?

VON ESSEN: I really don't know. I mean, I wish I had the expertise to give you that answer. To me, it looks like a controlled demolition, which, of course, it wasn't. It looks like when they blow up an old casino or something. I've seen a building like we had at the World Trade Center number seven drop from burning all day and, you know, we couldn't put the fire out, or a building that collapsed because there is a plane crashed (INAUDIBLE) or there is an enormous amount of storm or something. [11:35:03]

How that much of a building could collapse so quickly with no warning, it just doesn't make any sense to me. But there are engineers maybe and other people that have that expertise.

BOLDUAN: And we will eventually find out but it defies logic and all rational thought when you see that surveillance video and how it went down in literally the middle of the night. Commissioner, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

As we mentioned, 51 people unaccounted for still, these urgent search and rescue efforts continue. We're going to continue following this. Much more of our breaking news, next.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, we're keeping a close eye on the White House where, in just moments, President Biden is going to be holding a critical meeting with lawmakers on infrastructure negotiations. Last night, a bipartisan group of senators announced a breakthrough, an agreement on a framework for an infrastructure package they believe the Democrats, Republicans and the White House could support. But as Manu Raju is reporting, they are a long way from any finish line at this moment.

Joining me right now for some perspective is Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar from Texas. Congressman, this is still a far way from a finish line but any kind of bipartisan breakthrough, I guess, is a big deal in this Congress. So much of this agreement is still not known. But is this, do you believe, the start of an actual real bipartisan deal?

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): Just the fact that it is bipartisan, that is a good step forward. And I would rather have things that are bipartisan passed through the U.S. Congress instead of just making it Democratic or Republican proposal. So I am very optimistic about this.

It will be interesting to see exactly what they have because I've talked to some of the folks and coming with an infrastructure bill is easy. Coming up with how do you pay for that becomes a little bit more difficult.

BOLDUAN: And that really is where the tension and conflict has been of recent. Do you think that really does come down to what the critical piece is that is going to decide if this is going to move ahead or not, how to pay for it?

CUELLAR: Oh, absolutely. I think that is going to be the most difficult part of it. I mean, we could all come up and talk about highways, we can talk about water projects, we can talk about the infrastructure that we need to address. That can be worked out, what amount, but how do you pay for it is the most difficult. I've seen that. I've seen so over the years with different chairmans of the infrastructure, transportation and infrastructure. They can come up with a bill but how do you pay for it is always the most difficult part of it.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the immigration crisis at the border right now. Kamala Harris is headed to the border tomorrow, something you have been asking her to do for months. I heard you say this morning that you think that she's going to the wrong location. What do you mean?

CUELLAR: Well, I wouldn't call it the wrong location. I'm glad that she's going down to the border. But if you want to see the real activity, you have to go down to my district, which is the Rio Grande Valley. That is where the unaccompanied kids are coming in. That is where the family units are coming in. That is where they are coming in, where we have people from almost 150 countries are coming in. So if you want to go up there, you have to sit down where the activity is at.

But, again it is a first step. I'm not criticizing her. I'm glad she's going to the border. But the real activity is about 800 miles-plus from El Paso.

BOLDUAN: And, look, I have tracked kind of -- you've been very outspoken about this crisis, and you're clearly not happy with how the Biden administration has been handling not only, I would say, this visit but the problem more broadly to this point. What do you want to see the administration -- from the administration, Congressman? What do you want to hear from Kamala Harris?

CUELLAR: Well, look, I've been very supportive of the president, President Biden, the way they've been handling so many other things, vaccines and so many other things including infrastructure. I've been very supportive. But on the border, again, I speak from somebody that doesn't go and spend a couple of hours and think that I know more than people that have lifetime experiences. And I'm not talking about myself. I'm talking about the mayors, the judges, the land owners, the border patrol and the men and women that are down there.

And I want them to understand that when Democrats talk about the issue, they only talk about the push factors what, happens in Central America. Republicans only talk about the pull factors. In my opinion, I think we need to talk about the push factors and the pull factors.

One of the pull factors, for example, have you noticed that no Democrat really talks about deportation? Our law calls for deportation. We only see people coming in but the law says that if people stay, they stay. But if people are not allowed to stay under our asylum, for example, they need to be deported.


I'll say this final point. If you have 100 people that ask for asylum, about 88 percent, maybe 85 percent of them are going to be rejected and only 12 percent will be allowed in. So why are we allowing 100 percent of the people in when the law says that we should be deporting 85 percent, 88 percent of them? BOLDUAN: Well, this gets to the bigger conversation we should have. But part of that is the years' long backlog on immigration courts, asylum cases, taking years for them to actually get through that. I know that is part of one of the fixes that you want to see happen in a broader sense. But, Congressman, thank you for coming in. I appreciate it.

Coming up, we actually have more breaking news coming in at this hour about former President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, a ruling by a New York court just coming in. We'll bring you those details next.



BOLDUAN: We have breaking news just into CNN. Rudy Giuliani's law license in the state of New York has been suspended. That means at least for now, he can no longer practice law in the state where he was once a top prosecutor and also mayor of America's biggest city.

CNN's Paula Reid is joining me now for more. Paula, tells us more.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: All right, Kate, I've been working through this 33-page opinion from a state appellate court that ruled that Giuliani must be stripped of his law license for pushing falsehoods to support his client, former President Trump, and false allegations about the 2020 election.

Now, pretty stunning language in this opinion, this panel found that Giuliani made false and misleading statements to the courts, to lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as an attorney for former President Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with the 2020 election. The court concluded that his conducts immediately threatens the public interests and warrants this suspension.

Now, prior to this, he has had a lengthy career in New York law. He was first admitted to the bar in 1969, he worked in the Justice Department. He was, of course, the mayor of New York. And more recently, he has been representing former President Trump in various legal issues.

Now, this all came about after the attorney grievance panel received numerous complaints. They conducted an investigation. And here, they have decided he should be stripped of his license.

BOLDUAN: Paula, thank you so much for that.

Joining me right now is the Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig for more on this. Elie, what's your reaction?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, this is a new low in really a stunning fall for Rudy Giuliani. As Paula said, there was a time, I know it's hard to remember now, when Rudy Giuliani was one of the most respected lawyers and prosecutors in the country. He was the head of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, an office I worked in several decades later. And now he's been kicked out temporarily of practicing law in New York State. That's a very big deal.

And as Paula said, this is based on very clear-cut findings by a panel of state judges. This isn't just sort of other lawyers or people who maybe arguably are partisan. This is a group of judges who found that he made demonstrably false statements meant to prop up the big lie of election fraud in order to promote Donald Trump's interest and endangering the public.

BOLDUAN: How unusual is this?

HONIG: Very unusual. I mean, I don't personally know anybody who has ever been suspended from practice like this in New York. It certainly happens, but it's very, very rare.

Lawyers, look, the fact is, can get away with quite a bit. I mean, you're a lawyer, your job is to zealously represent your client. A lot of times, your client maybe has done wrong. But what you cannot do as a lawyer is just lie. You cannot make demonstrably false, as the court said, and dangerous statements, particularly if those statements could endanger the public interest, as this court found Rudy Giuliani did.

So, this does not happen every day by any stretch. This is a very rare thing and a very extreme thing for the court to do.

BOLDUAN: Look, and, Elie, Rudy Giuliani is under criminal investigation, but this isn't really related to that. This is about Giuliani pushing President Trump's big lie.

HONIG: Yes, this is completely separate. This is one of many problems Rudy Giuliani has right now. He's now been suspended from practicing law in the state of New York. He also separately is under criminal investigation by that same federal prosecutor's office that he used to lead, that I mentioned before, the Southern District of New York, relating to his work on behalf, potentially, of Ukraine, relating to that scandal.

So, Giuliani has got all sorts of problems. This is another one to add to the list.

BOLDUAN: Can he appeal to get his license back?

HONIG: So this is a temporary suspension of Rudy Giuliani. And the order says if Rudy Giuliani wants to essentially appeal this, wants to have a full-out hearing, he has the right to request that. So, we'll see if he requests that or not. I mean, that hearing could get really ugly for him. So he'll have to make the decision, do I just accept this sort of temporary suspension and let it remain in place or do I fight it? But then he'll have a whole hearing. I'm not so sure he wants to go down that path given the rulings that we've already seen.

BOLDUAN: Look, want to venture to guess how Rudy Giuliani is going to respond to all of this?

HONIG: On the one hand, Rudy Giuliani is a fighter and always likes to fight back. On the other hand, maybe he's smart enough to realize that he's going to be picking a losing fight here.

BOLDUAN: Maybe he has bigger problems right now that he could be looking at.

Elie, thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for that.

HONIG: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So we are going to continue following the breaking news out of South Florida.


Our coverage of this just tragic building collapse continues. 50 people that are still reported as unaccounted for, one person reported dead, two people were pulled out of the rubble, and they're up against not only the clock, a race against time. They are also facing really bad weather, which is hampering efforts of the search and rescue crews. But we are live on the scene. We will head back there with the latest after a quick break.