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Frantic Search and Rescue After Condo Collapses; Interview with Gabriel Groisman, Mayor of Bal Harbour; NY Suspends Rudy Giuliani From Practicing Law for Election Lies. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 13:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We continue to follow breaking news this hour out of Surfside, Florida, and right now it is a race to find survivors. A massive search and rescue effort is now entering its 12th hour after this catastrophic building collapse.

We are told at least 51 people are still unaccounted for after a huge chunk of this 12 story ocean-front apartment building turned to rubble overnight. We know at least one person has died, 55 of the 136 units - this portion of the building, destroyed. And that portion of the building still standing could collapse as the desperate search continues. This is the moment those 55 units came crashing down.

Look at that, just stunning. This surveillance video was from around 1:30 am local time. So as you can imagine a lot of people were probably likely just sleeping, and moments later there was a remarkable rescue.

Crews pulled a young boy from the mangled debris. The boy, talking with his rescuers before he was carried off on a stretcher. And earlier, CNN spoke with a man who rushed to the scene after the collapse and he heard the boy screaming.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could hear somebody yelling and screaming. So myself and another individual, we decided to get closer. And it was that point that I could begin to hear him clearly, and hear by his voice that he was - you know, a little boy, couldn't have been more than in his pre-teens.

So then I saw an arm sticking out of the wreckage, and he was screaming - you know, can you see me? And whatnot. So we started to kind of climb up to him, you know, to try and see if we could get him free. But there was - it was too heavy, too much rebar, stuff like that. It was going to take quite a bit of effort to get him out. But you know, he was just screaming, don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me.


CABRERA: And he went on to say that boy told him he was with him mom, but he couldn't see or hear her, calling for help.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live on the scene. This is, again, in Surfside, Florida where authorities say this search could take more than a week. And Leyla, we know you've been dealing with weather there as well. They just wrapped up a presser (ph) nearby, what more are you learning?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the Governor actually just toured the area, Ana, and he says that T.V. just doesn't do it justice. And earlier today, I want to point out that he said he is hopeful but bracing for bad news given the destruction. He is one of many officials that have been here trying to get to the bottom of what caused this building to collapse.

But let's go over the numbers of what we know thus far, according to a County Commissioner there are at least 51 individuals unaccounted for. That is based on reports to a hotline that the county established. We know they rescued 35 people, two of whom were under the rubble. You heard the story of one of them with that little boy.

You know, I - we got here overnight, when we could still see firefighters going in with flashlights and trying to get people from their balconies. We spoke to one man, his name is Barry Cohen. He was inside, trapped, tried to get out - couldn't open the door. And man, the relief he described when a firefighter finally got to him. I want you to hear a little bit of our conversation.


BARRY COHEN, RESIDENT OF PARTIALLY COLLAPSED BUILDING: I looked down the hallway and it's a very long hallway, probably 100 yards - 75 yards. And there was nothing there, it was just a pile of dust, and rubble, and paint falling from the ceilings.

I thought the whole building was going to just collapse, so once the - we were in the cherry picker, a feeling of relief just came over me that was incredible, that I survived this tragedy.


This building was - it was still shaking, there was a - you know, it just seemed like it was very unsteady, and I just - you know, knowing how - what it looked like outside my door, I thought that any minute we could be that same pile of rubble.


SANTIAGO: So the certain rescue effort still very much underway. I can tell you what we have learned about the building. This is a building that was built in the '80s, there was some sort of roof work going on, and the Commissioner - the County Commissioner told us that they had an inspection for the 40 year standard that is typical for buildings - again, built in the '80s.

Twelve stories and 130 units - of those units, 55 collapsed. So nearly half of the units collapsed, explaining why there is such a massive effort underway right now, Ana, to try and rescue anyone who may be under the debris.

CABRERA: An effort that they anticipate could be days, possibly more than a week to do all of that. Thank you, Leyla Santiago, for your ongoing reporting from the scene.

With us now is Gabriel Groisman, he is the Mayor of Bal Harbour, which is right next to Surfside. Mayor, I know you just got back from the site. What went through your mind when you arrived?

GABRIEL GROISMAN, MAYOR OF BAL HARBOUR, FLORIDA: I just got back from the site with - Governor DeSantis was there, our state senators, our county mayor. I was there last night also at 2 in the morning, and it's - frankly, it's devastating. The site is devastating, you see the entire building - or half of the building just in a pile of rubble. And it's really a heartbreaking scene.

CABRERA: And just talk to us a little bit more about what you witnessed. Because we heard from the governor that the pictures just don't do it justice. He said it was traumatic to be on scene there. What stood out to you?

GROISMAN: What stood out was the quiet. I mean, this is a large building - a condominium on the beach, and you just see a large pile of rubble where half of the building stood, and just pure silence today.

And if you juxtapose the images of what you see today from what was standing there yesterday - I can do that in my mind, I used to live in that building as a child. To see the building just sitting there is (ph) just saddening, and you know the unfortunate truth of the fact that there are many people who are in that rubble, and all you hear is silence, and it's really deafening.

CABRERA: Wow. You used to live in this building as a child? So - I don't want to ask you or make you date yourself as to how long ago that was, but the building's only been around since 1981 is what we've learned. What kind of condition do you remember it being in? And do you know how often buildings like this would be inspected?

GROISMAN: So I'm a year older than the building, and I lived there 1983 to 1991 approximately. And the building, I had been in there recently - as recently as a few months ago. It's a building that generally at least from the outside seems to be in good condition.

You know, it's a well-known, well respected building. Obviously there are (ph) issues there that weren't visible to the naked eye, and I'm confident that the authorities and the engineers are going to be able to find out what that was and what the cause of this devastation was.

CABRERA: Can you tell us a little bit more about this community and - you know, the types of residents who would be living in this building?

GROISMAN: Sure. So this community is three small municipalities, Bal Harbour serves out of Bay Harbor Islands and actually Indian Creek. It's all one community, it's largely Jewish community. And this building is actually - mostly senior citizens live in this building at this point.

Senior citizens and young families, unfortunately. (Inaudible). And it's a very tight-knit community, my phone's been ringing off the hook since 2 in the morning with people who are looking for loved ones and family members.

And unfortunately all of us in government here - in local government, we live in this community as well, so we also know people that are there in the building that were affected, and it's something that hits close to home.

CABRERA: Do you know anybody who is missing right now, or unaccounted for?

GROISMAN: Yeah, I know various people who are unaccounted for and I'm not the only one. This is a - it's a very tight-knit community. But I can say that, you know, this is also a moment where you could see how incredible our law enforcement is, our first responders are with - it's a multijurisdictional effort.

Since 2 in the morning when I was on the scene we had police from every city, we have our county fire, we have the state folks that are here, and everybody's working hand-in-hand at really top levels, and really that's something that despite the devastation, at least should bring some level of security to the residents here that the government here in south Florida is working.

CABRERA: The pictures are just horrific. I can't even imagine in the level of precision that has to take place in going through the debris in order to not cause further harm. And of course with the building still standing nearby there are so many risks involved.


We're told they brought in dogs, they have equipment and they are working as quickly, as diligently as possible to save as many lives as possible. Mayor Gabriel Groisman from nearby - the nearby town of Bal Harbour, Florida - thank you so much for joining us, and our heart goes out to you, and everybody in your community, and of course those who you know - those family members who are directly impacted.

GROISMAN: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: I want to go to Craig Moskowitz now, he is on the phone. He is a Forensic Consulting Engineer, and he handles structural defec (ph) cases. So Craig, I assume you've seen the video, you are looking at some of these pictures with us. What is your reaction to what you have seen in this collapse? Does it tell you anything?

CRAIG MOSKOWITZ, FORENSIC CONSULTING ENGINEER: Well, it's very concerning in juncture (ph) to what you just asked me, or mentioned to me - I also read some reports (ph) (inaudible). One thing I understand (ph) is that questions are being raised.

There's obviously a lot of open questions, from an engineering perspective one of my main concerns is my understanding is there is construction of a new structure adjacent to the building where the partial collapse occurred.

And a lot of those cases, monitoring is supposed to be done of any evasive work that's done that could affect the ground. You know, ie the ground where the new building was going in as well as the protection of adjacent structures such as the subject structure the 12 story apartment building that suffered a partial collapse.

What I mean is to just elaborate somewhat is that certain frequencies can affect - the vibration of the ground can affect an adjacent structure so much that the foundation can suffer - sustain some damage, can sustain some weakness.

And that the foundation's affected, and-or the ground below the foundation, that's going to affect the upper levels of a building. It is possible, I don't know if it's (inaudible) at this point. I don't have enough information to make this determination -


MOSKOWITZ: - or provide that opinion if that was a contributing factor. But that's - reading that really resonated with me -


MOSKOWITZ: - because I found (ph) that a lot of the valuations where the proper procedures weren't followed to monitor -


MOSKOWITZ: - new construction work, so that's one thing. The other thing is -

CABRERA: So Craig, let me ask you though - because I don't know if we have been able to confirm the nearby construction work, but I think your point being that what is happening to buildings nearby, not just what's happening with this building specifically but a nearby building under construction could impact the other buildings in its vicinity. So that is important to note because that could become part of the investigation here.

I also am curious to get your thoughts on the description that the mayor gave us from earlier today. So, take a listen to this.



MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: It's not really an older building, it was an '80s building. There is no reason for this building to go down like that unless someone literally pulls out the supports from underneath, or they get washed out, or there's a sinkhole or something like that. Because, it just went down.


CABRERA: Craig, what do you think? MOSKOWITZ: Well, you know, is there something (ph) - someone thought

the supports (ph). I highly doubt that because that's not likely. You know, something else that affected the ground below the foundation, yes back to my previous point. The adjacent construction would most likely affect this building and possibly you're right - possibly others. That was probably a contributing factor.

You know, 40 year old and older building built in the '80s. It's not really an old building per se, but from a building code standpoint - and-or inspection standpoint, my concern is the time period between the 40 year period, in other words, when recertification is done. I understand that this building was going through (ph) recertification, but architects and engineers, I believe, they weren't done yet.

There were some issues, I think, at the garage level underground. My concern is that time period is too large of a gap. I know, I'll just reference one other state - New Jersey. I know another administrative code, multiple dwellings such as an apartment building they're mandated to be inspected at least every - well, every five years. Does that happen? I'd say (ph) most of the time, I think -


MOSKOWITZ: - that, you know, south Florida should consider shortening that gap.


MOSKOWITZ: I'm not saying that it would have prevented this situation, but if it was shortened and done, say, let's see someone on the flexible side every 10 years as opposed to every four years, maybe some problems could have been resolved then.


CABRERA: Exactly.

MOSKOWITZ: Maybe there could have been some cracks that were seen -


MOSKOWITZ: - that were indicative of a structural problem, because what I look at is, when there's a potential for a structural problem or failure (inaudible) floors (ph), something about windows and doors that open and close properly, I'm concerned about cracks in walls - certain types of cracks -

CABRERA: OK, Craig -

MOSKOWITZ: - especially at the foundation level. But, anyway (ph).

CABRERA: Craig Moskowitz, thank you. You have obviously a tremendous amount of expertise on all of this, and we want to learn a lot more about the specific circumstances involved in this case. But thank you for lending your expert eye and analysis to this situation. We appreciate it. And we are covering other breaking news today. Once one of the leading

national legal voice, Rudy Giuliani can now no longer practice law here in New York because of his repeated lies about the 2020 election.

Plus, President Biden announcing just moments ago a historic deal on infrastructure - what we know about it so far and how it's going to be paid for.



CABRERA: He was once dubbed America's Mayor, a presidential candidate, former President Trump's lawyer, and now Rudy Giuliani can't even practice law in his home state. Why? CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here. What is behind this suspension, Paula?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, this is truly remarkable, in addition to being the one-time America's Mayor, he was also at one point one of the nation's top law enforcement officials, and now he's had his law license suspended for pushing lies about the 2020 election.

Now, in a 33 page opinion, the state appellate panel, they concluded that there is uncontroverted evidence that Giuliani communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers, and the public at large in his capacity as a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed efforts at reelection in 2020.

Now, the panel went on to say that these actions were a threat to the public interest and that is why his license had to be suspended. Ana, we actually may even see Giuliani in the next hour. He is expected here in federal court in Washington to defend against a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems.

Now, also expected in court today, our former Trump Legal Member Sidney Powell, and MyPillow guy Mike Lindell. Now, I'm told that Lindell has already arrived at court. You can see quite a circus there and we are awaiting Rudy Giuliani to see if he shows up to this hearing where he will obviously be asked about this stunning development regarding his law license.

CABRERA: OK. It's an incredible development. Thank you so much, Paula Reid. We know you'll be following all the latest twists and turns in that.

Who says bipartisanship is dead? Senators from both parties, and the president say they have a deal on infrastructure. Details on this major moment for the White House agenda when we come back.



CABRERA: A major moment for bipartisanship and the Biden agenda.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Really good meeting, in answer to that question, we have a deal. And I think it's really important that we all agree that none of us got all what we wanted (ph) - I clearly didn't get all I wanted. A bit more than (inaudible) -


CABRERA: Now, this is just one step in a process that still has a long way to go. We will hear from the president again moments from now. Let's bring in CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju and CNN Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly.

And Manu first, the president says we have a deal. We heard from both members of the negotiating group, both Democrats and Republicans - what's in this deal?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we get that we have the general top line numbers, but we don't have all of the details. We do expect to hear more of the details later this afternoon. But overall this suspends under $1 trillion over the next five years - about half of that going - is actually new money.

The total amount over eight years, about $1.2 trillion. They're saying this will not raise taxes, they say it will be paid for by a variety of ways whether it's through selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, or redirecting money that has already been enacted through the COVID Relief law.

So those pay-fors to finance this package is what led to days and days of negotiation. Ultimately they did reach an agreement. We'll wait to see those deal's details but what the Democratic leaders are moving forward here is a two-track approach.

One, this smaller plan that is supported by this bipartisan group of senators as well as moderates from both parties, and then a much larger plan - potentially up to $6 trillion in the eyes of some Liberals, including the one who is leading the charge, Bernie Sanders - that includes a whole swath of President Biden's priorities and then some, dealing with healthcare and the rest. They're trying to tell their left, OK, get behind this plan that the moderates cut.

And then because your priorities will be on this larger plan, and they're trying to get it all done over the summer and potentially into the fall. But there's already pushback on both sides - some of the left saying this deal - this bipartisan deal simply does not go far enough. And some of the moderate members like Joe Manchin say I am not going to agree to this larger deal until I learn more about what's in it.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): To say that one is being held hostage to the other doesn't seem to be fair to me, but they're (ph) going to make those decisions. But we have to see what's in the other plan before I can say, oh yes, you vote for this and I'll vote for that - that's not what I have signed up for.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Way too small, sultry, pathetic. I need a clear ironclad assurance that there will be a really adequate, robust package.