Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

U.S. Embassy in Kabul "Constantly" Updating Evacuation Scenarios; Security Concerns Grow Amid Escalating Violence in Afghanistan; CNN: Biden Still Weighing CIA Drone Strike Policy Amid Withdrawal; Officials Update Search Effort & Death Toll in Condo Collapse; Mayor: Demo of Remaining Structure Went "Exactly as Planned-- Only Dust Landed on the Existing Pile"; Mayor: 3 More Victims Found; 118 People Still Unaccounted For; Trump Appears to Admit Facts in Fraud Case Against Family Business; Fl. Gov. On Search Effort Resuming After Condo Demolition; Fl. Governor on Preparations for Tropical Storm Elsa; Pro Golfer, Two Others Dead at GA Golf Course; Aired 11:30a-12p ET.

Aired July 05, 2021 - 11:30   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the defense minister, deputy defense minister who we spoke to said that the government is coming up with a plan to counter attack the Taliban who we know are launching a wide effusive across the country, particularly in the north and northeast where tens of thousands of people are fleeing now from their homes to the cities.

In the last two months, Boris, they've already claimed 150 districts and are encroaching on provincial capitals. Now, the Taliban are sending out mixed messages. Obviously, when they heard that the troops had left they said it was a positive step forward and they also issued a statement in relation to the safety of foreign embassy staff.

Let me read this out to you. They said they may continue their diplomatic work and humanitarian activities per normal routine. As far as it is related to the Islamic Emirate, we have fulfilled our responsibility regarding their safety.

So it's -- on one hand they're launching these attacks on the local population, causing fear and terror and making people flee and then on the other hand they try to come off as a legitimate type of government if you like, that can ensure the safety of foreigners. I'm not sure if anybody is really buying it here.

Certainly as far as local Afghans are concerned, they're wondering whether their security forces could actually protect them against the Taliban because the Taliban has such momentum at the moment, Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: All right, an important question, an uncertain future in Afghanistan and a lot of issues to contemplate. Anna Coren from Kabul, thank you so much.

One of those issues to work out, the Biden administration still trying to determine exactly how it's going to go after terrorists in Afghanistan once U.S. troops are gone. Sources tell CNN that the administration is considering changes to its drone strike policy as part of its efforts to kill suspected terrorists.

CNN's Katie Bo Williams has new reporting on this angle. Katie Bo, this is a unique challenge because the United States, in the immediate area, doesn't have very many assets to go after terrorists that experts say are already setting up shop. They're also going to have an issue with surveillance and keeping an eye on what is happening there?

KATIE BO WILLIAMS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean that's an important thing to understand here is that with the withdraw of conventional U.S. troops from Afghanistan; the intelligence community is really losing the backbone that it's built its intelligence collection network in Afghanistan on over the last 20 years.

And so certainly their visibility in the country is severely degraded from where it's been. However, what's happening now is the Biden administration is reviewing whether or not to effectively tighten the rules that the CIA is operating under in Afghanistan to essentially raise the bar for launching drone strikes for using lethal force in Afghanistan once the United States leaves and the war is declared to be or considered to be officially over.

Now, this kind of review expected given that the United States is moving to a completely different footing in Afghanistan that it's been for the last 20 years. But it is notable that even as this withdrawal has accelerated, as the surveillance capabilities have been -- have been lost, that this has not been completed yet. That does put the CIA and D.O.D. in a bit of a position of limbo.

SANCHEZ: Katie Bo, sorry, we have to cut you off but we want to get to officials in Florida giving an update on the building in Surfside that collapsed. There is the Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. It appears we're going to hear from them in any moment.

Of course, the latest update is that overnight the building was demolished to make it easier for rescue workers to access parts. Let's go ahead and listen in.

UNKNOWN: -- media brief. I welcome to the podium Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, (D) MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Thank you. Here we are, day 12. It's hard to believe that it's been 12 long days. I'm proud to provide an update that last night's demolition of the remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South was executed exactly as planned.

The demolition began at 10:30 p.m. and the building fell as was planned towards Collins Avenue. Only dust landed on the existing pile. And a little over an hour afterward, we received the all clear. And then right around midnight work commenced on the pile and by 1:00 a.m. we were in full search and rescue operation mode.


To collapse an entire apartment building is a devastating decision and the demolition was in no way a decision that I made lightly. Bringing the building down in a controlled manner was critical to expanding our scope of search. Truly we could not continue without bringing this building down.

The area closest to the building was the area that we had not been able to access. And that is where we needed to go. And previously it was not accessible to the enormous risk to the team of first responders because of the instability of the building. And as we speak, the teams are working on that part of the pile that was not accessible before the building was demolished.

The standing structure also posed a threat to public health and safety, particularly as the storm approached. Given that the tropical storm force winds could have brought it down in a manner that could not have been as controlled and predicted.

So I'm extraordinarily grateful to the demolition team, the engineers, the Miami-Dade fire rescue team, the Miami-Dade county police department and everyone who played a integral part in executing this operation safely and successfully. Including the town of Surfside.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge and reflect on the great tragedy this has been for those who have survived the building and have had to evacuate. The world is mourning for those who lost their loved ones and for those who are waiting for news from the collapse. To lose your home and all of your belongings in this manner is a great loss as well.

And my heart and deepest sympathies going out to all of the families who have had this tragedy. Our family -- our teams are doing everything possible to help those would lost their homes begin to rebuild. FEMA is here and has been from the beginning and they've been doing an incredible job to sign up families for individual assistance and we're working with insurance companies to stream line the process of submitting claims as much as possible.

And we've raised millions of dollars thanks to the generosity of people in this country and all around the world. Their generosity has been overwhelming and it is going to be very, very important to put these funds into these families' hands to help them to rebuild and meet their unmet needs and they have already been getting this assistance. I also want to stress once again that we took every action that we possibly could to search for any pets, any animals in the building prior to the demolition.

In the days since the collapse, the Miami-Dade fire rescue team conducted multiple full sweeps of the building in person, including searching in closets and under beds and other hiding places, in the areas of the building not accessible to the teams, they used ladders on high lift cranes and placed live animal traps on the balconies at great personal risk to our first responders. Also doorways were opened, other means for pets to escape the building

if they were able. We deployed drones with thermal imaging on numerous trips over the rubble pile and also standing in the tower in areas unsafe for search and rescue teams to enter.

So I want to say as clearly as I possibly can and urge our community to understand that we went truly to great lengths to take every step that we could at great risk to our first responders to ensure that all of the pets that were beloved family members, that none of them were left in the building prior to the demolition.

Since the first responders were able to resume their work on the collapse last night, we have very sadly recovered three additional victims. The total number of confirmed deaths is now at 27. The number of those accounted for is 191. And unaccounted for, 118.

Please join me in praying for those who lost their lives, the families who mourn and for all of those who are still waiting. We continue to monitor tropical storm Elsa and expect that Miami-Dade will mostly experience heavy rain and some winds throughout today and tomorrow.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to speak with some of the first responders on site last night right after the demolition, before they headed back out to the pile.


On day 12 these men and women have continued their mission. They have the same determination and strength as when they got out on day one.

It is a true honor to surf alongside these heroes and she-heroes. From the state, from the federal, and from the international teams, all of our partners who have made this historic effort possible.

(Foreign Language)

SANCHEZ: As the mayor of Miami-Dade County offers a Spanish translation, I just want to review some of the news that she shared with us about the building collapse in Surfside, Florida. She confirmed that since rescue crews were able to enter the area following last night's demolition, they recovered three more victims.

That means total number of confirmed dead in Surfside at this point stands at 27 and that 118 people remain missing following the collapse not last Thursday, but the Thursday before. The mayor making clear that 12 days after the collapse rescue crews are still at that pile trying to find any sign of life. Though hopes are dwindling. She reviewed the demolition saying that it was, quote, executed exactly as planned, landing on the street and not on the rubble pile that was being looked at previously by rescue workers.

She said that after an hour of crews studying the demolition, they were given the all clear and allowed to return to a full search and rescue operation. She said it was a decision that was not made lightly and that the search and rescue could not have continued without the building being demolished. Again, the news three victims confirmed recovered since the

demolition, 27 confirmed dead, 118 remain unaccounted for. We're going to keep following that press conference and bring you any new details as we get them. Stay with CNN for the latest. We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: So Donald Trump held a rally in Sarasota, Florida, over the weekend and if you listen closely, the former president may have admitted the core facts of the prosecution's case against his own company. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They go after good, hard working people for not paying taxes on a company car. A company car. You didn't pay tax on the car. Or a company apartment, you used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is. You didn't pay tax. Or education for your grandchildren. I don't even know, do you have to -- does anybody know the answer to that stuff?


SANCHEZ: I think some people know the answer to that. The former president's family business and its chief financial officer face charges of fraud and tax evasion. So what is Donald Trump doing here? Joining us now to try to answer that question, CNN political analyst Natasha Alford, she's the VP of digital content for (INAUDIBLE) and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, he's a former federal prosecutor and also the author of a new book "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupted the Justice Department."

Thank you both for joining us this morning. Eli, let's start with you. If Donald Trump was your client and you watched him do this, what would your reaction be to what he's saying?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think I'd smack my forehead first, Boris. Yes. I -- look, this is a very unorthodox playbook but it is the Donald Trump playbook. We've seen it over the years. Donald Trump's mantra is admit nothing, deny everything, launch counter attack. It's not necessarily the best playbook if you're a potential criminal defendant or subject of a criminal investigation.

I mean he does in that clip admit the core facts but not everything but the core facts in the indictment that they did pay these benefits and that they did not pay taxes on them. The key question, though, and he stopped short of this and here is where he's planting his defense is, did he know about it, did he authorize it.

And there he's starting to set out this argument that this wasn't something I knew about or this wasn't something I fully understand. Of course it is contradicted by his prior statements that he knows more about tax than anybody in the world but here we are, this is his defense.

SANCHEZ: And do you think, Elie, that these comments could be brought up in court?

HONING: Legally, absolutely. Any prosecutor could introduce a person's own statements against them. It's why we have this Miranda warning. You know you have the right to remain silent. It's why every defense lawyer tells their client be silent. So Donald Trump doesn't take that advice, but yes, it could be used in court.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Natasha, I'm curious, you see this as Trump deflecting blame but also contradicting himself. What do you mean?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Well, Boris, as Elie mentioned, Donald Trump in 2017 in an interview with The New York Times said that he knew taxes better than anyone, better than a CPA. Right?

So there are two faces of Donald Trump. Someone who wants to be seen as this brilliant businessman capable of cleaning out the swamp and helping America to stop wasting its money and overspending. But at the same time, he plays ignorant, right?


He acts as if he doesn't understand the responsibilities that come with running an organization in the way that he does. And what's interesting to me, I think is he's really insulting the intelligence of all those people in the audience.

He doesn't even try to deny his crimes anymore. He just tries to justify them. And he knows that he's going to find an adoring crowd, a crowd that's willing to excuse him of responsibility and really hold him accountable.

SANCHEZ: Yes. It's fascinating that he simultaneously plays the role of strong man and also victim at the same time. There's a lot to study there. But we have to actually put this conversation on hold. Let's head over to Surfside, Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis is briefing the press. Listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): -- we're raising the issue about doing this. One of the main concerns that we had were -- well, two concerns was one, we did have a storm approaching. We weren't sure what track it was going to take. We did not want to see any type of problems with that building impeding the search.

So that was one of the impetuses. The other thing is the place that was -- the pile that was closest to the remaining structure was effectively inaccessible by our search and rescue people. And so when I went out there this morning, of course, the whole building is now down. They were on that pile that had been difficult for them to access. And so they're making a lot of progress with the search effort in that

part. When they drew this up and told me what was going to happen, obviously the Miami-Dade was -- made the final call. We were supportive of it. We funded it at the state level.

They explained to me how it was going to happen. It would basically fall down in place and low and behold, it fell down in place. If you look around, there was not a lot of debris even right after it coming down. You can still drive the -- drive a vehicle down the road.

And then now you wouldn't have even known if you hadn't known that was there that something just came down within the last day. So I think it was a good effort. I think it was the right thing to do, and I think it will help us move forward unimpeded and really be able to get the job done for the families, for the community of Surfside, for Miami- Dade and for the state of Florida.

We are at least in terms of the Surfside with this storm, Elsa, the news is pretty positive. They continue the 11:00 a.m. update for the national hurricane center, advisory, moved it further west. So I will be signing a revised executive order later today, and we will likely be removing Miami-Dade from the affected counties.

We will likely be removing DeSoto and Hardee, who are interior -- interior Florida but for in the southern part of the state, we'll likely remove them and that's because the track is pushing it further out into the Gulf of Mexico.

On the other hand, we're going to have to add a lot of counties in the northern part of the state, particularly in the big bend region. So you're looking at counties like that we had had in there, north of places like Dixie and Levy County and then also some interior counties.

So we're working with the meteorologists. We're working on that but we will have that done very soon. So the impact, the land fall impact of this storm is likely to be north of Tampa Bay, and probably even north of Citrus County at this point.

And again, they're going to continue to monitor the track. It's going to start passing over Cuba today. And once it gets on the other side of Cuba, we'll have an even better idea of what the track looks like.

But our plan is the same. We understand that this is just part of living in Florida. We are reminding people just if you do have power outages, and we do anticipate some power outages, if you have the power outages and you're using a generator, make sure that generator is exhausting outside your home and outside your garage. If that is inside a garage or inside a home, you will have carbon monoxide poisoning.

And that's caused -- more people have passed away in Florida in the last four years from carbon monoxide poisoning responding to a power outage than from direct impacts of the storm. So just be smart. Understand that that's a risk. And then just listen to folks on your local community about if there is a need to do any type of evacuations.

We don't anticipate the need for any type of widespread evacuations based on this storm. It's going to be a strong tropical storm. If you are in certain areas, you may have local energy manager recommend an evacuation. And if that's the case, then heed that.

But I think we're really looking at folks who are special needs or power dependent and likely wouldn't see that for a broader section of the community at this point. But we'll continue to provide updates. We're working with the national weather service. Obviously we're working with all the local counties affected.

But bottom line is we're going to take Miami-Dade out, we're going to take a couple other interior counties in Southern Florida out.


We'll be adding a number of counties in the northern half of the state and again, the most recent track is we're looking at impacts north of Citrus County, probably in that - in that Dixie County area. And if we continue to see any movement beyond that, then obviously we will update people.

We do, though, do not anticipate when t in the Gulf of Mexico that this storm is just going to end up going west of Florida. That is not -- every single model is in agreement that once it's in the Gulf, there is going to be a movement back northeast, and we obviously anticipate that will impact the state of Florida.

So we're ready for that. But we are as much as you don't want to have to deal with these, the movement west at least for this Surfside site means the impacts here should be incredibly, incredibly minimal. May get some rain. You may get a little bit of wind. But nothing like we were looking at maybe a couple days ago with us tropical storm force gusts.

And with that, I'll introduce the Kevin Guthrie, emergency management director and then we'll do the Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.


SANCHEZ: So we just heard there from Florida governor Ron DeSantis. A lot of the same information that we actually heard earlier from Miami- Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in the way of information regarding the demolition of what's left of the Champlain Tower South building, which had a partial collapse now nearly two weeks ago.

The governor making the case for the demolition saying that the state supported the local government's decision to move forward. He said he got a close look at the site this morning. He called it the right thing to do. The governor also giving an update on tropical storm Elsa as it barrels toward Florida. Confirming that Miami-Dade is now being taken off of the list of counties where there is concern for serious issues.

So at least that is a positive development for the rescue crews on the ground. And again, we just want to repeat the numbers that we got following the demolition overnight; three more victims recovered, 27 confirmed dead, 118 people remain unaccounted for.

We want to pivot now and give you an update on a truly bizarre story. A search underway at this hour in Georgia. A gunman who shot and killed a golf pro and two others at a golf course now being looked for by officials.

Police say the suspect shot 41-year-old Gene Siller on Saturday in Kennesaw, that's a suburb north of Atlanta. The suspect took off leaving his truck behind on the golf course and inside officers found the bodies of two other men. Let's go to CNN's Ryan Young, he's live at the scene with the latest. Ryan, bring us up to speed. What do we know at this point?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boy, this story is quite baffling. The Pine Tree Country Club is just behind me. And I can tell you police have been working this since Saturday but when you think about all the details in this, it really doesn't make sense.

This golf pro was here at the golf course. All the sudden there's some sort of crash. He goes to investigate, and all of a sudden he's shot in the head. This is a father of two who was at work.

And then all of the sudden when police arrive here, they discover two other bodies. And one of the bodies inside the truck is believed to be the owner of that truck. Now so far police haven't given us details about a suspect, a description, a man seen fleeing from here wearing a certain kind of clothing. None of that has come from police officers so far.

But what we do have though is a community that's in shock. In fact, listen to this man talk about this crime that happened in this community.


UNKNOWN: Growing up here, nothing I would ever imagine having in this city. Like, in this town. And it's just -- I -- I -- I can't understand like how or why this actually happened.


YOUNG: Yes, Boris, as someone who's lived in this area, you can tell for a fact that they don't have murders like this very often. And then the idea that there were so many homes around here that probably have security cameras. You'd think by now detectives may have some evidence or at least be able to maybe to trace a cell phone.

But so far investigators are keeping things pretty close to the vest in terms of this investigation. This is still a man hunt. There is still somebody on the loose right now and that's something that hopefully police will give us more information in the next few hours.

But I can tell you community members are shocked by this. There is a GoFundMe page for Mr. Gene Siller. They've raised a lot of money so far but at the same time there's a lot of shock in this community about a senseless crime that left three people dead. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, and Ryan, quickly, is there any sense from officials that this was targeted or should people in the community be concerned?

YOUNG: Yes, that is the number one question we have as well, Boris. We've reached out to investigators a few times hoping to hear if they have any more details within the next few hours or so.

SANCHEZ: All right. Ryan Young, we appreciate you giving us an update. We know you'll stay on top of that story and bring us the latest as you get it. Ryan, thanks for that.

And thank you so much for joining us at this hour. "Inside Politics" with John King starts in just a few seconds.