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Erin Burnett Outfront
Eleven Dead, 150 Unaccounted For In High-Rise Condo Collapse; Miami Herald: Pool Contractor Photographed Damage 36 Hours Before Collapse; Trump Organization Lawyers Meet With Prosecutors Over Potential Charges That Could Come As Soon As This Week; Trump's Former Attorney General Bill Barr Speaks Out On His Break With Trump. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 28, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the technique hasn't changed. We're just layering process by process as we're going through. So the search is the same and, again, we were able to locate the victim today. But unfortunately, nothing further and nothing positive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) the fire team. Two questions, one, is there any way that you can provide us on where the most recent victim was found (inaudible) layers along the trench? And then my second question is (inaudible) that you have on the trench itself or did it (inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. OK. In regards to the rescue grids, the victims that we found are scattered throughout in a sense where they're in different grids. So I know today the last one was in grid B2 is the way that we have it set up. But the victims that we've located, it's all been throughout, so it's not in one specific isolated area.
Definitely, with the weather it enhances, with the water as we're making entry, as we're tunneling to certain areas looking, like I mentioned, when we find a void and then we kind of want to go further, deeper to see if there's a deeper void or something different that we find, there's definitely a concern with the rain and now the debris and possibly sliding. I mean, it's an extremely dangerous situation and I can't overemphasize enough.
We did an incredible effort of our task force members, our rescue teams in what we're doing. It's a very, very difficult and very, very challenging situation and we're doing the best that we can, what we're trained to do and definitely continue moving forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And final question in English and then we'll switch to Spanish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) so people, even more so the ones that are next (inaudible) are concerned about the causes of the collapse are not conclusive. So have you considered to make mandatory evacuation for residents to two other towers or is this something that (inaudible) ... MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: We had our building
official, I think it was two days ago, go through the Champlain North and the Champlain East and they did a cursory inspection. It was not a comprehensive, but it was to address the concerns while we were waiting for the engineering firm to arrive, which I'm told is tomorrow at 2 pm.
So condominium association has hired its own sort of engineering firm to do a top to bottom sort of evaluation on whether or not the buildings are structurally sound and at that point we might be able to make a determination on whether or not there's really an issue there. In the meantime, the residents have been given the option to relocate if they have any kinds of fears with respect to the structural integrity of the building.
I'd also like to add here that I just came from the meeting with the families and we heard in the meeting that the Israeli team is going to be supplemented. Meaning, I think they had some guys arrive today. They had six or so arrived today and they'll have more arrive tomorrow, which is again giving the families comfort because what we're doing is we seem to be constantly and I believe we are increasing the numbers of search and rescue team members that are available, so that was something that the family was happy to hear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now for Spanish language.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Well, good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
The breaking news there, you've been listening to a news conference on the catastrophic Florida condo collapse. That was the Mayor of Surfside that you just saw right there. As the Mayor of Miami-Dade just announced one more person has been found dead which brings the number confirmed dead to 11, 150 people that were still unaccounted for. Hundreds are still searching the debris.
You heard him talking about another team from the IDF in Israel coming in, adding people but there are hundreds already scouring that debris. So far it has yielded few clues as to why this horrific event happened. We have obtained though some documents that show the condos' owners were about to face assessments for $15 million worth of repairs to the building. Those repairs include everything from fixes to the roof and to the facade to issues that were raised actually three years ago.
Three years ago they were raised in a 2018 report that's very troubling. They're now dealing with them. They were going to deal with them now. At the time they were warned of a major structural damage to the building, including cracks below the pool and in the parking garage.
CNN also learning of an email from a resident in the building to a town commissioner. That email was in 2019 and it warn nearby construction was 'digging too close to our property', adding 'we have concerns regard the structure of our building'.
All of these pieces to the puzzle adding up coming as President Biden now calls for a federal investigation into the disaster as officials are racing to inspect dozens of other buildings in the area from top to bottom, including what you just heard the Mayor of Surfside there referenced, which is the other two Champlain Towers to see if those buildings are safe and secure.
Boris Sanchez is OUTFRONT live in Surfside, Florida to begin our coverage tonight. And Boris, they did give a lot of information in that press conference. They've now confirmed 11 people dead. What is the latest on the investigation?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Miami-Dade's Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirming that search crews are making significant progress in their efforts despite that these families are still in excruciating agony waiting to find answers for their loved ones and also demanding answers about how this could have happened as very significant reports raised some red flags.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: We do obviously need to identify why this happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ (voice over): Urging patience, officials in Surfside, Florida vowing to get answers tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: This is something that's going to be very thorough and it's something that is not going to happen in a day or two. This is going to take a long time. That's the time horizon they work on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ (voice over): As rescue crews race to save lives, investigators and engineers studying the potential causes of Thursday's collapse. A report done three years ago by a consulting company hired by the condo association is raising serious questions. An engineer describing major structural damage to the concrete slab under the entrance drive and the pool.
The report said, "The waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond its useful life and therefore must all be completely removed and replaced." The 2018 survey called for quick repairs to prevent bigger problems warning, "Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."
Documents obtained by CNN show condo owners were facing assessments for $15 million in repairs. Payments were supposed to begin just days after the building collapsed. The report was sent to a Surfside building official, Rosendo Prieto, who two days later assure residents the tower was in very good shape according to meeting minutes obtained by CNN.
The engineering firm Morabito Consultants said it had been retained this month by the condo association for the building's massive repair project. The company says roof repairs were taking place at the time of the collapse, but concrete restoration had not yet started. Residents also voiced concerns about water leaking and cracked concrete in the garage with the tower frequently shaking amid construction next door.
Prieto who no longer works for the city of Surfside has not yet responded to CNN's request for comment. Though James Cohen (ph), an engineer who has studied these kinds of collapses for 40 years says the report did not include key details about the building's foundation and didn't indicate any immediate danger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COHEN: There was nothing I saw that would suggest that people needed to vacate the building. The inspection did not include the foundations which would be covered by a slab. It may have been prudent to open up the slab to see how things were doing below where one could see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ (on camera): And Erin, a quick note on those $15 million worth of repairs. That was approved by the condo association just a couple of months ago in April. And residents of the building were supposed to start making payments on it on July 1st, exactly one week from when the building came crashing down, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Boris. And I want to go now to Steve Rosenthal who survived the collapse. He was in his apartment, just one unit over from the part of the building that crumbled to the ground. Just one unit over. Lived in the building for more than 20 years and has now filed the first individual lawsuit against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association.
And Steve, I appreciate your time and just to be one away, just got to be reliving it every moment here that you've had since. Let me ask you about what happened. You were you were there 1:30 in the morning in your apartment, in bed, and then what do you remember in that moment in those seconds?
STEVE ROSENTHAL, SURVIVED TOWER COLLAPSE, FILING SUIT: Well, I remember I was sleeping and I heard the loudest thunderclap I ever heard in my life, times a hundred, and I'm going OK, it's Miami. It's a storm coming in and it's going to be a big storm. And five seconds later, the bed is shaking. The room is shaking and I'm going, all right, I'm in a living room. I'm in a dream in California. And then five seconds later, dust is falling from the ceiling and it's
hitting my face and I'm going, this is no dream, this is real.
I jump up, went to the living room, open up the - I think it's an earthquake. All I can think of is that it was an earthquake and I opened up the sliding glass door and I saw nothing but dust. I went to the door to the hallway, nothing but dust. Then I went, all right, I'm in the middle of it. This is a one in a 10,000-year earthquake that hits Florida.
And put on some pants, a T-shirt, a pack or a shopping bag, I've put some items, open up the door again to see if I can get out the fire escape and all I saw was cement, rubble, wood. People yelling help me. Get me out. Help me. And I ran to the balcony and was praying that the building didn't fall on me, collapse on me. Got rescued by fire rescue, I guess about an hour or hour and a half later and it's pretty unbelievable.
BURNETT: I mean, it certainly is. I mean, god, I listen to you, Steve, and I'm thinking about people who may have been unlucky enough to have the first part of that experience and then it ended so differently or they were trapped. I mean, I'm sure you thank God every moment that you're alive. I know you shared a photo ...
BURNETT: ... yes. You talk about when you opened your door. You just said a moment ago to me that it was completely blocked by concrete and steel. I know you have a picture of it, which I just put up on the screen so our viewers can see the one that you shared with us, Steve.
BURNETT: So how did you get out of the building? And I guess as part of that, when did you realize that this was not an earthquake and that an entire building attached to yours had fallen down?
ROSENTHAL: OK. When I was on the balcony and - so I thought it was an earthquake, so I'm looking to see what damage there was across the street or were there fires in the city of Miami or something and I saw there was no damage to the tennis court and to the houses and other buildings. I'm going, oh, this is probably because of the roof. They were doing roofing work. That's all that came to mind.
And then someone in another balcony said, no, the whole building in the back collapsed. I went the building in the back, the whole tower collapsed, what does that mean. He said it's collapsed. It's gone. And then we're all sitting there like shaking going, well, are we going to collapse, because the fire officials are going, you need to evacuate, you need to evacuate and you couldn't go down the fire stairs. And so we had to wait for the fire rescue to come up with the ladder and get pulled in and that's how we got out.
BURNETT: I mean, that's incredible. I mentioned, Steve, at the beginning that you have filed the first individual lawsuit. You know the building well. I mean, I know you've lived there for 20 years unless I'm mistaken.
BURNETT: And I'm about to speak to a lawyer who sued the condo association a few years ago in 2015, specifically over cracks in a resident's unit. And now we're learning about that 2018 report from an engineer who warned of major structural damage to the building. Residents felt shaking. They were concerned about construction from a building next door. You mentioned the roof construction. Did you have any concerns about the building, anything that made you feel deeply unsettled recently?
ROSENTHAL: Honestly, Erin, I've lived on the beach for 20 years and before that had other condos on the beach and there's always cracks in the balconies from salt water, erosion and the sun. So seeing cracks here and there didn't bother me. I was not aware of any structural damage or a report from 2018 that was talking about major problems and a $9 million assessment that now turned into a $15 million assessment, three years later, I was not aware of that.
BURNETT: Well, right, and that obviously shows significant, significant issues that they were not aware of. Steve, thank you very much. I appreciate you're sharing this and I am glad you're OK.
ROSENTHAL: Thank you, Erin. I appreciate it. And Erin, if can just thank the community, and the volunteers, and the charity people that have stepped up, they've been totally amazing. I really appreciate it. They've been great.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you.
And Daniel Wagner is an attorney for a resident who sued the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association in 2015. I just referenced him to Steve, the allegation there was water damage due to cracks in the building. The resident did settle with the condo association. That condo is gone. It is gone today. It was destroyed in the collapse. Thankfully, the resident was not home at that time. So Daniel, your client among the very, very lucky.
Tell me though, because this is all looking as if there were problems. They were serious problems.
They became excruciatingly serious problems causing a near doubling in the amount of money that they were going to assess people for. All this happening in the past few years. So your client's story becomes very crucial in this timeline, what damage did your client see in the unit?
DANIEL WAGNER, REPPED CLIENT WHO SUED CONDO ASSOC., ALLEGING CRACKS CAUSED DAMAGE: Well, Erin, thank you for having me. First and foremost, I want to thank all of the first responders, everybody that has been helping out here at the site. I was here with my wife yesterday volunteering, so I want to thank all the volunteers as well as my heart and prayers go out to all the families of those affected.
In that case, my client's unit was getting water intrusion from the exterior walls. Her unit sat at the east side of the building facing the ocean in front of the pool. So those walls were gravely affected from extreme weather events, salt intrusion, et cetera. And it is one of these situations where the walls were crumbling, the stucco was off, the concrete was exposed and so some steel rebar can be seen through that exposed wall.
BURNETT: And obviously, rebar is going to become crucial here. That's something we all hear about a lot. But I think it's going to become really crucial, what's happening there with that crucial material in the wall. Was the problem, Daniel, ever fixed? And after the settlement when they 'did whatever they did to fix it', were there continued signs of damage to your client's unit?
WAGNER: Well, we fought our lawsuit to hold the building accountable for the damage to my client's unit due to the water intrusion from the exterior walls, the situation is such that once the water got into the unit, obviously, they were notified accordingly. Unfortunately, it had to result in a lawsuit being filed for them to take any action to correct the problems.
Once the settlement occurred which was under confidentiality so I can't speak as to the particular terms of it, it is my understanding that they did do some patchwork, some work to the exterior walls but obviously it persisted, so much so that as recent as April of 2021, my client sent me a photograph that she took where, again, the stucco was breaking off, the concrete was exposed and rebar was showing us corroded.
BURNETT: Wow. And it was still happening and it was getting worse. I mean, you're seeing corroded rebar. Was your client aware of other residents with similar complaints?
WAGNER: I have not been made aware of other parties during that time period. I have been receiving information from other parties, other residents that the situation was, for lack of a better term, a little bit rampant. It is unfortunate that the 2015 lawsuit that we handled was not addressed or they did not take it seriously enough to deal with those issues more intently throughout the entire building.
BURNETT: Daniel, before you go, let me just ask you. And obviously, I'm using the word client because I don't want to say who she is and that's all confidential. But was she still living there? I mean, it seems miraculous that she was not in the building in this when so many have lost their lives.
WAGNER: Yes. I would definitely say she's blessed. She was not in the building at the time nor was her family, so thank God, she is safe.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I thank you very much, Daniel, for your time tonight. Thanks.
WAGNER: Thank you very much. BURNETT: And next breaking news, the Miami Herald now reporting that a
pool contractor who visited the condo just days before the collapse saw standing water all over the garage. And that's not all, the reporter who broke that story is next.
Plus, prosecutors could charge Trump Org this week. But a lawyer for executive Allen Weisselberg is telling prosecutors he will not cooperate, no flipping, no nothing, why? His former daughter-in-law is my guest.
And Trump's die-hard supporters believe the former President is going to be back and soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: What are you hoping to hear from Trump today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope to hear he's coming back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'SULLIVAN: He's coming back in 2024?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sooner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Breaking news, The Miami Herald reporting that a pool contractor who visited the Champlain Tower South condo building just two days before it collapse saw concerning damage in the basement level garage of the building, including 'standing water all over the garage'. And the pool equipment room he says he saw cracked concrete, exposed rebar, there it is again the exposed rebar and a wet floor in the pool equipment room. The contractor says he saw the issues while there to prepare a bid for a cosmetic restoration of the pool, a new equipment.
This is another photo that he says shows severe corrosion in the room. That's unbelievable. Contractor said he took these photos which he shared with the Herald to show that the job could be complicated. Maxwell Marcucci, a representative for the condo association declined to comment to the Herald on whether the association was aware of these issues.
OUTFRONT now Miami Herald investigations reporter Sarah Blaskey who broke this joining me on the phone. So Sarah, the pictures are disturbing. They look like a building that's been destroyed and not even inhabited. They're horrible. Tell me more about what the contractor saw and shared with you.
SARAH BLASKEY, MIAMI HERALD INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER: Well, the contractor told me he's been in some 'scary buildings' before. Cracks aren't that unusual in Miami, but he said that amount of standing water was. And what he saw in that pool equipment room that he photographed and sent to his boss, he also said that was alarming to him, I think, is the way he experienced that. He wondered to himself immediately why is this building not maintaining itself better, why haven't they taking care of this problem, because that problem doesn't just happen overnight and he knows that.
He's a contractor. He works on pools and he saw that and thought, OK, well, they're going need to repair the structural slab up there under the pool that he's looking at.
So he's thinking telling his boss we're going to have to remove pipes and other things. This job is going to be more complicated even if we're just coming in here to do a cosmetic repair. They're going to have to do something to those structural slabs. So that's what he told me was going through his mind as he saw that two days before the collapse.
BURNETT: And Sarah, what's pretty incredible too is just something you said there which I know is obvious, but I want to emphasize, which is it doesn't happen overnight. You don't have a room start to look like that overnight. It comes because of a long time of not doing maintenance.
The contractor also told you, I believe, he was so concerned and alarmed, because you use that word, that he didn't just tell his boss, OK, we're going to have to make this bit a lot more expensive and put a lot more in it. He actually flagged it to a member of the building staff, because he was so alarmed on that day, two days before the building collapse. What did he say to the building member and what did they say back?
BLASKEY: Well, what he flagged to the building member was the standing water in the garage. So apparently about halfway between the north and south walls inside the garage, this is a basement level garage right underneath the pool deck. He said, wow, that's a lot of standing water, what's going on there.
And what the staff member, the maintenance staff member told him was, he thought that it had to do with the waterproofing on the tiles of the pool deck above. And the reason that that's important or stands out is there's a 28 teams inspection report on this building that says there was a major error in the design of that pool deck allowing water to pool and causing that pooling water then caused severe structural damage to the slabs below. And so what he saw was this standing water right beneath the area that that report flagged.
BURNETT: And you then took all this information, Sarah, I know you spoke to an engineer, you spoke to a concrete restoration expert about all of these details and you asked directly could this have contributed to the collapse, what did they tell you?
BLASKEY: Well, what's pictured they told me was alarming. But the important thing to remember is that that picture is actually of an area that's along the south side of the building lower level. The part that collapsed is the north side of the building. So what's pictured didn't actually collapse.
The two concerns are this, one, if other structural slabs and other beams look like what is in that picture in other parts of the building where there's more weight on top of it, where the actual 12 storey structure sits on top of it, the expert I spoke to said that absolutely could have been a reason for a collapse.
The other thing is even though that beam is away from the collapse zone, my understanding from the experts that I spoke to is that the way the building is built, this asymmetrical shape means that even if something fails that even directly in the collapse site, it can cause twisting that then pulls on other parts of the building and can cause another failure if indeed there was another part that was weakened from those years of water further away. So it is possible that this beam contributed, but we just don't know.
BURNETT: Yes. Gosh, and all we know is that lots and lots of small mistakes and not having maintenance and not have maintenance all of a sudden, you have the straw that breaks the camel's back. Sarah, thank you very much. Sarah Blaskey, as I said, with that breaking reporting from the investigations unit of the Miami Herald.
I want to go to Pablo Rodriguez now. We've been speaking to him since the first day this happened. And Pablo, of course, your mother and grandmother are still both unaccounted for. I'm so sorry for that. You hear this reporting from the Miami Herald, the damage in the garage, the standing water, the pictures that he took of the pool, he was struck by the lack of maintenance, he was alarmed. What's your reaction when you hear all of that?
PABLO RODRIGUEZ, HIS MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER ARE MISSING AFTER SURFSIDE BUILDING COLLAPSE: My reaction, Erin, is that it just confirms more of what I felt when it initially happened. Buildings don't just collapse, especially here in America, buildings don't fall down by themselves.
So the fact that this just confirms the maintenance was not done over the many years, the board collects over a million dollars on maintenance fees from the unit owners every single year. Where was that money going because it wasn't going to maintenance.
If in 2018 the damage was already so severe, why didn't they do anything. They now waited until 2021 to try to start beginning to do something and those pictures and the article that came out I read it on the way over here, I have no words for that, Erin.
BURNETT: In 2018, $9 million and they more than double it in three years and say there's some kind of -- you know, the crisis they have to do it.
You know, I mean, Pablo, I am so struck by something you told me the first time we spoke which is that your mother had been really tired the night this happened because the day before she was awoke in the middle of the night with creaking noises and sort of loud like I don't know if you described it as a bang but loud noise. And so, she wasn't able to sleep the rest of the night and it was stuff coming from the walls.
So, now you hear about all these other things, I mean, it just -- it's hard not to think about that moment that that -- what she heard --
RODRIGUEZ: It's hard not to replay that.
RODRIGUEZ: You're 100 percent, correct, Erin. It's very hard not to replay that in your mind over and over again.
I mean, it was loud enough for her to mention it woke her up, the creaking noises from the building. You see these pictures, how did they not tell people that it was in this horrible of a condition?
The rebar was exposed. The contractor confirms that the maintenance doesn't happen overnight like that. It's shocking that they allowed it to get like this. It's just -- it's negligence and their negligence caused a lot of death here.
BURNETT: I know --
RODRIGUEZ: Not just my family. I feel strongly for that.
BURNETT: I know you've provided DNA and you want to know, you want to know what happened. You want to be able to grieve. You --
RODRIGUEZ: I do.
BURNETT: -- are still waiting for the news of your mother and grandmother. How are you -- how are you handling that, this not knowing and I know your 6-year-old son having to deal with him not knowing, how are you pacing yourself through this?
RODRIGUEZ: It's extremely difficult, Erin. We're trying to keep it together for him. He keeps asking us where is ama (ph), where is (INAUDIBLE), when are they coming over? Why don't you FaceTime them? Call the people looking for them and they can find them to come over now.
And we just don't have anything to tell him. We have no news. It's been very difficult.
I pass by here. Today is the first day I'm on site in this area I can see the building and I got out of the car and I just completely broke down. The guard rail wasn't there. I would have ended up on the floor crying. It just was completely overwhelming and it's very difficult not knowing.
And really the only hope I have is that they find them. We can have some kind of proper burial and close sure and hope they investigate this and the people responsible are held to be responsible. They're held to be accountable so this never happens again.
We need serious reform in condo boards. We need serious reform in the building inspections. I mean, 40 years before an inspection. The Internet didn't exist when this building was made, Erin, and we're letting it continue on at the hope that the board does the right thing.
BURNETT: Pablo, thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: I want to go to Dr. Howard Lieberman now. Trauma surgeon, he's working with the rescue crews. And, Dr. Lieberman, you hear Pablo and his grief. He still does not have answers about his mother and grandmother desperately wants them.
Can you tell me what is happening? We know there is hundreds of people who are on and off of that site trying desperately to find family members, but what is happening at the site?
DR. HOWARD LIEBERMAN, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TASK FORCE 1: So as you know, we've been here since the very beginning and we haven't stopped and every day we're getting more and more resources, more and more assets coming in. We're literally working 24/7. We have so many people out there with such great specialties.
We have people raising, you know, concrete slabs that weigh thousands of pounds side by side people using their hands and buckets to take up smaller pieces of debris. This goes on 24/7. This is not stopping. This hasn't stopped.
We are committed to this. You know, this story, your previous guest breaks all of our hearts and we are not stopping. We are keeping on going. We've had a few delays because of weather but aside from that, we're determined to just keep going until every single piece of debris is removed.
BURNETT: Dr. Lieberman, Pablo from the beginning has been both grieving and outraged and heart broken and realistic. But of course, people are hoping and praying for there are some miracles that come out of this situation, even know. I want to play something the assistant fire chief said today. Here he is, Doctor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAIDE JADALLAH, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: There are certain areas that we have not gotten to but been able to place cameras that seem to have large enough spaces, voids that occupants may still be in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So it's been more than 113 hours since the building collapsed. Doctor, you know, when you think about this, do you believe there
could be anyone alive in there?
LIEBERMAN: You know, you hear it before and everyone says you can't give up hope and, you know, the reality is you can't determine something until your job is done. As a trauma surgeon, I've on occasion counted out patient, didn't think would survive and they proved me wrong, they survived.
Same thing here. People can survive. You know, it depends if there is a void long enough, large enough, what their overall health condition is?
Are they young or are they old? Are they in a collapsed area next to a fridge with food? The rainwater coming trickling into them.
There is a lot of different factors that could, you know, help and aid someone's survival and prolong it.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Doctor. I appreciate your time.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
BURNETT: Next, with criminal charges possibly looming, the Trump Organization had one last chance today to try to get prosecutors to go away, the former daughter of law of Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg, he could also be facing charges. She is next.
And what former Attorney General Bill Barr is now saying about Trump's big lie.
BURNETT: Tonight, lawyers for the Trump Organization making a final effort to persuade the Manhattan district attorney's office not to pursue criminal charges against the company. The two sides meeting after prosecutors told the company it would likely soon face criminal charges in connection specifically with the benefits given to company employees. Now, decision on that could come as soon as this week.
Prosecutors also expected to charge chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, the most influential person outside of the Trump family, that is in the top echelon of Trump Org.
Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT. She's been breaking so many details of the story.
So, Kara, thank you.
So, now, Donald Trump is responding to the investigation tonight. Obviously, it is coming very close to him. What's he saying?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, Erin, I think the reality that the former president's company could face criminal charges is something that has really set in. I mean, he issued a lengthy statement again call thing a witch hunt and politically motivated but seemed to reflect on the obvious pressure that has been on Weisselberg that he doesn't identify by name.
He does say that prosecutors continue to be in search of a crime and will do anything to frighten people into making up the stories or lies they want that have been totally unable to get.
Now, this statement follows this meeting that occurred today between lawyers for the Trump organization and the district attorney's office, really this last ditch effort to persuade prosecutors not to charge the company in connection with the failed payment of taxes on some of these benefits that were paid to employees including Allen Weisselberg.
You know, our understanding is that nothing has fundamentally changed as a result of this meeting and we could still see charges against the company and Allen Weisselberg as soon as this week. Now, an attorney for Weisselberg declined to comment. The Trump Organization did not get back to us tonight for comment, but Donald Trump's personal attorney last night, excuse me, last week had told us that he expects that they will enter a plea of not guilty and ask the judge to dismiss the case -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Kara, thank you very much.
I want to bring in now Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in- law of Allen Weisselberg.
Obviously, you know the family for more than two decades.
And, Jennifer, I know you've helped prosecutors. You've cooperated in what they are working to build their case regarding the Trump Organization, as well as Allen Weisselberg, your former father-in-law.
So, what's your reaction to hearing that charges could come as soon this week? Originally, right, it had been maybe this fall, right? This is a lot faster than people had thought.
JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, TRUMP ORG'S CFO FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: I'm not surprised because I think the evidence has been there for years. I think that justice for the Weisselberg family, Barry, Allen and the Trump Organization, as well as Donald Trump himself is just a matter of time. I think the investigation is serious and that I have been meeting with them in the last few weeks, but out of respect for the investigation, I'm not supposed to talk about the details of that.
WEISSELBERG: And that's because -- because they want to succeed in this investigation and that justice is really important.
BURNETT: Right. It's important for people to know you've been meeting with them frequently even in recent weeks and, of course, I understand you can't talk about some of the retails. But here's the thing, prosecutors have been pressuring Weisselberg to
cooperate with them for months, right, as you and I have talked about before. But his lawyers have said, no, they recently said to prosecutors he is not going to cooperate. Why do you think that is?
WEISSELBERG: I think he's always believed and he's always been enabled that Donald will save him. It's been his life. He's always -- he's always been saved by Donald. There is a guy to fix everything, a guy to help everything.
I think he will hold on until the very, very last minute until he's either shocked by something that they bring to the table and he's got no choice. But I think that Donald is probably promising him that he'll be saved.
I think that that is something that he is loyally, blindly, blindly loyal to him.
BURNETT: Counting on, still counting on Donald Trump.
WEISSELBERG: Yeah, he's being a little blind to the facts. You know, his loyalty has put blinders on him, and that includes his -- his belief that his son Barry has no criminality, that he believes everything his son says, but surprise, surprise, I just don't think it's going to work out that way.
BURNETT: Well, no, and I know you've given over so many documents about Barry Weisselberg and things he did, which could be very important because if they have something there, that, of course, puts a lot more pressure on Barry's dad Allen.
So, you know, last time we spoke on television, you said without hesitation when I asked you whether Allen Weisselberg would flip on Donald Trump, you said yes. I mean, you didn't pause, Jennifer.
BURNETT: You didn't even pause.
But he's still holding out. He's still not there. You know, do you -- do you think that he has a strategy as to this right now?
WEISSELBERG: I really thought he would flip because I thought he would care more about doing the right thing. But then I realized he doesn't have any empathy. I mean, there is a lack of integrity there and I thought that he might do the right thing because -- because he could do the right by his grandchildren and his children, and be an example and just step out of the Trump bubble.
But it doesn't look like that's the case. He's not flipping. That's the truth. He's absolutely not.
I think he's also -- I think the Trump lawyers and his lawyers are paid for by Trump and so, I think the minute that it affects his pocket, it might change things.
BURNETT: Right, but you're saying now, is that -- you're saying -- your understanding is Trump is paying for it?
BURNETT: OK. So Weisselberg was spotted -- "The Washington Post" got a picture of him driving into work at the Trump Tower as if, you know, life is normal.
BURNETT: That he's going into the office.
And just to be clear here, Jennifer -- there is the car. He is expected to be charged, right? These charges could carry significant prison time if proven, right? I mean, this would be the end of any life that he had expected to have if this goes that direction. But he just seems to not be worried.
WEISSELBERG: He's always gotten away with it. I mean, what they're getting away with in the civil case is unbelievable. There is -- I don't think anything they've done -- their litigation tactics are far from legal but they've always gotten away with it.
If you get away with it for 50 years, I just think that, you -- he lives in a bubble where he believes everything Trump says. I think the day is going to come very soon when there are some things that are still being put forth to the D.A.'s office that he will not be able to answer for because he won't be prepared. Some surprises.
BURNETT: Some surprises.
BURNETT: OK. So, this is really crucial and part of where you come in with your extensive knowledge of the family, of him, of the financials of what happened. You're talking about surprises. I know you've been meeting with prosecutors, you know, very recently just over a week ago. You can't talk about details of that.
BURNETT: But you may end up testifying in front of the grand jury. When do you think that may be?
WEISSELBERG: That I can't comment on.
BURNETT: You can't comment on?
BURNETT: But you're prepared?
WEISSELBERG: Oh, yes. We are prepared and we're getting prepared, yes.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you about one other person, Jeffrey McConney, a name you know well.
BURNETT: That we recently told viewers about -- obviously, works very senior finance executive and knows a lot has been there since the beginning, works for, reports to Allen Weisselberg. He recently testified in front of a grand jury. He's going to appear again according to our sources tell us, that there, he's going to be brought back and I know you know him well.
WEISSELBERG: Yes, he was at my wedding, as well, yes.
BURNETT: So, what do you think of him, I guess? And the question to contextualize this, Jennifer, because as you've always said, the Trump Org, Trump, all one thing, one family thing, how concerning could McConney's testimony be to Trump and to Allen Weisselberg?
WEISSELBERG: It's concerning but what I'm getting the feeling of is that Jeff is a very honest guy. He's sort of like myself. He's ebullient. They never counted on him rising up. He wasn't a decision maker in the company. He was just sort of the guy that took the train in the corner that they used, abused, expected to do the right things.
But he was that in-house accountant. You know, I used to work at Trump World Tower, say Jeff the lights aren't on, can you pay the bill? He's the guy been there doing numbers. But that being said, I think there is a lot of fear. I heard he's still going to work as well.
And whether they tell you to shut up or not, the idea is be very careful. You're controlled. Like your house, your children's tuition, your livelihood relies on you doing the right thing by us.
BURNETT: This is where your bread is buttered.
BURNETT: You're there every day when you walk into the office basically.
WEISSELBERG: Right. So obstruction of justice doesn't necessarily have to be said literally but it's implied.
BURNETT: Uh-huh. It's a crucial point.
All right. Jennifer, thank you very much.
BURNETT: I appreciate it. Good to see you in person.
And I just want to note to everybody, we did reach out to Allen Weisselberg's legal team and they did decline to comment. A lawyer for the Trump Organization did not respond to our request for comment.
Also tonight, all BS, a new book on former Attorney General Bill Barr is reporting that is how he summed up Trump's big lie that the election was stolen, which Trump was, you know, repeating just this weekend. Barr is breaking his silence on repeated efforts by Trump that Trump wanted to get Barr to push the big lie and Trump, according to Barr, was enraged when he said no.
Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Former Attorney General William Barr is finally talking about the tumultuous time period following the 2020 election when then President Trump put repeated pressure on the Justice Department to investigate false claims of election fraud.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is total fraud and how the FBI and Department of Justice, I don't know, maybe they're involved but how people are allowed to get away from this stuff -- with this stuff is unbelievable.
SCHNEIDER: Barr now telling ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl that Trump lashed out after Barr gave an interview to "The Associated Press" December 1st where Barr flat out said there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
When Barr went to visit the White House later that afternoon, he was summoned to meet with Trump who asked, 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. Trump then turned to talking about himself in the third person saying, you must hate Trump, you must hate Trump.
Barr recounted how he personally looked into some allegations from ballots being moved around in Detroit to claims voting machines around the country were rigged to switch Trump votes to Biden votes. We realized from the beginning it was just B.S., Barr said. At one point, even telling Trump his legal team lobbying all of the election challenges was a joke.
This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy, instead you have a clown show, Barr told Trump inside the president's dining room on December 1st. Barr even said the former president agreed with this clown show comparison, saying, you may be right about that.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL LAWYER: We're going to be looking at dead person's ballots which may actually be very, very substantial.
SCHNEIDER: Trump was relying largely on Rudy Giuliani to lead his legal fight. Giuliani is now temporarily suspended from practicing law in New York state because of his role in the effort to undermine the election.
But Barr's recounting of the record now doesn't make up for how he echoed the president's unfounded and often outlandish concerns prior to the election.
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I do think it increases the opportunity for fraud.
It does leave up in the possibility of counterfeiting, counterfeiting ballots.
TRUMP: They take the ballot. They take them out of mailboxes.
BARR: Those things are delivered in for mailboxes. They can be taken out.
SCHNEIDER: Barr even drafted a memo, one week after the election, giving federal prosecutors the green light to investigate substantial allegations of vote irregularities. Overturning long-standing DOJ policy to not probe possible voter fraud until after an election is certified.
We are learning, from this new interview, that even then Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, wanted Barr to speak out publicly, sooner than he did, telling the attorney general, in mid November, that Trump's claims were damaging to the country.
McConnell told Barr, you are in a better position to inject some reality into the situation. You're really the only one who can do it.
Trump issued a seething statement Monday, referencing this McConnell revelation, saying, 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.
SCHNEIDER: And Bill Barr says that the former president not only pressed him on the election, but also yelled about the fact that the DOJ had not prosecuted Joe Biden's son Hunter, or the former FBI director, James Comey. The pressure about investigating the election, Erin, even lingered after Barr resigned in December. A string of recently released emails shows the Trump's allies pressed the acting attorney general to also investigate these fresh claims -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jessica.
And I want to go now to Elie Honig, our senior legal analyst, and the author of the new book, "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutors Code, and Corrupted the Justice Department".
So, Elie, you know, you've studied Bill Barr, inside and out, writing a book. So, what do you think his motivation is to speak out like this right now?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Imagery rehabilitation, pure and simple. Bill Barr is always conscious of his image, and the way he's perceived. And he wants us to remember, in December, weeks after the election, he finally came out against the big lie. He did, that's fine.
BURNETT: It's true.
HONIG: What he's not reminding us of is that he publicly was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the big lie in the months leading up to the election. It's like if Bill Barr had helped light a fire, fanned the flames, watched it burn down the house, and then only at the end, sort of tossed his drink on it.
He gets no credit for this. Let's keep it straight. He was one of the biggest perpetrators of the big lie. It's on him.
BURNETT: So, Elie, Donald Trump repeatedly attacked former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her meeting on the tarmac with former President Bill Clinton amid the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016. He said the meeting was disgraceful, and was perhaps the lowest point in DOJ history.
You know -- you know, and, look, it wasn't good. What does pressuring your attorney general do to overturn an election? Which Trump did, Bill Barr is very clear, he did. How does that read?
HONIG: There's a really important point to be made here, the reason that people had problems with Bill Clinton meeting with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, to varying extent, it was absolutely inappropriate, because as a federal prosecutor, particularly as the attorney general, you cannot even give the appearance of a conflict of interest, the appearance of political interference because that's contrary to everything DOJ is about.
Contrast that with what Donald Trump turned around and did 20 times worse. He directly ordered, or asked his attorney general, to politicize the Justice Department and to do his bidding. There's not even any comparison there.
BURNETT: All right. Elie, thank you very much, I appreciate your time.
And next, former President Obama, tearing into former President Trump for the big lie.
Plus, Trump's most ardent supporters with a chilling warning about what happens if Trump doesn't return to power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What if that doesn't happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be in a civil war because the militia will be taking over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: New tonight, former President Obama, slamming former President Trump, for pushing the lie that the election was stolen, calling Trump's fabrications, quote, a bunch of hooey. Unfortunately, Trump supporters believe his lies, which led directly to the insurrection.
And at Trump's first major rally, since he left office, support, growing for a new, and baseless conspiracy theory. The Trump could be reinstated as president, if the Arizona on it, he claims he won the state.
Donie O'Sullivan was at that rally. He's OUTFRONT.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Trump's first major audience since he lost.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-huh. Well, he didn't lose. He didn't. I know he didn't.
O'SULLIVAN: Your shirt here says Trump won.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he did.
O'SULLIVAN: Is this about 2016?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about all of them. 2020, and the next one.
O'SULLIVAN: He lost in 2020, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no.
O'SULLIVAN: Do you think what happen on the 6th of January was sort of a stain on his presidency?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was all staged. I truly believe that.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Conspiracy theories about the election, and the insurrection, are par for the course at Trump rallies. But, now, another false notion is circulating among some Trump supporters, that Trump could be reinstated as president, later this summer.
Why do you hope to hear from Trump today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope to hear he's coming back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
O'SULLIVAN: Coming back in 2024?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sooner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's coming back soon. And you guys are going down.
O'SULLIVAN: Trump has been falsely suggesting that the sham Republican audit in Arizona could lead to the election being overturned.
TRUMP: Stay tuned for Arizona, we need to states. It's going to be a very interesting time. How do you govern when you lost? How do you govern when you lost?
O'SULLIVAN: Do you think the election is going to be overturned in some way?
RON, TRUMP SUPORTER: Absolutely. Military, already knowing it was a fraud. He won by over 80 percent.
O'SULLIVAN: Ron, you genuinely believe that he's --
RON: He's coming back.
O'SULLIVAN: That he could back as soon as --
RON: Before the middle of August.
O'SULLIVAN: What if that doesn't happen?
RON: We're going to be in a civil war because the militia will be taking over.
O'SULLIVAN: Among Trump supporters at his rally in Ohio Saturday --
You have a second to chat to us?
We're always going to talk to a Proud Boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
O'SULLIVAN: A man wearing a Proud Boys t-shirt, and a self-described member of the 3 Percenters militia group, some people believed to be associated with the group, charged for their alleged involvement in the insurrection.
Do you think that what happened on the 6th of the January was a bit of a stain on his violence, of the violence, sort of a stain on his presidency? Or --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't. I don't think so. I was -- I was there.
O'SULLIVAN: Were you at the Capitol?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we were there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't go in, didn't do any of that stuff. I don't believe in tearing up the Capitol.
O'SULLIVAN: And you're 3 Percenter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'SULLIVAN: Some of your guys were caught up in a conspiracy, right? Charged by the FBI?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of them are being held, a lot of them are being questioned.
O'SULLIVAN: Do you think you are guys who went inside shouldn't have gone inside or what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I don't think anybody should have went inside. But, you know, when you are worked up in that moment, and, you know, the adrenaline is pumping says, I mean, it just happens.
O'SULLIVAN: Are you worried that we could see more violence?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. I honestly believe it's coming.
BURNETT: I mean, Donie, it's incredible to have those conversations, and he did say, honestly, I believe it's coming. You know, that conversation, I think it's powerful that you're able to have these conversations, to get these responses. But one man in your story said there'd be a civil war if Trump wasn't reinstated.
I mean, you hear all of these things, and how worried are you when you hear it?
O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, that was particularly chilling I found, because two nights before the insurrection, on January 4th, we were in Georgia at a Trump rally. And everybody was so pumped up for the 6th, they said the election was going to be overturned, and that one man there used -- almost said exact phrase when I said, what happens, if on Wednesday, January 6th, the election isn't overturned? He said, there could be a civil war.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right. Donie, thank you very much for the incredible reporting as always.
And thanks to all of you for being with me.
Anderson starts now.