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Erin Burnett Outfront
Trump Exec Allen Weisselberg Charged in Alleged 15-Year Tax Scheme, Evading Taxes on $1.7 Million Income; Prosecutors: Trump Org. Devised a Tax Scheme to Compensate Top Executives "Off the Books"; McCarthy Refuses to Say Whether He Will Appoint Members to Jan 6 Commission; Sources: McCarthy Threatened by Probe; Sources: McCarthy Threatened GOP Members if They Accepted Offer From Pelosi to Serve on Jan 6 Select Committee; GOP Rep. Cheney Accepts Position on Jan 6 Commission After McCarthy Threatened to Strip Committee Assignment. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 01, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Surfside, Florida. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the Trump Organization charged with a 15-year tax scheme. Trump's top money man at the company slapped with 15 felony charges. Is this just the beginning of the case against Trump and his business?
Plus, breaking news tonight, the rescue efforts at the site of the condo collapse have just resumed as President Biden consoles families still waiting for word.
And as Bill Cosby reunites with his wife and makes plans to go back on stage, we're learning more about the man whose actions led to Cosby getting out of prison. Bruce Castor, also known as one of Trump's impeachment lawyers. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT this evening, the scheme to the fraud that is what prosecutors say former President Donald Trump's company did to the government for over 15 years. And at the center of the case, Trump's right-hand man and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg charged with 15 felony counts. You see him here in handcuffs this morning walking into court, both the Trump Organization and Weisselberg pleading not guilty today, but the charges are serious and carry significant consequences.
Weisselberg is 73 years old and could face a significant amount of time in prison if he's convicted. Weisselberg knows the inner workings of the Trump Organization. He has been by Trump side since 1973, even appearing with him on The Apprentice. The former president praise Weisselberg in his book 'Think Like a Billionaire' writing, "He did whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line." And that may be exactly what's gotten Weisselberg into so much legal
trouble. He would do anything for Trump, and he knows pretty much everything about him. Just listen to Weisselberg's former daughter-in- law and Trump's former attorneys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, TRUMP ORG CFO'S FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: It's been his life. He's always been saved by Donald.
JAY GOLDBERG, LONGTIME ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: He knows everything about Donald, next to a family member and perhaps even more than a family member, he knows everything about Donald.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Everything went through Donald's, you name it. Allen Weisselberg's kids' payments, rent, everything would have a Donald signature on it or his initial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Former President Trump for his part released a statement today slamming the charges and the case against his company and executive saying, "The political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues."
Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT this evening. Kara, what more are you learning about the charges against the Trump Organization and against Weisselberg?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good evening, Poppy. Today in court a prosecutor call this a sweeping and audacious illegal payment scheme. Just two descriptive words to sum up what they're alleging incurred over 15 years at the Trump Organization. So the Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg was led into a court in handcuffs. It's a dramatic moment before he finally entered his plea of not guilty.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization also entered a plea of not guilty and they're being charged with a sweeping tax evasion scheme. The Trump Organization and the Trump payroll court being charged with 10 felony counts, Allen Weisselberg being charged with 15 counts. Prosecutors are alleging that Weisselberg did not pay taxes on $1.7 million. They said, in part, he concealed that he lived in New York City when at the time he was living in an apartment that was paid for by the former president's own company.
So they did enter their not guilty pleas today. The Trump Organization is punching back and the next court date will be September 15th. Weisselberg was released on his own, although he did surrender his passport, Poppy.
HARLOW: OK. And how are the Trump Organization lawyers responding to these charges?
SCANNELL: This is going to be a big battle. We can already tell, Poppy. The Trump Organization saying that this is a political vendetta. They said that the District Attorney's Office hasn't prosecuted actual crimes, that they didn't prosecute the big banks from the financial crisis that they say had resulted in trillions of dollars of losses. They're saying that they're taking a case that should have been handled as a civil matter with fines and turning it into a criminal case, that they're really making this into a political match where they've saying that this was all politically motivated and we've already heard the former president punch back on that calling it a witch hunt by the radical left, Poppy.
HARLOW: OK. Kara Scannell, thank you. I know you've been up all day reporting on this. Thank you for being with us tonight.
OUTFRONT now, Laura Coates, former federal prosecutor, Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst. Good evening all.
Harry, let me start with you. A 15-year tax scheme, 15 felony counts, including a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larceny, falsifying business records. Prosecutors alleged that Weisselberg evaded taxes of $1.7 million of income. What do you make of the charges?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Sweeping and audacious. As recently as yesterday, Poppy, we might have expected a few isolated tax counts. Instead, what we have is a scheme to defraud and that's, one, a lot more understandable for a jury and it's pretty brazen here, two sets of books, phony baloney residency, cash payments under the table, all the sort of thing that Weisselberg couldn't claim was just accidental.
So they've really now packaged something that's pretty potent and I think pretty easy for a jury to understand and judge rather than a difficult paper case. They have a fairly easy sort of human interest case involving as they say. Ongoing conduct sort of a way of doing business with Weisselberg at the center.
HARLOW: So Laura, Weisselberg, as Kara said, pleaded not guilty. We know how close he is with Trump. He's worked for him for 48 years. If someone is going to flip, they almost always do before they're indicted. But not always, sometimes they flip after. Could this be, in your opinion, enough to flip Weisselberg?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, he's facing a very lengthy prison sentence in the double digits if he is, in fact, convicted. That's a lot about calling somebody's bluff. Oftentimes defendants or predictable defendants might actually think that the government is not going to charge and the (inaudible) is going to be ongoing and it'll be in perpetuity, these discussions about settlement or plea agreements or anything else or immunity.
We're seeing here that they essentially called whatever bluff he thought he was under the impression of here. But again, remember here what they're looking for if he is to be useful, remember, Trump is not somebody who kept email, sent emails, had written records, they would need somebody who was in the room where it happened.
COATES: And a lot of these crimes are premise on intent here, Poppy. And so how do you prove intent? You have to get that circumstantial evidence or somebody who can actually say, here's what was meant to happen. Here were the instructions and the orders. This is a lot of weight on one person. If anyone thought it was going to be, to Harry's point, about fringe benefits, now a jury knows it's about fraud.
HARLOW: Yes, and a lot of alleged fraud. Gloria, you have done so much reporting on former President Trump and his inner circle and Weisselberg - he's as close as it gets, right?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he is. Look, he's been with him for decades. He worked for Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father. And he's a devoted, loyal soldier. And the reason he's had longevity is not because he's a nice guy. He's had longevity because he knows how to do what Donald Trump wants him to do, which is to pay attention to that bottom line as Trump himself said.
So Trump is famous, as you know, for not wanting to pay all of his bills, for example. So if somebody said, well, you owe me a hundred dollars and Donald Trump said pay him 70 bucks, then Weisselberg was the guy who made that happen. So he knows everything.
And Michael Cohen says this over and over again that Weisselberg didn't do anything without Donald Trump signing off on it, but Weisselberg knew everything. So he's just the kind of person they're looking for, because he was in the room.
HARLOW: Yes, a lot.
HARLOW: So Harry, well, let's play what Trump Organization lawyer said today after court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN FUTERFAS, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: These cases are always resolved in the civil context. The IRS has never made a case like this.
SUSAN NECHELES, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: They cannot point to any case, any case where a corporation has been prosecuted based on a few individuals in the corporation who allegedly, on their personal tax return, made a mistake or did not pick up fringe benefits on their personal tax return.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: You hear that and there is the question of Harry, most of these cases against corporations like this are generally civil. Can you explain why this one's criminal?
LITMAN: Yes. And it's not really true. This has been in talking points that they prepared before, I think, they saw the indictment. Although, to what Laura said, he must have known what was coming and just one quick point to Gloria, he's not just the kind of guy.
He is the absolute guy they need. But what's the difference? Continuing course of conduct, obvious intent, victims from not only the state but the federal system. When you get that kind of scheme to defraud that it's not at all unusual that the corporation would be charged also. And when somebody as high as Weisselberg is acting, that means it's also for the corporation.
They're hoping or trying to spin it as a few negligent inadvertent omissions. But two sets of books, the brazen lie about where he lives, the cash under the table. And that just doesn't hunt next to the story that the indictment lays out.
Oh, and one more point of grand larceny, which drives the bigger sentence. They were able to use that. For grand larceny, you need to get money you didn't deserve and they were, by making it a scheme, they were able to say we got refunds on federal taxes and that is actually going to be the number one count, the so called B felony under New York law that will drive the potential sentence.
HARLOW: Laura, these charges come from an interesting combination. It's a combined effort by the Manhattan DA, Cy Vance and his team, and New York Attorney General Letitia James, and this is an investigation that stretch more than two years. If they did lead with the big one, which is typically what you would do, does this mean that Donald Trump is essentially off the hook legally now?
COATES: I mean, forgive the pun. Normally you would think you would lead with Trump here, lead with your Trump. But prosecutors are able to have their cases evolve. Remember, this investigation, according to the Attorney General Letitia James who I agree, the idea that these two offices have joined forces is a rarity in and of itself.
COATES: But it's also because they didn't want to duplicate efforts. Remember, the DA's office was able to go all the way to the Supreme Court twice on the tax issue. The AG's office wasn't going to try to reinvent the wheel. They're going to capitalize on what's already been received and build on their own cases here.
So the idea here is that the investigation, in fact, the grand jury, we're told, is still going to be able, according New York Times reporting, is going to be able to still meet up to three times a week up till the end of the year. There might be a whole host of other details we learn, there might be other named parties. Of course, the idea of a cooperator agreement with Allen Weisselberg is always possible.
It's hard to predict at this point in time, because he is a large fish in and of himself. The corporation is a large fish in and of itself. But this investigation, as long as it's ongoing, until there is actually a trial, and then that indictment is set in stone before a jury, anything can happen and anyone is fair game. HARLOW: Gloria, the president, no surprise here, called this a
political witch hunt. Does this just embolden him though?
BORGER: Sure. Look, I mean, he likes to play the victim. He's going to say I'm the victim here and it's just the Democrats who have moved from Capitol Hill and now they're in New York. But the portrait that is painted by the prosecutors here is not of a mistake. It is of tax cheats. It's a way of doing business.
And juries don't like tax cheaters, last time I checked. Rich tax cheaters last time I checked. And so, Donald Trump will be able to play to the base and the base will say, yes, yes, you're right. They're just out to get you, of course. They're out to get you.
But what he has to say and prove to everyone else is this was just a mistake. This is small stuff, 1.7 million, whatever it is. This is nothing. Well, tell that to the rest of the American public.
HARLOW: Gloria Borger, Harry Litman, Laura Coates, thank you all very much.
OUTFRONT next, Kevin McCarthy first spot of bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riot and now sources say he's threatening to punish any Republican, any Republican who serves on the newly formed Select Committee on the insurrection. What McCarthy is so afraid of? That's next.
Plus, President Biden comforting families of those killed and all of those still unaccounted for after the catastrophic condominium collapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message today is that we're here for you as one nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And a major twist tonight in the space race between Bezos and Branson.
HARLOW: Tonight, what is Kevin McCarthy so afraid of? Multiple Republicans sources tell our Jamie Gangel that the House Minority Leader issued a blanket threat to freshmen Republicans that any who joined the select committee investigating the deadly insurrection invited by Pelosi to do so if they would lose their committee seats.
This as Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney accepted an offer from Pelosi to do just that and join seven Democrats on the committee saying, "Oath to the Constitution comes before partisan politics." A move that McCarthy slammed to our Manu Raju.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But you haven't even criticized some of your members like Andrew Clyde who said that it was a normal tourist visit that day. Yet she can lose her committee assignments for wanting to investigate what happened. Why would you criticize that?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Let me be very clear. I'm not threatening anybody with committee assignments. What I'm saying is, it was shocking to me that if a person is a Republican they get their committee assignments from the Republican Conference. For somebody to accept committee assignments from Speaker Pelosi, that's unprecedented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Manu Raju is OUTFRONT. Manu, it is very clear McCarthy and his conference want no part of this committee or any committee, I guess.
RAJU: Yes, no question about it. They are concerned about where this committee could go. They're concerned about taking back the house majority in 2022. That is the overriding concern for Kevin McCarthy and it's still unclear, Poppy, at this hour what Kevin McCarthy will do with the five appointments that he gets to the committee. He's in a bit of a difficult position, because the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi ultimately could veto picks that she doesn't like if McCarthy chooses people potentially who downplayed the capital insurrection. People who have espoused conspiracies, people who voted to overturn the electoral results.
It's unclear if they'll choose people from that camp. It's also difficult for him to find other Republicans, including moderates and people in swing districts. In talking to a number of Republican House members today, it was clear virtually none of them want to serve on this committee. They viewed it as a lose proposition. Something that could put them crosswise with the former President Donald Trump or at the very least if they were sided with Trump, they could be accused of whitewashing history which makes a bigger decision on McCarthy's point.
Will he move forward with naming picks? Will he not do it? Will he boycott? We're getting some expectation that ultimately he will choose to name some choices to the committee.
Now, the committee does still plan to move forward. They do plan to have their first hearing with Capitol Police officers to detail their experiences from that day and they will go far. They could go along. The chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, told me that this could go on through next year. This is not going to be done by the end of this year and I asked him will you call in former President Donald Trump, he said he's not opposed to calling him in, he's also open to calling in those Republican members of Congress with conversations with Trump ahead of January 6th, Poppy.
HARLOW: OK. That would include Kevin McCarthy. Manu Raju, thanks very much.
OUTFRONT now Mike Shields. He is currently a paid strategist for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also former RNC Chief of Staff. Mike, good evening.
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good evening.
HARLOW: Thanks for taking the time. Look, Kevin McCarthy could have supported a bipartisan committee like 35 Republicans in the House voted to do, he didn't, even after Speaker Pelosi literally gave in on nearly all his demands outlined in that February 22nd letter, like equal representation by Democrats and Republicans, co-equal subpoena power, but he didn't. Why is he dead set against getting answers here in investigating the insurrection?
SHIELDS: Well, this is a partisan committee and I disagree with you, Kevin McCarthy, yes, I'm a paid advisor to Kevin. I don't talk to him about this stuff, because it's official business. But from a political perspective, this is a partisan committee. And Kevin did propose to do a bipartisan committee that would look at political violence.
For instance, his colleague Steve Scalise was shot on a baseball field through political violence. Why would we only focus on January 6th? And the reason is pretty simple, Democrats know they're in a terrible position in 2022 to keep the House. They want to drum this up for political purposes and they just keep talking about it over and over again.
HARLOW: So Mike, Mike ...
SHIELDS: And so now they've created a committee where Pelosi gets signed off even on any of the appointments that are Republican (inaudible) ...
HARLOW: So if you're in the minority and you don't get every single thing you want, that last thing that he wanted wasn't even in this February 22nd letter. He added it later after Pelosi gave him literally everything he outlined in this letter. If you're in the minority, you don't get everything you want. Then you don't look at an attack on the Capitol even when you were inside of it. Is that right.
SHIELDS: Look, this was a partisan process from the very beginning. The first proposal that Nancy Pelosi made was that it wouldn't be equal, that they would be in charge of the process. Here we are now. She's basically gotten what she originally proposed, which is they're in charge of the process. It's political theater.
Yesterday, The Washington Post said that 12 more people in one day were arrested for this. The FBI is investigating this. There's actually juries and indictments happening, which by the way is great. I'm for that. I support the Capitol Police. I believe anyone who did anything on January 6th that's illegal should go to jail. That's exactly what (inaudible) ...
HARLOW: Right. Thank you for stating that you want answers here, Kevin McCarthy clearly doesn't from any sort of committee. SHIELDS: That's just not true. It's not true.
HARLOW: Does he have a personal ...
SHIELDS: Because they're not looking for answers. They're looking for politics.
HARLOW: ... Mike, just let me finish my ...
SHIELDS: They're looking to win elections and make it political.
HARLOW: ... let me ask the questions. Just let me get the question out, you answer it. We'll go back and forth on that. Does he have a personal conflict of interest here? Because remember, he was talking to President Trump and the weeks leading up to January 6th. He supported and carried on the big lie and he may be could be as Manu just reported, again, called as a witness because of his phone call with President Trump. Is he personally afraid that he may be vulnerable on this investigation?
SHIELDS: No. I'm just repeating. He's spoken on the record about that and so he's made that clear and he's clarify that. But here's the thing, what you have to remember is this is all about politics. This is political theater, nothing is going to be accomplished here.
HARLOW: But he wanted the Benghazi investigation to get to the truth.
SHIELDS: Hang on, you said I could answer - Poppy, you said you're going to ask questions so that I can answer. I'm going to answer the question.
HARLOW: But answer the question I'm asking.
SHIELDS: I am. This is about politics. That is the answer to the question. Bennie Thompson just came out and said, actually, we may not just stick to our old deadline of the end of the year. We may just keep doing this forever. And that tells you everything you need to know about this. This is a political issue.
And by the way, as a campaign operative, as a Republican, I'm kind of glad. If the Democrats want to run on '22 about January 6th, which affects no one's lives in this country every day ...
SHIELDS: ... Republicans are going to run on securing the border.
HARLOW: Wait, wait, wait, hold on. January 6th affects no one's lives in this country?
SHIELDS: This commission is not going to affect people's lives.
HARLOW: Is that what you ...
SHIELDS: No, of course not.
HARLOW: How could it not having answer to an ongoing threat ...
SHIELDS: It's not going to put people to work. It's going to help them with their taxes.
HARLOW: ... an ongoing threat. Mike, an ongoing threat, a life or death threat according to DHS and the FBI.
SHIELDS: Sure. And that's why the FBI is investigating it.
HARLOW: It continues.
SHIELDS: And political theater has no bearing on that. All of that is about politics.
HARLOW: Do I need to remind you what Kevin McCarthy said about Benghazi and that commission? Let's find the truth wherever the truth takes us. Why is it different this time?
SHIELDS: And you know what, in that commission Republican didn't have sign off on Democrats getting on the commission. That's a great example. Republicans did not have sign off on who they put on their committee. Democrats have created a partisan process where they have sign off on it and so what's the point.
That is not going to solve any problems in this country, it's actually going to make them worse. We should either investigate all of the political violence that happened in this country last year, going all the way back to when members of Congress were actually shot or we should say what this is.
The FBI is investigating it, that should happen, that should carry on. There are bipartisan committees in Congress that are actually looking at this. This is a sham political process that Nancy Pelosi has created. And Republicans are absolutely right to focus on the real issues American people care about.
HARLOW: One more question for you, Mike, help me understand this. Liz Cheney is as conservative Republican as you get. I don't need to tell you her voting record, you know at 96 percent conservative rating. Why is Kevin McCarthy so worried about Liz Cheney accepting this position from Speaker Pelosi?
SHIELDS: He's not worried about it.
HARLOW: He made it very clear today.
SHIELDS: No. What he made clear today and he clarified it in the clip you showed is that when you get your committee assignments in the House, they are granted to you by the conference together. They vote on your committee assignments. And it's just telling the reality of the situation.
If you're a Republican and you go work on a partisan sham committee with this Democratic speaker, your colleagues are going to be upset with you and they're going to hold you accountable for that. And all Kevin is doing is telling the truth that that's the reality of what happens when you do that.
HARLOW: It could have been bipartisan.
SHIELDS: It could have been. It could have been a long time ago, if they'd agreed to have the things that Kevin had proposed. They chose not to do that. We're in a partisan world. That's Washington, D.C. Everyone knows this is a political game and I think Republicans are going to move on to the issues that actually matter in the election.
HARLOW: I think the answers here matter a lot. Mike Shields, we'll have you back. Thank you for the time.
HARLOW: Out next, Steve Rosenthal really cheated death the night of the Florida condo collapse. He was rescued from his balcony. Well today, he met with President Biden and he is my next guest.
Also, Bill Cosby reuniting with his wife tonight and has this man who defended Trump in his second impeachment trial to thank for his freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE CASTOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Clearly there was no insurrection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Tonight, President Biden visiting Surfside, Florida, to console families enduring an agonizing wait for any news on their loved ones.
In deeply personal remarks, recounting his own experiences with unimaginable loss, Biden told families, quote, the hardest thing is not knowing, not knowing whether or not the person you adore, the person you love, the person is gone. The waiting, the waiting is unbearable.
It comes as search and rescue operations temporarily halted for nearly 15 hours following concerns that remaining building pieces could fall.
Boris Sanchez is OUTFRONT.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The whole nation is mourning with these families. They see it every day on television. They're going through hell. BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Joe Biden
tonight, offering personal condolences and federal support amid an unexpected tragedy at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.
BIDEN: They're praying and pleading that, God, let there be a miracle, let there be something happen for me that's good. I have some, like many of you, some idea what it is to suffer that kind of loss that so many are suffering. You know, they had basic heart-wrenching questions.
Jill and I want you to know that we're with them, and the country is with them. Our message today is that we're here for you, as one nation.
SANCHEZ: Spending most of his visit, speaking privately to families of the dead and missing one week after collapse, Biden sharing episodes of loss in his own life. According to accounts posted by meeting attendees on social media, the president drawing on his faith, promoting prayer and patience amid the difficulty of grieving in the public eye.
BIDEN: I think, again --
SANCHEZ: Alongside Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Biden saying the federal government would cover the entire cost of rescue and recovery efforts. Also, shaking hands and thanking first responders.
BIDEN: What you're doing here is incredible. Having to deal with uncertainty and worry about, you know, families.
SANCHEZ: Meantime, crews forced to pause the search amid concern a remaining portion of the tower is unstable.
CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: Six to 12 inches of movement in a large column hanging from the structure that could fall and cause damage to the support columns in the south terrain garage area.
SANCHEZ: Rescue workers also revealing today during the initial search, they heard a woman's voice for hours and made efforts to reach her but her voice eventually went silent. So far, attempts to find her are still ongoing. Workers in the debris struggling to keep hope alive.
LT. OBED FROMETA, MIAMI-DADE FLORIDA TASK FORCE 1: It's a feeling of not only defeat, but it's a feeling of loss. We are human after all. We're not robots. We're not machines. We feel it.
We have team members that have first-hand friends that are potential victims in this. It weighs on them and it weighs on us.
SANCHEZ (on camera): And, Poppy, in just the past hour or so, there is good news out of Surfside. Rescue workers were able to move on to portions of that debris field that were deemed safe by officials. Mayor Cava of Miami-Dade County revealing that officials expect that they will likely have to demolish the portion of the building that is still standing to allow workers further access to clear certain areas.
She acknowledges that this remains a delicate process, but the search and rescue effort has not changed. It is not yet a recovery -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Yeah, they are still looking for people and holding out hope for us.
Boris, thank you.
Let me bring in Steve Rosenthal, who narrowly survived the building collapse. His apartment was one unit over from the part of the building that went down. This, his hallway, blocked by concrete and steel. He was rescued from his seventh floor balcony by firemen reaching for him, from their truck's ladder. He met with President Biden and the first lady today.
Steve, good evening. Thank you for being here.
: Hi, Poppy. Thank you for having me.
HARLOW: I remember watching you that morning, with our -- with our reporter on the ground, and I remember you talking about waiting for them to come up in the cherry picker and to rescue you.
Today, to have the first lady and Joe Biden there must have meant a lot, given all you went through.
Can you tell me about the meeting?
STEVE ROSENTHAL, SURVIVED CONDO COLLAPSE: It was -- yeah, it was amazing. On a scale of 1 to 10, Poppy, it was 100.
ROSENTHAL: It was fantastic. The president was fantastic, the first lady was fantastic. He gave, you know, he talked about the grief with his son, when his son passed away and died. And then he walked around -- there must have been 200 people in that room. He walked around and talked to every single person. And as long as that person was talking to him, he listened.
And I'm not embellishing this at all. If a person talked for six minutes, he sat there and listened for six minutes. It was absolutely incredible, and very uplifting. It was amazing. It really was.
Very impressed. Very impressed. Very happy.
HARLOW: I'm so glad to hear how meaningful it was, for all of you. Of course, for the families who are still waiting for any word on their loved ones. I mean, you are lucky to be alive. As we mentioned, your condo was one unit away from where the building collapsed.
Tonight, so many of your friends who lived in that building are unaccounted for. So many.
Do you feel like a week to the day after the tragedy, that has even really sunk in for you?
ROSENTHAL: No, no. It really hasn't. I mean, you know, people have asked me that question, you know, they put us up in this nice hotel right now, the Red Cross. It doesn't feel like anything -- you know, it's been crazy, the first three days were -- I was upset, I was distraught and I was, you know, I didn't know what I was going to do. But it's gotten a little bit better.
But I haven't felt it yet. I think I'll feel it when all this is gone, when all the reporters are gone, and then where do I go? What do I do? Where's my home?
I'm homeless for all intents and purposes at the moment. Not intents and purposes, I'm homeless.
HARLOW: I think that really -- that really gets it, that's something key here. It is, in a situation like this, the news cameras aren't all there, and the lights aren't on this. The pain of all these families remains, right? I know that personally from experience, seeing death in the family.
That's what is really, really hard. Many weeks and months down the road. What does your community need and those families need most do you think months from now?
ROSENTHAL: Well, you know, that's a good question. You know, short- term, the Red Cross has been great. And people are stepping up. We have an apartment for 30 or 60 days. And we'll do this for you and that for you.
ROSENTHAL: But we had a home. I lived there for 20 years. What happens after 60 days? Where do we go? What do we do?
You know, there's all kinds of legal issues here with insurance money, mortgage money. Where is the money from the charity? It's just everything is -- it's a pain, a hassle. You can't get a right answer from someone.
I mean, I'm talking to some insurance people, they didn't even know about the collapse. I said you're in the insurance business and you didn't hear about the Surfside collapse, are you serious?
It's just been an amazing experience. It's been crazy. It's beyond anything I could have imagined.
HARLOW: We are so glad that you survived and grateful for you being here night after night and speaking with us.
And we will keep the focus on this, of course. Steve Rosenthal, thank you.
ROSENTHAL: Thank you, Poppy. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much.
HARLOW: Of course.
OUTFRONT next, Bill Cosby now looking to get back on stage as questions remain about just how was justice served here after he walked free?
Plus, she made history as an American aviator and about to make history again. Meet the 82-year-old going to space with Jeff Bezos.
HARLOW: New tonight, Bill Cosby's first full day of freedom. The disgraced actor seeing his wife, Camille, today for the first time in three years after his conviction was overturned. Cosby's camp says he's working on plans to return to standup and release a documentary.
Jean Casarez is OUTFRONT tonight.
And, Jean, what else can you tell us what Cosby's life may look like out of prison?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Andrew Wyatt, Cosby's representative, says he and his wife met at another one of their homes today. And remember, Bill Cosby had not wanted Camille to go to the prison. He didn't want her to put through that. So they virtually haven't even each other for three years.
And he said that he watched via FaceTime and he said that they were like teenage love birds. She kept calling him Billy, like she did when they started dating. He called her my dearest Camille. She got a barber to give him a professional haircut, and he made an Epsom salt bath for him.
[19:45:01] So, that's today.
They're also saying he does want to go back to standup. He wants to return to the stage. And about four years ago, he started a documentary that got interrupted because of the conviction in prison. He will take that documentary up again. He will do an interview with those people. And we don't know who is doing the documentary.
HARLOW: You know, Jean, you were in the courtroom for both of the Cosby trials. You have been covering this extensively. You were there, including the hearing where the former D.A., Bruce Castor, testified. It was Castor, of course, who agreed to not prosecute Cosby in exchange for that deposition in the civil case. That is -- that deal is what led to yesterday's ruling.
Looking back on that now, you've got some really interesting observations about what you saw. CASAREZ: I remember it like it was yesterday. This was a pivotal
hearing. If the trial judge believed that there was this promise that was relied upon, charges would be dismissed. And everybody knew Bruce Castor, the district attorney that refused to bring charges in 2005, was going to take the stand.
So he did, and he was asked, did you make that promise? He said, yes, I did. And then the question was, did you put it in writing? Did you make a declaration to show what this was? Uh, no.
Well, did you tell Bill Cosby about the promise? No. I told his attorney. But his attorney is deceased now, and so he's not here to be able to tell us what he told -- was told by you. Did you tell the attorneys in your office, the assistant district attorneys? Well, I think I did. Well, maybe.
Lisa Furman, who was the attorney that brought the charges, said they had no knowledge of any agreement at all. His credibility was on the line. The trial judge said, there is not credibility here. I cannot find that there was a promise.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, not usually looks at credibility. They said we have to rely on the trial court. But they turned around and said it was that press release that was generic, that meant he was never going to be prosecuted in Montgomery County.
HARLOW: Jean Casarez, thank you for that reporting.
CASAREZ: Thank you.
HARLOW: What else do we know about Bruce Castor?
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The court made it clear, Bill Cosby is free because of an unwritten promise from a district attorney in 2005 that he would never face criminal charges in exchange for Cosby's cooperation in a civil lawsuit on the same matter.
BRUCE CASTOR, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This is not a complex or difficult investigation to do.
FOREMAN: Back then, Bruce Castor said there was not enough evidence for conviction any way, despite his best efforts.
CASTOR: We essentially tried to build as many details for both of the main statements as we can to try to determine what exactly happened or whether there was any violation of the law.
FOREMAN: His reaction to Cosby's release, I was right back in 2005 and I'm right in 2021. Who is caster? He earned his law degree in Virginia. A prosecutor in the early '80s, he was elected district attorney in 2000. So, he is Castor? He's a Pennsylvanian who earned his law degree in
Virginia. A prosecutor in the early 1980s, he was elected district attorney in 2000. He became a county commissioner, served in the state attorney general's office and spent years in private practice, too.
But you may know him as the guy who said in the wake of the violent uprising of January 6 --
CASTOR: Clearly, there was no insurrection.
FOREMAN: That's right. Castor was part of the defense team when then President Trump was impeached for the second time. Offer an opening argument in the trial that started just after Trump left office.
CASTOR: I worked in this building 40 years ago. I got lost then and I still do. Nebraska, you're going to hear, is quite a judicial thinking place. We still know somewhat records are, right? On the thing you put the needle down on and you play it.
FOREMAN: Despite his team's efforts, even some Republicans were critical.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office.
FOREMAN: And the majority of senators found Trump guilty, but not the 2/3 needed for conviction. So Trump once again called it a witch hunt and his lawyers celebrated.
CASTOR: I think that yesterday their case was destroyed and they needed to throw a Hail Mary pass and it fell in the end zone uncaught.
FOREMAN (on camera): So Castor has found himself in two of the biggest cases this year so far. And he's now representing at least two of the people charged in that attack on the Capitol -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Yeah. Tom Foreman, thank you very much for that reporting.
All right. OUTFRONT next, the Supreme Court upholding voting restrictions from a lower court that found that the lower court found unfair to minorities.
Plus, the race to space between billionaires. Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos heats up. An 82-year-old is now going to ride along with one of them.
HARLOW: Tonight, the Supreme Court upholding voting restrictions in Arizona, dealing a major blow to those who argued these restrictions were racially motivated not only in Arizona but across the country, at a time when this debate is front and center in the United States. In a 6-3 ruling, the court upholding a provision discarding in-person ballots cast in the wrong precinct and restricting third parties from collecting mail-in ballots.
OUTFRONT now, Rick Hasen, an elections law expert and professor at University of California's Irvine School of Law. He's really been the go-to voice especially today with this ruling.
Rick, good evening.
And, let's begin with this lower court previously ruling, this Arizona voting provisions discriminated against minorities. The Supreme Court disagreed, upheld the provisions. This weakens another key protection from the landmark Voting Rights Act, Section 2. what does it mean for voting in America big picture?
RICK HASEN: So what it means is that the last of the three big tools that voting rights plaintiffs had in federal court to go after restrictive voting rules is now very weakened. It was preclearance under Section 5 under the Voting Rights Act, where states with a history had to get approval before they change their laws. The Supreme Court killed that off in 2013 Shelby County versus Holder case. In a less well-known case in 2008 called Crawford, the Supreme Court made it very hard to constitutional challenges to restrictive voting rules.
What was left was Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act which says that minority voters should have the same opportunity as others to participate in the process and elect Representatives of their choice. And so, this now, under the reading of the Supreme Court, is very difficult standard to be able to meet.
HARLOW: This also comes at a time, Rick, when the Justice Department announced it would sue the state of Georgia over its new restrictive voting law, and the Department of Justice said, look, it's aimed at black or minority voters. Doesn't this ruling make it a lot harder for the DOJ to prevail in Georgia in that case and then beyond any future cases like that?
HASEN: So DOJ tried to plead their case in an interesting way.
They tried to avoid a potentially adverse ruling in the Brnovich case decided today by depending on discriminatory intent. So another path to getting a law thrown out if you can prove discriminatory intent.
But even on that in today's Brnovich opinion, Justice Alito made it harder to bring that claim saying you really can't rely on what one or two legislators would have thought. You need to have much stronger evidence that things are racially motivated. And if it's partisan motivation which may overlap with racial motivation, that's probably not enough either.
HARLOW: Interesting. OK. Let me finally get your take on what Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent today. Quote, this court has no right to remake Section 2. Maybe some think that vote suppression is a relative history. And so the need for a potential Section 2 is gone or a potent Section 2 has come and gone but Congress gets to make that call.
Explain what Congress can do now but also how this may limit what it can do.
HASEN: So this was a statutory interpretation case. It wasn't a constitutional interpretation case so Congress could come back and rewrite the statute, just like Congress can come back and restore preclearance.
But Justice Alito in his opinion suggested that might be unconstitutional. If you start making states have to change their voting rules because the federal government is requiring it, that might infringe on the constitutional rights of states, much like the court said back in 2013 when they killed off preclearance.
So, even if Congress acts by passing the For the People Act, or doing something else, not clear that the Supreme Court, this very conservative Supreme Court would agree it's permissible to do so under the Constitution.
HARLOW: OK. Rick Hasen, thanks for helping us understand all of it.
HARLOW: OUTFRONT next, the billionaire space race launched to a whole new level. Looks like Richard Branson might beat Jeff Bezos to space.
HARLOW: Well, a surprise announcement in the billionaire space race tonight. Virgin Galactic says Richard Branson will be on its next scheduled flight to launch July 11th that is more than a week earlier than the flight set to take Jeff Bezos to the outer limits.
Bezos had some news of his own. Joining the Amazon founder and his brother on the trip to space on July 20th will be an aviation pioneer who is 82 years old. Wally Funk was a test pilot, the first female FAA inspector and the first female investigator for the National Transportation and Safety Board.
Well, she will be the oldest person to have flown in space when all is said and done. No word from Bezos yet about Branson's news but this is all just very cool.
All right. Thanks for joining us tonight. I'll see you back here tomorrow.
"AC360" begins now.