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The Situation Room
Miami-Dade Mayor Signs Emergency Order to Demolish Remainder of Collapsed Condo; Republicans Plot New Strategy on January 6 Commission, will Focus on Steps Pelosi Took to Secure Capitol; U.S. Airports Expecting Busiest Travel Day since Pandemic Began as Delta Variant Spreads; Unindicted Co-Conspirator Raises New Questions About Trump Org Tax Case; Officials in North Miami Beach Order Evacuation of Structurally Unsound Condo Building. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 02, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And Republicans are preparing for potential pitfalls as the new January 6th house select committee gets underway. We'll talk about it with the committee chairman, Congressman Bennie Thompson, he's standing by live. We'll discuss with him this hour.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
All right, we've got breaking news coming out of Surfside, Florida. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's on the scene for us. Brian, important new developments just revealed in that news conference that a lot of us were surprised to hear from the mayor.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. She has signed an order for the demolition as soon as engineers and others officials who are in charge of this can draw up the plans and kind of get it all underway. Now, this still could take some time. What I found was interesting about what the mayor said was she said it would not compromise the search and rescue mission.
And I think maybe we all should all try to press her on like why she feels that way because, again, we're going to show you what she's talking about here. This is the building. This is the part where we presume. This is -- the rest of this is going to be demolished in the days ahead.
When she says it's not going to compromise the search and rescue mission, that's what's going on right there to the left. You see all these people on top of the rubble and there could be people between that view and where this building is, where we cannot see because this hotel below us is obstructing that part of the view.
So, when they demolished this building, a key question is how are they going to do it so it doesn't compromise anything that's going on over there and doesn't endanger those people. I'm sure, of course, they're going to pull people out when they're demolishing it. But how does it not compromise what's going on there just to the left where they're trying to pull possibly some victims out of the rubble? Or are they going to demolish the building so that it falls towards Collins Avenue to our right here? Presumably that's what they're going to do and of course they have the no how to do that.
But again, just look at how close all of this is, Wolf, and the mayor said this is not going to compromise the search and rescue mission, so whenever they can do it, and that's a key question. When is this going to get underway? We spoke to a Structural Engineer Allyn Kilsheimer, who's the Surfside -- the town of Surfside has hired to investigate this collapse and to make sure that building like the one we're in are not compromised. He said that he doesn't think this is going to start any time soon because to demolish a building, you have to haul in a lot of heavy equipment that he says is not here and may not even be close to here.
So, timeline on how they're going to demolish this building and the method with which they're going to do it, those are two very, very important questions and I don't believe have been answered yet tonight. But, again, a dramatic development that you said, the signing of the order to demolish the rest of the Champlain Towers South Complex here behind us with all of its debris, all the concrete slabs, all the other material hanging off it so dangerously. That has been just signed.
And, again, the mayor saying another grim update today, confirmed 22 dead. They found two more bodies over the last several hours. They did confirm that the seven-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter was also pulled from that, just a horrible development there. That firefighter was working this scene, was not there when his daughter was pulled out, but was called over to the area to be informed of that. Just horrible, horrible news today. They have the latest figure is 126 people remain unaccounted for. 188 have been accounted for and, again, 22 deaths confirmed, Wolf. Very dramatic developments on this day.
The only positive thing really to come from this, they had good weather today, but even that comes with a caveat. They've got a tropical storm or possible even hurricane on the way in the next couple of days.
BLITZER: Yes. They're really worried, she says about this Hurricane Elsa. That's out there in the Atlantic right now, but they're fearing it could severely impact that whole area in Surfside, Florida, on South Florida, right now, that's a big problem as well. She described what's going on as an unprecedented disaster.
Brian, standby. I want to get some analysis right now. I want to bring in Rick Slider, he's a structural engineer, President of Slider Engineering Group, and Michael Fagel, a certified emergency manager.
Rick, let me ask you first. The mayor just announcing she signed this emergency order to go ahead and demolish the remainder of the building, those apartments, those condominium apartments. That are still standing barely, I should say. But experts will need to sign off on how and when to do that safely. She wants it done quickly. What factors do you think are your fellow engineers will consider as they prepare for this building to come down? RICK SLIDER, PRESIDENT, SLIDER ENGINEERING GROUP: Sure. And if you remember from her discussion, she's already indicated there's a structural engineer on site. In part, their role is to make sure the site is safe enough for the workers to be there.
My expectation that there are teams of other engineers that are doing several other things, one, in correlation to the safety at the site right now is my expectation that they would have other teams that are actually analyzing a process and a methodology to remove the existing materials.
I do believe it will be a slow process. Again, my expectation is it would be removed in pieces and parts, and it will take some time.
The other part is there is probably a team of engineers already analyzing the building from the original set of construction drawings, and their input as well would help them developing this program to remove the material.
BLITZER: Michael Fagel, what will the demolition of this building mean for the search and rescue operation?
MICHAEL FAGEL, CERTIFIED EMERGENCY MANAGER: Well, Wolf, it will most likely slow it down, if not, stop it for the moments when the building is brought down by the engineers. It will hamper it, as your other colleagues have mentioned just a few moments ago.
BLITZER: Michael, hold on for a moment. I'm going to get back to you the moment, but they're answering reporters' questions now. Let's listen in.
MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-FL), MIAMI-DADE: -- based on the recommendations of the engineers, as we stated yesterday and as I stated today, that is going to take time. It is going to take most likely weeks. It is not possible either from an engineering or any other perspective to move more rapidly than that.
REPORTER: Madam Mayor, address a little bit preparing about another condominium building request new towers now being evacuated. Is that part of your audit for your order?
CAVA: The city of North Miami Beach has taken the steps that we recommended to review to make sure that the recertification process was being done on a timely basis. And as I understand it, as a result of that audit, they found a building that had not been recertified, and when the information came in, they took some steps.
REPORTER: Sir Deputy Incident Commander Charles Cyrille, Sir, can you kind of walk us through what (INAUDIBLE) try to securing the area as it is? It looks -- I mean, there are still items on this area, (INAUDIBLE) and things like that (INAUDIBLE) considered find objects before (INAUDIBLE).
CHARLES CYRILLE, MIAMI-DADE DEPUTY INCIDENT COMMANDER: First and foremost, I want to stress that our objectives remain the same, search, rescue and assistance of the survivors, and looking for survivors, as I should say. We have formed a comprehensive plan with the division, with FEMA, our local partners, to discuss safety. We have identified a safety zone and we are going to evacuate as necessary certain aspects of our materials and resources that we provide here and we'll provide a safety zone with respect to flying debris and other items.
So we continue to look that and assess. We've also embedded, as you saw this morning if you were here, the National Weather Service on to provide up to the minute forecasts at this location. So we will continue to monitor that and we will adjust as necessary that safety zone with respect to the building. You're welcome.
REPORTER: Thank you. A question here for Madam Mayor. Madam Mayor, (INAUDIBLE) for fire and then you can answer in English and Spanish, how soon could we see possibly efforts to stop because of Elsa, because of potential effects?
CAVA: We're monitoring this storm very closely. Depending on the strength of the wind and the path, we will make that determination. And I don't know if, Charles, you want to say anything more about that. That's the answer.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) every individual (INAUDIBLE)?
CAVA: We're very concerned to not compromise our search, but we also know that the building itself poses certain risks. So we have to balance those things and of course we want to continue our search and rescue efforts now in the areas where it's safe to do so.
REPORTER: Is there a (INAUDIBLE) device that used to determine all those presence (INAUDIBLE)? Does that decision (INAUDIBLE)?
CAVA: Yes. Ultimately, these are my decisions, but I do it in conjunction with the experts in my Department of Fire and Rescue, and they are in constant communication with their engineers as well as engineers from the federal and state government. So I think our Chief Cominsky should answer the question. Thank you.
CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: Yes. So it will be a collaborative decision. You know obviously, the safety of our personnel is paramount. So we want to be working out there as long as we can. If winds increase, depending on the calculations and what the engineers advice us, we'll make that decision.
And we have several safety officers that out there monitoring the work site constantly. And, you know, we try to go as long as we can, but you have seen unfortunately with different other inclement weather and lightning that comes through, we've, you know, had periods where we had to stop.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) miles per hour of wind gust (INAUDIBLE)?
[18:10:00] COMINKSKY: Nothing has been specific yet. The engineers are definitely doing calculations and then they will go into details and they will make a decision on what direction we should go then.
REPORTER: I'm wondering about the of demoing the building and what are the (INAUDIBLE) and also whether the search and rescue effort will be (INAUDIBLE)?
CAVA: So, again, we cannot move swiftly to demolish this building. The building needs to be carefully evaluated. We have many engineers working together to look at all of the circumstances, make the determination on the timeline. It cannot be before this storm. However, it is storm season. We know the building is unstable. We are going to move forward with demolition. We just have to do it in the safest, possible fashion.
As to where the demolition would fall, that is part of the calculus. There are many, many factors. There are many choices to be made, and all of that is being reviewed by the engineers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And final question.
REPORTER: For the fire chief, we're getting some reports that the firefighters are not safe, they're not vaccinated, maybe on COVID (INAUDIBLE) now?
COMINSKY: Yes. One of the teams that are in Florida but came outside of Miami-Dade, they did have a few COVID individuals. So we do have our medical procedures in place. You know, unfortunately, this is you know another challenge but something that we've been dealing with for over the past year in regard to the medical field and our first responders, you know, responding and managing throughout COVID.
So we remain within our protocols in that circumstance where we isolate. You know, we go through a process, and that task force also has now been demobilized.
REPORTER: Is there a number of cases?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all.
BLITZER: All right. So there is the end of the news conference, but there was significant information released. By the way, the mayor, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, she's going to walk over to our microphone shortly. We're going to continue the conversation with her. We'll ask some more questions. We'll standby for that.
But, Brian, you heard her just say they're going to go ahead and demolish the remaining part of building. That's right behind you over there. You've got a perfect advantage point of what's left of that condominium tower. She says, it's not going to happen before the storm. This Hurricane Elsa is out in the Atlantic. They're preparing for bad weather in the next few days over there. But the building, she says, is unstable and it's got to come down because it poses a major threat to all the men and women who are working there as part of this search and rescue and eventually search and recovery operation.
TODD: That's right, Wolf. And we will show you what she's talking about. Again, our Photojournalist Jose and I are going to show you this. This is what's compromising their safety that the mayor referenced. All that concrete hanging down over there.
You've got the rescue workers here to the left, there could be some between what you see there and that facade there that's just been sheered away. You see the concrete column. You see the concrete slabs hanging off, the cables, everything else. You see units of air- conditioners hanging off there. All of it, it's is so dangerous. And, of course, that tropical storm, may be a hurricane on the way in the next couple of days, it is extremely dangerous here.
We have been watching these guys just hammering away at this whole day, toiling away, picking debris from buckets, putting in lifts and lifting it out. It is very, very dangerous work. And this is what the mayor is referring to. It seems to get more dangerous by the day, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, when you look at what -- you're there, Brian, and I was there with you for the past week. I came back here to Washington earlier today. But when you are there and you see it, it looks one way on television, but when you are up close and see it up close, it is so tenuous, so potentially vulnerable, what has remained of that building and all of us have seen the video of the other parts of the building going down within a matter of 11 seconds.
TODD: That's right, Wolf. It really is, pardon me, tenuous. And you can see just -- I mean, it is incredibly dangerous when you see just what's hanging off there.
I can show you one other thing, and, Jose, if you want to go down to where the pool deck collapsed right there. This is what -- you know, I was looking at this with a structural engineer. Look at where the pool deck collapsed. You see the one place where those two people are. Then you see that level, about maybe eight feet below it, that was all one deck. That collapsed. And then the part to right collapsed. So you had two different collapses at the pool deck down here.
Look at that, you have the one that's collapse there, then you pan over to the right where those two cars are. Just beyond those two cars, it collapsed again. And the structural engineer we spoke to, Allyn Kilsheimer, said what they have got to try to determine is whether those two collapses of the pool deck might have collapsed columns in the garage that might have triggered some of the larger collapse behind us.
So those are all clues that they have to go over, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. I want you to standby. We're going to get back to you. But the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, is joining us right now. Mayor, I know it is incredibly busy and we're grateful for you for all you're doing. And thank you for joining us, as usual right now.
You just announced, first of all, two additional victims were recovered, bringing the death toll up to 22 people, our deepest, deepest condolences to their families. Tell us what first responders and families are facing right now, Mayor, as this rescue mission stretches into yet another night, because I know you spent a good chunk of the day speaking with the rescue workers and with the families.
CAVA: This is so excruciating for everyone, the waiting and waiting and hoping and praying for the families, especially, of course, and also for the first responders. This is really their passion. It's a calling for them. They rush back to the scene. They don't want to miss any opportunity, any moment to be saving lives. And so it's just been a nightmare scenario for everyone involved, and now with the hurricane coming.
BLITZER: The hurricane is right off the coast, Hurricane Elsa, and that could really, really impact what's going on over there. It's an awful situation. The number of people who were still unaccounted for in the collapse, as you know, you know better than anyone, dropped from 145 people yesterday, it's now 126 unaccounted for. Can you explain how you reached this number, because the confirmed death toll went up to 22?
CAVA: So it's a very fluid list because we're getting this information from multiple sources. People are calling in from overseas. Sometimes they're giving us the name of a person and it doesn't quite match because they might not have the apartment number, so there are duplicates to be called. Sometimes, they're naming one person and it turns out there is a whole family group that might otherwise have been in the rubble but now is marked safe. So it is very important to understand that we're constantly updating this information.
BLITZER: And from the beginning all week, you've been saying these numbers are fluid. They're not hard, they're going to change and they have clearly changed. Once again, 22 confirmed dead, 126 right now unaccounted for.
You also just announced, mayor, that you have already signed -- just signed an emergency order to demolish the remainder of the collapsed building. So walk us through. When do you expect the demolition will actually take place?
CAVA: So, engineers have told us that it takes a while to determine the best way to do the demolition. There are different technical ways to do it. There are different directions that the debris could fall. There are processes that have to be undertaken and permits that have to be received. It's quite an elaborate process. And we must not proceed quickly. We do not want it to jeopardize our search and rescue effort. So, basically, this is the beginning of the process.
BLITZER: What will the demolition of that building, the remaining part of that building mean for the search and rescue mission, which everyone says remains priority number one? CAVA: Correct. Well, there are definitely ways that we could demolish the building that will make sure to allow the search to continue, but, again, this is going to take weeks to move forward. So we'll be making critical decisions in the days and weeks ahead. Also, the building itself is a safety -- public health and safety hazard for the rescue workers but also for the buildings and the vicinity, and people in the vicinity. So we know the building is unstable and we know it has to come down.
BLITZER: As you know, survivors, a lot of them are from that part of the building that didn't come down, they would love to get back into their condominium apartments and bring out their valuables, photographs, jewelry, whatever precious items they have. Will they have a chance to do that? Will someone go apartment to apartment and help them bring out valuable material?
CAVA: At this time, we're told that the building is unsafe. People are not going into the building. That's not anybody. So I do not know how that could occur. Obviously, it is important for them to catalog their belongings and we're setting up a process for them to do so and, sadly, most likely, that will be as we comb through the debris.
BLITZER: You're also warning about the threats of this incoming storm, Hurricane Elsa is out there in the Atlantic right now. And that could be in the next few days if it has an impact in the area over there at Surfside where you are.
But what are you actually bracing for from this storm?
CAVA: So, it has been upgraded to a hurricane but it could still diminish back to tropical storm force winds. And the direction has slightly moved west, which is good for us. So it is too early to know for sure that we are in danger.
But, nonetheless, we have to prepare. And so we have started that process and urged everyone to make the necessary hurricane preparations and we'll be monitoring the storm so that if it seems that the wind strength will be too high for us to safely continue the search and rescue, we'll have to put a pause.
BLITZER: And you say the demolition will not take place before that storm. It will take place after that storm. We'll see how long that takes.
It was a heart-breaking development earlier today, Mayor. And I know you were in pain. I was in pain when we learned about it. We learned that a seven-year-old little girl, a daughter of a Miami firefighter, actually died in the collapse of that condominium tower. Have you spoken, Mayor, to the firefighter who was working at the scene when his daughter was discovered?
CAVA: I am making sure to honor the terrible privacy needs right now for this individual. But we have been speaking to other first responders. They clearly rushed to save every single person in that rubble pile. When it's one of their own, of course, it hits especially hard and I know it was a very terrible moment when this body was discovered last night.
BLITZER: Deepest, deepest condolences to that family and to all of the families and loved ones of the 22 confirmed dead so far. It is so, so heart-breaking to speak with those family members, to hear their pain. They are still praying after a week of this disaster.
Mayor, thank you for all you're doing. Thanks for joining us. We'll continue our conversations down the road.
CAVA: Thank you so much.
BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you so much.
And just ahead, we'll stay on top of this story. But there is other news we're following, important new details about both party's strategy for the House committee strategy of the January 6th insurrection. The chairman of the new committee that has just been formed, Congressman Bennie Thompson, there he is. He's standing by live. We'll discuss.
BLITZER: All right. There is more important news we're following right now, important news here in The Situation Room. Republicans are plotting a strategy to discredit the new January 6 House committee as the Democratic-led investigation gets underway.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is up on Capitol Hill for us. So, Ryan, what exactly is the GOP planning, because there is a lot of focus on this important development that's unfolding right now?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. You're right about that. At this point, Republicans are not being very public about just how cooperative they're going to be with this select committee that's designed to investigate the Capitol insurrection. But behind the scenes, they're already starting to plot their strategy.
Remember, Kevin McCarthy will be able to name five names, five Republicans to sit on this committee. And some of those Republican members are already forecasting that they're going to attempt to turn the tables on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, suggest that perhaps her leadership led to a slow response to the backup of law enforcement and Capitol Police that were overrun by the rioters on that day. And that is in part because of Democrats saying that they willing to call some Republicans in front of the panel if that's where the investigation leads them.
Among them, of course, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who spoke on the phone with the former President Donald Trump that day. McCarthy not the only one, Greg Pence, another member of Congress, the brother of the former vice president, Mike Pence, he also was with Mike Pence on that day as the rioters started to crush the Capitol. So this is an example of why this could be a dicey situation. It could turn into a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats, a tit for tat, if you will, where the goal here is just to find out exactly what went wrong on that day and then try and prevent it from happening again. Again, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said over and over again that her goal is to find the truth and be as transparent as possible, and that's what this committee is designed to do. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill for us.
Let's discuss all of these with the new chairman of the select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Congressman Bennie Thompson is joining us right now, Democrat of Mississippi. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Lots of questions but, as you know, the speaker, she made a major decision. Are Speaker Pelosi's decisions on and ahead of January 6th, do you believe that would also be fair game for Republicans if they joined this committee to investigate?
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, no, I don't, Wolf. Let me say that, as you know, I tried to negotiate with my ranking member on homeland security, John Katko, a commission agreement where Republicans and Democrats could work together. We accepted everything Minority Leader McCarthy asked for. And then at the last minute, he told his Republicans he wanted them to vote against it. But we got 35 votes. But unfortunately, when the product was passed out of the house and went to the Senate, it was defeated.
So, Speaker Pelosi waited six weeks after that legislation for us to do something. We waited on the Senate, and they never acted. What happened on January 6th, we absolutely have to investigate it and come back with the facts and make sure that it never happens again.
So, we're here.
We have an eight-member committee right now. There are five vacancies waiting on Minority Leader McCarthy to make recommendations to the speaker. He can't ask on anything else. He had everything he wanted and voted against it.
So, what we have to do now is what's in the best interest of not just the United States Capitol, but it's our democracy that's at risk if we don't do anything.
BLITZER: Because if clearly, historians will always say, if you don't learn from mistakes, you are bound to repeat those mistakes. So, obviously, everything involved in this January 6th insurrection has to be studied, learned in order to be avoided it down the road.
Do you have any sense, will McCarthy name five Republicans to join your committee?
THOMPSON: Well, I hope so. Let me tell you. Democrats and Republicans on January 6th had their lives threatened. A lot of us who had come to the Capitol to watch the certification of the election, our lives were put at risk.
Coming to work in the United States Capitol should not be a death sentence for anyone. So, what we had happen that day, what millions of viewers see time and time again, that was an insurrection. That was not a tour of the Capitol. Those people came prepared to not just harm the vice president and the speaker, but they harmed the capitol police. They harmed the staff in the restaurant. They threatened people who worked in the credit union, just people who just want to work. And all because in their mind something went wrong with the election, which we know now that didn't occur.
So, we have an obligation to members of Congress to get to the bottom of what happened, but also find out what went wrong, Wolf, a lot of things we missed in terms of our systems. We need to identify them so that we can come back with our report so that we can fix them and so that this will never happen again. We are the shining example of democracy, and all but a few moments we could have lost it all on January 6th. So, it's a serious effort.
I take my chairmanship serious. I look forward to working with the other members on the committee. As you know, Liz Cheney is on the committee, and her comments rang so clear that she's putting patriotism above politics. And I think that's where the entire committee is working from that view.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman and Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. We'll see if McCarthy does name five Republicans to the committee and if Nancy Pelosi accepts those recommendations. We'll watch it together with you. Thank you so much. Good luck. We appreciate your efforts.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, millions of Americans are traveling for the holiday weekend as the COVID-19 delta variant takes route across the U.S. We going to see -- will we see, I should say, will we see a post- holiday surge in cases?
BLITZER: The July 4th holiday weekend is here, and millions of Americans are traveling after being largely unable to do so for more than a year. But the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant has some health officials sounding the alarm, including out in California where the positivity rate has doubled within a matter of only a few weeks.
CNN's Nick watt has the latest from Los Angeles.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boy, was it crowded LAX this morning, holiday travel plus a suspicious package. This weekend expected to set pandemic era travel records, millions on the move.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are celebrating as a country at the same time as we recognize the fact that we're in a serious situation for those who have not been vaccinated. And the message is get vaccinated.
WATT: Why? Because of the delta variant.
BARBARA FERRER, HEALTH DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY (voice-over): Another wave could become a very real possibility.
WATT: 506 new cases confirmed in Los Angeles County Thursday, highest tally in more than two months.
FERRER: We have enough risk and enough unvaccinated people for delta to pose a threat to our recovery. And masking up now could help prevent a resurgence in transmission.
WATT: Nationwide still under half the population is fully vaccinated and the average new daily COVID-19 case count up 10 percent in just the past week.
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I thought that we were going the right direction. We were seeing weeks and weeks of declining infections.
WATT: The CDC calls the delta variant hyper-transmissible and it's being detected in all 50 states and D.C.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Currently, approximately 1,000 counties in the United States have vaccination coverage of less than 30 percent.
WATT: Largely in the southeast and mid-west in Arkansas, 99 percent of those killed by COVID-19 since late January were unvaccinated.
WALENSKY: We expect to see increased transmissions in these communities unless we can vaccinate more people now.
WATT: Johnson & Johnson just joined Pfizer and Moderna confirming its vaccine does protect against the delta variant.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: One of the most sort of pleasantly surprising things is how well these vaccines are holding up against the variant so far against all of them.
WATT (on camera): And, Wolf, as you mentioned in the last two or three weeks, the percentage of tests coming back positive here in California has about doubled. It's still low, still under control, but doubled. And of those new cases in the state, more than one-third of them are the delta variant. Wolf? BLITZER: All right, Nick Watt on Los Angeles, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on this. CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen is joining us. She's an Emergency Room Physician, former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us.
We're seeing this disturbing -- some of this trends, they seem to be pretty concerning that the delta variant that continues to spread and spread. California's COVID-19 positivity rate, as you just heard, has doubled in recent weeks. Do you fear the same could soon be true in other parts of the country?
WEN: Yes. And, in fact, we are already seeing that in different parts of the country where the delta variant is getting -- is becoming the dominant variant. In the five states with the highest rate of COVID-19 spread, the delta variant is more than 50 percent of the cases there. Arkansas is 50 percent, Utah, 60 percent, Missouri at 70 percent. This is a highly contagious variant.
And I think we have to keep in mind too, the statistics of who is getting ill. By and large, it is unvaccinated people. And, in fact, 95 percent or more of people who are in the hospital are dying from coronavirus are those who are unvaccinated. And so I think it is so important for us to keep in mind if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected, including against the delta variant. But if you are not yet vaccinated, you are at very high risk.
BLITZER: So, just to be precise, we know this delta variant is very dangerous for those who are not vaccinated, but vaccinated people like you and me, are we well protected?
WEN: We are well protected. And now we have data for Johnson & Johnson as well. Previously, we knew that if you got the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine, that you are well protected. Now, we know that if you got Johnson & Johnson, you are also well protected. You're definitely extremely well protected from having severe illness. You're also well protected from having -- from contracting COVID-19. There is still a small risk.
And I think it's important to keep in mind the rate of community transmission. If you are in an area where there is a lot of transmission, a lot of virus around you, think about it like a hurricane. Even if you have a great raincoat, you may still need an umbrella on top of that. You may still need to mask indoors if you're on an area with a lot of transmission even if you are vaccinated.
BLITZER: As we head into this 4th of July weekend, Dr. Wen, I know you're vaccinated but you have young kids, children that are too young to get the shot. How should families in the same situation celebrate while keeping everyone safe?
WEN: The safest thing to do is to celebrate outdoors. For us, we're certainly happy to see everyone outdoors even go to large celebrations and fireworks outdoors, because the risk of transmission is so low. We're also happy to see other people who we know are fully vaccinated. And that's because we have unvaccinated children, so unvaccinated people should not be mixing with other unvaccinated individuals.
BLITZER: Dr. Wen, thank you so much for joining us. I hope you can enjoy this 4th of July weekend a little bit. You have been very, very busy. Thanks for joining us.
WEN: Thank you, you too, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, just ahead, we going to have the latest on what's ahead in the case against the Trump Organization. We've also learned the identity of the unindicted co-conspirators. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're tracking -- we're tracking new fallout from the indictment of the Trump Organization and one of its top executives on tax fraud charges.
Our senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Paula, lots of unanswered questions, but you're getting some new information.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So many questions. The biggest question people had is, who is this unindicted coconspirator number one? Prosecutors alleged that this person was involved in this alleged tax scheme. So, some people were speculating, maybe this was the former president. But a source tells CNN this was actually Jeff McConney. He's a longtime controller of the Trump Organization. He's also testified before the grand jury.
So with that mystery solved, the next big question is what is Allen Weisselberg going to do? Is he going to plead? Is he going to fight?
He says he's going to fight. But, Wolf, this case was much more substantial than many people expected. When you really look at the weight of the charges, the weight of the evidence that they're presenting even at this stage, it's something that would likely come with prison time. Even though he says he's going to fight, I think we will hear more about what he's going to do when we learn more what exposure his family has.
Prosecutors dropped a lot of very conspicuous references to his family yesterday including his wife, right? It wasn't just him who got the Mercedes. She got one, too. What did she know? Did she have any potential exposure here?
Also his son Barry who, of course, worked for the Trump Organization, do any of his family members have exposure? That will likely weigh heavily on him in this decision.
BLITZER: Yeah, there's a lot of good stuff, a lot of good questions that need to be answered.
And I know you're doing an excellent job, Paula. Thank you very, very much.
REID: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin for some analysis right now.
So, what does this unindicted coconspirator reportedly, the controller over at the Trump Organization tell you about the case that the prosecutors actually have, Jeffrey?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the key issue here as far as Weisselberg is concerned is, simply put, the money. The apparently off the books money that went to him. You know, if this case we're just about a company car, or a corporate apartment, I don't think there would be any way to make this a criminal case.
Weisselberg's big problem is the high school tuition that the Trump Organization apparently paid for his grandchildren. That is simply way over the line in terms of anything I've ever heard of as a corporate perk. Plus, he has the problem that there is this ledger, this spreadsheet that apparently shows, according to prosecutors, that his salary was decreased for every amount that he got in these perks.
In other words, the parks were just salary that wasn't taxed. And that is an open and shut tax rod case. He's not just looking at the criminal exposure, he's got 10 years, I believe it's 15 years of back taxes and penalties to pay. It is a life-changing experience for him. And, you know, he's going to have to decide what to do. His options at this point don't look good.
BLITZER: Eric Trump is on Fox News last night to defend these corporate perks, which he claims are totally above board. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: These are employment perks. These are -- you know, these are -- you know, a corporate car which everybody has. I guarantee you there's people on this network that have a corporate cars. I guarantee there's people on every company in the country that have corporate vehicles. This is what they're going after. This isn't a criminal matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your reaction to hearing that defense?
TOOBIN: Well, you notice he focuses on the car, not on the grandchildren's tuition. You know, it is true the tax treatment of corporate cars has been a subject of some controversy. It would be inconceivable to me, and I think to the New York district attorney to build a criminal case about whether somebody's corporate car should have been taxed or not. But, first of all, it's not just, as Paula said, it's not just
Weisselberg's car. It's his wife's car. And more importantly, it's not just cars. It's the apartment and it's the institution.
The tuition is the thing that I think pushes this into the criminal realm. That's going to be the hardest to explain, why the Trump Organization is paying for his grandkids tuition with money that Weisselberg is not paying taxes on. That's a very hard problem.
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very, very much. We'll obviously stay on top of this story.
We have breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Standby. We're getting details of an evacuation just ordered at another condo building. This one in North Miami beach.
Stick around. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: There is breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, very disturbing. Officials in North Miami Beach Florida, not far from the site of the deadly Surfside condo collapse, have just ordered the evacuation of another condo building after finding it structurally unsound.
CNN's Rosa Flores is reporting from the scene for us right now.
Rosa, tell us what's going on? But are you learning?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just learned from city officials here that the evacuation order has gone out and, Wolf, I was handed the report here, and I'm going to read a few lines here to give you an understanding of what's going on here. According to city officials, because of the collapse at Surfside, all of the buildings in Miami Beach were asked to evaluate the structural stability, evaluate the structures, every single structure in the city.
Well, according to city officials, this building and I'm going to quote here, it's structurally not safe, and electrically not safe. According to officials, this building was built in 1972. It has 156 units and all units are being evacuated.
I asked how many people exactly were in this building. They say they don't have a complete manifest. Not something they're working on. We have seen people walk out of this building, walk towards the church where they planned to ask for health.
Now, in these past few days, Wolf, you know that we've become very familiar with some of the words used to describe some of these buildings that aren't in good condition. I'm going to quote from this report.
This says that there is crack and spelled masonry units, so concrete and masonry units are cracked and spalled. The same thing for reinforced concrete tied columns, tied beams as well. There is cracked and spalling also in some of the stucco areas.
It also says the beams, columns, slabs, walls, silts and lintel, there are cracks. So, Wolf, Again, this is specifically related to what happened in Surfside, and now out of concern --
BLITZER: And that's the building, right? That's the building right behind you?
FLORES: That is. That's the building right there, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it together with you. That's very, very disturbing information. They're checking a lot of the buildings in that area.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.