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The Situation Room
Interview With Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI); Nine Dead In California Mass Shooting; Sherriff's Department Says, San Jose Gunman Killed Himself, Motive Unknown; Source Says, Prosecutors Investigating Trump Tell Witness To Prepare For Grand Jury Testimony; Biden Gives U.S. Intel 90 Days To Probe COVID-19 Origins, Including "Specific Questions For China"; Growing Calls To Cancel Tokyo Olympics Amid Japan's COVID Crisis. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 26, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: In fact, they noted each country should bring their own face mask.
But I think that the approach they're taking right now is virtually a dangerous one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Moreover, an official partner of the Tokyo Olympics has now called for the Games to be canceled, Japanese national newspaper "Asahi Shimbun."
Our coverage continues right now. Thanks for watching.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, breaking news: We're getting new information right now on the rail yard massacre in San Jose, California. Eight people were shot dead when a transit employee opened fire.
At least one witness has been told to prepare to testify before a special grand jury investigating Donald Trump. It's another sign the former president of the United States could potentially face criminal charges in the months ahead.
And the U.S. intelligence community is now tasked with investigating the origins of COVID-19. President Biden wants answers to specific questions for China in the next 90 days.
Let's start our coverage this hour with CNN's Dan Simon. He's joining us from San Jose, right near the scene of the latest deadly mass shooting here in the United States. Dan, we just got another update from local officials a little while
ago. Give us the latest.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
I can tell you that this is a very large crime scene. You can see investigators behind me at the rail yard continuing to process the scene. The shots breaking out about 6:30 in the morning. At around that same time, Wolf, fire crews in San Jose were responding to a house fire, a house that belonged to the shooter.
How that wraps up into this overall investigation really remains to be seen. But I can tell you that the shooter was known to his victims. He worked at that rail yard, targeted his own employees. Take a look.
RUSSELL DAVIS, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, DEPUTY SHERIFF: We do have multiple victims and we have multiple casualties at this point.
SIMON (voice-over): Another mass shooting.
DAVIS: We formed multiple tactical teams that came into the building to extricate victims out. Multiple agencies came in and initiated what we call is a rescue task force. That's part of our active shooter protocol.
SIMON: This time at a light rail maintenance yard in San Jose, California, where trains are stored and dispatched for the Valley Transportation Authority.
As of now, investigators say at least eight people were killed, the shooter also dead.
DAVIS: I will confirm you that it is a VTA employee.
SIMON: Details of the investigation still very fluid.
DAVIS: We received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building. That being said, we activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene.
SIMON: VTA's board chairman, Glenn Hendricks:
GLENN HENDRICKS, PRESIDENT, SANTA CLARA VALLEY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY: VTA is a family. People in the organization know everyone. This is a terrible tragedy, and we will do everything we can to help people get through this.
SIMON: Family members showing up to find their loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have just got to get to my wife.
SIMON: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo joining law enforcement this afternoon to express his sympathies. SAM LICCARDO, MAYOR OF SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA: This is a horrific day
for our city. And it's a tragic day for the VTA family. And our heart pains for the families and the co-workers.
SIMON: Multiple agencies, including the FBI, assisting in the ongoing investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI's role in this investigation is to provide assistance to the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office, to provide evidence response resources. It's a fairly sizable crime scene, and it's going to take a while to process.
SIMON: Now, authorities say after the shooter shot and killed his own co-workers, he then took his own life.
Wolf, I can also tell you that a bomb-sniffing dog found the presence of explosives at the site. And right now, as I speak, a robot is going through the facility, going through room by room, looking for more potential explosives -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Awful situation, indeed.
Dan Simon, reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's get more on all of this from the Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. She's also a member of the Valley Transportation Authority. She's joining us live from San Jose right now.
Thank you so much for joining us. I'm so sad that we have to meet under these awful circumstances.
Can you tell us, first of all, what more you're learning about how this actual massacre unfolded?
CINDY CHAVEZ, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, SUPERVISOR: Well, what we know is that it happened early this morning at about 6:30.
And this was when we had our first shift of workers coming on, coming to work. And, really, this was a group of people who were -- who knew each other. And the suspect is somebody who worked for VTA.
BLITZER: Has that suspect who shot himself, apparently killed himself, been identified?
CHAVEZ: Not yet, not by our staff.
BLITZER: You serve on the board of the Valley Transportation Authority, Supervisor. You know this community.
How is everyone coping as they brace for more details, specifically on the victims in this tragedy?
CHAVEZ: You know, the Valley Transportation Authority is only 2,100 people. And so everybody literally knows everyone.
And the -- I think the thing that I was most struck by is just the compassion and the empathy that people have been showing for each other, really supporting each other through this tragedy. And, unfortunately for us, this isn't the first time we have had such a tragic event.
We had a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July of 2018, and we -- unfortunately, for us, this feels remarkably, eerily tragic.
BLITZER: Yes, it's awful that it happens where you are. It's happening, sadly, all over the United States right now. We have these mass shootings.
I know you have told us that a fund has been set up to help families impacted by this. Tell us about that.
CHAVEZ: Yes, thank you.
And I apologize. The shooting -- the Gilroy shooting was July 28 of 2019.
So, what the labor movement, because these employees were all members of their unions, ATU. And they have set up a fund at ACT.WPUSA.org -- WPUSA.org. And that's really intended to help the families of the victims with any kinds of support they need throughout this tragedy.
BLITZER: We know the shooter, who is dead, killed himself after murdering all those other people, was an employee over there.
The mayor just told CNN -- and I'm quoting now -- "It's clear the victims and all the colleagues knew the shooter well."
Is that what you're hearing? Do you have a sense of any motive, possible motive, at all?
CHAVEZ: I don't know anything about motive, but there is really very little doubt in my mind that they all knew each other.
And -- and, again, this was a rail yard that -- this yard is where light rail vehicles are kept overnight. It's not a public place. It's an internal working of our transportation authority here. And so it's largely where light rail vehicles are repaired and cleaned and fixed up and put back on the road today.
So, yes, it's very likely that they all knew each other relatively well.
BLITZER: You spoke about what a difficult year this has been through the pandemic for everyone working specifically on transportation, where you are, in Santa Clara.
Now that you have this mass shooting, how do you begin to heal from this?
CHAVEZ: You know, it's an excellent question, Wolf. And here's what I would say about the men and women of VTA in particular.
You know, they -- we didn't miss a beat. When COVID-19 hit and people were afraid to leave their homes, these men and women kept light rail out. They kept buses going, and really making sure that essential workers could get to work, people who were transit-dependent weren't stranded.
And what I was really struck by today is, this last year, we have been calling essential workers heroes and really recognizing them for their leadership. And it struck me as really overwhelming for these heroes to face yet one other tragedy and to have to be heroic all over again.
I think it's going to take time to heal. And what I'm confident about is, our community is really going to wrap our arms around -- around these families and help them survive. But what I can't help just reflecting on is how completely senseless and unnecessary this was.
BLITZER: Yes, my heart goes out to those families, eight families now grieving. So, so, so sad.
Cindy Chavez, thank you so much for joining us. And our deepest, deepest condolences to you and to everyone there. This is a horrendous situation. Sadly, it's happening way, way too often in our country.
Appreciate it very much. Thank you.
CHAVEZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to bring in our analysts to discuss, the former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd, the former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow, and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa.
Phil, eight people dead. The gunman killed himself after murdering all these people. What stands out to you so far, based on what we know?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, I tell you, the first thing that stands out when I was looking at this today is what Americans can do about this after we see this hundreds of times a year.
I think the question I would have is unanswered so far. That is, we haven't seen anything about the initial reports about explosive devices. We need to see that to understand if there were things done, in terms of acquiring material for explosive devices, we can think about.
The second has to do with another question we don't have answered, whether there was a weapon acquired, either the weapon itself or the way it was acquired, that gives us lessons learned about how we look at weapons-related issues into the future, but still a lot of questions we don't have answers to, Wolf.
BLITZER: Asha, the FBI, as you know, is assisting in the investigation. How does the FBI typically help in a case of mass murder like this?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the FBI has an excellent evidence response team.
So, in a situation where the crime scene is incredibly large and difficult to process, they can do that. They also have bomb technicians that can help with the explosives. They have databases that they can crosscheck evidence that they uncover.
So, they will be on standby, I think, assisting in any way they can, and, of course, possibly assisting in what would be the main focus right now, I think, is to understand the motive of the shooter, and possibly interviewing people, especially at the workplace, since the primary lead, I would think, is whether the motive was related to some kind of grievance or issue that he had at the specific location where he worked.
BLITZER: Jonathan, what does it tell you that this shooter, he killed so many people, then apparently did not engage in gunfire with police; he then went ahead and killed himself?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, this was his final act, right?
We know that the suspect's residence was -- there was a fire there. There was a lot of signals here of the final -- this finality of this person's life, right?
But, as Phil said, there's a lot we don't know, the means, opportunity and intent for this person to cause harm, all those motivational factors. We just don't know. And they vary greatly in every single shooting situation that we actually have seen.
But, tragically, all of the outcomes remain the same. And those outcomes are the loss of human life. So, this is the struggle that investigators have right now is trying to piece all of this together to understand, why did this happen?
We heard that this was a very close-knit group of people, right? It's a small organization. Everyone knows each other. You can hear the emotion in the interviews of the leadership of this organization.
So, what we have to look at is, what went wrong here? Were there behavioral indicators that were potentially missed by this individual, those red flags, those warning signs of behavioral anomalies that could have been keyed in on earlier to potentially prevent this tragedy?
BLITZER: So far, Phil, the authorities have not given us a clear answer about whether there are explosives, but they are clearing the area. They are looking to see if there were explosives.
We also know there was a fire at this gunman's home earlier. What does that suggest?
MUDD: A couple of things. First, on the explosive part, when you're going through a situation
like this, you can assume a lot of chaos at the front end. So, somebody might have talked about explosives. A dog might have alerted. That's one of the reports we have seen.
They have to assume -- that is, the first responders have to assume, if there's a report like that, that it's positive, even if they think that there's no evidence of explosives right now.
The house, I think, is critical. The house tells you that that individual didn't anticipate, obviously, coming home, that they went to the work location anticipating that that would die on the spot -- that they would die on the spot.
The message, to me, is the likelihood that individual was part of a conspiracy is relatively low. This person had a grievance. They went and solved the grievance. Now they're dead.
BLITZER: And one issue, Asha, that I'm sure they are taking a look at would be how much harder it could be to piece all of this together if critical evidence was potentially lost in that house fire.
RANGAPPA: Yes, the damage from the house fire may destroy evidence.
For example, if there were explosives involved and he was -- and if they were being constructed there, that could be something that's gone.
But one thing to remember, Wolf, is that, unless there is someone else, another suspect that's involved here, the investigators aren't gathering evidence, say, looking towards a prosecution, a charge or prosecution.
They are, as Jonathan mentioned, really trying to piece together what happened. And a lot of that, the digital footprint pieces of it, the communications, transactions in terms of acquiring materials, if that is what was going on, any kinds of outward signs, they should still be able to piece a lot of that together, nevertheless.
BLITZER: Asha Rangappa, Phil Mudd, Jonathan Wackrow, guys, thank you very much.
We're going to continue to follow the breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Biden reacting to the San Jose mass shooting and calling on Congress to help end what he calls the epidemic of gun violence in America.
BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, the mass shooting at a rail yard in San Jose, California, that has left eight people dead.
President Biden has just been briefed on the situation.
Let's go over to our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, I understand the president just put out a statement on this latest mass murder here in the United States.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, it's a statement the president has had to craft far too often, in just his first four months in office, now five times the president having to recognize mass shootings that left many Americans dead, five times the president has had to lower the flag atop the White House to half- staff.
And in that statement, the president expressing that frustration, saying, this is enough. Something needs to be done, and also saying -- quote -- "There are at least eight families who will never be whole again," and noting: "Once again, I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America."
That framing, the epidemic of gun violence in America, is one the president has repeatedly come back to over his first four months in office each time an event like this occurs. And he's tried to ramp up the pressure on Capitol Hill.
House Democrats have passed several bills that would tighten gun laws, but they have continued to run into roadblocks in the U.S. Senate. There are bipartisan negotiations between a small group of lawmakers in the Senate trying to figure out a path forward at least to expand background checks. So far, those have not led to any type of agreement.
This current shooting certainly adds to that pressure. I think the real question right now, both here at the White House and on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, is anything going to change the dynamics that essentially sat in place for the last several years, even several decades at this point?
One thing is very clear, though. Shooting after shooting after shooting, the flag being lowered repeatedly, everything seems to just stay the same. At some point in time, the president trying to urge change, but so far, none seems to be in the offing -- Wolf.
In a statement which I just read, he said one word, a very important word. He said, "Enough." People all over the world are watching what's going on here in the United States, and they're wondering, how could this happen, every few days, another mass shooting, more Americans shot and killed?
All right, Phil, thank you very much.
Let's discuss with Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
Let me get your quick reaction to seeing yet another mass murder shooting in our country.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, Wolf, this is the 232nd mass shooting of this year.
We have an epidemic of gun violence in this country. We are not powerless to do nothing about it. We have two bills that are pen -- that have been passed by the House that are in the Senate for universal background checks and to close the Charleston loophole.
The president has taken executive action. But there's much more we can and must do to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, of criminals, of people who shouldn't have access to firearms. And we need our Republican colleagues to work with us to end the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
This is a peculiar -- you know, particularly American problem. Almost 40,000 people die at the hand of a gun every year in this country. And this is an epidemic that we have to do something about.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a horrible, horrible epidemic.
You -- as you just heard, the president, President Biden, is calling on Congress to take immediate action on gun control. Is it time for him, Congressman, to spend more of his own political capital right now on this critically important issue?
CICILLINE: Well, I mean, the president has called for the immediate passage of the two bills that are in the Senate. He's called for the passage of the assault weapons ban, which is pending in the House.
These are weapons of war that are designed to kill as quickly -- as many people as possible as quickly as possible. They don't belong in the neighborhoods and communities in which we live. He entered a number of executive actions to make it more difficult for ghost guns to be used, to ensure that community-based, evidence-based strategies to reduce gun violence are in place, to make it more difficult to modify guns.
So he's taken executive action. He's called for the passage of more gun safety legislation. But it's really the responsibility of Congress and, frankly, our Republican colleagues to join us.
The two bills that came out of the House were bipartisan. They were supported by Republicans and Democrats. They are sitting in the Senate. They should be passed immediately. And we should pass additional legislation that will keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of criminals, particularly dangerous individuals, young people.
We can do much better. We have a gun violence epidemic in this country. The president's leadership is making all the difference in the world. The former president, the president before him, was not a partner is this work. He very much listened to the gun lobby, rather than the voices of communities that were being ravaged by gun violence.
So, we have a leader in the president, a partner. It's now time for Congress to take action to reduce gun violence in this country.
BLITZER: I know, Congressman, you recently introduced a ban on assault weapons here in the United States.
There have been bipartisan talks on universal background checks. But, realistically, is any gun control legislation right now dead on arrival in a 50/50 Senate?
CICILLINE: Well, I hope not.
Look, I don't think anyone can see the kind of gun violence that we are experiencing in this country that is tearing apart communities, causing so much harm to families who lose loved ones, and think that Congress doesn't have a responsibility to do something about it.
And it's time our Republican colleagues stood up to the powerful gun lobby and did what's right to protect their own constituents. We have a gun violence epidemic in this country that is different than any other country in the world.
It is just too easy for people who shouldn't have firearms to get them, and we can do a lot to reduce gun violence in this country. And passing an assault weapons ban, passing universal battleground checks, passing red flag laws, making sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, and that's the work that's before us, and we have got to do it.
BLITZER: Congressman Cicilline, thanks so much for joining us.
CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Coming up, we are going to have more on the mass shooting in San Jose, as investigators now hunt for a motive.
And prosecutors investigating Donald Trump have put at least one witness on notice right now.
Stand by. We have new information, new details on the special grand jury that's reportedly weighing criminal charges against the former president of the United States.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on yet another horrific and deadly mass shooting here in the United States.
At least eight people were murdered when a gunman opened fire at a rail yard in San Jose, California. The motive of the shooter, who apparently killed himself, remains unknown, at least right now.
BLITZER: Let's discuss all the late breaking development with Santa Clara County Sheriff, Laurie Smith. Sheriff Smith, thank you so much for joining us. Our deepest, deepest condolences to you, to everyone in your community, but an awful situation has developed. What can you tell us, Sherriff, first of all, about where the investigation stands at this stage?
SHERIFF LAURIE SMITH, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Okay. So the investigation right now, we're still processing the crime scene. There are still six victims in two of the buildings over there and the crime scene is being processed. We believe that the -- it was a lone gunman that ended up taking his life when he was confronted by our deputies.
BLITZER: So when you say six victims still in the building, just -- can you elaborate? Tell us what that means. I know that there were eight people murdered, but I assume there were others who were injured. Is that right?
SMITH: So there are still six victims in the buildings that are deceased. Two we were able to get out and take to the hospital. And I'm not sure of their conditions right now.
BLITZER: So two are in the hospital, but there are eight confirmed deaths, is that right?
SMITH: Yes, there are eight confirmed deaths, yes, and that includes -- yes.
BLITZER: And so six of those who died who were murdered, their bodies are still -- you haven't been able to remove them from the facility? Is that what I'm hearing?
SMITH: The coroner is working on it right now and then she'll make notification to the next of kin.
BLITZER: And then you'll be able to do that. This is so heartbreaking indeed.
The mayor of San Jose just told CNN it's clear the victims and all the colleagues knew the shooter well. Sheriff, what can you tell us about this and about a possible motive?
SMITH: You know, we don't know anything about the motive right now. However, they were all employees of the transit district. They work together. They were there together, and he was -- the shooter was one of the employees.
BLITZER: A fire broke out, we're told, at the suspect's home around the time of the shooting. Did the shooter set that fire?
SMITH: You know, we don't know right now whether or not it was started remotely or whether -- how it was started but, yes, the suspect's house was on fire. The part of the building has collapsed. So we don't know at this point if there is anyone in the house.
BLITZER: I know there are bomb-sniffing dogs on the scene right now. Did authorities find explosive devices, or is this a precautionary measure?
SMITH: No. At the VTA yard, we had our bomb dogs go in who alerted on certain areas that had bomb-making equipment and ammunition, so I don't know what they found at the house, but I believe there was also ammunition at the house.
BLITZER: At the house. But I assume a big chunk of the house has burned, right? And, potentially, evidence has been destroyed.
SMITH: You know, that's possible, but I know that our crime scene people will be able to go into the house and still determine, even though there's been a fire. We may not get as much evidence but we certainly will be able to get some. And we believe, certainly, that there was only one shooter, and that shooter is dead.
BLITZER: But I just want to clarify, did you find bomb-making equipment material in the house?
SMITH: I'm not sure about the house, but we did find it on the VTA property.
BLITZER: Where the shootings actually occurred. Can you walk us through --
SMITH: Where the shootings happened.
BLITZER: Yes, where the shootings happened. Can you walk us through how quickly all of this unfolded after the initial 911 calls? I understand they happened just after 6:30 A.M., your time.
SMITH: Yes, and it happened very quickly. The VTA yard is directly next to the sheriff's office main headquarters building. Our deputies were over there within minutes, and the deputies that responded were joined by some San Jose Police officers who went in to the building and shots were still being fired at the time our deputies went in the building.
BLITZER: What more, if anything, can you tell us about the gunman?
SMITH: Nothing further at this time. He was taken from where he shot himself out to potential medical aid and he is on the street right now and -- but we don't have any further information about it.
BLITZER: Sheriff, how are you holding up and how is your whole team over there holding up?
SMITH: You know, thank you for asking and thank you for also wishing your condolences to the victims and their families. Our team is doing a great job. We have trained for active shooter scenarios. We have trained with all of the employees in the transit district. And I think that our deputies are heroes. They went into the building
when there was an active shooter, as they are trained to do and actually was able to confront the suspect.
I believe that the team of people who went into the building literally saved additional lives. And, again, my heart goes out to those that died, but I am hoping that the swift action of law enforcement really was able to save lives, and I believe it was.
BLITZER: Well, my heart goes out to those families as well, and our deepest, deepest condolences to them. And as we often say to those who were killed, may they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing. Sheriff Laurie Smith, thank you so much for what you're doing. Thank you very much for joining us.
SMITH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the prosecutors are investigating Donald Trump, and they have put at least one witness right now on notice. Stand by. We have new information on the special grand jury that's reportedly weighing criminal charges against the former president. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, CNN has learned that Manhattan prosecutors pursuing a criminal case against former President Trump and his company have told at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony.
Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us right now. Paula, this is yet another sign the investigation is moving into a critical new stage.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Good evening, Wolf. Certainly convening the special grand jury and our reporting that at least one witness has been instructed by investigators to prepare to go before that grand jury, it all signals that this long-running investigation is entering an advanced stage.
REID (voice over): CNN has learned that New York prosecutors investigating the Trump Organization and the former president have told at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony. The move suggests the probe is advancing as the Manhattan D.A. is moving to present witness testimony to the grand jury.
"The Washington Post" reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has convened a special grand jury to help decide whether there is enough evidence to bring an indictment against the former president, his company or others involved. The grand jury will be made up as many as 23 randomly selected citizens.
Their work will be done in secret and, reportedly, they will be meeting three times a week for at least the next six months. Prosecutors have already used a grand jury to issue subpoenas for documents and will be able to present charges, which would only require a majority of jurors to deliver an indictment.
The wide-ranging investigation includes whether the Trump Organization improperly valued assets in financial filings. Something former Trump Attorney Michael Cohen testified to.
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY: It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
REID: Cohen has met with investigators several times but legal analysts say fraud requires specific evidence.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: What you're going to need is a witness who discussed the fraudulent scheme with Donald Trump and can say, I committed fraud, and I did it at the direction of my boss, Donald Trump. And if you don't have that witness in this case, I think it's very difficult to charge Donald Trump.
REID: That witness could be the Trump Organization's longtime CFO.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Replacing George this week is my Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.
REID: He handled the Trump Organization's finances for 40 years, and was even left in charge of the company when Trump become president. Weisselberg is under investigation himself for his own taxes, a pressure that could lead him to agreeing to cooperate and help investigators understand the inner workings of Trump's company. His former daughter-in-law has provided documents to investigators, and she thinks Weisselberg will cooperate.
REPORTER: Will Allen Weisselberg flip on Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
REID: Former President Trump has previously denied any wrongdoing.
TRUMP: This is just a continuation of the witch hunt.
REID: Saying in a statement Tuesday, it began the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower and it's never stopped.
REID (on camera): A former prosecutor tells CNN it would be very rare to convene a special grand jury in Manhattan that didn't at least consider charges, but it is important to note that there is no guarantee based on what we know now that the former president or anyone at all will be charged in this investigation. Wolf?
BLITZER: Paula Reid, reporting for us, thanks for that update. Let's discuss with our Senior Legal Analyst, the former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara, also joining us, CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.
Preet, what does it signal to you that at least one witness has now been told to prepare for grand jury testimony?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as the report said, it signals, you know, what people say often in these kinds of investigations in advanced stage in the investigation.
It's been going on for a long time. It also corroborates what we've been hearing. You know, initially, it was one outlet, "The Washington Post," that talked about the convening of this grand jury. Other outlets have been talking about this particular witness.
I think you can probably expect to hear in the coming days and weeks of other witnesses because they're not bound by grand jury secrecy rules in so far as they can tell people outside the grand jury, that they've been called for testimony. Their lawyers can do the same thing. And I think, in this case, unlike in many cases, we'll probably be able to tell the direction in which the case is going.
The other thing I would say is, I'm not surprised that witnesses are going in so quickly. I believe that Cy Vance considers himself to be on the clock about making a decision about charging people in the orbit of Donald Trump or Donald Trump itself -- himself.
The election is in a few months. Cy Vance is not running again. He's out of office completely in seven months. That sounds like a long time depending on the kind of work you're in. For a complicated case where a grand jury has just been convened, a lot of witnesses, you aren't allowed to use hearsay testimony and summary witnesses like you can in federal grand juries.
So, he has his work cut out for him. He wants to make the decision about whether to charge Trump and others or not, not leave that to his successor who will be elected in November. And you're going to see a parade of witnesses going into the grand jury on a regular basis, I predict.
BLITZER: As you know, Maggie, the former president put out a statement calling this purely political. He's also floating another run for the presidency. How worried is he right now, do you think? Does he think a presidential campaign will help protect him?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Wolf, this is the former president's M.O. any time he's faced with an investigation as we have seen, frankly, not just over the last five years but going back to the '90s, '80s, even '70s. It's always that it is some kind of a witch hunt effort against him.
And if you are always running for office and always engaged in politics, which he has been in one way or another for a long time, then you can say this is, therefore, a political effort against me. It's not a surprise he's doing this. A lot of his advisers expected that's what he's going to say. That doesn't mean he's going to run but you'll see him try to tar this investigation by talking about that.
As to how concerned he is, he's quite anxious about the investigation, according to a number of people who have spoken with him. So are people at the Trump Organization. So are people in the Trump family.
They don't know what any of this means. They don't know what to expect. There have been -- you know, a number of investigations over the last five years. They didn't end up ultimately touching the Trump family. This could be different.
And I think to Preet's point, there's a clock now because the likelihood is that Vance will get this done in terms of charging before he leaves office. It's worth noting, so is the fact that there is an election for a new district attorney, his replacement, not just in November but there's a Democratic primary in just a few short weeks. And I do think that that is something that Vance's office is mindful of as they are going forward.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are.
You know, Preet, we've also learned that prosecutors are closely examining their longtime Trump Organization CFO chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. He's a numbers guy. Not a big personality like, let's say, the former lawyer Michael Cohen.
What does that say about the possible implications of this grand jury for Trump?
BHARARA: Look, what we know so far is that Allen Weisselberg has not pled guilty, and as far as we know is not cooperating pursuant to an agreement with prosecutors.
Now the question is, will he cooperate? Is there enough pressure being brought to bear on him to spill all the secrets of the Trump organization that he knows everything about, particularly from the financial side, which is what the basis of the investigation is? Are they engaging in a grand jury investigation in part initially to file charges against Weisselberg to convince him to cooperate?
Sometimes you have to show with certain kinds of people, depending on the strength of their personality and their weakness for cooperation that there's an actual charge coming and to save yourself, you've got to cooperate. So it's either they are charging him or trying to bring pressure to bear on him and he's a vital witness.
BLITZER: Maggie, where is this heading?
HABERMAN: Look, I think what Preet just said is exactly right. This is what people around the former president believe. This is all about squeezing Allen Weisselberg. They anticipate that if somebody is going to get charged, it will probably be him to try to pressure him, to flip on the former president and perhaps other members of the organization. Again, Weisselberg has not been charged. It's important to note that.
In is also important to note that lots of people talk about not flipping until they are faced with charges. Michael Cohen is one who comes to mind in that respect, the president's former personal lawyer. So, that's what I'm watching for.
BLITZER: Yeah, a lot of us are watching all this very closely. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, the U.S. intelligence community now launching a full-scale investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China with a 90-day deadline.
And there are also growing calls right now to cancel the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo as COVID infections over there are rising sharply.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is stepping up U.S. efforts to determine the origins of COVID-19. He's giving the U.S. intelligence community 90 days to investigate what happens including specific questions for China.
Let's bring in Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Dr. Jha, thanks for joining us.
How important is it to fully understand the origins of this virus in order to most effectively prevent future pandemics?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN OF BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yeah, Wolf. First, thanks for having me back.
I think it's critically important. Look, obviously we've got to get through this pandemic, no matter what the origin. But we do need to understand where it happened, where it started, was this a natural species jump, or was this an escape from a lab? That is going to make an enormous difference in how we think about the future.
So I think it's great that President Biden is really asking for this inquiry and to get one done reasonably quickly.
BLITZER: Which theory of origin seems most plausible, Dr. Jha, do you, at least right now?
JHA: You know, I think it's hard to say. Much of last year, I really thought this was a natural jump from one species to humans, probably from bats. But increasingly, there's some more evidence that it could have been from a lab. I honestly just don't know.
And what we really need is to do is careful investigation, have our intelligence community try their best to get to the bottom of this.
BLITZER: Learn the lessons to make sure it doesn't happen again.
On another issue, a sensitive issue, a new review finds 73 percent of moderate to severe coronavirus patients still had at least one symptom months after diagnosis. What are your concerns about these long term effects?
JHA: Yeah, you know, this is something we continue to learn more and more about, as this disease as -- this pandemic has continued. But even people who survived -- remember there are just people here like to focus on modality, and of course that's very important -- but even people who survive, we know more and more of those people will still have some symptoms. Some of them are mild, some of them can be quite debilitating. This is why we need to take this virus so seriously.
BLITZER: Absolutely right. Dr. Jha, thank you so much for joining us.
The postponed Tokyo Olympic Games are now scheduled to get underway in just over eight weeks, but tonight, there are serious fear the competitions could be a super-spreader events, as Japan is facing a worsening COVID crisis.
CNN's Brian Todd has our report.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Olympic torch still making its way to Tokyo for the Summer Games, but with less than two months until the opening ceremonies, there is growing pressure tonight for the Olympic flame not to be lit.
On Wednesday, Japanese national newspaper "Asahi Shimbun", an official partner of the Tokyo Olympics, published an editorial calling for the games to be canceled.
A top doctors association in Tokyo has made a similar call. A petition for calling for cancellation that got over 350,000 signatures in nine days was sent to organizers. And top American medical experts have just written a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, essentially saying Olympic organizers are going about their safety preps all wrong.
PROF. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: I think that the approach they are taking right now is virtually a dangerous one.
TODD: Top infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm is among the authors of the article who point out their concerns. Organizers, they say, have an uneven testing plan in place. Vaccines aren't available for many participants. Vaccinations for athletes are only encouraged, not required. Their contact tracing is based on apps, which may not work. Athletes have to bring their own masks and they'll share rooms.
OSTERHOLM: And there's virtually been no planning for how are we going to move people in buses or putting three people to a hotel room, or where do the eat, and what kind of respiratory protection that they have?
TODD: Just this week, the State Department advised Americans not to travel to Japan because of the recent sharp increase in COVID cases.
DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: What's happening in Japan is that there are hospitals that are on the brink of becoming overwhelmed. Also, the very small percentage of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated at this point.
TODD: Now, with the prospect of more than 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries coming in to compete and congregate.
PROF. MICHAEL BAKER, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, NEW ZEALAND: It's going to cost lives having the Olympics at the moment.
TODD: But top Japanese officials, including the prime minister as well as leaders of the International Olympic Committee, insist Japan is well-prepared, can pull off the games safely, and --
DICK POUND, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE MEMBER: None of the folks involved in the planning and the execution of the games is considering cancellation. That's essentially off the table.
TODD: These Summer Games have already been postponed once, and the IOC has said it would not reschedule the Tokyo Games again.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: No Olympics, Tokyo Games would not exist. And what you would have is going from Rio in 2016 to Paris in 2024 in terms of the Summer Olympics. And you'd have a lost generation of Olympian. Athletes who should have won gold medals and grabbed headlines, we will never know their names.
TODD (on camera): Christine Brennan says it will also mean billions of dollars in lost revenue, and some countries Olympic Committees may have to wear bankruptcy. Already, Tokyo organizers are banning fans from abroad from attending Olympic events. They decide whether to let local fans in within a couple of weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd, reporting for us to. Thank you very much. We'll see what happens.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.