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Engineer Warned Of Structural Damage At Complex In 2018 Before Sudden Collapse; Is President Joe Biden Right, Do Employers Just Need To Pay Employees More?; Democrats Race To Revive Election Bill As DOJ Targets Georgia Law; Britney Spears Goes To Court Seeking Her Freedom. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Major structural damage. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. That was the warning three years ago by an engineer brought in to analyze the Florida complex where 159 people are still unaccounted for. CNN has learned that the structural field service report from 2018 points out evidence of flooding, cracking and corrosion.

This report didn't give any indication that the building would collapse and an attorney for the Champlain Towers Condo Association told CNN they weren't privy to any information that would have foreshadowed Thursday's disaster, but here's what part of the report by Frank Morabito revealed, as outlined by "The New York Times."

"At the ground level of the complex, vehicles can drive in next to a pool deck for residents would lounge in the sun. [The report's author] in 2018 said that the waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive was failing," quote, "'causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.' The report added that," quote, "'Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.'

The problem, he said, was that the waterproofing was laid flat, not sloped in a way that would allow water to run off, an issue he called a 'major error' in the original design. The replacement would be 'extremely expensive,' he warned, and cause a major disturbance to the residents."

Right now, search and rescue efforts continue as at least four people are dead, dozens are believed to be buried under the rubble. Let's get the very latest from CNN reporter Rosa Flores who is at the scene just north of Miami Beach. Rosa, what's going on right now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, search and rescue crews (ph) are actively going through the rubble. They're going both underneath, which involves shoring of that building to make it safe for these firefighters to find signs of life and follow those signs of life. They're using equipment like sonar, dogs and also cameras that they can wiggle through crevices and holes that they find to try to find voids, spaces where people might be waiting to be rescued.

We're also learning that they're going through the rubble and de- layering. It's a process that's called de-layering and it involves removing, peeling portions of that concrete to try to find individuals there alive. There's been so many complications, Michael, out here in the field for these individuals risking their lives to try to find others.

There's been a fire that is so deep in this structured that fire officials say they can't get to it. They don't even know what's smoldering, so they don't even know the dangers that they're being exposed to to some extent. Of course they've got equipment, monitors that they can identify some of the fumes, some of the chemicals, but they really don't know what's smoldering. They can't get to it because it's so deep.

All they're doing is adding water, which adds another complication because it adds weight to the structure. There's also been a lot of rain, there's been heavy winds and if you look at the images of this partially collapsed structure, you'll see that there's still dangling concrete, there's still people's belongings dangling from some of these floors.

And so, Michael, it's been a very complicated search, it has been methodical and it has not stopped as men and women, brave men and women here on the ground, try to save lives, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Rosa, I just shared the information of this engineer's warning three years ago, drawing attention to the pool deck and the parking garage below and I'm wondering how these new revelations might impact the search that you've just described. It would seem to me that this would be important information to those rescue workers.

FLORES: You know, and that is the question that I'm hoping to ask here shortly. We're expecting to have a briefing soon, but that's exactly what I was thinking about because some of the images, some of the video that has been released by first responders involves video of them searching in that parking garage. So when you read in this report that there is major structural damage, that portions of the slab had deterioration, there's portions of that report that say -- that included instances of exposed and deteriorating rebar.

Michael, when you read the description of this and it shows that some of the actual slab was not slanted, that some of the water was ponding and would have to wait for evaporation for that water to run off, it really raises major questions and it really -- and I'm curious how this complicates the search for them because those are the exact same areas where some of these firefighters have been it.


And I'm wondering if now the revelation of this report will -- it definitely complicates the situation, but I'm wondering how this will impact -- have they made decisions since the revelation of this report that will change how they're approaching this search and rescue. I don't know, but I'm hoping to ask ... SMERCONISH: Rosa ...

FLORES: ... Michael.

SMERCONISH: ... thank you and we look forward and hope you get the opportunity to pose that question and of course we're going to carry it live. Thank you for that report.

So one of the biggest questions that remains is how on earth did this happen? As I mentioned at the outset, an engineer's warning from 2018 has just come to light in which he voiced concern over evidence of, quote, "major structural damage" to the concrete slab below the pool deck and abundant cracking and crumbling of the column beams and walls of the parking garage under the 13-story building.

I'm joined now by an internationally recognized engineer, Matthys Levy. His designs include the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, New York's Javits Center and numerous museums. He was a principal consultant after 9/11 and is the co-author of "Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail." Mr. Levy, please react to this new information that's come to light that there was an engineer's warning three years ago.

MATTHYS LEVY, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: The first thing that strikes me is the time delay. Three years is a long time to react to something like this. The second thing is you have to understand that the pool area is outside. It's not under the building, directly under the building, but the slab is continuous under the building. So if there was leakage that took place, and it's very likely that it did take place, and damage, structural damage, to the building itself, that could have been the proximate cause of the collapse.

SMERCONISH: Is it compatible, this new information? Does it make sense to someone with your experience and trained eye that this might be an explanation for what we're all seeing in that film footage?

LEVY: Well, the -- when I look at the film footage, the first thing that struck me is that the center portion of the building collapses first and then the outer portion collapses second. Now, the center portion is closest to where the access to the garage is. So I would have guessed that maybe the area under the intersection between the garage and the outdoor slab is where the initial collapse occurred.

SMERCONISH: I also raised with Rosa Flores, our reporter on the scene, concern over how this might impact the rescue that's still underway because you would think this could point to an area of vulnerability for those folks who are on the first line and still hopingly searching for folks who might be alive.

LEVY: Well, I don't think it effects the search and rescue as much as it effects the portion of the building that's still standing. I would be very concerned about that portion and concerned that there are (ph) no further -- no further deterioration on that portion of the building that would cause it to, itself, fail.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Levy, "The Times" is also reporting today that a nearly identical companion property, Champlain Towers North, was built the same year a few hundred yards up the beach and apparently relying on some of the same specs. That's all I know about that subject, but if that's true, it would seem that that might be an area for concern.

LEVY: Of course. That building should have -- needs to have very clear and very deep inspection (ph) to make certain that there is no deterioration that would cause that particular building to collapse. One of the problems is that what is most likely happening -- and it's all speculation, but what is most likely happening is that you get -- the steel reinforcing in the concrete begins to rust and that pops out the concrete and that eventually causes a failure.

SMERCONISH: There was a report from a researcher at Florida International University and I'll put on the screen just one part of his finding. 2020, it came to light in a report that he published that he had taken a look at this particular building and found that there was subsistence in it. Can we put that up on the screen so that I can make reference to it? There it is. "In some locations, as in the eastern part of the city, the detected subsistence is of a 12-story high condominium building."

You know the report to which I'm referring.


Can you help me explain that to the audience and speak to whatever significance it might hold?

LEVY: Yes. I'm somewhat familiar with it. I've seen reference to it before. Now, the fact is that that area of Miami has been settling for quite a long time and if I look at the numbers, it looks like it could have been more than an inch or possibly two inches over that period of time, the 30 and the 40 (ph) years since the building has been built.

SMERCONISH: So in that scenario, it would seem that it's more attributable potentially to the soil, the composition of the soil, this having been apparently built on wetlands. Now we're learning new information. Are they at odds or may it be a combination of these factors that caused this catastrophic outcome?

LEVY: Well, the foundation of the building, I'm not quite sure about the foundation, but I have a feeling that the foundation includes piles, piling of some sort, which means it went -- the piling was driven down to a stable layer because the only stable layers you have below the building are sand and eventually a rock-like material, but all of that can be affected by water intrusion, especially saltwater intrusion, which could make a little more soupy (ph).

SMERCONISH: Matthys Levy, sum up. What is it that you're taking away from the information that is known at this time?

LEVY: The most important thing is why the delay between the time that the report was issued and the start of repair work?

SMERCONISH: We appreciate your expertise. Thanks so much for being here. LEVY: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: We will bring you live, whatever press conference may take place in South Florida as it happens. In the meantime, up ahead, as the worker shortage continues, companies are pulling out all the stops to entice potential employees, hiring bonuses, regular bonuses, boosted salaries. I'll talk to a CEO who says it's still not enough.

And the Democrats hopes for a national voting rights act have been stonewalled by the GOP, but could this convince senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema that it's necessary to dismantle the filibuster to get anything done? That is this week's survey question at If no Republicans support the Senate Democratic voting rights bill, will either Manchin or Sinema vote to end the filibuster? Go vote at my website.




SMERCONISH: Back to normal in the U.S. doesn't mean back to work for some and businesses are forced to make some serious changes in order to keep up. The Labor Department reported a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April and there were 9.3 million job openings that same month, another record.

So why the disconnect? On one hand, you have workers who've had employment epiphanies this year. They feel they deserve more, more money, more benefits, more flexibility. So workers are wielding this newfound leverage that they have and are being more selective.

Plus, the decision to stay home is much easier when money can still come in. The federal government is supplementing jobless workers with the $300 a week in benefits on top of their regular unemployment benefits. Factor in states who still offer their own enhanced benefits and people could be making up to $618 a week just to stay at home. Those federal benefits will expire in September and 26 states have ended or plan to end them early.

President Biden has pushed for people to get back to work if they can, but had this piece of advice this week for businesses struggling to hire.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pay them more. This is an employee's, employee's bargaining chip now. What's happening? They're going to have to compete and start paying hard working people a decent wage.


SMERCONISH: On the other hand, you have businesses that recognize they can't succeed without happy employees, but are struggling to make the numbers work and the schedule's stacked. We'd be here all day if I showed you every single story out there showing what companies are doing to sweeten the employment pot, but here are a few examples.

Woodman's Market, a supermarket chain with 18 stores in Wisconsin and Illinois, told CNN they needed to hire 600 more workers to relieve their current employees and they're offering up to $1,500 hiring bonuses.

A Jersey Mike's shop that's opening in California offered new hires for assistant manager bonuses of up to $10,000. Layne's Chicken Fingers, a fast food chain restaurant with eight locations in Texas, recently boosted salaries to $50,000 a year plus bonuses to keep and attract workers and some of those workers are in their late teens and early 20s.

And my next guest is the chairman and CEO of Ariens, a company that's been manufacturing outdoor power equipment like lawnmowers and snowblowers and power tools since 1933 and a business that's been in the family for five generations. Well, they hired 412 employees and if those hires stayed on for 90 days, they'd be eligible for a $2,000 bonus. Thirty-eight percent that were hired and eligible for the bonus didn't make it long enough to receive it.

So will this reckoning reshape the work force and/or are hirings going to keep collecting dust?


Joining me now is Dan Ariens, the CEO and Chair of Ariens Company. Dan, thank you so much for being here. What kind of jobs were you hiring for?

DAN ARIENS, CHAIRMAN & CEO OF ARIENS COMPANY: Well, we're hiring for all kinds of jobs, Michael. assembly workers, welders, laser operators, press brake operators and press operators and machinists. I mean, every position we have in our manufacturing plant is available.

SMERCONISH: I mean, I guess what I'm wondering is are they particularly dirty jobs, onerous jobs?

ARIENS: No. I mean, we're a very clean manufacturing plant. It's actually a very engaged workforce. We have a very safe environment in our work force. We're assembling lawnmowers and snowblowers. We're laser cutting the steel and most of this, we've put in a tremendous amount of automation. So we've put in ergonomic controls, made the work safer, we've made the work easier over the last five and 10 years. So I would not consider it -- no, not dirty jobs. Good manufacturing jobs.

SMERCONISH: So the president's response, you heard him whisper, just pay more. Is it that simple?

ARIENS: Well, we have and, you know, I look around at my peers that are in business and they have as well. You know, in our case, today, our wages are up on second shift 48 percent. On our first shift plant operations, they're up 38 percent. So we have raised those wages and I wouldn't say that we came off of a very low base. We're always at the 90th to 100th percentile around the market that we -- that we draw from for labor.

So we have been pushing and I would -- what I would respond is saying we're actually competing with the government for work. I mean, as you laid out in your introduction, we're competing for that same job and at wages that are something north of $17 an hour to stay home with benefits, with housing help, with all kinds of support. the safety net is quite high. It's pretty easy to settle under that safety net.

SMERCONISH: So to what do you attribute this situation? Obviously it's not just your company. You heard the examples and the business pages are replete with others every single day.

ARIENS: Right. I wish I could put my finger on one thing. I would say there are multiple factors, including the fact that demographics are changing in the United States, right? And so that's something that we're all going to deal with not just now coming out of a pandemic, but we're going to deal with this for another decade because we just aren't going to have the work force that we had.

But we've done a tremendous number of things to make our community better, to invest in the community with day care services, to make all kinds of -- take all kinds of excuses away for not being able to come to work and the thing that throws me is that we're recruiting people, but we're not able to retain people and I would say one of the contributing factors, one of the causes is that it's really easy to back off until the $300 or other supplemental benefits are not available.

And we have to put -- you know, we have to put us back to work. Until those things go away, I think this is going to be a challenge in the short term.

SMERCONISH: And final question. Had you ever seen something like this in your hiring practices, this kind of a problem or obstacle before the pandemic?

ARIENS: No. I mean, so we're dealing with a better than 50 percent turnover rate and in one department, over 100 percent turnover rate and then we look at -- we self examine the work and say has something changed, is it -- is it different, is the work harder? And our answer is not really. We actually think it's cleaner, safer and easier, but something has changed in the dynamics where people won't even stay for a $2,000 signing bonus to collect that.

So we're changing some of the things like enhancing attendance bonuses paid routinely, weekly, instead of waiting for 90 days for a bonus. But, no, in my 35 plus years, I've never seen anything like this and typically our turnover is around 20 percent. So we're dealing with 50 percent and in one case 100 percent turnover.

SMERCONISH: Yes. Something has changed. Dan Ariens, thanks so much.

ARIENS: Something's changed ...

SMERCONISH: Appreciate your being here.

ARIENS: Thank you, Michael. Have a good day.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages from the world of social media. "The pandemic definitely changed people regarding jobs. I believe employers will have to pay better wages to get people to work for them." Laurie, you speak for many in that regard, but I think Dan's answer is to say I am paying better.

[09:25:01] I'm paying up to a $2,000 bonus or how about Jersey Mike's in California? You want to be an assistant manager? That could be a $10,000 bonus and they're still having difficulty.

Up ahead, for the first time, Britney Spears spoke up forcefully about her conservatorship, calling it abusive. Does the pop star have a chance at taking back control over her own life? An expert on that subject will be here to weigh in.

And the Democratic-led voting rights bill is down to its last strike in the bottom of the ninth. I'll talk to "Atlantic" senior editor Ron Brownstein who says it's all up to these two senators to step up to the plate and turn it around. Make sure you're voting at on this week's survey question. I'm about to get into this with Ron. If no Republicans support the Senate Democratic voting rights bill, will either Manchin or Sinema vote to end the filibuster?



SMERCONISH: The Justice Department has Georgia on its mind. It's suing the state over new voting election laws enacted as part of Republican efforts nationwide to limit voting access in the wake of former President Donald Trump's defeat. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has maintained this law isn't partisan and is accusing the Biden administration of -- quote -- "Weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy."

The DOJ lawsuit claims the Georgia law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and it lands on Georgia's doorstep, just days after Senate Republicans shot down the Democrats' voting and election bill during a key test vote. The federal attempt to curb some Republican- led state voting laws remains on life support.

Here now to discuss is CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's the senior editor at "The Atlantic." His most recent piece addresses the Democrat's effort to revive the voting rights bill. It's entitled "Manchin and Sinema Now the Face of Weight of History." I think I screwed that up. But I should also tell you Ron is the author of a fabulous book called "Rock Me on the Water." And that I did not screw up.

OK. So, Ron, you previously opined that there was no prospect of a federal response to a state voting restriction. Is that still your opinion?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, unless the Democrats agree to change the filibuster. The paradox -- the fundamental paradox in this debate is that in state after state, Republicans are pushing through these changes, these restrictive changes in voting laws on a party line basis, most recently in Arizona this week. Virtually every Republican, muscling them through over unified opposition of the Democrats.

But despite that, the position that Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema are taking is that in effect Senate Republicans should have a veto on whether -- Washington to responds to this partisan offensive in the states. What they are saying is that Washington should not act unless 10 Senate Republicans agree to do so. And that position obviously is internally incoherent when you look at what is happening in the states.

Now, where they are is that after this vote, this week, where 50 Republicans, you know, join in the filibuster to prevent the debate from beginning, Democrats now want to go back to the drawing board and relatively quickly sketch out a new slimmed down voting rights bill, based on the principles that Joe Manchin put out, which came, you know, further toward the Democratic position that many expected but have some key olive branches for Republicans.

They want to unify all the Democrats behind that bill and then turn to Manchin and Sinema and say, look, you say there's bipartisanship. Go find us 10 Republican votes for this bill based on your principles. And if you cannot, then we need to get in a room and discuss whether there's any way to reform or restrict the filibuster that allows us to move forward.

SMERCONISH: Right. It makes total sense to me the way you've explained, the way that you wrote it in "The Atlantic." I've said some similar things on radio.

In other words, let's let Manchin run with the ball for a while, and if he gets a bloody nose in the process, then he'll be hard-pressed to be defending attempts that compromise with Republican. I mean, Ron, it explains why Stacey Abrams signed on to the idea of requiring a voter I.D. True?

BROWNSTEIN: True. Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know -- look, I mean, there's going to be a lot of debate about those provisions in the bill when it -- when it -- when -- if and when the rubber meets the road.

But, yes, Democrats, I think, are willing to show Manchin and Sinema that they are -- they will go -- they will go ahead with concessions that are clearly designed to be attractive to Republicans and test the proposition that Manchin and Sinema have offered that there will be Republicans willing to do this.

I mean, you know, what they are basically saying is that the only way the federal government should act is if Republicans in the Senate agree to constrain what Republicans in the states are doing. And that is obviously, you know, very much of a long shot and, you know, kind of either naive or disingenuous.

But I think Democrats believe they have to go through this process and then ultimately face that test, that, you know, gut check moment. Are they willing to move forward on their own, or are they going to let this die and allow these restrictions, which accumulatively do add up to the most serious assault on voting rights since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965? Are they going to allow them to go forward on a party line basis in red state after state?

SMERCONISH: So you've inspired my survey question today. I don't know if you'll want to own it. But what I was really asking is, will this strategy be successful?


If no Republicans in the end come onboard, will you see either Manchin or Sinema vote to end the filibuster? What's your answer?

BROWNSTEIN: I think nobody knows. I mean, I've talked to others -- and, you know, I think they don't know. I mean, there is a certain amount of optimism that as the evidence accumulates, that Republicans are unwilling to deal on this issue, that they might at least consider carving out what the journalist Jonathan Alter has called the democracy exception for -- from the filibuster. You know, there have been exceptions from the filibuster on a lot of different issues.

And, Michael, one thing worth noting is that the things that Republican care most about at the federal level, they can already do with 51 votes. Cutting taxes to reconciliation and appointing Supreme Court justices through the exception of the filibuster that Mitch McConnell created for the Supreme Court in 2017 after Harry Reid did it for the lower courts.

So they are already operating on a majoritarian basis on the things that they care most about and the question is whether Manchin and Sinema are going to allow Democrats to do so on these issues. By the way, it is worth noting that the 14th amendment, the 15th amendment, all of the other reconstruction era attempts to ensure civil rights for the freed slaves after the Civil War passed on a purely party line basis. Not a single Democrat in Congress voted for any of them.

And the Lincoln era Republicans did not say that the Democrats who were the -- left in Congress or the allies of the former confederacy deserved a veto on whether the federal government took action to try to ensure a national floor of civil and voting rights.

SMERCONISH: All right. Well, you punted on the question. Everyone else has to weigh in one way or the other. But thank you -- thank you nonetheless, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks -- thanks, Michael. I don't think I know the answer.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From the world of Twitter, what do we have? Michael, you are assuming that Biden administration and Dem party actually want to end the filibuster. It's clear that several Senate Dems didn't actually want the S1 voting bill. Manchin was cover for them.

Interesting point, Mike Daily. I have said previously that if Joe Manchin didn't exist, in some circumstances, Joe Biden would want to invent him. Because I think that Manchin provides great cover for Biden, who is not as progressive -- Biden -- President Biden, as some of the other influences in his party and he gets to lay off on, you know, Manchin and Sinema. I would like to give it to you AOC, but I've got Manchin and Sinema to deal with. It suits his interests very well, I think.

Reminder, go to the Web site, Now you've had the briefing. Now you can vote on the survey question. And now you get where I'm really going.

If no Republicans will support the Senate Democratic voting rights bill, what about Manchin or Sinema? Will they vote to end the filibuster?

Still to come, Britney Spears fans rallied outside an L.A. courthouse this week because the 39-year-old pop star is seeking liberation from her court-imposed conservatorship, which she says has imposed restrictions even on her birth control. How hard will it be for her to get out of this situation? I will ask a lawyer with expertise in just a moment.



SMERCONISH: This week, pop star Britney Spears broke her public silence about the long-running conservatorship controlling her life. Spears now 39 appeared in Superior Court in Los Angeles calling the situation abusive. She claimed said she has been forced to take debilitating medication and stay on birth control, and had not been informed that she could seek an end to the arrangement.

It has been in place since 2008 after the singer was hospitalized for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation amid concerns about her mental health and substance abuse. A judge initially gave Britney's father, James Spears, conservatorship over her person and finances.

The judge also deemed Spears incapable of hiring her own council and appointed the lawyer Samuel D. Ingham III who had worked on other high profile conservatorship cases like those of mogul Sumner Redstone and radio host Casey Kasem.

According to reporting in "The New York Times," "In 2019, the last year in which full accounting was available, Mr. Ingham made about $373,000 for his work with Miss Spears, bringing his total since 2008 to nearly $3 million." Spears' treatment has sparked a fan campaign to end the conservatorship known as #FreeBritney. So, what are her prospects? Joining me now to discuss is Sarah Wentz, a trust and estate lawyer at the firm of Fox Rothschild who has worked on conservatorship cases in the past. Counselor, how often and in what typical circumstances do you see a person her age who is subject to conservatorship?

SARAH WENTZ, ATTORNEY, FOX ROTHSCHILD: Not often at all. In fact, it's such an unusual circumstance that, I think, all of us are alarmed and the things that she said in court make us even more concerned about, you know, whether the system has really served her and the lawyer has been acting in her best interests.

SMERCONISH: She said that she didn't realize that she could contest this arrangement, which tells me either she forgot or somebody is not doing their duty in advising her as her lawyer.

WENTZ: Right. You know, it's always hard to say what are behind closed doors, but the allegations that she made in court about not knowing she can move forward on this are really concerning because we have rules of responsibility as lawyers to recently inform the clients to try to meet their wishes. And if she wasn't informed, then he really wasn't doing his job pursuant to the codes of conduct in California.

SMERCONISH: OK. Something else that puzzles me, but this is not my area of the law. Why wasn't this a hearing where she was seeking to end that arrangement?


In other words, it seems more like it was a status call.

WENTZ: Yes. It's an interesting thing that they didn't file a petition. If he had any idea what she was going to say then clearly with the cases he's been involved in in the past, he would understand that they weren't there on a hearing to remove the conservatorship altogether.

So, I think she either decided to say this in court without sharing the information about what she really was going to tell the judge or they hadn't had enough meetings to talk about what they were really there for and what needed to be filed in advance. And he certainly didn't give the 15-day notification to the other side that they would have had to in this case.

SMERCONISH: What next? I mean, it seems to me that one possibility, I don't know how likely, is that her desire to end this arrangement would go uncontested. What do you see?

WENTZ: I think that's a possibility. I think if the conservators know that based on the facts and evidence that's going to be put forward that it would be terminated, it would be in everybody's best interests to consent to that and go into the court together and say, now is the time to end this.

I think there's a lot of issues of potential conflicts of interest with the money people have been earning on both sides, and I don't know whether it's going to be uncontested. But to spend the millions of dollars that it would probably take to actually go through a contested petition to terminate this is probably not in her best interests, unless there's a lot that we don't know.

SMERCONISH: Surely you have asked yourself, as an experienced attorney in this area, what would it take to justify this type of arrangement? Have you come up with anything?

WENTZ: That's so hard to speculate on. I think that we really need to see more about the evidence.

What she said in court was so alarming that there better be really good facts on the other side or there's a lot of people that have not been doing things in her best interests. And, you know, that may come back to not be a very comfortable situation for them to deal with in the future.

SMERCONISH: The subject of an evaluation, is it a necessity that there be an evaluation before a court could say, we're going to end the conservatorship in this case?

WENTZ: I think in this case, there will be. I think the judge will feel that they need to do their due diligence to make sure that the conservators had good reason to have this in place for so long. I think it would be so likely that the judge would just based on her testimony alone, without a serious investigation into it, determine if she really is ready for this. Because the last thing the court wants is her to spiral the minute she gets out of this and then the court feel the responsibility that they didn't actually do their job.

SMERCONISH: One of the most alarming things that I've read about this case was in "The New York Times" and it suggested that there was a hearing in 2014 where it came to light that Britney Spears believed that her ability to marry had been limited by the court and that it hadn't and that a judge said, maybe we shouldn't tell her so. Do you know what I'm making reference to?

WENTZ: Yes, I do. I did read those documents. And again, very alarming, because the lawyer that works with her has a duty to inform her about what her rights are.

And he sat -- at least from the court records that we read, he sat in that meeting. He understood that maybe she didn't understand what her rights were and there's the conflict there in your ethical obligations to a client. Even when representing someone with diminished capacity, you need to have those conversations with them. You can't just decide that it's really not in their best interests to know their rights.

SMERCONISH: Very sad, all around. Sarah Wentz, thank you so much for being here.

WENTZ: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have from the world of Twitter?

Where are the mental health professionals who agree to this physical autonomy conservatorship? We on the outside are not seeing the whole picture and therefore can only assume.

Dawn, a great point. You're right, we're playing with half a deck, if even that of information. And I think that's very, very important, which is why I asked Sarah a moment ago.

I'm sure you've wondered, you know, what could justify these limitations? You come up with anything? It seems like she couldn't. And I can't either. But there's more that we don't know.

Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of the survey question at Ron Brownstein inspired it with his great piece in "The Atlantic." If no Republicans support the Senate Democratic voting rights bill, will either Manchin or Sinema vote to end the filibuster? Go vote.



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at If no Republicans support the Senate Democratic voting rights bill, will either Senator Manchin or Sinema vote to end the filibuster? What do you say on this?

Close to 70 percent say no, of more than 13,000 who cast. Well, that doesn't -- that doesn't bode well then, does it? If they won't vote to break the filibuster, it doesn't bode well for Democrats because not a single Republican is signing on to this idea at changing so-called voting rights. So, therefore, the only way you get it done is to break the filibuster, and it all comes down to the two of them.

More social media, what came in this week? Let's take a quick peek.

They better not. Dems are in a power grab that have grave consequences for this nation. They want complete and total power and are acting like a regime versus Democratic government. Patricia, the rules are being set right now for 2022 and 2024.


That's the big picture view. We are establishing now the framework for how the midterm elections and the next presidential race will be determined.

Next one, quickly, because I'm limited on time. The next question should be, who built it? And what's the health of the neighboring towers?

Oh, so this goes back now to these new revelations. And we're about to bring you on CNN a press conference about that tragic situation in Miami. And the new revelations three years ago, an engineering consultant essentially said, this building has got a big problem.

Now whether that's causally tied to this catastrophe, we don't know. But one of the troubling aspects is that there is a building built just like it that needs to be kept an eye on.

See you next week.