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Millionaire Murderer Robert Durst Dies In Prison; At Least 17 Dead In Horrific Bronx Apartment Fire; Bob Saget, Comedian And "Full House" Star, Dies At 65; Daily Cases Cross 141,000 Mark With Omicron Emerging As Dominant Strain. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 15:00   ET



JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the defense actually had a physician associated with Cedars-Sinai to come and testify in the courtroom, saying that this trial should be continued at this point even dismiss get another jury in time. And he, under oath talked about all of the ailments of Robert Durst one being cancer, one being esophageal esophagus issues, immune system that was not good. His blood levels were not good.

But the prosecution argued that he was passing some notes to his attorneys, and that he was able to continue so the judge kept going with that trial and Robert Durst did testify in his own defense for about three weeks in Los Angeles. And he continued to say to the very end that he did not know what happened to his wife, Kathy Durst, who went missing from right here in New York City in 1982, just before she was about to graduate from medical school, and everyone always wanted to know what he knew that now is lost unless he told someone authorities of what he knew. We don't think he did.

But there has been an indictment in the murder of his wife, Kathy Durst. And now he will not live to see that prosecution through.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, there were a lot of mysteries and deaths surrounding him. Jean Casarez, thank you for the breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's a brand new hour and we thank you for staying with us. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CAMEROTA: And I'm Alisyn Camerota. New developments in the investigation into that devastating apartment fire in the Bronx, the deadliest fire in New York City in more than 30 years. The number of people killed was revised to at least 17 people, including eight children, but officials warn that number could climb. We do have some positive news this hour, and that is that only eight people remain hospitalized. The fire appears to have been started by a malfunctioning space heater on the third floor of this 19-storey building.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in the Bronx. Shimon, a revision of those numbers. Sometimes that happens in the immediacy after an event like this, but what else did you learn? SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that happens because some numbers are doubled up. The Fire Commissioner said the thing now is really it's focusing on the community, this -- the Gambian community here, all really living in this one building where this fire happened. That's what now the community is doing, that is with city officials trying to figure out exactly who died, who's in the hospital.

Believe it or not, I -- there are still family members who don't know where their loved ones are. I just spent some time at the local mosque here talking to a man whose brother and the brother's wife is still missing. He has no idea if they're alive or if they're dead. They have three kids who luckily went to Gambia to visit family members so they weren't here how they been here far worse situation.

So there are still some frustrated folks here that community saying that still not getting all the answers they need as to where their family members are. Some of it has to do with the fact that entire families have been wiped out sadly, have died as a result of the thick black smoke that went through this entire building. The fire starting on the third floor in an apartment there.

And because the door was left open, the mayor stressing that this is not something that we should blame the apartment of residents for. This may have been a malfunction on the door that made it so that it couldn't close and therefore this thick black smoke was able to come out of the apartment and then stairwell, the doors to some of the stairwells were left open. And then the fire, the smoke just traveled up the staircase all the way up to the 19th floor.

On every floor of this building there was smoke. Many people trapped in their apartments, and then some who left their apartments, one of walking down staircases that were filled with his black smoke, choking on the smoke and sadly dying. Firefighters trying every effort to rescue these people as they pull them out of the fire, out of the smoke.

In some cases, firefighters losing oxygen but continued on. The mayor said just showing their heroic efforts but now the focus is on the community and getting them the answers and trying to allow them at this point to heal.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we'll try to get some of those answers in a minute. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much. Also survivors tell CNN the flames and smoke moved just incredibly quickly.


DAISY MITCHELL, FIRE SURVIVOR, LIVES ON 10TH FLOOR OF BUILDING: My husband, he opened the door he said wow, I smell something burning and he opened the door. It was a fire. He's OK, baby get dressed. I was like for what? You know. But the alarm was going off for a while so I didn't pay it on mind.

But then when he opened the door and I went out there. I passed out. I was -- it was devastated. It was like -- it was real scary. And I went to the elevator. There's like no, don't take the elevator. I went to the stairs that opened the door. It just blew me back in the house and I panic. And I told my husband let me in the house. I can't see. I'm blind. I can't see. I can't see. If I stayed out there for another three seconds I would have been gone too.



CAMEROTA: Let's bring in New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, her district neighbors this area in the Bronx. Senator, thank you so much for being here. So many people killed. So many children killed so many families displaced. What does that area -- what's the biggest need right now in that area?

ALESSANDRA BIAGGI (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. And as you mentioned, you know, the Bronx is a very large place and I represent a big part of it. Right now I'm standing in Senator Rivera's district, and I think the biggest need that we're seeing from family members, and just from the community in general, are basic needs, things like toiletries and towels and clothing and shoes. I mean, when you lose everything, you lose everything. And so you have to go back to the basic necessities.

And just last night, you know, right down the street from where I'm standing is PS 391. And just last night, we were in there helping to sort through a lot of the different items that people were donating. And really, I mean, when you think of the scene of it, just to kind of paint a picture here, we walked into a room full of over 200 people. And you know, you think of people and you think of babies, and then there were also animals. I mean people's dogs and there were cats and it was just a really a scene that was horrific.

And so I think the, you know, the biggest ask is to really make sure that we're providing not only resources, but also to fund and to help to support a lot of the organizations on the ground, the Gambian Youth Organization, the South Bronx Mutual Aid Organization, Bstrong, Bethenny Frankel's organization.


BIAGGI: There are so many different organizations coming together to help.

CAMEROTA: And our viewers will be able to contribute money, and I will post some of those links, because we just heard also the mayor, tell people do not drop those supplies off at the fire department, they have their hands full, take them to representatives offices, maybe like yourself.

But what about the larger issue of all of these families displaced? As we just heard from our reporter, this was a vital West African community, and who knows if they'll ever be able to go back to their homes? What's the city doing for where they'll be living?

BIAGGI: It's such a good question. And I think what you're pointing to is really the root issue, which is not just behind the fire that is, you know, that I'm standing in front of in the building that was destroyed, but really all of the fires across all of New York City.

I think that when we look at our low income, specifically Mitchell- Lama, NYCHA Housing where lots of these fires continually occur, especially in these warm winter months, when the heat is really not at the standard that we need it to be. What we're seeing is that a lot of the buildings don't have, not only the safety measures in place, but also they don't have the oversight and the enforcement of building code. And, you know, it's not a sexy issue, to talk about the building codes.

But frankly, building codes are the things that save lives. And so I think that the bigger issue here is that there are legislative fixes in the New York City Council, in -- at the federal government level, and certainly at the state level. And so when we think about how we can help people in the aftermath, I think we have to do better as a city and a state in the response to when people are displaced. Because there's not enough housing. There are not enough places to put people and that is really the most immediate need beyond, of course, basic needs, like we talked about earlier.

CAMEROTA: I mean, so many of these people were immigrants. They've lost valuable paperwork. They've lost valuable identification. I mean, this obviously will affect the -- even the surviving families this will affect their lives for years to come.

And so is that the larger -- is there some sort of painful lesson to be gleaned from this for the city in terms of doing something differently? I mean, the mayor was just talking about in his press conference, that he wants to get the message of close the door carried city wide, he wants it to be in schools and for kids to know that mantra, but what is the lesson here?

BIAGGA: I mean, that's one of the sub lessons for sure, self-closing doors is something, you know, that could have actually prevented this tragedy from happening. But the bigger issue here is that our infrastructure in the city of New York and in the state of New York is not at the standard that we need it to be. A lot of the buildings and a lot of the low income housing buildings are places where we have not invested enough funding. And this is why you know, many of us talk about how the federal government can play a role. And we hope that they will, and we know that they will.

But in the long term planning after this, it's not only legislation, it's not only immediate funds, it's not only immediate mutual aid and relief, but it's really making sure that we are meeting people where they're at getting on the ground, boots on the ground and talking to the community and asking them, What are your immediate needs, what are the things that you're going to need, not only today, but next week and next month when a lot of, you know, people move on from this tragedy, because, you know, there are other tragedies, unfortunately, that are going to unfold. And so I think that's an immediate need for sure.

CAMEROTA: State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, thank you very much for taking time to talk to us.

And for more information about how you can help the victims of the Bronx fire, you can go to to figure out how you can help and where you can donate.


BLACKWELL: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now attacking Democrats for what he pegs as the left's big lie.

CAMEROTA: In a new memo, the Kentucky Republican claims Democrats are pushing quote some evil anti-voting conspiracy in their effort to gain support for the voting rights reforms. CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins us now. Tell us more.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this underscores how partisan of a fight this has become in the United States Senate the fight over voting laws across the United States and how Democrats at the moment are negotiate among themselves to try to get two pieces of legislation through but there's a problem while there's a unity among the Senate Democrats over one piece of budgets over both pieces of legislation.

There is not unity over how to enact those bills because under the current procedure, it will require 60 votes in the United States Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster, 50 Democrats and in 10 Republicans who have to break ranks, but Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are steadfast against these democratic proposals arguing it's a federal takeover of elections and their words.

And Democrats say this is essential. passing these bills the Freedom to vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are essential to combat the restrictive efforts at the state levels and are trying to convince two key Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to change the rules of the United States Senate in order to allow this bill to be approved on a simple majority basis.

50 Democrats with Kamala Harris is the vice president breaking a tie but Manchin and Sinema just simply are not there. They are concerned by changing the rules. They believe doing so would undermine the institution of the United States Senate. But nevertheless, Chuck Schumer, the majority leader has teed up a vote no later than Martin Luther King Day next Monday to try to force this through. But can you get the votes? It seems doubtful at the moment.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see where that goes. Manu, before you go. Tell us about this conversation that the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had with Breitbart News about his plan for some prominent Democrats, if the Republicans take control of the House.

RAJU: Yes, this has been the thread that McCarthy has been wielding for some time in the aftermath of Democrats taking action against to House Republicans for inflammatory rhetoric. Marjorie Taylor Greene being one of them. Paul Gosar for tweeting an animated video showing him committing violence against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and threatening to do so against President Biden. Remember, the Democratic led House majority stripped those two members of the committee assignments. Now Kevin McCarthy says if he becomes speaker in the fall, which is a very likely situation at this point, he says that they would do the same the Republicans would against Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Ilhan Omar.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): MINORITY LEADER: Ilhan Omar should not be serving on Foreign Affairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about any committees for Ilhan Omar?

MCCARTHY: You know, this is a new level of what the Democrats have gone. You look at Adam Schiff, he should not be serving on Intel.


RAJU: This has been one of the questions that I posed to Nancy Pelosi in recent weeks about whether or not she was concerned about setting precedent by going after Marjorie Taylor Greene, by going after Paul Gosar that Republicans was simply replicated anytime they were upset or concerned in any way about any Democrats in a Republican majority.

She dismissed that saying that they had to take action given Greene's rhetoric krivit (ph) given what Gosar did, but it shows you very clearly here that Kevin McCarthy, if he's Speaker McCarthy plans to show some retribution against Democrats.

CAMEROTA: OK. Manu Raju, thank you.

RAJU: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: The Omicron surge is straining hospitals across the country. I will talk to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra live.

CAMEROTA: And remembering the man that many think of as America's dad Bob Saget, actress Joely Fisher is going to join us to talk about her dear friend.



CAMEROTA: Tributes are pouring in for comedian and actor Bob Saget, who died yesterday in Orlando, Florida suddenly, at the age of 65. Saget was known fondly as America's TV dad for his portrayal of Danny Tanner on Full House. Officials have conducted an autopsy but have not released the cause of death. The medical examiner finds no evidence of foul play or drug use.

Co-stars John Stamos and Dave Coulier expressed their shock and heartbreak on Twitter. The Olsen twins remembered Sagat as quote the most loving, compassionate and generous man, and fans flocked to the Full House home in San Francisco to honor him. So let's bring in actress and close friend of Bob Saget. Joely Fisher. Joely, thank you for being here. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. I've been looking these pictures.


CAMEROTA: Yes, for all of us. But particularly you -- I just want to put up these pictures because I've been so struck by how close, I mean the pictures just tell the story of your friendship of how close you guys are. You're hugging and every picture, you both look, you know, really happy to be together there. We have a whole bunch of pictures over the years.

FISHER: Oh my, gosh. I can't see what you're looking at, but I did put up on social media. I mean, I got to say, it's so cliche but you never know. You never know guys, like literally tell everybody that you know that you love tell them right now tell them today because life is so short and I simply adored Bob. He directed me in a film 25 years ago, right before I actually got married about a woman who had -- we had cold feet about getting married and he told me that he was my bachelorette party but that's another story.


CAMEROTA: I'd like to hear that story. I mean, and that actually does speak to something that the general public has come to know about Bob Saget, which is that he had this incredible range. He was excellent at playing the squeaky clean, you know, all American father on Full House. And then we learned that he also had this reputation of really telling filthy jokes. And so, how do you explain his particular brand of talent?

FISHER: I mean, he was a naughty boy. He was really naughty in a time where in back in those days on the set, you could be naughty openly and you didn't get in trouble for it. I just -- I have text messages from him. I was trying to remember the last time I was like, physically in his presence, which was right before the this god awful pandemic that we've all been through together. And -- But I got a text message from him last week on Christmas, he knew that I had COVID. So he had reached out to me and he's like, the minute you're well, I want to see you.

And then he also supported me in my run my campaign for the Union that I am now an elected official of SAG-AFTRA, and he supported me and texted me the other day, Have you fixed the health care plan yet? So, I have to promise Bob Saget in his honor that is going to be something that's going to be a high priority this year.

CAMEROTA: His cause of death hasn't been released. His death was so sudden and so mysterious. He was only 65 years old. Did you know him to have any health challenges?

FISHER: I did not. I mean, like you said, he played squeaky clean, he was kind of squeaky clean. Like, it must have been a heart issue. I did notice if you -- I've been combing stalking social media now and seeing all these amazing tributes to him. And it like really was like, everybody has a great story about encountering Bob.

I did notice that he looked a little, it looked a little like tired. Or you know, who knows. I just -- I can't say it enough that if you see someone that you love, and, you know, just reach out and ask if they're okay. I mean, I'm imagining that this is a shock to his family.

And I just have spent the whole -- my daughter and I were looking through pictures, and she's like, You have a lot of pictures with this. Bob Saget. And I'm like, You know what, I do I just -- I have them. That's what I have now. Great memories. And it is shocking. It's shocking.

CAMEROTA: And, you know, obviously, it's been a hard week for the entertainment industry between Betty White and Sidney Poitier. And now, Bob Saget. I know, they all represented different things in the entertainment business in different lanes. But what do you think Bob Saget, ultimately, represented in comedy and entertainment?

FISHER: I saw a meme that says we lost our grandma and our dad in the same week, which I thought was so sweet and heartfelt. I think that, you know, when you have -- when you take careers and even Peter Bogdanovich and Dwayne Hickman, when you take, you know, people that we have idolized and respected and watched all these years and you see this, like, illustrious career and you celebrated upon their passing, you kind of expect that someone in their 90s are, you know, or in a person of a certain age is going to eventually they're going to leave us. This is just a hard -- this is a hard thing. I mean, this is way too young. This is way too young.

And it sort of is like ripping off a scab for me, because this is the week, you know, Christmas week is the week that I lost my sister Carrie five years ago and her mom Debbie Reynolds. And so it's always sort of, you know, the holidays are for celebration, and they suddenly have become this time of reflection and looking back and just trying to find the right things, the right memories to sort of salvage for yourself, you know.

CAMEROTA: Yes, really well said, Joely, and we understand. And again, our thoughts are with you. We're sorry for the loss of your friend. Thanks so much for joining us with your memories.

FISHER: Oh my, gosh, thank you for honoring him.

BLACKWELL: And that was a sweet sentiment that the idea that America lost its grandma and dad in the same week, that she heard there.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I agree.

BLACKWELL: All right. All right. Moving on here, more than 50 lawmakers, including Democrats are now demanding President Biden do more to make more COVID tests available. We'll ask the Secretary of Health and Human Services about that and the strain on hospitals. He's with his next.


BLACKWELL: The U.S. could soon break its record on COVID hospitalizations. Right now, there are more than 141,000 people in hospitals with COVID. That's just shy of the roughly 142,000 recorded in January of last year.

Now the Omicron variant has also driven the daily case average to 709,000 new infections a day, that's a seven-day average there. Joining me now is the Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with me.

XAVIER BECERRA, HHS SECRETARY: Thanks, Victor, for having me.

BLACKWELL: All right, so let's start here with the hospitalization numbers. We know that that Omicron appears to be for most people, those who are vaccinated and boosted, a bad cold, maybe a flu, so less severe than maybe Delta.