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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Florida Condo Collapse: 10 Dead, 151 Unaccounted For; President Biden Calls For Investigation Of The Florida Condo Collapse; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Announces Select Committee To Investigate The Capitol Riot; Former Attorney General Bill Barr Turn Against Trump's Election Fraud Claims; Rockets Fired At U.S. Military Base In Syria Just Hours After U.S. Airstrikes On Militia Groups In The Region; CNN Finds Evidence Of Executions, Atrocities In Tigray, Ethiopia. Aired 5- 6p ET
Aired June 28, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been talking to families for about four days, Jake, and I can tell you this day seems worse for a lot of them. They are so very upset. They wanted something to happen. The weather took a turn today and it really put a damper on everyone's sort of psyche. They want to hear some good news, it just hasn't happened yet.
YOUNG (voice-over): Tonight, day five of the tireless search to find survivors in Surfside, Florida. It's the largest non-hurricane related search and rescue effort in this state's history according to Florida's fire marshal.
Now including help from international teams from Israel and Mexico. Nobody on the front lines giving up despite the horrific conditions, they've been digging their way through in hopes they'll find survivors.
DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DAE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We're going to continue and work ceaselessly to exhaust every possible option in our search.
YOUNG (voice-over): Crews spent Saturday night digging a trench that stretches 125 feet long which allowed rescuers to locate more victims. It's a slow and methodical process where debris must be stabilized with every step.
JASON PIZZO, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: What we tell the families is, you know, they're working as fast as they possibly can. And if you have a loved one in a pile of rubble, that's never fast enough.
YOUNG (voice-over): More and more loved ones spending time at the makeshift memorial that's been set up near the rubble. Many feeling hopeless and frustrated.
MARC PHILIPPE, RABBI OF TEMPLE EMANU-EL: We don't have any news, unfortunately, and there is a great sense of hopelessness and people are waiting and people are still hoping.
UNKNOWN: It's impossible that in four days nobody has emerged dead or alive. It's not enough. Imagine if your children were in there.
YOUNG (voice-over): Buses bringing families to the site of the rubble pile so they can observe for themselves the rescue effort, and officials telling them no resource is being denied. For some, it was reassuring.
ANISABELA CARDOZ, FAMILY MEMBER MISSING IN FLORIDA CONDO COLLAPSE: Today we were able to see the rubble and we saw how hard they were working so we're still hopeful.
YOUNG (voice-over): For others, their hope is waning.
UNKNOWN: We want to believe in a miracle, but you always have that window, would I call it hope? Would I call it, like, a miracle? I'd like a miracle. I'm realistic, we're realistic parents.
YOUNG (voice-over): Anguish for those who loved one's bodies have been identified. Sergio Lozano lives next door to his parents who were in the building when it collapsed.
SERGIO LOZANO, PARENTS DIED IN FLORIDA CONDO COLLAPSE: My parents' apartment is not there, it's gone.
YOUNG (voice-over): His parents, Gladys and Antonio Lozano have been confirmed dead. And those who witnessed the collapse also suffering. 50-year-old Nina Le Troadec watched the building collapse from her bedroom window.
NINA LE TROADEC, WITNESS TO FLORIDA CONDO COLLAPSE: Every night I go to sheep thinking, is my building going to collapse, like, I don't think anyone should have to go to sleep thinking not.
YOUNG (on camera): Jake, you can see the buses in the distance there. What we notice all the time is when they want to bring some family members out, they usually have the street blocked and then they take them to wherever they're going to take them next. And then later on, as we find out from authorities about exactly where they may take some of the family members.
I can also tell you though, it's interesting to watch in terms of some of these families coming together having moments on the street. We saw two families who didn't know each other, but obviously they have a bond now because they're both missing loved ones and all they could do is stand on the corner and hold each other.
This is something that you can't understand if you're going through. That's what one of the guys was telling me, that they both have a story that's in common now because they both have loved ones trapped in that rubble. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That tragic bond that no one wants to have. Ryan Young, thank you so much. Joining us now to discuss, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava. Thank you so much for joining us today. We've been hearing from our reporters on the ground that many family members are frustrated over what they say has been a lack of updates. What's your message to them?
CAVA: We're here for you. We've been meeting with you, giving you all the updates twice a day. It's been an incredibly difficult journey for the families first and foremost. And, of course, also for our own team working tirelessly around the clock to find survivors.
I think these visits yesterday and today to the site were critically important to help people not just be explained the process, but to see with their own eyes what is happening on the site.
For many, it was cathartic to see what had happened to a particular unit, where it was in the rubble, and the efforts that are being made around the mound to get to the different parts of the structure.
Of course, a tunnel has been dug. The rubble is being removed from the top. The rescue workers are removing debris painstakingly bit by bit, stone by stone. And with the dogs smelling, the sonar, the cameras, nothing has been spared.
Look, we have the best rescue team in the world right here and we've been joined by others of same quality. They are spotting each other around the clock so that the 12-hour teams can have some breaks.
TAPPER: President Biden today called for a federal investigation into what happened with the building's collapse. You have promised to get to the bottom of what caused the collapse. From what you know right now, were mistakes made in any capacity?
CAVA: So we're focused, as I've said, on the search and rescue, and the structural engineers are making sure that our rescue workers are safe, that the building that remains stays intact and so on. But of course it's all evidence and we are going to get to the bottom of this. What went wrong?
We're going to make sure that it doesn't ever, ever happen again and we can understand truly what are the structural risks that were taken here, if any. And for the county's own buildings, we've launched a very exhaustive review of all of the buildings that are 40-year recertification time line and we have identified them. We're inspecting them to make sure that we don't have any smoking guns in our own county buildings.
TAPPER: Respectfully, madam mayor, there is an impression out there, right or wrong, that Florida's a state where real estate developers have a lot of power, much more so than any regulatory government body. What do you say to people who wonder about that?
CAVA: I know there is going to be changes in the law. There will be changes at the state and at the county and at the city levels. And we have already started the initiation of some changes that we could take administratively. And I know our county commission is going to be taking action.
We have the best building code possible based on Hurricane Andrew's lessons learned. Sad but true. We're going to learn from this devastating experience as well.
TAPPER: Right. And for people who don't know, Hurricane Andrew was in, I think, '92. And after that a lot of -- the buildings built after were more structurally sound. This building was built in 1981. You've ordered an audit of all buildings over 40 years old. If you find that there is severe structural damage to any of them, what are you going to do? Are you going to call for residents to evacuate?
CAVA: Certainly, we're looking for life safety issues. Again, these are on county buildings, which is outside of cities. Cities have their own jurisdiction, but we will be looking at any life safety issues, and of course making sure that if there is a reason for evacuation we would do that.
So far in our review, we haven't found anything of the sort, but we will make sure to uncover any risk factors in going forward. We want to make sure that if it requires more frequent review, whatever more required reporting, whatever it is so that this can never happen again.
TAPPER: The Champlain Towers South Condo Association approved $15 million in repairs previously. If other buildings have similar damage, how can you assure that the issues will be fixed and paid for? I mean, a lot of times these kinds of repairs are delayed because, you know, condo owners and others don't have $15 million to spend.
CAVA: So, you know, there are minutes, there are findings, and those findings need to be publicly available. And we need to make sure that if there is a life safety issue that it is addressed regardless of the cost.
TAPPER: Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, thank you so much. Our hearts and our prayers and our thoughts are with the good people of Florida today, and thank you so much for your time.
CAVA: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: In the wake of this tragedy, a closer look at what people who live in older buildings should be looking out for when it comes to structural issues.
And a stunning reversal, what former Attorney General Bill Barr is now reportedly saying about Donald Trump's big election lie and why one of his critics say you shouldn't buy it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: In our "National Lead," sticking with the condo collapse, it has been 111 hours since that condo collapse in Surfside, Florida -- 111 hours of frantic searching by rescue teams, 111 hours of agony for families desperate for answers.
CNN's Tom Foreman is taking a closer look now at the chance of survival for anyone in the rubble. Tom, what is the likelihood of survivability at this point?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is not impossible. It is improbable. And all you have to do is look at this to think about it. These are the layers of this building packed together like this. There aren't many places in there in which somebody might survive. And, Jake, even if somebody has survived up until this point, I don't like to say it, but it is true, you'll hear people talk about the rule of three sometimes.
People can generally survive three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food. We're well past the limit here on water, well past that limit if you're in a very close space that can't get air. Maybe people can, but you see the numbers are not running in their favor at this point.
TAPPER: Why is a pancaked building so much more difficult for search and rescue teams than other types of building collapses?
FOREMAN: You are correct to say more difficult because in the past when I've covered this around earthquakes and things like this, this is always the problem. Look at it this way, if you had for example an A-frame collapse where parts are standing up here and you have other beams and floors that create voids.
There are places for people to possibly survive. There are places for rescuers to get in. The same if you have a v-shaped collapse or if you were to have what they call a lean-to collapse. These are dangerous because that can collapse on rescuers.
Now, any one of these gives you room in which to work. That is not what you have with a pancake collapse. In a pancake collapse, basically, you might see a failure somewhere down in here that causes the whole building to start coming like this.
And the important thing to remember is when it's done, you wind up with basically everything that was up here on this building, all here.
It didn't go anywhere, it's all there. And some of this, I will assure you, is as tightly packed as concrete. Huge challenge for the rescuers to try to get in there. A huge challenge for people who might be in the rubble to find any of those safe spaces.
Of course, we're hoping that some have, of course we're hoping people can find them. But it is a dangerous, dangerous situation even to pick through for the rescuers and anybody underneath as all that weight shifts in that tiny space.
TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much. And Michael Holden joins us now. He's a structural engineer in Florida. And Michael, based on what you've seen, your expertise, what do you think led to this collapse? MICHAEL HOLDEN, PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER, U.S. FORENSIC: Boy, at this
point with what we've seen thus far and with some of the information that has been provided, it's unfortunately still far too early to be able to pinpoint on any one thing that could have led to it. It could've been a multitude of circumstances that could have ultimately led to the collapse but there is still lots of evidence that needs to be uncovered before the investigators will hopefully be able to zero in on the cause.
TAPPER: There are obviously people across the country, around the world even, who live in older apartment buildings who might be worried that this could potentially happen to them as rare an occurrence as it is. Do you think this is so rare, people shouldn't worry at all or is there cause for concern this could happen again?
HOLDEN: Failures like this really are truly an anomaly. Across the board people are safe. Buildings are not designed to fail like this. It really truly is an anomaly. There is going to be multiple circumstances that I'm sure will be discovered during the investigative process that will help us. Hopefully, we'll be able to learn from this to see what exactly led to this collapse.
TAPPER: There were reports of this building shaking in recent years during nearby construction. A 2018 inspection details significant cracks and breaks in the concrete. What are signs that people should look out for in their buildings if they're worried about potential safety issues?
HOLDEN: Vibrations are a common thing that will be felt in adjacent structures, whether you're driving concrete piles with an impact hammer or you're using the vibratory hammer to drive sheet piling. It is a common thing for those vibrations to transmit through the earth into adjacent structures.
It is -- I mean, buildings are designed to move. The higher they go, they are designed to move. It's at a frequency that is usually not ever felt by the people that are in the building. It's designed that way. But, I mean, it's the concrete elements, reinforced concrete buildings. It's the nature of the material. Cracks will develop.
It's not an uncommon thing to see cracks in concrete members, but things like excessive displacement and things like that could be signs that there is a more serious problem. Again, this was a true anomaly, but those would be things to note as a more serious issue.
TAPPER: I want to ask you, every building in Florida needs to be recertified every 40 years. The condo that collapsed just hit 40 years. Do you think that the recertification process should be more frequent than every 40 years?
HOLDEN: I can't really speak directly to the recertification process. I have personally never been involved in the recertification process of a building. But I do believe that as issues arise in these individual buildings and these types of circumstances manifest themselves, I think it is important that they be highlighted, that they reach out to the engineering community like myself to have these inspections performed so that a trained eye can see them and gauge their level of severity.
TAPPER: Michael Holden, thank you so much. Appreciate it. New details just coming in about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plans for a special committee, a select committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the capitol. That's next.
TAPPER: Breaking news now. In our "Politics Lead," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just announced the details for the select committee to investigate the deadly January 6th attack on the capitol. CNN's chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill with this breaking news. Manu, how many people will be on the committee? Will it have subpoena power? Who gets to pick the Republicans?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It will have 13 members on this select committee that will be comprised of members of the House, five of them would be Republican appointees, eight would be Democratic members selected by the Speaker.
We are hearing from a Democratic aide that one of those eight Democratic appointees could actually be a Republican member. It's possible that could potentially be Liz Cheney who has expressed interest in this. And of course she has been one of the few who have called out Donald Trump's lies about the election.
She of course was booted out of the Republican leadership position. So there will be a lot of focus on that. There will also be a lot of focus on who will actually chair this committee. There's been discussion about Bennie Thompson who is the House Homeland Security Committee chairman. He's been pushed by some members including Jim Clyburn who is a member of the Democratic leadership.
Will they add Bennie Thompson? Yet to be seen. It is Nancy Pelosi's decision on who will chair this committee. It will indeed have subpoena power. And there is no time frame for which this might end. Unlike the outside commission bill which the Republicans blocked which had an end date for the report to be due at the end of the year, this does not specify an end date.
Also it would allow for interim reports to come out for as much as this committee would actually see as necessary. Now, this still has to go through the formal process, has to be approved by the House, which it will be later this week. And at that point, they will move forward.
Now, Pelosi just put out a statement saying she is moving ahead with this because Republicans in the Senate blocked that outside commission bill. And much different from that outside commission bill, Jake, that had 10 commissioners who will not have been members of Congress but would've been selected evenly by both sides. This time now because Pelosi says Democrats have been blocked, she's
taking matters in her own hand. This will be Democratic-led, Democratic subpoena power, and they can push this investigation as far as they want. So expect this investigation to start to move once the House formally approves it later this week.
TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on the Capitol Hill for us. Thank you.
More on our "Politics Lead." In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl that was published in "The Atlantic," former Attorney General Bill Barr recounts his breakup with Donald Trump. Barr wants people to know the whole time he thought Trump's big lie allegations were in his words, and I apologize parents, all bull shit (ph) (ph) with no substantial evidence of election fraud. But in the lead up to the election, Barr seemed to be taking a quite different approach. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm talking about a comprehensive rule where all the ballots are essentially mail-in, and there are so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed. I think it would be very bad.
If you have wholesale mail-in voting, it substantially increases the risk of fraud.
Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So far we haven't seen widespread fraud.
BARR: So far we haven't tried it. The point is --
BLITZER: There's been a lot of us -- there are several states that only have mail-in voting including a Republican --
BARR: Wolf, this is playing with fire. This is playing with fire. We're very closely divided country here. And if people have to have confidence in the results of the election and the legitimacy of the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But that was then, this is now. Barr is now admitting publicly in this print interview on December 1st, of course, he also said that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. He said that right before he resigned. So joining us now, CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, what else are we learning from this new interview?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We're learning a lot from the interview, Jake. We're learning how the president lashed out at Bill Barr after that December 1st interview with the "A.P." and we're also learning about how Mitch McConnell pressed Barr to speak out sooner against the president's claims. So Barr recounted this conversation that he had with Trump in the
president's personal dining room on December 1st right after the "A.P." interview published where Trump said, "Did you say that?" Barr responded, "Yes." Trump shot back, "How the f could you do this to me? Why did you say it?" "Because it's true," Barr responded.
Well then Trump turned to talking about himself in the third person saying, "You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump." Bill Barr also recounting how he personally looked into some of the allegations that were out there from ballots being moved around in Detroit to claims that voting machines around the country were rigged to switch Trump votes to Biden votes.
But Barr is saying this, "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 bull shit (ph)."
And apparently, Mitch McConnell also pressing Barr to speak out publicly about these false claims as far back as being November. McConnell at that point was telling Barr that he was the only one who could inject some reality into the situation.
Well, as you can imagine, the former president shot back against McConnell in a statement this afternoon saying this. "He never fought for the White House and blew it for the country. Too bad I backed him in Kentucky, he would have been primaried and lost. Based on press reports, he convinced his buddy, Bill Barr, to get the corrupt election done, over with, and sealed for Biden, ASAP."
And you know, Jake, Bill Barr says that the former president not only pressed him about the election, but also yelled at him for not prosecuting Hunter Biden, former -- current President Biden's son. Also for not prosecuting former FBI Director James Comey.
So a lot in there also talking about his resignation, but we know that this pressure continued with the Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen. We saw the e-mails. The fact that even at that point later on after December and into January, Trump's allies were pressing the DOJ to look into these false claims.
TAPPER: Jessica Schneider, thanks so much. Joining us now to discuss, Ben Ginsberg, a Republican election lawyer and CNN legal analyst. Ben, what's your reaction to this new interview of Bill Barr in "The Atlantic"?
BEN GINSBERG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's pretty important, Jake, that Bill Barr would say there is nothing to these charges. And so, he's been roundly criticized for what he said before the election. But after the election to tell Donald Trump to his face, that there was nothing there is an important development in putting to rest the false allegations about the 2020 election.
TAPPER: But one of the things about the big lie, though, is in order to believe it -- and I certainly do not -- you also have to believe that every single person, including Republicans, including very loyal Trump Republicans, are in on this conspiracy. The idea that Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr were in on this conspiracy is as Trump is ranting and raving, I mean, what do you think about that?
GINSBERG: Well, it's a further indication of how unglued and how false the Trump allegations about the election, were before the election, were in the run up to the inauguration, and have continued to be afterwards. But last week was an important week, Jake, in terms of a number of developments.
The Barr interview comes on top of a report out of Michigan that shows that the allegations in Michigan were ill-founded, a report by Republican senators debunking the Trump's theories in the big lie, a Georgia court throwing out an attempt to look at the ballots in Fulton County, Georgia. Rudy Giuliani losing his law license, all these things are of a part and parcel and the Arizona audit, which is going on also, there was a list of all the procedural deficiencies with that.
So Bill Barr saying all along that there was nothing to these allegations, fits into a larger puzzle, where the big lie is sort of falling apart as a winning theme.
TAPPER: Barr also tells Jon Karl about then Senate Majority Leader now Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's approach, "McConnell also believed that if he openly declared Biden the winner, Trump would be enraged and likely act to sabotage the republican Senate campaigns in Georgia".
So McConnell asked Barr to do it because he couldn't in his view. Trump, in his statement said, "He lost two senatorial seats in Georgia making the Republicans the minority in the Senate. He never fought for the White House and blew it for the country".
But it's interesting. McConnell knew that the big lie was a lie. He knew that it was damaging to the country. But he also didn't want to say so publicly until after the Georgia election run offs were over for fear of losing them.
GINSBERG: Yes, I mean, all of Georgia was the worst of all possible worlds for Republicans. I mean, in other words, Trump didn't blow up, but he also cost Republicans those two elections. Look at the turnout differences between the Georgia runoffs and Election Day.
That was Republicans not voting for the Georgia Senate candidates not wanting to support Donald Trump. The fact that Republicans in the suburbs are sort of leaving the Republican Party has been backed up in a couple of special elections. The New Mexico congressional one being the most recent.
TAPPER: Ben Ginsberg, always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
GINSBERG: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Moments ago, President Biden defending his decision to launch airstrikes which may have now led to retaliatory rocket attacks against the U.S. military in the region. Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in our world lead, rockets have been fired at a U.S. base in Syria in what appears to be an act of retaliation. Pentagon official telling CNN that the rockets were likely fired by Iranian-backed militias, which have been the target of U.S. airstrikes yesterday along the Syria-Iraq border.
A Pentagon official telling CNN that the Iranian-backed militias have carried out a number of attacks on U.S. forces and assets in recent weeks using a new type of drone, which apparently cannot be tracked by U.S. surveillance. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House, CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us. And Oren, what do we know about these rockets just fired at U.S. troops.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Right now we know it was multiple rockets that were fired at the Green Village, an area in eastern Syria just east of the Euphrates River, in fact, where some of the 900 troops in Syria are base. That rocket attack carried out at 744 in the evening, Syria time.
As of right now, there are no injuries according to the initial reports, but we don't yet have an exact number on how many rockets were fired at U.S. forces there. A defense official with direct knowledge of the information about these strikes, saying it was likely Iranian-backed Shia militias firing off these rockets from the city of this base in eastern Syria.
In response to those strikes, the U.S. carried out what it described as self-defense artillery strikes against where those rockets were emanating from. Of course, this all comes just about 24 hours after the U.S. carried out airstrikes from F15 and F16 fighter jets along the Syria-Iraq border against Iranian-backed Shia militias, against operational facilities and weapons storage facilities.
Those coming after a number of drone strikes against U.S. military facilities and personnel, drone strikes that commanders there have described as potentially lethal. And at this point, it seems the Biden administration needed to put a line down and try to force a deterrence against these militias there.
TAPPER: And Kaitlan, a lot of questions about this under what authorization is Biden ordering these strikes, why are U.S. service members there to begin with? President Biden just spoke, what did he have to say?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He cited the thing that he has cited in the past which are the powers granted to him by Article 2 of the Constitution saying that that is what allowed him to carry out this strike and he said that even those on Capitol Hill who don't like to acknowledge that or acknowledging it when it comes to these latest airstrikes that Oren was just talking about, Jake, and that's what the White House also said earlier at the briefing.
And we should note, this is the second time that President Biden has justified airstrikes by citing Article 2, he did it as well, in February when he carried out airstrikes, directed those airstrikes in eastern Syria. And, of course, this is something that always revives this conversation on Capitol Hill, even with members of his own party.
And when he was saying earlier that people who don't like to acknowledge the powers that he has under Article 2 are acknowledging it today. That's likely a reference to people like Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, both Democratic senators up on Capitol Hill who have questioned and sought to limit presidential war powers at times.
And so, President Biden was referencing that earlier. But I do think that this causes a deeper conversation about. If this is going to be something that the U.S. foresees happening on a repeated basis, given the uptick in these kinds of attacks, is this something that they need to have a conversation about, or is President Biden going to continue to cite those authority to powers to carry out strikes like this? And so, that is the conversations happening on Capitol Hill.
Now, of course, you saw what Senator Tim Kaine said earlier, though, he did believe these strikes were justified based on what he had heard so far, but they said they wanted Congress to be fully briefed on the White House's justification behind them.
TAPPER: Right. And it becomes something of a vicious circle there because the troops are not there to be fighting these Iranian-backed militias. They're there for -- to combat other groups and then it just goes on and on and on.
Kaitlan Collins, Oren Liebermann, thanks so much to both of you.
Coming up next, the new evidence that corroborate seeing and reporting of a gruesome mass killing and the discovery that the world needs to see. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our world lead today, breaking news. In a troubled region of Eastern Africa, Ethiopia's government just announced a unilateral ceasefire across Tigray, a region of Northern Ethiopia where we have been following now, for months reports of atrocities and food shortages.
This comes after Ethiopian forces were forced to withdraw from Tigray's capital less than a week after rebels in Tigray launched an offensive. Now these developments follow CNN's obtaining and confirming evidence of mass executions.
CNN's Nima Elbagir has our exclusive report. And we have to warn you, the images you're about to see are quite disturbing, but obviously, so important.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one they enter the church, carrying in sacks all that's left of loved ones executed by Ethiopian soldiers. Villagers risking their lives to retrieve these remains. But this is not just about closure, this is fresh evidence of a January massacre.
Throughout the month long conflict in its Tigray region, Ethiopia has promised to hold all who break the law accountable, but they haven't. We must warn you what you're about to see and hear is horrifying. This is how many saw their loved ones for the first time. Some beheaded, others burned beyond recognition.
For six months, families had been denied access to the execution site by Ethiopian soldiers. The remains tell a grim story corroborating CNN's original investigation in collaboration with Amnesty International.
This is the old footage of the massacre first broadcast in April. We can't show you the moment of execution, but in the aftermath, this soldier tosses a jacket. Notice the black and gray color scheme and the blood stain. Same jacket same blood stain. The man who took this picture confirmed this jacket belonged to his brother, which he found at the massacre site.
This video of bullet casings was also filmed at the site last week by family members and sent to CNN. We asked forensic experts to analyze the casings. They confirmed they were in line with bullets Ethiopian soldiers would use. The video also reveals the location, the same location as the execution site.
Notice the distinctive rage in this new footage and now in the footage shot by soldiers during the execution. We also verify the digital footprint. It's a match.
Crucially, local say they have collected 36 ID cards from the scene, but that 37 more people remain missing. Indicating the massacre could have been much larger than previously suspected. They believe the desecration of the bodies was a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence in the aftermath of our investigation.
And more video has emerged to shed light on the perpetrators. Given to CNN by a pro Tigray organization based in the U.S., it reveals the nickname of the whistleblower, but more importantly, the rank and division of the unit committing these crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): As you can see we have killed them and the TPLF bodies are scattered everywhere.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): That's the voice of the Ethiopian soldier turned whistleblower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translations): I am the one who is recording and filming this video for you. My name is Fafi. ELBAGIR (voice-over): He names himself in the video twice, and names his unit and division. Enough evidence for the Ethiopian government to pursue an investigation, but none has been confirmed.
The whistleblower gives his phone to another soldier so he can also be filmed carrying out an execution. With this level of detail now revealed we asked the Ethiopian government whether they have investigated and punished the perpetrators. We received no response.
After the ceremony at the church, the families gathered to bury the dead in a mass grave. Their grief, they say, inflamed by their government's inaction. The identities of the victims are known. The division of the perpetrators is known. Hard to imagine how that inaction can be justified.
ELBAGIR: Thank you. Today's developments, Jake, with the capture of Mekelle changes the calculus on the ground. It escalates things, there's no doubt about that. The reality is that many of the civilians like the ones we showed there are ecstatic to -- in the hope that finally there will be some protection for them, from the Ethiopian government forces, but it puts the ball back in the court of the U.S. State Department and other governments. Because now it's not just that they're dealing with people who are desperate for justice.
But they are dealing with justice that they're going to hope to deliver in the middle of a rapidly escalating conflict and people are really afraid, Jake, about what could come next. Jake.
TAPPER: And Nima, tell us more about today's breaking news of the Ethiopian government announcing this unilateral ceasefire across Tigray and withdrawing forces they say from the regional capital.
ELBAGIR: We spoke to the spokesperson for the Tigray forces and he said and I quote, we will fight until every enemy is pushed off our territory. It doesn't feel like they are taking that ceasefire seriously or that the international community should. Jake?
TAPPER: CNN's Nima Elbagir, thank you so much as always for that report.
Here in the U.S., the hottest days ever in one part of the country have melted cables and made public transportation a danger. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our Earth matters series, the hottest days ever in the northwest creating dangerous conditions for the third day in a row. Parts of Washington State and Oregon shattered all-time records its 112 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland, which is a tie for its hottest day on record, which was set just yesterday. A far cry from its average in the mid-70s. And since most homes in that region do not have air conditioning, many people had to rush to cooling stations when they lost power in Portland this weekend.
In Seattle, crews are spraying metal graded bridges to prevent the steel from expanding. Researchers say this is all evidence of climate change with all-time highs, outpacing record lows, according to the National Climate Assessment.
Let's go to CNN's Camila Bernal in Portland. And Camila, the heat so dangerous. The city had to stop light rail service?
CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the light rail and the streetcars all canceled. All of the stations look just like this one here behind me, they're empty because it is just so dangerous. But I want to show you an image that really puts things into perspective. It is a power cable that is literally melting in these triple-digit record breaking temperatures. We were also told that a dried tree branch fell on top of the overhead cables. And that knocked out power for the entire service.
Overall yesterday, about 5,000 power outages and more are expected today. We were told that almost 50 people had to be taken to the emergency room with heat related illnesses. So really a difficult situation for so many here in Portland, but all across the region.
I want to show you some images in Washington State. Authorities in Adams County telling people to be very careful with the rapid moving brush fires. So overall, Jake, this is not just hot, it is dangerous. Many people here don't have air conditioning and some have gone to the cooling centers, hundreds in fact over the weekend, but it is just not enough. They're really hoping for some relief. And that, Jake, will not come until later on tonight.
TAPPER: And in Seattle, north you (ph), how extensive are the bridge sprays with the cool water?
BERNAL: It's incredible because what they're doing is spraying these bridges so that they don't have any damage from the heat. And so they're doing this over and over again to essentially cool the bridges and the roads.
So it's incredible to see these prevention efforts because the temperatures there as well. Our record breaking, 104 in Seattle, that is a record there and people in Seattle also not used to these temperatures and also without air conditioning. So, a difficult situation no matter where you look at it.
TAPPER: All right. Camila Bernal in Portland, Oregon. Thank you so much.
Before we go today, we want to take the time to remember some of the victims who died in the Florida condo collapse. Stacy Fang was 54 years old. She was the mother of the boy pulled alive from the rubble. Antonio and Gladys Lozano were weeks away from celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary. They were known as the couple that was always available for anything, anyone needed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL FERRO, LOST UNCLE AND GODMOTHER IN CONDO COLLAPSE: For any occasions you would call, they would be the life of the party. My uncle Tony very much quick with a joke and they were truly the kind of people who whenever you needed, they were there for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: According to the Miami Herald, 54-year-old Manuel LaFont was a father of a boy and a girl, also among the victims. 80-year-old Leon Oliwkowicz, 26-year-old Luis Bermudez, 46-year-old Anna Ortiz, Christina Beatriz Elvira was 74 years old. The ninth and 10th victims that have been found have not yet been named. Our deepest condolences to all of those experiencing pain from this horrible tragedy. May their memories be a blessing, (INAUDIBLE).
You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."