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The Lead with Jake Tapper

RNC: Third-Party Vendor Hacked, Microsoft And U.S. Intelligence Investigating Source; Pressure Builds On Biden To Step Up Cyber Security After Series Of Recent Hacks; FBI Infiltrates "Bible Study," Led By Accused January 6 Rioter Making Bombs; CNN: McCarthy Sifts Through GOP Contenders For January 6 Select Committee; Chicago Violence; Florida Condo Collapse Search Efforts Continue; Tropical Storm Elsa Targets East Coast; Haiti's President Murdered In Middle Of Night Amid Political Turmoil. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 07, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It certainly is relevant. Kim Coles, thank you so much for being with us. Again, "The History of the Sitcom" premieres this Sunday at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.

"THE LEAD" starts right now.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: It seems first message may have been lost in translation.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden vows to deliver his message again to Vladimir Putin after another cyber attack possibly with ties to Russia.

A so-called bible study group looking into bombs. The terrifying details about how a man, prosecutors say, was at the Capitol attack was planning even more violence.

Plus, a dramatic jump in the Surfside death toll as the Miami-Dade mayor carefully delivers heart-breaking news about the people who are still missing.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper today.

And we start with the tech lead and a new alarming cyberattack, this one closely linked to the Republican National Committee and possibly a repeat of the 2016 DNC hack with the very same criminals responsible.

The RNC told CNN hackers breached one of its third party vendors. And the same time the RNC learned of this hack, another major ransomware attack was playing out. Hackers with possible ties to Russia demanded $70 million worth of

bitcoin from a series of IT companies. Those companies service more than 1,000 corporate and government clients. Both cyber attacks comes as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure to deter these kinds of attacks.

Let's start with CNN's Alex Marquardt.

So, what more do we know about this attack with links to the RNC, Alex?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR SECURITY CORRESPODENT: The RNC uses a company called Synnex as an IT provider, and Synnex was attacked by hackers who they say tried to access some of their customers who store things in the cloud. Now, it's s not clear whether the RNC was the target or others were, but the RNC is saying that as soon as they found out that this company, Synnex, IT provider, had been breached, that they shut down all ties, all accounts with the company.

Now, "The New York Times" is reporting that the hackers behind this are from the Russian SVR, which is their foreign intelligence service. This is a group of hackers that we have seen acting against the U.S. before, most recently in the SolarWinds breach, but the RNC is saying absolutely no data was taken, that the hackers did not manage to get inside.

We've heard from the RNC chief of staff of. He said in part, our team worked with Microsoft to conduct a review of our systems and after a thorough investigation, no RNC data was accessed. We will continue to work with Microsoft as well as federal law enforcement officials on this matter.

Pam, we know from the White House that the RNC is in contact with the FBI and the cyber agency called CISA. But this does come at the same time, as you mentioned, as this massive ransomware attack that has been claimed by the Russian criminal group REvil. They are demanding $70 million as you said. They've indicated that they would take a little bit less and has affected hundreds if not thousands of companies.

And so, now, you have these two incidents essentially in parallel involving Russian hackers, criminal and government, and as you know that line is often blurry. It's hard to tell where one starts and -- where one ends and the other starts.

BROWN: Right. And if the RNC was the direct target here, we still don't know that, but if it was, it wouldn't be the first time.

MARQUARDT: It wouldn't be, but this is what they do. This is what the SVR does. They try to get inside these entities. They try to spy. They did this in this massive SolarWinds breach last year. They got inside nine U.S. government agencies.

They did this to the DNC and the RNC back during the 2016 election, and the DNC case, of course, as we know, they released documents. And so, the question now is, where is that line? When do they cross it? In a way that demands a U.S. response.

In the summit with Vladimir Putin back in Geneva in June, the president Joe Biden said that the line is critical infrastructure. And so, he said that they will essentially give the Russians six to 12 months to see if those attacks on critical infrastructure stop. But now, we are seeing these mounting attacks both from criminals and government hackers which is putting a lot of pressure on the Biden administration to come up with some sort of response to get these attacks to stop.

BROWN: Right. It's a big test and also raises the question whether the targets outside the list of 16 infrastructure places makes it more vulnerable since they're not on the list. Could the Russians say, well, this isn't what you said to us is the most important thing?

All right. Thanks so much, Alex. Appreciate it.

And whether Russia is directly to blame or not, President Biden is facing increasing pressure, as we just talked about, to stop these cyber attacks. He took up the issue at the White House today.

And as CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, these new attacks come less than a month after Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin, there would be consequences.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden facing a persistent challenge, now with significantly higher stakes.

REPORTER: What's your message on cyber? Any message after your briefing on cyber from your officials?

REPORTER: At what point does the United States respond?

BIDEN: I will deliver it to him.

MATTINGLY: But as a new set of cyber attacks ripple through the U.S., a message alone falls far short of what Biden has pledged.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The meeting is meeting with his national security team members of them this morning to get an update on cyber, on ransomware, and we'll see where we go from there. But he reserves the right to take action.

MATTINGLY: Biden convening his top intelligence and national security officials Wednesday morning in the Situation Room. The focus: ransomware attacks like those launched from Russian-based criminal syndicates over the last several months, including the largest on record just this past weekend. A critical issue Biden sought to set clear red lines against in his 101 meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

PSAKI: Even if it's a criminal actor, even if it's someone that's not the federal government, even if it's a bad guy or bad gal in Russia, you have a responsibility there and you have a responsibility to take action. If you don't take action, we reserve the right to.

MATTINGLY: But the attack potentially providing an early and ominous answer to Biden's own open question after the summit.

BIDEN: Are they going to act? We'll find out.

MATTINGLY: Coming as top experts in both governments recently met on the issue according to White House officials, and agreed upon dialogue from the Geneva summit and set to meet again next week.

Just a few months ago, the massive SolarWinds hack by a Russian intelligence unit led Biden to slap on sanctions on the country as a result, but the latest attacks even in the wake of those sanctions and the Geneva summit laying bare the stakes for Biden's next move, as his red lines from just last month continue to echo.

BIDEN: I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn't know what it is but it is significant. And if in fact they violate these basic norms, we will respond, cyber. He knows.


MATTINGLY: And, Pamela, to this point, important to note, the administration has not attributed either attack to Russia, either ransomware, criminal syndicates or state actors. But if they do, when they do, a significant decision will come across the president's desk.

Obviously, sanctions have been deployed in the past but the president puts cyber action on the table in that meeting with President Putin. It's an issue that's been rife with disagreement administration after administration after administration in terms of how to do it, what the scale and scope should be in response to any attack? If Biden chooses that pathway, it will open a lot of interesting doors, a lot of interesting questions. It's a significant decision he will have to make in the days and weeks ahead, Pamela.

BROWN: And I imagine just from talking to officials in the administration, this is a test Biden expected to face after the summit. No one thought Russia would stop harboring criminals who are launching these attacks.

All right. Thank you so much, Phil. Appreciate it.

And I want to bring in our panel now to further discuss this.

David Sanger, let's start with you. You wrote today in "The New York Times" that early indications show Russia's SVR, intelligence agency, may be responsible for the hacks on this RNC vendor. What is the significance of that?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there are two types of attacks as you heard from Alex before and from Phil. And so, there's this state-sponsored attacks like those run by the SVR, which is one of the spinoffs of the old Soviet KGB. And it is primarily an intelligence gathering operation and to some

degree, that's less upsetting to the administration because states spy on each other. We spy on them. They spy on us. So that's less likely to be punished. Except for the fact that the RNC, of course, is a political target and warnings after the DNC hack four years, five years ago now.

The ransomware is largely private criminal groups although as Alex suggested, it's hard to know where those stop and where the state steps in. Sometimes, they use the same hackers. And in that case, the president's concern is that this gets to the heart of economic disruption in the United States as you saw with Colonial pipelines, and with the meatpacking company. And that's really where the focus of the administration's attention is.

BROWN: Just to follow up on that, to help us understand. So, Biden handed over the list of 16 critical infrastructure items to Putin. Where do these attacks fall on that list?

SANGER: Well, the list is a pretty vague one and you can look at it yourself. It was published by the Department of Homeland Security several years ago, actually during the Trump administration and its categories.


So you might well argue that getting into the supply chain of software that goes in to the connections of the Internet, which is essentially what makes this new ransomware attack different and why 800 to 1,500 companies have been hit, you could argue that's the same as getting into, say, the electric grid or the water distribution grid or the oil distribution grid because we are living off the Internet. But it's not a highly specific list so it's going to leave some room for interpretation, Pamela.

BROWN: Yeah, you're absolutely right, on the DHS website, as you noted.

Shawn Henry, you work in cybersecurity. Third party vendors were also the case in this other ransomware attack on the series of IT companies that service hundreds of businesses.

Why are contractors an ideal target for hackers?

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE: Well, I think our adversaries are looking for any access they can get to any number of potential targets and the breadth and depth of these types of attacks is what's important to them. I think, to go back to something David said, though, it's very, very important. There can't be room for interpretation. There needs to be clear what is acceptable and not and needs to be a clear deterrence and that only happens when guidelines have been laid out very, very specifically, Pamela.

BROWN: Okay. And real quick follow up to you.

Abby, I promise I'll get to you next. But the White House is still saying that it can't attribute to these

attacks. It's not ready to do so. Shawn, I'm wondering what you think of that and do you think that this could be a way for them to buy time to figure out how they're going to respond?

HENRY: Well, if they are going to respond and they are going to respond in kind. They want to make sure they have very clear attribution. You don't want to lobby accusations unless you've got clear evidence they may be looking at logs or intercepted communications to make that determination.

But attribution is difficult to do. It's very, very important specifically if there is going to be some type of retaliation, Pamela.

BROWN: And, Abby, to you, today, the White House press secretary told CNN President Biden warned Putin there would be consequences for cyber attacks on his watch. Let's listen to what she said.


PSAKI: Even if it's a criminal actor, even if it's someone that's not the federal government, even if it's a bad guy or bad gal in Russia, you have a responsibility there and you have a responsibility to take action. And if you don't take action, we reserve the right to.


BROWN: So obviously what is done so far with warnings, with sanctions, that has not deterred the hackers.

So the question is, what did Biden's meeting with Putin actually accomplish?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. As you pointed out I don't know that many people in the administration thought that Putin would throw the hands up in the air and say we'll stop. I think the idea here was to try to articulate that there were lines that needed to be drawn and just give Russia basically fair warning that if these attacks don't stop which they likely won't that the United States reserves the right to act in retaliation.

So it kind of clears the air here letting everyone know what the terms are. I think there is also sometime involved here. Joe Biden, at the end of that summit, sort of indicated that there was sort of a six- month or maybe longer period to wait and see how the sort of pace of these attacks went and so, I think we're well within that and it is possible that maybe we might see them wane. I think no one, though, expects that they will end. It's just a matter of time when will the United States act and how will they act in retaliation to stop it?

BROWN: Just really quickly on that, given the fact that Biden put a stake in the ground with Putin on this, if the cyber attacks and we expect them they will continue, will the political blame fall on Biden?

PHILLIP: You know, I mean, I think that this is his, you know, ball now. He's the guy who's holding the cards and he has to take responsibility for what happens from this point forward. There are no easy answers with this relationship with Russia. But the Biden administration knows that they are responsible and it's not just about whether or not he has a good relationship with Putin or not.

There are economic concerns here. So it has to stop. He is responsible and I think the White House is aware of that.

BROWN: OK. Thank you so much. Abby Phillip, Shawn Henry, and David Sanger, great the see you all.

And up next, an accused insurrectionist, a second civil war and a bible study. We'll going to break down new disturbing details found in court documents.

Plus, thousands hit the streets protesting the horrific killing of a gay man. Now, a breakthrough in the case. That's just ahead.



BROWN: In our politics lead, the FBI infiltrated a, quote, bible study. The leader, a man named Fi Duong, who's at the January 6 Capitol attack and also goes by the nickname Monkey King. Court documents reveal Duong's group planned to makeshift bombs, to discuss secession from the U.S. as part of possible second American civil war.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hot in the middle of the Capitol attack, there he was according to the FBI, with a mask and big ideas. Fi Duong, officials say, was part of a bible study group in Virginia which talked about making Molotov cocktails, combat training for an unspecified future attack and even succession.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it does show that many of the terrorists and insurrectionists of January left January 6 believing it was a victory.

FOREMAN: According to court records, the undercover officers first encountered Duong during the riot. And then, the FBI infiltrated his bible group at a private home in February.


Those records say he met undercover agents outside a former prison to discuss testing some bombs there, that they had an AK-47 and five boxes of bomb-building material and that he said he wrote a manifest to because if I get in a gun fight with the feds and I don't make it, I want to be able to transfer as much wisdom to my son as possible.

Authorities say the so-called bible group also discussed surveilling the capitol amid heighten security to find possible weak points. That's particularly alarming for police officers calling for better defenses around the Capitol.

MICHAEL FANONE, DC POLICE OFFICER: I would hope they would be taking these threats seriously and paying attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ, we invoke your name! Amen!

CROWD: Amen!

FOREMAN: Concerns about conspiracy theories and radical right activism taking root in church communities have grown sharply in the past year.

PASTOR JAMES KENDALL, GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH: It's easier for Christians who already have that belief seasonal to make that jump over and to believe in that world view.

FOREMAN: And these latest developments can only deepen worries about such rogue factions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's probably more of that than we'd like to think around the country.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Where are these radicalized individuals? How far are they down the path to the radicalization that ends in violence? It's a very, very concerning subject.


FOREMAN: Duong has so far been charged only in connection with the insurrection on January 6 and he has not entered a plea. CNN has reached out to him for comment on these latest reports, nothing yet. And his attorney has declined to comment, too. But law enforcement analysts say it is clear the attack that started on that day for some people is not over -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Thanks so much, Tom Foreman.

And as the FBI continues its the massive investigation into the January 6 insurrection, house Republican Leader McCarthy is getting closer to deciding which GOP lawmakers he'll pick to look into the attack as well.

Joining me now is CNN's new Capitol Hill reporter, Melanie Zanona.

Melanie, great to see you.


BROWN: So, what are the new details that you can provide us about who McCarthy may put on this committee?

ZANONA: Well, what I'm hearing from my sources is that Kevin McCarthy wants to appoint a mix of members. He does want some Trump acolytes who can launch a vigorous defense of the former president, people like Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik, Mike Johnson of Louisiana. These are members who played a big role defending the former president in the first impeachment.

But he also wants to appoint some pragmatic members who are more serious, that can have sway in Middle America, that can bring some credibility and expertise to the debate. So, I'm told specifically he is looking at members that sit on relevant committees, members who have backgrounds on law enforcement, in national security matters. But two things to keep in mind here is that, one, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has veto power over any of his picks and number two, not a lot of Republicans actually are eager to fulfill this assignment.

So, for McCarthy, the challenge is not just finding the right person for the job, but also finding someone who wants to do it.

BROWN: What is his political calculation here? Why is he doing this? Because early on, there was the question to put people forward and how long do you expect this to go on?

ZANONA: Right. You're absolutely right. There was a debate to boycott it, to try to make it partisan. Once Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Liz Cheney, a Republican to her side of the committee, it made much more difficult for Republicans to do the boycott strategy. So, they want members there, Republicans to push back, try to shape the counter narrative and really play defense for Donald Trump.

As far as timing, though, this committee has no end date. This could very well drag into next year, which is an election year. And, by the way, I would point out, the independent bipartisan commission that the Senate GOP blocked would have required the panel to wrap up its work by the end of the year. So, you have to wonder if Republicans are going to end up voting against that commission.

BROWN: That was the big sticking point. I remember for the Republicans at the time.

I want to talk about the Capitol building, you know, the months after January 6, the Capitol grounds looked completely different. I mean, extensive security, fencing. National Guard troops. What do you know about plans to pare that down?

ZANONA: Well, we are hearing that the fencing that is around the Capitol right now could start to come down as early as tomorrow. It can take two or three days depending on the weather and the United States Capitol Police made the decision on a number of factors. Number one, the current threat environment. And number two, some of the changes and enhancements that they have made to their own response teams.

But bottom line, this is a huge, important, symbolic move for the Capitol Hill community and the nation which is still healing from the January 6 insurrection.

BROWN: Very much so. The reporters that were covering it that day on Capitol Hill, the officers who were there and beyond.

Thank you so much --

ZANONA: Thank you.

BROWN: -- Melanie Zanona. Appreciate it.

And coming up, ten more bodies found in the rubble of the collapsed condo building. The devastation causing an official to get emotional. That's next.



BROWN: Turning to our national lead now. The number of victims at the Surfside condo collapse is quickly escalating. Overnight, crews found ten more victims, bringing the death toll to 46 with 94 people still missing.

Let's bring in CNN's Rosa Flores.

Rosa, this is incredibly emotional for everyone there on the scene. What are you hearing?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Pamela, I just got off the phone with a captain that's on scene and he tells me that at any point in time, there's no dry eye on this mound.


Just think about it. These brave men and women train to pull people who are living from under the rubble. They haven't been able to pull somebody alive from this rubble since the collapse happened on June 24.

He says that hearts are heavy, but they haven't lost hope. They continue working around the clock. Now, overnight, they pulled 10 bodies from under the rubble, bringing the total number of dead to 46.

Now, this is emotional, not just for the rescuers, but also for officials here. Take a listen.


DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA (through translator): Our hearts break for those who are in mourning and for those who are waiting.

Please continue to send your love and prayers.


FLORES: Now, Pamela, you heard her speaking there in Spanish.

Now imagine having to reiterate this much pain and this much agony in both languages, because this is South Florida. There's a lot of people here who speak Spanish. So, she delivers reports every single day, twice a day, to the families, to the people of this community. And she does it in both languages, first in English, and then in Spanish. You heard her there in Spanish. That's when she started breaking down

-- Pamela.

BROWN: I mean, I just -- the emotional toll on all of these officials on the ground, as well on these first responders who are having to dig through the rubble day in, day out

And we were actually getting an up close look at the rubble and all the destruction there. What can you tell us?

FLORES: Yes, so reporters and photojournalists were given access to the site for the first time yesterday.

And I can tell you that from walking towards that pile of rubble, I mean, the first thing that you think about is, first of all, the respect for the families, because we know that this is the site where the bodies of their loved ones have been pulled from.

And then, of course, we look for signs of life, anything that might have life. And all you see are big chunks of concrete and mangled rebar. As you look a little closer, you start to see people's belongings, the pieces of a couch. I looked below my feet, and I saw what look like blinds or a piece of wallpaper that, if you saw that and it belonged to your mother's house or your grandmother's house, you would recognize it.

Pieces of carpet. Pamela, I couldn't think -- I couldn't help but think that the searchers had told me that they were looking for carpet and following carpet on the mound because they knew that, in this particular condo complex, the bedrooms had carpet. And they know that about -- at 1:30 in the morning, when this condo collapsed, most people were probably sleeping.

So you see all of these different pieces of a story that we have been following for so long, and then the buzz of the machines that keep on working, trying to find people, trying to find survivors under the rubble -- Pamela.

BROWN: Rosa Flores, thank you so much live for us from Surfside.

And now the Tropical Storm Elsa currently moving up the Eastern Seaboard after making landfall in Taylor County, Florida, earlier this morning.

Right now, millions of people are facing heavy wind and rain that could create flooding and power outages up and down the coast.

Let's go straight to CNN meteorologist Tom Sater in the Severe Weather Center.

So, what are you seeing, Tom?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, currently, the center, Pamela, is 150 miles to the west of Jacksonville, and it's still a tropical storm. It will stay that way until it gets to South Carolina. But that may not be the end of the title tropical storm. It will not

be the first hurricane to make landfall for the year 2021. But it will go in the record books. It was the earliest we have had the fifth storm named. It was the farthest east to ever become a hurricane this early in the season. That's a fingerprint of climate change.

Three fatalities in the Caribbean, 15 inches flooding in Jamaica, again, even more than that in West Central Cuba, rivers overflowing their banks, communities inundated. At 8:00 p.m., it became a hurricane.

But it was only a hurricane for a few hours and then making landfall at 11:00 a.m. Look at the rainfall amounts. Those were expected to be higher than four to six. And if you get down to areas of Fort Myers and northward, we had easily eight to 10, Punta Gorda picking up 11, even a little bit more than that in some spots north of Port Charlotte.

But when you look at this, we have got a tornado watch until 8:00 p.m. That will be extended most likely later on. That's a big threat with flash flooding. This is the comma shape here, the classic signature, what you should see, flash flooding, power outages still possible, road closures.

We don't want any water rescues, but millions more are going to feel the effects of this because the track is now further inland. But I want to take you and show you what happened after 8:00 p.m. It was well-defined, but then it just collapsed.


Great news, as dry air and winds try to erode the system for the thousands that live on waterfront properties. They were counting every inch of that surge. But it's not over with just yet. We're going to watch this with warnings all the way up the Sandy Hook, tropical storm warnings.

With the track being further inland, I think, when it gets up near New York City, Pamela, it could be a tropical storm for New York City and Boston, as we get toward the end of Friday, so something we still need to watch for the entire East Coast.

BROWN: And we will certainly be checking in with you then, for sure.

Meteorologist Tom Sater, thanks so much.

Well, hours after two federal agents and one Chicago police officer are shot, a major meeting about the violence on an airport tarmac. That's next.

Plus, a man brutally beaten to death in a suspected homophobic attack. It's sparking massive protests ahead.


[16:40:20] BROWN: In the national lead: a notable moment on the tarmac, as President Biden arrived in Chicago today.

He met with the Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, about the city's recent spike in violence, including an overnight shooting of two ATF agents and a Chicago police officer.

I want to bring in CNN's Adrienne Broaddus live in Chicago.

So, Adrienne, what do we know about the meeting between the president and the mayor?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, we know Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot and President Biden spent several minutes talking on the tarmac.

The mayor spoke to the president about gun violence here in Chicago, and the president reemphasized his commitment to working with the mayor, as well as city leaders. President Biden also told her that, in a few weeks, there would be more information about the strike force which was announced just a few weeks ago.

And that strike force will be working with areas here in Chicago. This all comes just hours after two ATF agents, one of them female, and a Chicago police officer were shot this morning. Now, all three are expected to survive. We know, the Chicago police officer, a bullet grazed the back of his head.

That officer with the Chicago Police Department is the 36th officer from the department to be shot or shot at this year alone. The superintendent with the Chicago Police Department tells us the three were all traveling in the same vehicle. They were trying to get on the interstate when someone or a group of people -- it's unclear -- shot them.

They were in an unmarked vehicle and they were working undercover -- Pamela.

BROWN: And just to be clear, have there been any arrests related to this?

BROADDUS: We just learned in the last hour or so that investigators do have a person of interest in custody. We don't know a lot about this person of interest, whether or not this person is known to police.

We don't know if investigators are looking for someone else. But we do know that a person of interest is in custody after two ATF agents were shot this morning and a Chicago police officer. We know all three are expected to survive.

The bullet grazed the back of that police officer's head. One of the ATF agents was shot in the hand and the other near the torso -- Pamela.


Adrienne Broaddus, thanks so much.

Well, a shocking presidential assassination in the middle of the night. Up next: fears Haiti could soon -- quote -- "plunge into chaos."



BROWN: In our world lead, an assassination in the dead of night. Haitian President Jovenel Moise found dead in his home at Haiti's capital. The acting prime minister says the group responsible for was, quote, highly trained and armed. He declared a state of siege and warned Haitians not to plunge into violence.

Moise was backed by the U.S. and the U.N. but repeatedly failed to hold local and national elections.

President Biden reacted to the news at the White House this morning.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need a lot more information but it's very worrisome about the state of Haiti.


BROWN: Moise was criticized for clinging to power as protests spread the violence through the country, throughout the country over this past year.

We are covering this from Washington to Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

Kylie Atwood at the State Department, but let's start with Jessica Hasbun in Santo Domingo. She is right outside the Haitian embassy.

Jessica, usually, we'd see massive protests after event like this. Why aren't there any at this time?

JESSICA HASBUN, CNN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Pamela. That's what we are used to seeing from Haiti during turmoil. We are talking about a nation that's been under a crisis for quite a long time. Right now, what we believe is that people are in a state of shock, unexpected.

The assassination of President Moise happened, got around 1:00 in the morning, according to Prime Minister Claude Joseph. Very unexpected. First lady was fatally injured or injured and is being transported to Miami to receive treatment.

And right outside this embassy here in Santo Domingo, the Haitian embassy, we spoke to the ambassador. You can see that flag is at half staff. The shock is still -- people are still coming to terms with what happened at the beginning of the morning hours, the wee hours of Wednesday. The Ambassador Smith Augustine spoke about how this is a barbaric act

that violated the democracy of the state and they're expecting justice. And in the coming hours, more information on the ongoing investigation to the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

BROWN: So, Kylie, what is the Haitian ambassador to the U.S. saying?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he told reporters earlier this is morning here in Washington that those who carried out the attacks could be in Haiti still. They don't know where they are. They're on the loose right now.

He also said that according to video footage of this actual attack of the scene, the attackers were speaking Spanish and they were presenting themselves as DEA agents. That's the Drug Enforcement Agency -- sorry, Administration here in the United States.

Now, he said he believed they're fake DEA agents. State Department spokesperson said that is absolutely false. They are not from the DEA. He also reiterated that the Biden administration condemns this heinous act and the State Department has been in regular contact with Haitian authorities throughout the morning.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken has been briefed on this. He will also be in contact with those folks.

But we should note that the State Department says that it remains ready for any requests from Haiti for additional assistance and that's really what we're waiting to see here, Pam. What kind of assistance do Haitian authorities need from the United States?

We should note that they have shut down their airport. Of course, trying to close down any possible way for these attackers to get out of the country. There are other ways for them to, but the airport would be one way.

And that is also making it challenging for U.S. officials to get into the country but there are folks there at the embassy there who have been in regular contact with the State Department, updating them. This is a very fluid situation.

BROWN: Okay. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, Jessica Hasbun in Santo Domingo, thank you.

And next hour, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S. will join CNN.

And now to Spain, as huge protests erupt there, with hundreds waving flags and chanting justice for Samuel, after a gay man was beaten to death outside a club over the weekend. Friends and family say the 24- year-old was deliberately targeted for being gay and they want justice, as CNN's Isa Soares reports.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The calls for justice keep getting louder. From Madrid to Barcelona and beyond, Spaniards are enraged.

REDAN EVADO, PROTESTER (through translator): This country doesn't really accept that there are many ways to love and different ways to love.

SOARES: The death of Samuel Luis Muniz has gripped the country. The 24-year-old nursing assistant was killed in the city of A Coruna in northern Spain. He was brutally beaten outside a nightclub in early hours of Saturday morning and later died in hospital.

A witness who claimed to be his friend was asked by Spanish media if this was a homophobic crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

SOARES: His family are devastated.

MAXSOUD LUIZ, FATHER OF SAMUEL LUIZ (through translator): My son was a caring and loving man. A friend to his friends. A friend to his parents.

SOARES: Two men and a woman under arrest in connection with the attack, according to a government representative, and police have quote not ruled out further arrests. While the investigation continues, Spaniards who have taken to the streets in the thousands seem to have made up their minds.

SERGIO CUEVAS, PROTESTER (through translator): I think this crime happened because homophobia kills.

SOARES: The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the killing a savage and ruthless act, tweeting, we won't take even one step back in rights and liberties. Spain will not tolerate this.

The attack has sparked fear in the Spain's LGBTQI community just days after annual pride celebrations in the capital. But one activist tells CNN he is inspired by the nation reaction.

RAUL GONZALEZ, VP, FOUNDATION TRIANGULO: We were so worried, but this provoked a very high reaction in the people of Spain, not only LGBT but also the general reaction. And when this happens, it lets us fight against impunity and also to prevent future violence.

SOARES: Last week, the Spanish government approved a draft bill to protect the rights of LGBTQI people. But for many, Muniz's killing has shaken the sense of safety on Spanish streets.


SOARES: And, Pamela, I have been speaking to LGBTQI groups throughout Spain who tell me they have been incredibly moved by the thousands of people, we're showing there, pouring on the streets, really in a show of force and love calling for justice for Samuel, and really wanting to see change happen.

Now they tell me why this is wonderful, the scenes, coming out in the street in support of Samuel, they tell me they're worried, Pamela. They told me they have been seeing a rise in hate crimes related to sexual orientation but also gender identity.


And these attacks, more shocking, are taking place in broad daylight and in front of witnesses. And one -- why I asked why is still needed they said, this is the reason -- Pamela.

BROWN: So brazen and just awful and concerning.

Isa, thank you for bringing that story to us.

The more contagious and more severe delta variant now accounts for more than half of COVID cases in the U.S. That story ahead.