Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

13 People Killed in Philadelphia From a Building Fire; FBI Still Trying to Find Who Planted Pipe Bombs at Both the Republican and Democratic Headquarters in Washington; House Select Committee Hopes Pence and Hannity Will Appear Before Them. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 11:30   ET



BRIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: And we are following Breaking News out of Philadelphia where officials just confirmed 13 people are dead after a fire at an apartment building. Seven of the victims are children. CNN's Brynn Gingras is with us, and Brynn the presser just wrapped up. What more are we learning?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Bianna, I mean this was a heartbreaking update from the press conference. The officials there are saying this is a gut punch for the city of Philadelphia. As you just said, they've confirmed 13 people were killed in that early morning fire, among them seven children.

They said this is all preliminary, though, because they still actually need to get into the building to do further assessments and possible recoveries. And we're learning from sources there that they are waiting for heavy equipment to come in before they can safely get inside that building. But what we learn from that news conference is that this is an apartment building owned by the Public Housing Authority and it had - it was three stories but it housed two separate apartments.

In the first floor apartment, there were actually eight people who lived there. And on the second and third floor, that was one single apartment, 18 people lived there according to the latest numbers from fire officials.

The mayor speaking out saying so many kids were lost here, the fire - deputy fire chief emotional, really holding back some tears and taking his time while talking about what he witnessed today. Take a listen.


UNKNOWN MALE, DEPUTY FIRE CHIEF: The fire was extinguished and - it was a - it was terrible. Most - I've been around for 30, 35 years now, and this is probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to.



GINGRAS: And we have also learned that there were four smoke detectors inside that building but they were not operational. Bianna, of course, we are waiting to get more information when officials get inside and we'll continue to update you.

GOLODRYGA: Brynn Gingras, you can just see the emotion and the devastation in that firefighter's eyes.


GOLODRYGA: He is a trained expert, and he said he hasn't seen anything like this. It gives you a sense of the scale of this tragedy. Thank you so much.

Well, joining me now is CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. He's also the former Philadelphia police commissioner. And Commissioner Ramsey, I mean, I would imagine this is a punch in the gut to you as well. This is your city. These are seven children, 13 dead in all. What are you feeling right now?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's horrific, there's no question about that. 13 dead, seven kids, and that's 13 that we know of now. They haven't thoroughly gone through the building yet, the second and third floor. Hopefully they don't find anyone else.

But they did take a couple people to the hospital that, my understanding is, they're in critical condition. So, the only thing we can do is pray for their recovery but in the meantime, it's a devastating loss for everyone.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, no doubt. And we'll be hearing and learning more in the hours and days to come. But just from what we learned from Brynn there, public housing, these were two separate apartments, one of the apartments, 18 people were residing there. Is that striking to you? Is that common in the area there?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, license and inspections here in Philly will have to - are better to answer a question as to occupancy, but I think it's pretty obvious, 18 people, that's an awful lot. Now we've had bad weather, so how many of those people actually were just being provided shelter temporarily because of the cold weather? I don't know the answer to that. All of those will be questions.

But one thing that I really found to be striking from the press conference was the way in which the fire chief described the way in which the buildings were divided up. The entire first floor is one family, but the back half of the second floor was that same family, and then the front half of the second floor and the entire third floor the second family.

My concern and my worry is whether or not people on the second floor had an exit other than the front. And the fire originated in the front of the building, and I don't know if they got trapped in there and couldn't get out, but all that's going to be part of the investigation that will take place.

ATF is on the scene, as well as the Philadelphia fire marshal. And when it's safe to enter, they'll go in and they'll determine the cause of the fire.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, we hear they were very quick to respond as well. And as you said, frigid conditions there.


GOLODRYGA: I would imagine that part of the investigation will focus on the fact that it appears none of the smoke detectors in the building went off. What do you make of that?

RAMSEY: Well, you know, this - people say it over and over again, at least fire officials, you know, a good time is right now, first of the year, to change batteries in your smoke detectors. Whether you think you need it or not, change the batteries. It is worth it, I mean, to do that because what good are they if they don't work?

Now this is a Philadelphia Housing Authority property, and you would think that during their inspections, and according to the press conference, the last inspection was in 2020, that they would check to make sure that the smoke detectors are working. But it's up to the individuals - every individual's responsibility to make sure in your home right now, you ought to check to make sure your fire - smoke detectors are working properly.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, really an important PSA right now to all of our viewers. It just takes a moment to check. And, obviously, it could, you know, make a difference between life and death. Charles Ramsey, thank you so much for joining us on just this sad, sad story.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Our thoughts are with you and the city of Philadelphia and obviously all of the victims and their families there. Thank you.

RAMSEY: Okay, thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, a year later, we still don't know who planted two pipe bombs ahead of the insurrection. Up next, new reporting on that investigation.



GOLODRYGA: Attorney General Merrick Garland is about to give an update on the Justice Department's criminal probe into the insurrection, but the hunt continues for the person who planted pipe bombs at both the Republican and Democratic Headquarters in Washington on January 6th. CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez has new reporting on the investigation. So Evan, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, by all measures, it's been an extraordinary law enforcement operation to arrest more than 700 people. But for the FBI, there is still a couple of things that they're focusing on, the hundreds of people that assaulted police officers and the person you see in that video who left behind bombs at the RNC and DNC buildings just a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol, which were discovered just as the insurrectionists were entering the building.


So I sat down with Steven D'Antuono, who is the head of the FBI's Washington field office, and we talked about their efforts to find this person.


PEREZ: So we've seen the videos, you know, the hooded sweatshirt, the face mask, the backpack, the Nike shoes. Are you surprised that none of this has yielded the tip that brought this forward?

STEVEN D'ANTUONO, HEAD OF FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: In prior COVID times, in any neighborhood, I think, in the country, if you saw an individual hooded, masked, glasses, gloves on, it would've been a red flag for any individual walking around that day. In this case, it wasn't because of the environment that we we're living in during COVID times.

PEREZ: Well, one of the things we wonder is why the bombs didn't go off?

D'ANTUONO: The bombs could have gone off, they just did not go off. In this area where the bombs were places, if they did go off, they could have caused some serious harm or death.


PEREZ: And Bianna, we are expecting, in the coming hours, in the next couple of hours, to hear from the Attorney General, Merrick Garland. We expect him to talk about the efforts made to defend American democracy.

We're not going to hear very much about specific cases that the Justice Department is focusing on. Look, we expect that this investigation is going to go on for years, and we expect that well over 1,000 people in the end will be charged. Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: As we mentioned, Attorney General Garland scheduled to speak later this afternoon. Evan Perez, thank you.

And at this hour, one year ago, then President Trump sent out his first tweet of the day, pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election. At 11:06 a.m., January 5th, "the vice president has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors."

The house committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is now making public their hope that Pence will voluntarily speak to them about public pressure like that, which set off dangerous scenes like this the day of the Capitol attack.


CROWD: Hang mike pence! Hang mike pence! Hang Mike Pence!


GOLODRYGA: One year ago today, Trump would also go on to tout the "thousands of people pouring into D.C. ahead of the electoral vote count." The committee wants to ask Fox Host Sean Hannity about this text they say was sent on the eve of the riots too, "Im very worried about the next 48 hours."

The text tone very different from the T.V. tone that same night when Hannity was predicting a "big day to come." CNN's Whitney Wild has more on the committee's efforts to talk to Hannity and Pence.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection now wants to talk to former Vice President Mike Pence and Fox News Host Sean Hannity. The chairman of the select committee told CNN he wants Pence to voluntarily speak with the panel about what he witnessed one year ago tomorrow, and the conversations leading up to that day.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee.

WILD: Representative Bennie Thompson said Pence certified the election despite the extreme risk from rioters on January 6th, rioters who had heard for days then President Donald Trump's pressure campaign on his VP to halt the process.

THOMPSON: His life was at risk. The vice president could not leave the Capitol of the United States because of the riot.

CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

WILD: Thompson said the risk to Pence's life did not seem to motivate Trump to act while the Capitol was under attack.

THOMPSON: To take 187 minutes to say to rioters you need to stop and go home because my vice president is in the building and is life is in danger is an absolute shame.

WILD: A spokesman for Pence declined to comment on Thompson's remarks. The committee also wants to speak with Fox News Host Sean Hannity, saying he texted with Trump, then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others in the days surrounding January 6th.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): We have so many of these texts and pieces of evidence indicating that he was outside of his role as a press person acting as a political operative.

WILD: Publicly, Hannity was saying this ahead of January 6th.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: A big day tomorrow, big crowds apparently showed up to the point where the west wing could hear the music and the chanting of the people that were there already. WILD: But privately, Hannity sent a message to Meadows the night before the insurrection, reading "Im very worried about the next 48 hours." The committee wants to know why Hannity was worried and what, if any, prior knowledge he may have had before the capitol riots.

LOFGREN: I want to make sure that everyone knows this isn't a subpoena.


We've asked him to cooperate with us as a fact witness out of his sense of patriotism.

WILD: Its members also believe the Fox News host has detailed knowledge regarding Trump's state of mind in the days following the January 6th attack. Hannity texted Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan about a conversation he had with Trump four days after the insurrection.

The text reads "Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can't mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say, and I don't like not knowing if it's truly understood. Ideas?


GOLODRYGA: And our thanks to Whitney Wild reporting there. Well, joining me now to discuss more, CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, Co-host of "State Of The Union." great as always to see you, Dana. So let's start with the vice president -


GOLODRYGA: - because despite the very real threats to former vice president Mike Pence's life, it really is still an open question, isn't it, if he's willing to speak to the House Committee investigating this insurrection. If he does, how significant would that be, coming forward voluntarily as the panel would really hope he will?

BASH: It would be hugely significant for a former vice president go and to discuss any of the details with the congressional panel because it would set a precedent that is an important fact finding mission that he agrees with, that he wants to contribute to.

Having said that, it's still really unclear whether or not that is going to happen. We do know, Bianna, that Mark Short, the former vice president's chief of staff who was in the Capitol with him that day, will go, maybe within the next few weeks, to the Hill to meet behind closed doors with the committee, so will his chief counsel.

Those were the two individuals who were the closest to Mike Pence who were helping make the decisions, including, and especially, the big decision, the fateful decision, to actually go ahead and preside over certifying the electoral college as he decided was his constitutional duty. So my understanding in talking to sources around the former vice

president is to wait and see what happens with those two individuals and then to look forward to see if there's any chance that the vice president will go.

I mean, people I'm talking to say - are saying they're not really sure if an actual discussion could happen. It is possible. There might be an option for questions and answers in writing, but it is too early to say whether or not any of that will come to fruition.

GOLODRYGA: It really is. You know, as you were speaking, we were showing video of the former vice president and his family being rushed down the stairs out of the Capitol, their life really just, you know, in danger with those protesters just minutes away from him, as we would come to find out. What a difference one year can make, right, from what was happening to him then to how he would describe that day just a few months later.

And that sort of leads us to how Republicans are dealing with this anniversary tomorrow. We know the democratic leadership, they're going to be observing it, but what guidance is Republican leadership giving its members as to how they should approach this anniversary, and could they really avoid having to not talk about Trump at all and his role in this?

BASH: They're trying. They're trying as hard as they can to not talk about Trump and his role, but it is incredibly hard. It's impossible. And, you know, you've seen, for really a year now, a lot of Republicans just hide from answering questions about this as much as they can.

Other Republicans have told our colleagues in the hallways, from Senator Joni Ernst to Senator Shelly Moore-Capito to Republican women in the United States Senate, that they didn't want the former president to have the press conference, which he has since canceled. He was scheduled to have one tomorrow on the anniversary of January 6th.

But for the most part, what they are hoping is - what they're hoping inside the Republican leadership, particularly in the House Republican leadership, is that they can continue to do some jedi mind tricks on the American people and on the Republican base in particular to try to either avoid discussion or to continue to try to turn it around falsely on Democrats and the democratic leadership when they have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there was an insurrection that happened a year ago tomorrow on the United States Capitol while Congress was doing its constitutional duty, and it was inspired, provoked by the former president and his allies telling lies that they continue to tell. And there's no other way to put it.'


GOLODRYGA: Yes, there's no other way to put it and I thought it was a really interesting tactic for the committee to publicly put forward those text messages, right, from Sean Hannity, expressing how he was feeling that day. BASH: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: We know they've done that in the past with other Fox hosts, Laura Ingraham as well. They were expressing one view privately, what they thought was going to be private in text messages that day, quite different in terms of their reporting that night.

And it really gives a sense as to what they were wanting to portray to their viewers, right, on Fox News as opposed to how they felt personally. Dana, always great to see you. A really big, important solemn day tomorrow -

BASH: You too, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: - and I know you'll be covering it as well. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And thank you for joining me today. "Inside Politics" with John King begins right after the break.