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Surfside Condo Demolished, Search And Rescue Continues; Tropical Storm Heading Towards Florida; President Biden Says America Is Closer To Independence From COVID-19; Trump Appears To Acknowledge Facts Of Prosecutors' Criminal Tax Fraud Case Against His Family Business; U.S. Updating Evacuation Plans FOR Embassy In Afghanistan Amid Concerns About Escalating Violence As American Troops Withdraw; Afghans Flee To Major Cities As Taliban Advances Continue; At Least 150 Killed In 400-Plus Shooting In U.S. During July 4 Weekend. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 05, 2021 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the death toll rises in the Florida condo collapse. The search resuming after the remaining part of the building was demolished opening new paths into the rubble. I'll speak live with the Surfside mayor this hour.

President Biden declares the nation is closer to independence from the coronavirus as Americans celebrate the holiday together even as the Delta variant keeps spreading.

And former President Trump seems to acknowledge the facts of the criminal case against his company. Did he effectively confirm a tax fraud scheme? We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is a "Situation Room" special report.

We begin tonight in Surfside, Florida where the search for victims in that deadly condo collapse has resumed following the demolition of the rest of the building. CNN's Leyla Santiago is on the scene for us. Leyla, crews have recovered more remains. Update our viewers?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight, Wolf, we know that search and rescue teams are still digging through the rubble despite the rain, the wind and the severe thunderstorm warning. The death toll now stands at 27 and 118 individuals remain unaccounted for.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): Tonight, the controlled demolition of the rest of the Champlain Towers South building Sunday has opened the way for search and rescue teams to broaden their efforts, officials say, and continue their work safely.

DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Truly we could not continue without bringing this building down. The area closest to the building was the area that we had not been able to access and that is where we needed to go. SANTIAGO (voice-over): The potential threat of Tropical Storm Elsa

also impacted the decision making.

CHARLES BURKETT, MAYOR OF SUFSIDE, FLORIDA: The worst thing that could have happened was to have a storm come in and blow that building down on top of the pile.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Rescue teams halted their work temporarily but resumed just over an hour after the demolition began. Today, workers hoping to access voids in the rubble that they couldn't before the remaining tower was brought down.

RON DESANTIS (R), GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I think it will help us move forward unimpeded and really be able to get the job done for the families, for the community of Surfside, for Miami-Dade and for the state of Florida.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): This as new condo documents obtained by CNN show that a presentation was prepared for residents last fall and winter on "why we have to do all this now." The garage lacked waterproofing and "water has gotten underneath and caused additional damage to the concrete."

Over the weekend in Miami Beach, two different nearby condominiums were evacuated in an abundance of caution, one just miles north of Champlain Towers due to reported unsafe structural and electrical conditions. A day later, firefighters ordered residents to evacuate a low-rise condominium complex after a building inspector flagged a flooring system failure in a vacant unit and damage to an exterior wall according to the city spokesperson.

Officials say the priority right now is search and rescue of victims, but investigators continue to search for answers.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEAH FLORIDA: If we find out that this was entirely avoidable, which, you know, because of action or inaction, you know, it's still obviously a tragedy, but it makes it just so much more acute and so much more important for us to act.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): For some, the demolition of the remaining tower was emotional, yet it allowed others to finally make their first visit to the site of the tragedy.

MERCY MACDOWELL, FRIEND IS UNACCOUNTED FOR IN BUILDING COLLAPSE: I wasn't able to come earlier because the site of the building affected me greatly. And today, because the building came down, I think I managed to make it all the way up to the memorial site.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And Wolf, this morning, as we visited the memorial site, an area that's just a block away, you can actually still see dust in the air there. We found people sobbing, 12 days after the fact, still some very raw emotions. Some people say that when that building demolished, it took some hope with it. And others say that that is exactly what they needed to move forward. BLITZER: All right, Leyla, thank you very much. Leyla Santiago on the

scene for us. When I was at that memorial site by the way, last week, it was so, so painful, just walking up and down and seeing all the flowers, the candles, but seeing the pictures, the pictures of all those individuals who were in that building. So, so painful, not just for me, for everyone who walks by that site.

Let's discuss this and more with the mayor of surfside, Charles Burkett. Mayor Burkett, thank you so much for joining us. We have lots to discuss, but were the bodies that were recovered today found because the search team was finally able to access parts of the rubble pile that were inaccessible before the demolition?


BURKETT: You know, Wolf, I'm not focusing on where they were found. I'm focusing on the fact that we now have a wide open field and we're accessing every single inch of that mound. We've brought in the heavy equipment. We've got all the workers. We got more than six teams out there and they're digging.

And the activity on that site, which I just came from a few minutes ago, is more active and greater than I've ever seen since the beginning of this crisis.

BLITZER: Bottom line, that means that the demolition from your perspective, mayor, actually changed the search and rescue strategy, the operation that's unfolding right now. Is that right?

BURKETT: Wolf, I think the storm threat was actually a good thing because what happened was it moved us off the dime. Mayor Cava was told that it would take three weeks to get that building down. I met with Governor DeSantis personally two days ago and he and I agreed that it could come down in 30 hours.

We gave that information, I did, to Mayor Cava and I urged her to change course. She consulted with her experts and I'm happy to say she acted decisively, and as a bold leader would and changed her position and got that building taken down, which basically relieved us of the worry of it falling down in the wrong direction, number one, but also opened up a whole new field of work for us so we could get closer where before we were prevented from accessing probably a third of that pile.

So now they're diving in. There's maximum effort being applied and it's going to go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week until we pull everybody out of that pile.

BLITZER: When the mission eventually switches, and it will eventually from search and rescue to search and recovery, will the demolition that took place overnight, will the demolition allow that process to move more quickly?

BURKETT: I'm not sure I understand that question.

BLITZER: Once you give up hope that you'll find people alive, search and rescue --

BURKETT: Okay, well, I'm not -- that's not going to happen. We're going to make sure we get everybody out of that pile, okay? There's no giving up hope. We're not quitting. We're not stopping. I think we're all unified on that. We owe it to the families. We have a duty. We have unlimited resources and we're going to make sure that everybody gets out. We're not leaving anybody behind.

BLITZER: What have you --

BURKETT: And then, once that's all done --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BURKETT: And once that's all done, then we can start talking about clearing the area, getting the debris out of there, why this building fell down, because that's going to be the next huge step in this process. We need to know why this building fell down. Buildings don't just fall down. There was something very, very wrong here, and we've got to understand it quickly because we've got another identical building that we're looking at and we're checking, but we need to know why this one fell down.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a huge priority as well, saving lives obviously priority number one. But you've got to figure out what happened to make sure it doesn't happen again. What's the weather situation now? We understand that this Tropical Storm Elsa is moving to the west. What's going to be the impact based on the latest information you're getting, mayor, on Surfside?

BURKETT: Well, listen, we've been tracking it all day. I was with the governor this morning. We had a press conference. We talked about it. The good news is, is that thing keeps moving to the west, at least the last time I saw it. And that means good news for Miami and Surfside. You know, we've got a light rain right now. The winds are not too heavy and the crews are working at 100 percent capacity.

If it stays like this, it cools them down. It's not ideal, but you know what? It's not anything like we've been facing over the past 10 days when it got really bad, really rainy, really smokey and really dangerous.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, mayor. I know you speak every day to the families and our hearts goes out to those families. Your heart goes out to them as well. What are they saying to you about the demolition of the rest of the building?

BURKETT: I can tell you, Wolf, I was there this morning with the families when assistant chief announced that the work on the pile, the search and rescue had resumed 20 minutes after the demolition. There was a loud applause and you could sense the gratefulness in the audience.

The families are not kidding themselves. They're realists. They know this is a bad situation, but we are praying for a miracle, we're expecting a miracle and we believe it's going to happen. And I'll tell you right now, the search and rescue guys are supercharged.

They are out there. They're optimistic. They're working hard. They've got all the equipment they need and we're expecting to find someone in that rubble and pull them out. Actually, we're expecting to find everybody in that rubble and pull them all out, but we want survivors and we're praying.

BLITZER: Everyone is praying right now for a miracle. Let's hope it happens. Mayor Burkett, thank you so much for joining us.

BURKETT: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: Let's get some more on all of this. The former Miami-Dade fire chief, Dave Downey, is joining us and consulting engineer, Matthys Levy is joining us as well. Dave, let me get your reaction to what we just heard from the mayor. Does it sound like officials made the right call with the demolition?

DAVE DOWNEY, FORMER MIAMI-DADE FIRE CHIEF: Absolutely. I mean, that remaining building was a hindrance to the search and rescue efforts. Initially, we had to keep crews 40 feet away because of all the hanging debris, what we call widow makers on the side of the building, the jeopardy of having them fall on the rescuers.

And then a few days into it, when we had a little bit of movement on some of the columns, we had to expand that exclusion zone, as we called it, another 60 feet. So now that the building is down, it opens up the entire rubble pile to search and rescue while it's still dangerous without the fear of a collapse or the widow makers falling.

BLITZER: As you know, Matisse, newly revealed documents presented to residents late last year shed light on severe problems this condo building was facing including, and I'm quoting now, "major structural damage to the concrete, structural slab below the pool deck and entrance drive." What does that tell you?

DOWNEY: Is that for me?

BLITZER: That's for Matisse.


MATTHYS LEVY, CONSULTING ENGINEER: That's for me. I'm sorry. The issue of the property damage was told earlier -- had been told to them years. (Inaudible).

BLITZER: Matthys, hold on for a moment, Matthys. We got some problems with your audio. I want to improve it, but let's Dave answer that question. What do you think, Dave?

DOWNEY: Well, I would only be speculating. I'm not a subject matter expert in structural design or building construction, and I'm not familiar with the report. BLITZER: At what point, Dave, should the mission shift from search and

rescue to search and recovery, meaning that for all practical purposes, they've given up on finding anyone alive?

DOWNEY: Well, ultimately that's the decision of the leadership of Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Fire. I can tell you that it won't change the tempo of the search efforts and the men and women that are working out there. Our goal is to bring closure to every one of those families.

We are still maintaining hope that we can bring survivors out, but absence of survivors, we want to bring closure to every one of those families and we'll continue to work until that happens.

BLITZER: Yes, absolutely. All right, Dave Downey, thank you very, very much. Matthys Levy, sorry for the audio problems. We'll get that fixed the next time.

Meanwhile, complicating all of this, Tropical Storm Elsa is moving forward. Let's go to our meteorologist, Tom Sater who is tracking this storm for us. So Tom, update our viewers. How close will Elsa actually come to Surfside?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it depends on the elements you're looking at, Wolf. At 3:30 this afternoon, the northern bands here, you can see, they're small in size this time of year. This is not going to be a monster hurricane. But the northern periphery here already put in some pretty good thunderstorms that warranted the National Weather Service to not only issue a severe thunderstorm warning, but it issued a tornado warning. And that was for Miami-Dade.

Now, the tornado warning did not include Surfside, but it was Miami just west. So that validates them taking down the building right there because if you're going to have a few spin-up tornadoes, it's possible. The good news is, the paths, as the mayor said, they've been watching this closely of Surfside, that it is shifting westward and that track is narrowing because we're getting closer and closer to landfall, so they're getting a better handle on this.

This time of year, again as I mentioned, we don't have the large storms. And this one from the get-go has had to really overcome a few obstacles. And one is going through Cuba right now. These are tropical storm force winds. Now, it's lost strength at the 5:00 p.m. advisory. It would drop down from 60 miles per hour sustained winds to 50 as expected.

It is, however, going to get in these warmer waters of the Florida Straits and possibly could get back up to 65 miles per hour where it was earlier today. But notice, these are the sustained winds. That doesn't mean we don't have tropical storm gusts farther outside.

And again, if you look at the probability, the good news is these stronger winds, and that was always the concern with Surfside, is that these are now offshore. It's not zero for Surfside. It's seven.

Quickly to show you the radar, you can see where the circulation in Cuba, but this validates their decision, Wolf. We have thunderstorms move through. This is where the tornado warning was.

They're going to get a little bit of a break for the crew for the evening period, but by tomorrow, I think overnight and through tomorrow, if they can get through at least, you know, 2:00 p.m., things are going to be looking much better for them.


But the stronger winds stay away. The only concern, isolated spin-ups or a water spout moving onshore that could produce one of those dangerous gusts. Overall, not bad.

BLITZER: We'll keep checking -- yes, we'll keep checking back with you. Tom, thank you very much. Our meteorologist, Tom Sater.

Coming up, President Biden claims we're closer than ever to declaring our independence from COVID, but with the delta variant spreading, will people in many red states keep saying no to vaccinations? This is a "Situation Room" special report.


BLITZER: President Biden says the United States is closer than ever to declaring independence from the coronavirus. However, only 20 states and Washington, D.C. met the president's July 4th goal of having at least 70 percent of adults with at least one shot.


Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz. So, Arlette, what is the latest? What are you hearing over there?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even as those traditional barbecues and fireworks shows took place over the holiday weekend, President Biden still adopted a cautious tone as he warned Americans that the fight against COVID-19 isn't over just yet.

There is very real concern within the White House about that highly transmissible delta variant taking hold in the United States, particularly in those areas of the country where vaccination rates remain low.

And in his Fourth of July remarks yesterday, the president talked and reflected on the progress that has been made in the country, but also urged Americans to get vaccinated in order to keep themselves protected. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: COVID-19 has not been vanquished. We all know powerful variants have emerged like the delta variant, but the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated.

My fellow Americans, it's the most patriotic thing you can do. That's how we're going to stay ahead of these variants and protect the hard- won progress we've made. We never again want to be where we were a year ago today.


SAENZ: So the president there linking vaccinations, essentially, to a patriotic duty. And aside from this messaging campaign, the White House also knows that they need to tackle this logistically. And that's why we have learned and heard about how they will be sending and deploying these delta variant response teams into areas that may be affected.

They will help with things like therapeutics and also staffing to get more vaccinations into Americans' arms. Now, tomorrow, President Biden will be meeting with his COVID response team to get the latest briefing on the state of the pandemic.

And then he himself will deliver remarks where he, of course, is once again expected to address that issue of vaccinations as they really feel that the power of the science, as the president said yesterday, is what is going to help us get out of this pandemic, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Arlette, thank you very much. Arlette Saenz at the White House. Let's discuss with Dr. Peter Hotez. He's a professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor's College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez, thanks so much for joining us. President Biden says the virus no longer controls our lives, direct quote. No longer controls our lives. Do you agree with him on that?

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, t's certainly true, Wolf, for some segments of the country, maybe most segments of the country. But we now have these areas that where we have ongoing outbreaks and are extremely vulnerable. And they're areas where two things are going on. One, where vaccination rates are low and the delta variant is occupies a significant percentage of the virus isolates.

So for instance in Missouri, 53 percent of the virus isolates are the delta variant. Low vaccination rates, guess what, people are now going into intensive care units in southern Missouri. So, Missouri is going to be a problem. Arkansas is a problem.

Louisiana looks vulnerable to me because it has a very low, low percentage of vaccinations, same in Wyoming. So this is what we're going to be dealing with across the summer, are these outbreaks which could turn into a surge if we're not careful.

BLITZER: So, just to, you know, go through that in terms of the areas of the country with these low and very disturbing low vaccination rates, how concerned should we all be about those places potentially becoming essentially breeding grounds for new variants?

HOTEZ: Yes, this is the problem. And again, it's that one-two punch. You have to have both, low vaccination and high delta. And that's what we're seeing now in Missouri play out and other parts of the south. And this is going to make things very problematic for everybody because, remember, we still can't vaccinate our young kids under the age of 12. They're not eligible to get vaccinated. So we have to protect the kids as well to get every adult and

adolescent possible. So if you're in the northeast, if you're in Massachusetts or Vermont or up where you are, Wolf, in Washington, D.C., things are looking very promising.

But there are whole parts of the country right now that are very vulnerable and you have to worry about both the young kids who are not vaccinated and going into stores even if you are vaccinated.

BLITZER: Yes. In some places, as you know, Dr. Hotez, like Los Angeles County for example, are even encouraging fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors again. Do you think that's necessary?

HOTEZ: It's going to be necessary in areas where you've got a lot of transmission, again, from low vaccination/high delta. Because what happens is the vaccines are great. Make no mistake about it. Over 90 percent protective, but they're not 100 percent.

And for some immunocompromised people, they don't take as well. So for those individuals, we're going to have to think about wearing masks when you go indoors.


If we could get everybody vaccinated, then we don't have to go this route anymore, but we have, you know, whole segments of the nation that are deeply dug in on ideological grounds who refuse to get vaccinated.

BLITZER: Dr. Hotez, thanks so much for joining us.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, up next, did former President Trump just acknowledge the crimes his company is accused of by prosecutors? We're going to hear what he said and discuss how it could -- how it could hurt his own defense.


BLITZER: Former President Trump apparently acknowledging the facts of the criminal tax fraud case against his company.


Listen to what he told the crowd at a rally in Sarasota, Florida, over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They go after good, hardworking people for not paying taxes on a company car, company car. You didn't pay tax on the car, or a company apartment, you used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your houses. You didn't pay tax. Or education for your grandchildren. I don't even know. Do you have to put -- does anybody know the answer to that stuff?


BLITZER: All right, let's dig deeper with the state attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, Dave Aronberg. Dave, thanks for joining us. Did the former president just admit to almost everything his company has been accused of in this criminal indictment?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good evening, Wolf. Yes, now you see why so many lawyers are bald, it's because stuff like this makes them want to pull their hair out. These are admissions they can and will be used against the Trump Organization which has already been indicted. They won't help Allen Weisselberg. And they can come back to be used against Donald Trump if he's ever indicted in this case.

But what you saw there in Sarasota, Wolf, is a preview of his future defense if he's ever charged, which I call the Sergeant Schultz defense from the old Hogan's Heroes show. Sergeant Schultz he's always say, I know nothing. And here in this line of work, as prosecutors, we see defendants in white collar fraud cases use that defense all the time, claim of ignorance. And it's one thing for Trump to use it.

It could help him escape criminal liability because you need a level of criminal intent, but it's certainly not going to help Weisselberg who has a level of sophistication and experience that others do not have as a longtime CFO of the company.

And think about this, Wolf, what kind of message does that send to Allen Weisselberg? It says, every man for himself. He's on an island on his own. If you ever wondered whether he would flip before or after Donald Trump pointed the finger at him, well, you're starting to get your answer.

BLITZER: Well, you remember back in 2016, Trump said he knew more about taxes than anyone else basically on earth. He repeated that several times. You remember that, right?

ARONBERG: Oh, yes. And, you know, he also now says that no one gets prosecuted for this. This is just a witch hunt. But you remember, I think we're old enough to remember Leona Helmsley, the so-called Queen of Mean, who, in the late 80s, was prosecuted for something like this by New York state prosecutors, and then the feds took it over because she used her company to renovate her Greenwich mansion and did not declare it on her taxes.

Ironically, you know, the federal prosecutor was who prosecuted that case it was in the Southern District of New York, none other than Rudy Giuliani, back when he was normal.

BLITZER: I do remember that. Yes, indeed. It's not just the former president saying stuff like this. His Son, Eric Trump made similar comments on Fox News. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, 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 corporate cars. I guarantee you, there's people in every company in the country that have corporate vehicles. This is what they're going after. This isn't a criminal matter.


BLITZER: So do you think, Dave, prosecutors will be able to use comments like these in their case against the Trump Organization?

ARONBERG: Yes, he's a representative of the Trump Organization. He's apparently high up in the organization, so you can use it against the principal, the company. Also he says this is a commonplace employment perk, and I realize he's focusing on the car.

When it comes to automobiles, there's a little bit of gray area there. You notice he didn't mention the mansion in early (ph) state, the house in Manhattan, or the hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition to the fancy private school for Weisselberg's grandchildren.

I've never heard of a commonplace employment perk that involves hundreds of thousand dollars to a grand child's private school. And if it did exist, those companies that did that would pay taxes on it. And the other thing is, you have a level intent here. In the indictment, it said there were two separate sets of books, one for the IRS, and one internally that kept a meticulous count of the hidden compensation paid to Allen Weisselberg. That's the kind of thing that can get you prison time.

BLITZER: Dave Aronberg, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

ARONBERG: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, a top general's concern about what could happen in Afghanistan once all U.S. and NATO forces pull out in the coming weeks.



BLITZER: CNN has learned U.S. officials are now updating plans in case an emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan becomes necessary. And all U.S. diplomats and personnel need to be evacuated. There's growing concern about what's ahead as U.S. troops near the end of their pullout from Afghanistan.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us from the Pentagon right now. So Oren, what exactly are you hearing?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the speed with which the Taliban has made gains in the countryside of Afghanistan is pushing back the Afghan military, picking up and taking over districts has added to the urgency of needing to update the evacuation plans for the embassy, U.S. contractors and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Now down to a dwindling number as the evacuation and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country is pretty much complete. Most of the troops there at this point are for embassy security and for airport security necessary to get diplomats in and out especially now. Of course, that becomes more urgent now that Bagram Air Base is shut down. It means there are fewer options if you were past to get troops and to get U.S. citizens out of the country.

So those plans being updated, especially given Afghanistan in the history of conflict and, of course, the ongoing fighting in the country. A senior defense official says intelligence estimates are been all over the place at the moment in terms of what the Taliban will do, when they will do it and how they will do it.

Nevertheless, because of the state of the country and because of what the intelligence community is seeing with Taliban gains, it is necessary to update those plans. They are extensive, according to a senior defense official, and they are detailed in case they need to be moved on quickly to get U.S. citizens out.


But that defense official stresses, there is no need at this point to evacuate the embassy and U.S. citizens from the country. But as we've seen, Wolf, the situation there changes very quickly.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly does. All right, Oren Liebermann, thank you very much.

Joining us now Chuck Hagel, he served as the U.S. Defense Secretary under President Obama. Before that, he was a Republican senator from Nebraska. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. I want to get your reaction to something the top U.S. general in Afghanistan just said about the rapid advancement of the Taliban as U.S. troops pull out. Listen to this.


GEN. AUSTIN MILLER, U.S. ARMY: We should be concerned. The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be concerning, one, because it's a war as physical, but it's also got a psychological or moral component to it. And hope actually matters and morale actually matters. And so, as you watch the Taliban moving across the country, what you don't want to have happen is that the people lose hope, and they believe they now have a foregone conclusion presented to them.


BLITZER: So do you agree with General Miller, Mr. Secretary? Should the U.S. be concerned about the Taliban's strength on the ground right now?

CHUCK HAGEL, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think General Miller has given a very accurate assessment, the volatility, the uncertainty, the danger is there. And we don't know. The best we can do is adapt, adjust and prepare for eventualities that will eventually become for us out of control. And we need to do everything we can to support the Afghan government and the Afghan forces.

BLITZER: It's not just the Afghan residents who are fleeing across the border into other countries. As you know, it's also members of the Afghan military, military, who've been trained by the U.S. and NATO forces who are feeling that they're not secure there. So what does that tell you?

HAGEL: Well, it I think calls into question the last 20 years. How successful have we really been in indoctrinating the Afghan military, the government commanders into a successful, resourceful military operation? And even though we send -- spend a couple of trillion dollars there, thousands of troops wounded and deceased, both our troops and NATO, really calls into question how effective we've been the last 20 years.

BLITZER: The U.S., as you know, has spent, as you correctly pointed out, a lot of money training hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops. I think there are some 300,000 Afghan troops right now giving them state of the art equipment, weapons, tanks, planes. By any measure, the Taliban should be outmatched by the Afghan military, but they seem to be making tremendous gains. Why are the Afghan forces simply unable to hold their country?

HAGEL: Well, I think, Wolf, you've got to start with, and we've not done this very well, the last 50 years, whether it was Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, you better have an understanding of the culture and the history of a country. Afghanistan has never been ruled by a central government, never in its history. It is a tough, tough country. It's still a tribal country.

And so, that's where you start. It is the people. I mean, you can't impose a military victory that's going to change a government and change your culture. It's state craft. It's a lot of things. Yes, it's -- the military is important and economics are important. But it's the people, the people make the decisions, and they'll always make the decisions. And so, same story we had in Vietnam, that war that I was in 1968. It's the same story of history.

So, we need to do a better job of understanding. I mean, for 20 years ago, you around, we had interviews 20 years ago on this. I remember some of the committee hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when we would ask the generals and those in charge, is this nation building? Is that where we're going? Oh, no, we're not nation building. Well, what are we doing? How long are we going to be there? We never had a good answer.

Then, when we went into Iraq, we turned all of our attention out of Afghanistan, pull resources out of Afghanistan. And then we've tried to play catch up. We've been in, we've been out, we've been seeing surges, and then we pull those troops down. So we've been pretty inconsistent I think over the last 20 years with really no understanding of what is the objective here. BLITZER: Yes, it sort of reminds me and I'm old enough to remember, you served during the Vietnam War, the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. All of us remember what happened. Then, and now we're talking potentially about the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. You see a parallel there?


HAGEL: Well, I do. I mean, there are a lot of differences, of course. But there is some parallel dynamic to it and we have to guard against that. I know the military is been very historically understanding of this. And we don't want to repeat that. I don't think we will, but I can't guarantee you that. General Miller can't guarantee that. It depends on how things go the next six months. And it could come to that. I hope not, obviously. But that's one possible outcome here and it's not a good one for a lot of reasons.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

HAGEL: Well, thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, we'll have the latest on the manhunt after a shocking golf course killing. And we're also standing by for a news conference on the search in that Florida condo collapse resumed after the rest of the building was demolished.



BLITZER: A manhunt is on right now following a shocking killing on a Georgia golf course that led to the discovery of two more bodies. CNN National Correspondent Ryan Young is in Kennesaw, Georgia for us. So Ryan, what exactly happened here?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, such a strange story, Wolf. I want to point something out to you. If you look over my shoulder here, you can see those truck marks on the golf course. That's where the truck entered the golf course. We believe the golf pro-chancellor walked over to figure out exactly what was going on. And that's when he was shot in the head. You're talking about a father to this community is in shock right now of this crime.

Police are still involved in this manhunt at this hour for the suspect that we really don't have any great details about right now.


RAND EBERHARD, FRIEND OF GOLF PRO: He was a peaceful dude. He built community. Didn't have one enemy. So there was no way that anybody had a premeditated agenda to move into this environment like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YOUNG: Yes, Wolf, if you think about this, you have a two more bodies found in that car. One of the bodies is the owner of that truck. At this point, police haven't given us a new update in terms of a news conference or any additional information. You have neighbors in this neighborhood are quite concerned about this.

Obviously, this man was loved. Even behind me right now, you can see flowers that are left behind. We believe this family showed up today, the place that Memorial, other people have been showing up. This community is definitely a shock over the shooting.

BLITZER: So I take it they have really no solid leads, at least not yet. Is that right?

YOUNG: Well, Wolf, they put out a vague description of a man that was seen running away from the scene. Now just talking to neighbors in the area, a lot of people believe they have ring video cameras all throughout this neighborhood. So police may be gathering that information. There may be video of the suspects running away.

We saw detective here today, working this case, but obviously this neighborhood that's not used to dealing with violent crime like this is really wanting to know from police what the next steps are because, obviously, as you can understand, a father to someone in this community who everyone knew, is now dead.

BLITZER: Yes. So sad. All right, Ryan, thank you very much. Ryan Young on the scene for us there in Georgia.

That shooting by the way was part of a surge of gun violence here in the United States over the July 4th holiday weekend. CNN's Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is working this part of the story for us. Josh, it was horrible what's been going on as far as shootings here in the U.S. this past weekend.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and a scene all too familiar. We saw another violent weekend in the United States with shooting after shooting from coast to coast. Take a look at this figure I want to show you. This is from the Gun Violence Archive. They're reporting that there were at least 150 people killed in more than 400 shooting incidents since Friday, Wolf.

And just to give you an example of some of these shootings, in Fort Worth, Texas over the weekend, eight people were injured after a shooting near a car wash. There was a verbal altercation. Police say, one person open fire.

Authorities telling us that most of the victims in this case were innocent bystanders. In Norfolk, Virginia, four children were shot including a six-year-old girl. Other victims include a 14-year-old boy, a 16-year-old boy and a 16-year-old-girl. Police say that that incident remains under investigation.

We could go on and on, but just to give you some another examples. In Cincinnati, police say that at least two people were killed, three others injured at a park after an altercation there. In Dallas, Texas, police responding to two separate incidents. One, involving the shooting of five people, three of them pronounced dead at the hospital. Authority say that one of the victims was shot multiple times.

Finally, Wolf, in the city of Chicago, 14 people killed over the weekend, including a member of the National Guard, that according to CNN affiliate WLS. Two police officers were also injured while attempting to disperse a crowd, a very violent weekend.

And, Wolf, as you often point out so wisely, when we talk about those injured, those killed, these are more than just statistics. These are people, these are moms and dads, husband, wives. In this case over the weekend, children also shot and it is chilling to think as you and I talk right now is this wave of gun violence continues. There are Americans going about their day right now who may not be here tomorrow due to gun violence. Wolf?

BLITZER: 150 people killed over the July 4th holiday weekend. 150 people killed in 400 shooting incidents, you see the numbers on the side of the screen over there for the year so far. 336 mass shootings this year, 367 the new number of people killed, 1,401 injured.


All right, Josh, thank you very much. A horrendous situation indeed.

We're standing by for a news conference on that deadly condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. We're going to get new information on the search for the 118 people still missing.


BLITZER: Happening now, we're standing by to speak with the Miami-Dade Mayor about the condo rescue operation. Crews found more bodies in the ruins after explosives flatten the rest of the building. Also tonight, Americans are in the final hours of celebrating an epic July 4th holiday. But experts are also warning our new freedom from COVID-19 is clouded by the fast-spreading Delta variant.