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The Situation Room
New Vaccine Confusion as Pfizer Warns of Waning Immunity and Need for Boosters, But CDC & FDA say Boosters Aren't Needed Yet; DOJ Releases Videos of January 6 Police-Dragging Attack; 79 Confirmed Dead in Condo Collapse, 61 Unaccounted For; White House: FBI, DHS Officials Will Travel to Haiti "As Soon as Possible" in Aftermath of President's Assassination. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 09, 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 THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now, breaking news, horrifying new images of police dragged during the Capitol attack as the Justice Department here in Washington warns of the potential for new pro-Trump violence provoked by the former president.
Also this hour, new questions about COVID vaccine booster shots as Pfizer and the feds appear to send mixed messages. Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us live to try to clear up the confusion.
And President Biden calls out Russia's Vladimir Putin over cyberattacks threatening to take any necessary action to protect the United States.
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.
We begin this hour with concerns about how long vaccinated Americans will remain protected against COVID-19. The CDC and the FDA are insisting there is no pressing need for booster shots at this time. But Pfizer says it plans to seek emergency use authorization for a booster shot as soon as next month. The company now seen waning immunity from its COVID vaccine.
There is a lot to discuss so let's get right to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy Infectious Disease, and the Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden. Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for joining us. We have a lot to discuss. But let's start with Pfizer.
Pfizer says people will need a booster for its COVID vaccine. The CDC and the FDA say not so fast. Who are Americans supposed to listen to here?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well certainly they need to the listen to the CDC and the FDA, the FDA being the regulatory authority that has control over this, and the CDC in accordance with their advisory committee on immunization practices, will make the recommendation.
Certainly, Pfizer is doing their own studies, which is good. I'm very pleased that they're doing that. And as they have indicated, they're ultimately going to apply to get authorization to give a boost. However, right now, as said by the CDC and the FDA in their joint statement that they came out with last night, that, right now, people who have gotten the doses of Pfizer, the prime and the boost as well as the prime and the boost of Moderna or a single dose of J&J do not need to get a boost right now.
Having said that, the FDA, CDC and NIH are now gathering information through clinical studying and laboratory studies to determine if and when we might need boosters, vut that's not right now. Nothing has changed with regard to the CDC's recommendations. So we respect what the pharmaceutical company is doing but the American public should take their advice from the CDC and the FDA.
BLITZER: The former surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Jerome Adams, a man you worked with, you know him well, he told CNN today that the lack of coordination between the federal government and vaccine companies, he says it's troubling. And I guess the bottom line question is why aren't all of you on the same page?
FAUCI: You know, Wolf, we are on the same page. It was one of those facts of life, is that they came out with the announcement without giving us a head's up. And, quite frankly, the CEO, who is a really good guy, got on the phone with me last night and apologized that they came out with that recommendation. So there is no -- not that apologized about the recommendation, apologized for not letting us know that he was going to do it ahead of time. He's really a good person and he meant it sincerely.
So although I love Jerome Adams, I disagree there is not coordination between the pharmaceutical companies. The coordination that's been going on, on the rollout of the vaccines over the last four or five months has been extremely good.
BLITZER: With their determination to go ahead with this recommendation, seeking emergency use authorization, I know you had this conversation with the CEO, was it simply based on that study that the Israeli Ministry of Health put out?
FAUCI: Yes. It was based on a couple things. One of them and the main thing was the data that we heard about last week from what appeared to be a diminution and efficacy of preventing initial infection.
The important bottom line in all of these, Wolf, is that the efficacy against severe disease particularly hospitalization that might lead to death in some individuals was still really very good, within the 90 percent.
That's the important aspect of this, that the efficacy and the real world effectiveness against severe disease still holds. BLITZER: I know you are already facing an uphill battle with many Americans. Still who are hesitant, reluctant, refusing to go out there and do what they should be doing, simply getting the shot, getting the vaccine. How big of a setback potentially is this mixed messaging over the past 24 hours on boosters? How big of a setback potentially could that be convincing these reluctant Americans to go get a shot?
FAUCI: I don't think it's a major setback at all, Wolf. I mean, I think that the clarifications that have come out from the CDC, the FDA and you and I talking now on your program, I think, are going to go a long way to really clarifying this. It really is not. It appears to be a mixed message but is not.
The message is very clear. The CDC and the FDA say if you have been fully vaccinated at this point in time, you do not need a booster shot. We're doing the studies to determine if and when, as I mentioned, and as data come out, we'll make that available. There is no mixed message here.
BLITZER: But we might need booster shots down the road. I mean, we get a flu shot every year, right?
FAUCI: Sure. No, that's entirely conceivable, Wolf. But you do that by gathering information, analyzing the information and make the determination what's best for individuals. And what we will likely see, Wolf, is not something that's uni-dimension or it's because conceivable, if not quite likely that elderly and those with underlying conditions, particularly those, for example, who are on medications that might diminish, the robustness of their immune response, those individuals might get a recommendation to get a booster before an otherwise healthy 35-year-old person. I don't think it's going to just be a broad across the board recommendation when it comes. And it hasn't come yet.
BLITZER: Cases are rising in 29 states right now. Other countries have had to set new COVID restrictions due to this new delta variant, which is more dangerous and spreading. Do Americans need to brace for the same?
FAUCI: You know, as I have said many times, Wolf, I'm very disturbed by the fact that there is a substantial proportion of people in the country, generally geographically and ideologically localized, you know, who don't want to get vaccinated. And it just doesn't make any sense.
So what I worry about, as I worry about those individuals and the community in which they live, whereas the delta variant becomes more dominant. And it's at least 50 percent dominant across the country. And in some places, it's as high as 70-plus percent dominant. We know it transmits more efficiently than the original virus and it very likely has a greater degree of pathogenicity, which means it can make you more sick.
So I'm concerned as this variant becomes more dominant, those areas, those select areas of the country that have a very low level of vaccination, like 30 percent or so, you're going to start seeing mini surges that are localized to certain regions.
And as I've said, you don't want to see two separate Americas, one that's vaccinated and protected and yet another that's unvaccinated and very much at risk. You want to see the entire country protected with a blanket of protection by widespread vaccination. That's what we really want to see.
BLITZER: Yes. Let me also get your thoughts on this new CDC guidance, Dr. Fauci, for kids going back to school in the fall. That's next few weeks. The priority is in-person learning in classrooms. But beyond that, how are schools supposed to make sense of the new guidance? Give us your analysis.
FAUCI: Well, I think that the message from the CDC is clear, and I totally agree with them. We want all the children back in in-person classes in the fall term for sure. And we want to do everything we can to make sure that happens.
Now, obviously, depending upon the age of the children, some will be vaccinated, some not. Those who are not vaccinated should be wearing masks. The CDC says they'd like to maintain the three-foot distance. And if they can't, they're going to work around it, do other things, make sure there is good ventilation, make sure you have the facilities to be able to keep people safe in places, for example, lunchrooms and things like that. So the message is loud and clear, come the fall, we want the children back in school in person in person.
BLITZER: But children who are under 12, and they're not eligible for a vaccine, they all have to wear masks, right?
FAUCI: Yes. Yes, indeed. That is correct, Wolf. They have to wear a mask indeed. Indeed.
BLITZER: All right, I know the parents of the kids, they will be happy to go back to school masks or no masks. It's really important, I totally agree. Dr. Fauci, as usual, thanks for all the important work you're doing. We're so grateful to you and your entire team. Thanks for joining us.
FAUCI: Thank you for having me, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you. And there is more breaking news coming up in here The Situation Room. One of the most disturbing assaults during the January 6th riot now caught on video. That video has just been released by the U.S. Justice Department amid fresh concerns about Capitol security.
Stay with us, you're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: The following breaking news, very disturbing breaking news up on Capitol Hill right now, we're talking about the Capitol riot investigation. The U.S. Justice Department, the United States Justice Department has just released video of one of the most horrifying assaults during that January 6th insurrection.
Our Brian Todd is joining us from Capitol Hill right now. Brian, tell us about these very, very disturbing, new just released images.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty brutal images in these videos, Wolf. As you mentioned, the Justice Department just releasing these within the last couple of hours. We'll take you through them. They show this brutal hand-to-hand combat between Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Officers and rioters on January 6th.
In the first video you see officers engaging in this hand-to-hand combat after they went into a crowd to help a pro-Trump rioter who had been trampled. And we'll also just pause here so you can see just some and hear some of the natural sound from this hand-to-hand fighting.
And in this video, a rioter is seen grabbing a baton and rioters are seen striking police with objects, including what appeared to be a crutch at one point.
Now, in the second video, it is a bit of a different perspective but the same scene on the west front of the Capitol. This is from behind a line of officers, they're kind of clutching each other, trying to hold the line. Nearly end of this video, an officer is down on the ground as he battles with a rioter.
Now, in the third video, a rioter is seen swinging what appears to be a club pretty violently at a line of officers. Again, trying to hold the line, that same scene where, again, they're trying -- they were in this trying to help a pro-Trump rioter who had been trampled. At one point in this particular video, a rioter is heard yelling at a police officer, you're going to die.
And in the fourth video, officers are holding a line with riot shields, and their objects, some of them heavy objects thrown at them. There's one rioter who seems to be kind of employing the other rioter stop, meanwhile, these officers are trying to protect themselves with riot shields and there are heavy objects being thrown at them. And, again, in this video a rioter is seen yelling at the officers, you are going to die tonight.
All of this released this afternoon, Wolf, as we take you to the scene in front of the Capitol where these crews behind me here are starting to break down this last layer of temporary out of fencing at the Capitol. Also tonight, as we're getting new warnings from the Justice Department about former President Trump's incendiary rhetoric.
TODD (voice over): Tonight an ominous warning from the Justice Department, that former President Donald Trump's delusion about being reinstated to office in August and his continuing lies that the election was stolen, could fuel more violence. DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The election was incredible. What we did in this election was incredible, and it's a shame what happened.
TODD: The warning from justice comes from a court filing in the case of alleged Capitol rioter Alex Harkrider, a former Marine who prosecutors say wore a ballistic vest and carried a tomahawk axe when he forced his way into the Capitol. Harkrider has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers say the axe was for self-protection.
In a motion to prevent Harkrider from being release from electronic monitoring, prosecutors said in court papers, quote, former President Trump continues to make false claims about the election, insinuate that he may be reinstalled in the future as president without another election and minimize the violent attack on the Capitol. The defendant in this case is not a good candidate to be out in the community without electronic monitoring to ensure the safety of the community and the safety of democracy in the current environment.
MARY MCCORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL ADVOCACY AND PROTECTION: If I were in government, I also would be very cautious and concerned about the continuing false narrative being spun by former President Trump. The fear is that they bought into a false narrative once, and they did so by reacting violently and the same could happen again.
TRUMP: -- the right thing, we win the election.
TODD: This isn't the first time Trump's lies about a stolen election or his delusion of reinstatement have come up in the case of rioters. Since January 6th, federal judges and prosecutors cited Trump's rhetoric during detention hearing. And Trump's comments have made it difficult for some alleged rioters to argue that they could safely be released from jail.
This latest warning comes as the temporary fencing around the Capitol comes down and the House and Senate still can't agree on a funding package designed to boost Capitol security in the wake of January 6th. Experts worry about the Capitol still being a symbolic target for extremists.
JOHN SCOTT-RAILTON, SENIOR RESEARCHER, THE CITIZEN LAB. UNIVERSITY OF TORRONTO: We have to think very clearly about what it means to have these groups and individuals out there obsessing about the Capitol, probing its security and thinking about what a round two might look like.
TODD (on camera): And, again, tonight, we can show you these crews going to break down the outer fencing around the Capitol, this gentleman kind of taking off some of rivets right now. This should take a couple of days. They believe most of these fencing should be down by Monday, Wolf, and, of course, some other enhancement to the Capitol, including possible mobile fencing are in the works. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Brian, excellent reporting. Thank you very much.
Let's discuss with the former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe. He is a CNN Senior Legal Enforcement Analyst, author of the book, The Threat of the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. Andrew, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's take a look at this new, very disturbing video that just came out, released by the Justice Department. The officer in this particular case ended up in the hospital with staples in his head to stop the bleeding. What does that say to every politician out there who simply says this was a typical Capitol tour, these were tourists who came to Washington?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, it is so important that we continue to get these videos released, and we will for quite some time. There are some 500 of these cases. This is standard discovery in criminal procedure, so this evidence is going to be released. And it is incredibly important that we bring it to the public's attention for exactly that reason, to turn back these lies, these myths about January 6th being anything other than what it was, which was a violent attack on our democracy.
BLITZER: The perimeter fencing, the securing fencing that's been there, basically, there used to be thousands of National Guard troops, armored vehicles, but now this fencing is beginning to come down. You are looking at the pictures coming down right now. These are live pictures coming in. They are beginning to remove the final perimeter fencing. Good idea you think given the threats that potentially are still out there?
MCCABE: Boy, it is hard to imagine that this is a good idea. It's a really an inopportune time to be taking to Capitol back to its completely unprotected status. Without those National Guard troops and without fencing, especially in light of the rhetoric building towards the month of August when we know the former president has continuously fanned the flames of this myth that he will be reinstalled at some point in August.
We could be building towards a reflection point there in August, and it certainly seems from my outsider's perspective that it might have been a good dose of prevention to keep that fence up just for a few more months.
BLITZER: It is ugly, that fence. But it's very important but let's hope they don't have to bring it back in August.
The Justice Department in this new document is warning -- it is pretty extraordinary -- that the former president's statements could potentially result in a lot more chaos here in Washington and other attempted insurrection.
MCCABE: Wolf, we know from just this week, when a Capitol -- when a January 6th defendant was presented in court for -- and charged with his activity on January 6th, the FBI and the prosecutors detailed all the things that he had done since January 6th to include surveilling the Capitol, to include getting weapons ready, training with weapons, to include experimenting with building Molotov cocktails. That is one of some 500 defendants. You can't sit here and tell me there aren't others from that crowd of extremists who aren't thinking the same thing and maybe August is their time of action.
BLITZER: Yes, we shall see. Hopefully it won't be. Andrew McCabe, thank you very much for that.
Coming up, is President Biden considering a counter attack against a ransomware groups inside Russia? We're going to have the latest on his new confrontation with Vladimir Putin.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is calling out Vladimir Putin over new cyber attacks pushing Russia to crack down on ransomware hackers and threatening action to defend the United States.
Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, this is the first publicized call between President Biden and Putin since the June summit in Geneva that we both covered.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, that was just three weeks ago when they're actually face-to-face talking about these kinds of ransomware attacks and because those attacks have not stopped and instead we saw a massive one over the July 4th weekend. It prompted that call that President Biden had with President Putin today, delivering that warning, another warning similar to the one that he gave in Geneva. But this time, he says there will be consequences if these attacks don't stop.
COLLINS (voice over): President Biden delivering a new warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin tonight.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though is not, not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is.
COLLINS: During an hour-long call, Biden urged Putin to take action to disrupt ransomware groups operating out of Russia following a wave of new attacks.
BIDEN: It went well, I'm optimistic.
COLLINS: Biden warning the U.S. has the right to respond if the assault don't stop, a similar message to the one he issued in Geneva three weeks ago.
BIDEN: The bottom line is I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road. COLLINS: The president is under pressure to act after a Russian-based cyber gang carried out a massive attack on a small Florida company paralyzing hundreds of businesses.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't have additional or new information suggesting the Russian government directed these attacks.
COLLINS: The White House also still not attributing blame after hackers breached a contractor for the Republican National Committee. Though, Biden did summon his top cyber security officials to the situation room this week to weigh responses to the latest onslaught.
PSAKI: This is consistent with the president's view that diplomacy includes working together where there is opportunity and agreement and being clear and candid and forthright when there is disagreement.
And this call is an example of that.
COLLINS: The White House is declining to say how Putin responded to Biden's latest call for action.
PSAKI: That's not an appropriate role for the United States to convey. I can convey read out to you what role President Biden played and what message he delivered to the Russians.
COLLINS: Pressed today on whether the U.S. would go on offense, Biden offered a one-word response.
REPORTER: does it make sense for the U.S. to take it up a notch and attack the actual servers that are used?
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes.
COLLINS (on camera): Now, Wolf, the Kremlin has offered their own take on this call that happened today. They're casting doubt on the idea that these cyber criminals are operating out of Russian territory. Though the White House has said time and time again that they do believe they are. And this comes ahead of meetings next week between American officials and Russian officials on ransomware attacks and cyber crimes. So, Wolf, we'll see if any progress is made in those meetings when it comes to those attacks. They have not stopped since that summit in Geneva.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, stay with us, I'm going to get back to you.
I also want to bring in our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto into the conversation. He was in Geneva with us as well.
You heard in Kaitlan's report, President Biden said, yes, the U.S. should take it up a notch, his words, against Russia. That's what he's saying publicly? What are you hearing? I know you're doing a lot of reporting on this behind the scenes. What's going on?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, activity potentially in a couple of different channels. One is the technological channel. And he was asked about that directly, do you go after the servers that hackers like this used? The other is financial. The Biden administration talks often about cryptocurrency because that is the way that these groups traffic in funds. That's the kind of ransom that demand.
And they had some success, remember, with the Colonial Pipeline attack, where they were able to claw back some of that cryptocurrency. And then this administration, unlike the prior administration, working with allies in conjunction. That's the big idea.
The big question is how much do you ratchet up in that escalation ladder. For instance, in the financial category, do you go after Russia's ability to sell energy, right, on the international financial markets? Do you go after particular Russian individuals, as high up as Putin, some of his financial assets overseas? Those are steps that have not been taken before.
And then, technologically, we know the U.S., as you will remember in Geneva, Biden said very publically, we have, you know, the means to attack you more, Russia, beware, you know, punitively dimming the lights in Moscow, as it were. Do you attack critical infrastructure in Moscow to show this is the price you will pay, that kind of thing hasn't happened yet to our knowledge. Of course, the danger there is that you get into sort of a vicious cycling of escalation. But if this isn't working what's happening, that's what the administration has to consider.
BLITZER: Yes, the U.S. certainly does have a lot of options there.
Kaitlan, we were all there covering Geneva when the president delivered that warning face-to-face to Putin just last month. Clearly, at least so far, it doesn't look like that went very far, did it?
COLLINS: No, not so far because these attacks have not stopped or abated. One that happened over the July 4th weekend is one of the biggest that we've seen, affecting small companies but a lot of them. And, of course, that really does affect how they do business and how they operate.
And, so, I think what the White House is watching here is they're differentiating these attacks. Basically, these ransomware attacks are very concerning for the White House because they have seen how they've been able to successfully go after and disrupt critical U.S. infrastructure. The concern is how much worse that could be and what it could actually disrupt if it came to hospitals and whatnot.
The other is the Russian government sanctioned hacking, of course, this week. We also reported on that attempted hack of the Republican National Committee. They said their servers weren't breached. But it has been the intelligence arm of the Russian government that has been accused of doing that. And so the White House is being more concerned with the former, the ransomware cell attacks and the latter. Those seem to be pretty predictable for the Russian government. But, of course, the question is what do they do if these ransomware attacks keep up?
BLITZER: Where is this heading?
SCIUTTO: Multiple administrations of both parties have not been able to figure out how to deter Russia on this. This is a big test for the Biden administration. How far do they raise this, how far do they escalate, it remains to be seen because Russia determined these kinds of attacks are in its national interest. How does the U.S. change that calculus for them?
BLITZER: As I keep saying, stakes here are enormous indeed.
SCIUTTO: No question.
BLITZER: Jim, Kaitlan, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, the mayor of Surfside, Florida, on the latest discovery in the rubble of the condo collapse, and his concern of the safety of other buildings.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, another victim has been found in the ruins of the collapsed condo in Florida, the confirmed death toll right now rising to 79.
CNN's Randi Kaye has more on the recovery operation and the concerns about the safety of nearby buildings.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today, major progress in the recovery mission at the debris pile of Champlain Tower South, and it continues around the clock.
MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: The pile that originally was approximately four or five storeys is now almost at ground level.
KAYE: At least 13 million pounds of concrete and debris now removed and the mission remains the same, return loved ones to their families.
Meanwhile, a few effort is underway at the sister tower just a few blocks away, a detailed inspection of Champlain Tower North to make sure it won't suffer the same fate.
CNN got a close-up look at the process as inspection teams went underground today using X-rays and testing concrete for salt residue. ALLYN KILSHEIMER, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: We did a scan of the thickness
of the slab here to know how thick the slab is. We're going to be doing that again today with a different device that can go deeper in measuring the thickness of the floor.
KAYE: Just a few miles away in North Miami Beach, residents at Crestview Towers, who were hastily evacuated a week ago, based on a delinquent recertification report that showed the building to be structurally and electrically unsafe, were allowed back in the building with a police escort today for just 15 minutes to grab any personal belongings they could carry out by hand.
GUSTAVO MATA, RESIDENT EVACUATED FROM CRESTVIEW TOWERS: They told us yesterday, and they told all of us that we have just 15 minutes today to take some stuff, personal stuff.
Just 15 minutes, it's nothing for us.
KAYE: CNN has obtained video from Fiorella Terenzi showing inside the parking deck at the Champlain South Tower, which two engineers told CNN shows corrosion. It was shot in July 2020. It is not clear if this damage had anything to do with the collapse.
Back at the pile at Champlain Tower South, where the rescue mission has officially become a recovery mission, the first responders aren't giving up, despite the personal toll it takes on them.
CHIEF NICHOLE NOTTE, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2/K-9 UNIT: I'm physically digging, but I'm also emotionally digging for more strength to continue.
KAYE: Amid all the sadness, one small piece of good news to come out of Surfside today, WSBN is reporting rescue workers found Binx the cat alive today near the pile. The station says Binx belongs to the Gonzalez family that lived in Apartment 904. It reports the mother and daughter are in the hospital and the father is still missing. Binx has been reunited with the family.
KAYE (on camera): And first responders working on that pile are using schematics from the building and also floor plans to try and help find the victims focusing in many ways on the master bedrooms and the bedroom areas because this happened at 1:30 the morning, they think that is where they will have the most luck finding victims, that they are searching the entire pile still. And they have dug down deep into it, making a lot of progress, getting to people who were on the fifth floor, the second floor, and now even making their way to the garage level as well. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Randi, thanks very much, Randi Kaye at the scene for us in Surfside, Florida.
Just to reconfirm, 79 confirmed, confirmed deaths right now, 61 people unaccounted for. That's 140 people in this recovery, now recovery operation continues.
Let's discuss with the mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Let's talk a little bit about the ongoing recovery. But, first, you were over at the Champlain Towers North earlier today. Are you satisfied in there with this effort to investigate the stability of this sister building, which was built by the same company basically around the same time?
BURKETT: By the same contractor, probably with the same plans and the same materials, yes. Listen, we're doing everything we can. We have been in there several times now. We have taken out samples. We have dug the ground-penetrating radar. We're trying to determine the amount of steel, the thickness of the slabs, so we're trying to compile all that information and see exactly if there is some indication of weakness.
I talked to the engineer today, and he's ready to make a determination as soon as he gets results back and let the residents of that building know whether he feels that they are safe or not.
BLITZER: I know you have also sent a letter urging other condo boards to hire engineers, inspect their own foundations right now. What sort of response, Mayor, are you getting?
BURKETT: We're not getting pushback, Wolf. You know, these are done in an abundance of caution, all these steps. We have given them a series of boxes to check in order to make sure that their buildings are as safe as they can be, given, especially, we don't know why this building fell down. Given my conversation with the experts that I have talked to, it seems to me there is as much going on underneath the surface as there was above the surface, and that's something that we need to really get to the bottom of.
We're going to know more as the site is continued to be cleared. Once all the debris is out, NIST, how is here, and actively looking at the structural components -- I was out there with our engineer today actually taking pictures for our investigation, and I noticed that there were other engineers out there photographing the same structural members that we were. And I imagine that they are there doing the work for NIST and they're compiling their information also.
BLITZER: I know you are meeting with the families multiple times a day. When you do, please pass along our love. This is so, so heartbreaking. Mayor Burkett, thanks for all you're doing. We are grateful to you.
BURKETT: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, we have new details of how the United States will assist investigators in Haiti as that country reels from the assassination of its president.
[18:49:12] BLITZER: Tonight, the White House says officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security will travel to Haiti as soon as possible to help with the investigation into this assassination of that country's presidency.
CNN's Matt Rivers is in Port-au-Prince for us tonight.
Matt, so what's the situation where you are on the ground? What's it like right now?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf. So, this is an ongoing situation. We know that the manhunt continues for the multiple suspects that authorities here believe were participants in this assassination. Simply put, this is far from over.
RIVERS (voice-over): Haitian police wasting no time as the countrywide manhunt for the final suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise intensifies.
Less than 48 hours after his murder, authorities released details about the suspect, some of whom they came are in this video.
Police say there are a total of 28 people involved in the attack. Three have been killed, 17 are in custody, and now they're looking for the final eight.
Authorities also say 26 of them are Colombians and two are Haiti- Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DEA operation, everybody stand down.
RIVERS: This audio recording that CNN has not been able to independently verify allegedly captures the moment the assassins gained access to the private presidential residence the night of the attack. Officials say the men posed as U.S. Drug Enforcement agents to get in.
As police cleaned up the scene of the shootout they had with some of the assassins, all that remains, burned out cars, bullet holes, and bloodstains.
So this is all that's left of one of the cars that officials say suspects in this assassination were using when they engaged in a shootout with police. This car as well was involved, and you can see a bullet hole here that was left over as a result of that shootout.
The aftermath of that night shaking the country's already fragile political state. Confusion abounds over who is actually in charge.
In the hours after Moise's murder, Haiti's interim prime minster, Claude Joseph, assumed power and took command of the police and military, declaring a, quote, state of siege, temporarily putting the country under martial law. Experts say it's not clear if he can do that.
But Moise appointed a new prime minster just days before he died, Ariel Henry, who was supposed to be sworn in this week. Henry says he should be the one leading the mourning nation right now, though it looks unlikely Joseph will step aside.
CLAUDE JOSEPH, ACTING HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: The constitution is clear -- I have to organize elections and actually pass the power to someone else who is elected.
RIVERS: And, Wolf, late word today from the Haitian government. They will be requesting several hundred U.S. troops. They are asking the United States to send troops here to Haiti to help the government secure infrastructure sites primarily. Unclear, though, if the United States will honor that request -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Matt Rivers, be careful over there. We will stay in touch. Thank you very much.
Coming up, the legacy of former Attorney General Bill Barr, what will it take to repair the damage he left behind at the U.S. Justice Department?
BLITZER: We're getting new reaction to a warning by the U.S. Justice Department about the bogus claim that Donald Trump may be reinstated as president of the United States next month, there is concern it could provoke more violence by supporters.
Let's discuss with CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. He's the former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the author of a brand-new book entitled "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutors Code and Corrupted the Justice Department".
We'll talk about the book in a moment. But this new conspiracy theory, how concerned should authorities be that they don't underestimate potentially this threat?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, even though the conspiracy theories nonsense, law enforcement authority have to take it seriously, because throughout our history, we've seen deadly attacks based on lies, based on conspiracy theories. Most recently, January 6th, and we are now seeing that January 6th did not end on January 6th. So, law enforcement needs to absolutely keep an eye on that.
BLITZER: Let's talk about "Hatchet Man", your new book.
In the book you refer to an interview I had with Bill Barr, when he was the attorney general of the United States, in the lead up to the 2020 election. We had this exchange. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You said you were worried that a foreign country could send thousands of fake ballots, thousands of fake ballots to people, and it might be impossible to detect. Whether you basing that on?
WILLIAM BARR, THEN-ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm basing it -- as I've said, repeatedly, I'm basing that on logic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why did you think of that exchange and why did you call this book "Hatchet Man"?
HONIG: I want this book to stand against revisionist history that we are seeing from any of Donald Trump's enablers, including Bill Barr. Bill Barr sat in this seat and lie to the American public when he told you that and you pushed back and said what is your proof? He said logic.
I'm sorry, logic -- first of all, is not logical. It's not proof. It's nonsense.
Bill Barr fanned the flames of the big lie of the election fraud for months leading up to the election. Now at the very end after the election, he tried to make a turn around but it was too late. The damage was done.
And I called this book "Hatchet Man" because Bill Barr did Donald Trump's political bidding at the cost of the integrity of the Justice Department, at the independence of the Justice Department.
BLITZER: So, was the damage from your perspective, that he did at the Justice Department?
HONIG: Wolf, my first day of the job, my boss sat me down and said, when you go into court, you have the honor standing up and saying, Elie Honig, representing the United States, people believe you, not because of you, nobody knows you, but because you are with the Justice Department. So, don't blow it. And that is the number one value I learned. I have to tell it straight.
Bill Barr lied to the American public. The clip we just saw. He lied to the American public about the Mueller report. And I think more things than people even remember, which I lay end to end in this book. By doing that, he destroyed the most fundamental value that I was taught as a DOJ prosecutor.
BLITZER: The book, here it is, "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutors Code, Corrupted the Justice Department", it's just out.
BLITZER: Available for our viewers if they want to read it. Thanks very much.
HONIG: Thanks so much.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Elie, for joining us. Elie Honig is the author.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You could always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
Have a great weekend.
"ERIN BURNETT OUFRONT" starts right now.