Return to Transcripts main page
Derek Chauvin Set For Sentencing; Rudy Giuliani's Law License Suspended in New York; President Biden Touts Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement; Florida Building Collapse; Interview With National Economic Council Director Brian Deese. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 24, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: As Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, if Democrats go for a high-dollar, multitrillion-dollar, go-it-alone process, then they're going to see massive resistance from Republicans.
Does that put into jeopardy what we saw today?
BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, the president's been very clear, he's going to pursue his agenda.
And wherever he can find bipartisan support, he wants -- he prefers to work that way. But he's prepared to work on a majority where that's going to be necessary to get some things done, like reforming our tax code to actually get the revenue we need to invest in these in these priorities.
And so what he's going to make the case is, on infrastructure, this is an area where there's bipartisan support, and we now have a bipartisan agreement, an agreement that has been worked out in good faith between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.
And everyone's going to need to look at that and make a decision about whether it's something they could support. But I think we heard the president today and you heard the Republican senators who were here.
DEESE: This is a deal that makes a lot of sense for the country, for our economy and for our future.
BLACKWELL: I will point out we have not heard from Mitch McConnell. And, of course, his voice is important in this conversation.
Brian Deese there at the White House, thank you so much.
DEESE: Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLACKWELL: Top of the hour, I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for staying with me. We will begin with the life-and-death race right now in South Florida,
the search for survivors, more than 13 hours after a building collapse that killed at least one, injured at least 10. Moments ago, the fire marshal told CNN rescuers are hearing some voices there in the rubble.
Surveillance video captured the moment. This is 1:30 a.m., Surfside, Florida, 55 units of a condo complex pancaked. You see one section go down. And then a few seconds later, watch this. The second part falls.
Florida's governor toured the disaster site a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We thank the fire and rescue for what they did to be able to put themselves on the line to help other folks. They're still hard at work. We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: The county commissioner told CNN that 51 people are unaccounted for. She says it's possible they could be on vacation or simply away from their home.
Rescue teams, they saved 35 people from that 12 story-building, another two from the rubble. Now, one of those was a 10-year-old boy. And a man who found him told CNN that he first heard someone yelling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS BALBOA, FOUND 10-YEAR-OLD BOY: I could begin to hear him clearly and see -- and hear by his voice that he was a little boy, couldn't have been more than in his preteens.
So, then I saw -- I saw an arm sticking out of the wreckage. And he was screaming, "Can you see me?" and whatnot.
So, we started to kind of climb up to him to try and see if we could get him free. But 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 he was just screaming: "Don't leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me."
And so we wanted to stay with him, make sure that we got fire and police over there. So, I was able to signal a police officer using the flashlight of my phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Joining me now is Jorge Soto, who lives across from that building.
You took videos of what you saw there overnight. I want you to just start the story. It was just after 2:00. You were headed home in an Uber and it was cordoned off, so you had to get out and walk.
Tell me what you saw then as you were heading home.
JORGE SOTO, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Yes, so it was pretty clear as soon as I arrived in the area that something really, really drastic happened, because you couldn't get in anywhere.
And so I had to walk, as you mentioned, a couple blocks out of my Uber, entered into my building from the side, which is the 89th Street and Collins area. So I hadn't paid attention. You know, I suppose the -- at that time -- this was about 2:00 a.m. I suppose that the falling or whatnot had subsided, so I didn't hear anything.
However, there's -- it was clearly, again, something was going on. So I went on the roof to see what was going on. And there were quite a few of my neighbors on there, the property manager. And I asked what happened.
And he said that entire back just dropped all the way down to the beach. And I asked, well, because there's a lot of vacation homes here and snowbirds and those sort of type of folks here, I had asked, hey is there -- do you think there are any fatalities?
And I didn't see it myself, but my property manager and his wife confirmed that they did see people that did look like they were deceased coming out on stretchers and stuff. Again, I didn't see that, but it was communicated to me.
BLACKWELL: Well, what we know is that one person has been confirmed to have been killed in this, 10 others injured, 35 people pulled out and taking to either hospitals or treated there at the scene.
I understand you also met with those spoke with two survivors. What did they tell you?
SOTO: Yes, so I went down to kind of look a little more.
And the first person -- and I actually have a video that I sent your team. I also posted it on Twitter. And so, as soon as I walked down from my stairs, I saw one gentleman, a Hispanic male, probably around like 6 foot, and he was covered in dust. And so my immediate reaction was, OK, this fellow was either very close or in the building.
So I asked him. And the video that I posted actually encompasses the conversation, but basically asked him, hey, are you OK? He says yes, I was fine.
He seemed to be quite, like, resilient at that moment. Maybe he was in shock. And then I asked a stupid question, which was, is everything OK? And then I followed up by saying, well, obviously not.
He continued to walk away. He seemed to be OK. He was in sandals, I remember, because his feet were covered in dust. A couple minutes after that, the police officers, as I was approaching that corner, which is 88th and Collins -- I live between 88 and 89th and Collins. The police officers asked me to leave. And so I continued walking. And then I approached the corner, and I
saw a woman who looked like she was in pretty rough shape. And I asked her, hey, are you OK? Were you in there? She said, yes, I was. She said that she was waiting for someone to pick her up. She was pretty rattled, as you could imagine.
And then she said that she heard not one, but two explosion-sounding things. So, again, I am not an expert in these things.
SOTO: However, but that was what was communicated. It does look pretty atrocious.
And one of my neighbors is a veteran. He says it reminds him of Afghanistan when he was there. This woman said that...
BLACKWELL: Yes, we've heard comparisons to -- go ahead. Go ahead.
No, just to wrap up with -- the conversation with a woman, a Red Cross first responder was -- came over to her and started consulting. And then, at that point, I just disengaged, because I'm not an expert at that stuff. And she needed some help.
We have -- as we're looking at the video here, we have heard experts compare this to what they have seen at natural disasters, storms, 9/11 as well, the pancaking here of this. The investigation continues.
But I wonder. You're across the street. Are you concerned about the safety of your building?
SOTO: So, a couple people have asked me, so I will speak for myself, and then I will explain what I have heard from other folks.
My initial reaction was more empathy and pain, sensing the pain that the people who were directly involved in the building and their family and friends were experiencing. So I didn't really go to that fear right away.
However, I was asked by a reporter. And I -- my logic was that, if it was that bad, then they would have evacuated the area...
SOTO: ... if they thought that the there was other buildings in jeopardy. So that's my rationale right now.
We still don't have power right now. So I'm going to go to a family member's. I am a native, so I have a lot of friends and family here.
SOTO: But that's the -- I guess that's the only sort of impact here, outside of the emotional stuff.
I'm still digesting this whole thing. I'm sure a lot of people are.
BLACKWELL: Understandable, yes.
SOTO: This is a small-knit community. We're a really small community here in Surfside. And so we have a small town feel in Miami.
And so this is going to take some time for the community to get through.
BLACKWELL: Yes, a small beach community and a larger beach community, just a few 1,000 people there in Surfside.
Jorge Soto, thank you so much for sharing your story, sharing your time, and, of course, the videos that you shot as well. The best to you.
And if you don't mind, I wanted to just -- yes, just real quick, if you didn't mind, we are taking donations at the Surfside Community Center...
SOTO: ... which is on 93rd and Collins. So, they need blankets, clothing, shoes, everything, all these sorts of things you could imagine.
SOTO: So, if anyone is available to help, it would be much appreciated.
BLACKWELL: We know that a lot of people will need some help there.
Jorge, thank you for doing that and sharing that with us. Again, thanks for your time.
Let's go to Washington now, where President Biden is celebrating the end of a long and winding road. Is it the end? Maybe it's just a pit stop, finally reaching a deal with senators on infrastructure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal. That's what it means to compromise. And it reflects something important. It reflects consensus. The heart of democracy requires consensus.
And it's time a true -- this time, a true bipartisan effort, breaking the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place, prevented us from solving the real problems facing the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: A bipartisan group of 10 senators, five Democrats, five Republicans, they negotiated a deal, more than a half-trillion dollars in new spending, which is far less than the president wanted, perhaps more consequential, though, far less than progressive senators are willing to accept.
With us now, CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju and CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.
First to you, Manu.
The reaction from lawmakers to what was announced today?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are listening.
The Republican leadership has not said how they will come down. Mitch McConnell has been briefed on it. He will not say if he supports his plan. And he's been -- according to the senators who have spoken to him, they say he is listening to this.
Democratic leaders are signaling they are supporting this. They're not saying outright, but they say they're supporting the concept of this. And progressives are concerned. Liberals say that this does not have all of their priorities.
But they're suggesting perhaps they could get behind this, assuming Democrats can move on their Democratic-only approach at the same time, which is what the Democrats plan to do as well, whose leaders are saying, if you didn't get your priorities here, on your next package, you will.
Nevertheless, there is some serious pushback to this plan. Liberals telling me today that it is paltry, and, in the words of one senator, pathetic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Is it enough way?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Way too small, paltry, pathetic.
I need a clear, ironclad assurance that there will be a really adequate, robust package that addresses not just roads and bridges and rail even more adequately than this one does, but also the human capital, the human infrastructure, like day care and the child tax credit and community colleges and home care workers.
That's the kind of infrastructure that we need to support.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We need assurances from all 50 people in our caucus that we have a deal, and it's not just a deal on numbers. It's a deal on what gets covered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, they don't have assurances from all 50 Democrats.
One of them, Senator Joe Manchin, said to me repeatedly today and before, that he will not -- can say that he can't just support the Democratic-only approach, because he wants his bipartisan deal to pass.
But the Democratic leaders are trying to get around that by saying, in the House, they will not pass this bipartisan deal unless the Senate passes the Democratic-only bill first. That is what Nancy Pelosi said very clearly earlier today. That's what Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, also said very clearly today.
And that seems to have reassured some Democrats that they will eventually get their priorities. But that means that they have to get all of these things done together. And also, in an important signal, just moments goes, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, Bernie Sanders, indicated to me that he's willing to lower the price tag of the overall Democratic approach, which he's talking about $6 trillion right now.
Some moderates have pushed back. He's saying he's willing potentially to go lower than that, in order to get all 50 Democrats in the Senate to agree to that proposal, so perhaps some movement here, but a long way to go from now until Joe Biden's desk.
BLACKWELL: Important element there, Manu.
Phil, let me come to you. The president today sounded, appear to feel validated that his bipartisan approach had come to this deal, but, still, as Manu highlights, so many chapters until they come back to him on his desk to sign.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as you noted, not really the end, but maybe the end of the beginning of this entire process, right?
There's a long way to go. And I think White House officials know that. And I think the interesting element -- and you pointed this out, Victor -- I think it's a really good point, and you could hear the president talk about it when he was speaking to us just a short while ago in the East Room -- this idea that White House officials, the president heard over the course of the last several weeks from progressive, saying, put an end to these negotiations, it's time to move on our own.
And they essentially ignored it. They heard it. They listened. They communicated at the staff level. But they made very clear that this is what they wanted to do and that they believed there was a pathway here. Right now, that effort has been validated. It doesn't mean it's necessarily going to end up on the president's desk, but they believe it underscores the president's approach here.
And they have also made very clear, kind of to Manu's point about where Democratic leadership is, this isn't moving in isolation, the president saying explicitly these two bills, the bill he has agreed to on the bipartisan basis and the Democrat-only bill, will have to move in tandem.
In fact, he laid out a red line. He said, if the bipartisan bill reaches his desk, he will not sign it unless the second bill does as well. And that should go a long way into reassuring progressives here.
But this overall approach that you have seen by the president has been one he's made clear since he came to office he wanted to pursue, despite people saying bipartisanship maybe not possible, Democrats clearly making -- making it clear to the White House that they don't think Republicans or Senate Republicans would be willing to deal, the president was willing to pursue it, his team was willing to pursue it over the course of several weeks.
And they reached this agreement, one that they think is very substantive, and one of the largest infrastructure proposals in the better part of the last generation or two.
And they believe this gives them some runway for that second piece of legislation. But, Victor, you hit a key point. Manu did as well. This is going to be a process. White House officials know that. They know there's a lot of work to come, because they don't even have legislative text on this deal. That alone takes time. So there will be that and then obviously the drafting and working through the larger Democrat-only package.
It's going to take weeks and longer, most likely, but right now, from the president's perspective, validation on the bipartisan path and a very clear process still in front of him that has not foreclosed any of the opportunities to pass his entire $4 trillion economic agenda
BLACKWELL: Phil Mattingly there at the White House and on Capitol Hill, Manu Raju, thank you both.
Still ahead: Rudy Giuliani, the former lawyer for President Trump, has his law license suspended in New York. We will explain why.
And Derek Chauvin will be sentenced tomorrow for the murder of George Floyd. The former officer is facing up to 40 years in prison. We will talk about the factors that the judge will consider.
BLACKWELL: Major consequence for Rudy Giuliani for pushing the big lie that his former client President Trump lost the 2020 election by fraud.
A short time ago, an appellate court suspended his license to practice law in New York. The reasoning here, listen to this.
"There is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at reelection in 2020."
With me now to discuss, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.
Elie, first to you.
A surprise, not only that this was -- this suspension came, but just how critical this judge was in saying so.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is a surprise, Victor. It is so rare to see this happen. And it's such an extraordinary step and a statement.
The key phrase, demonstrably false. Thank goodness for our courts, thank goodness for our courts for saying, look, all the spin in the world, all the outrage, the false narratives, they don't stand here. We're about facts. What you have been saying is demonstrably false. As a lawyer, you can do a lot. You have a lot of latitude, but you cannot lie.
BLACKWELL: Yes, this appellate court went on, Areva, to say that he was a threat to the public interest.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor, I slightly disagree with Elie. I wasn't surprised at all by the courts's rebuke of Rudy Giuliani.
We all watched in shock and horror as he made these baseless claims to court after court after court. I was just sitting back wondering, when would the New York bar take some kind of action? We should note that it's temporary at this point, and he will have an opportunity to make arguments to try to have his bar license reinstated.
But I think there's some other lawyers who worked along with Rudy Giuliani who will probably face a very similar fate. You cannot be a member of the bar in any state and make the kind of baseless claims that Rudy Giuliani and team made with respect to trying to overturn this election. So I think this is a well-deserved rebuke of a lawyer who at one point led a Department of Justice in this country, so not surprising to me.
BLACKWELL: All right, let's turn now to Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer found guilty in the murder of George Floyd.
He will be sentenced tomorrow, convicted in April, second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder as well.
Elie, first to you. How will the judge determine the sentence here?
HONIG: Yes, Victor, so big day tomorrow, first of all.
The statutory maximum, the highest penalty as a practical matter that Derek Chauvin faces is 40 years in prison. However, the state of Minnesota has sentencing guidelines which give the judge recommended, advisory, not binding, but advisory guidelines. The guidelines here is only 12.5 years. That's largely because this is Derek Chauvin's first conviction.
However, the judges already found that four aggravating factors apply, that Derek Chauvin abused his power as a police officer, that he used particular cruelty in the way he killed George Floyd, that minors were president, and that three or more people were part of this criminal activity.
As a result, the judge can go well above that 12.5 years. Prosecutors are asking for a 30-year sentence, Victor, and the defense is asking for just probation and time served, meaning the defense is asking the judge to let Derek Chauvin out of prison tomorrow. That is not going to happen.
Where the judge falls in between that, we will see.
BLACKWELL: All right, so let's talk about that in-between, Areva.
What do you expect, considering all that we know, especially those aggravating factors?
MARTIN: I think it will be substantially higher than the presumptive 12.5 years.
This is only the second a police officer in the state of Minnesota that has been convicted of murder. And the other officer who was convicted of third-degree murder got the 12.5 years in a case that is really different than what we witnessed with respect to George Floyd.
I think, when you take into account the aggravating factors, you take into account that there are impact statements that have been submitted, not just by the family members of George Floyd and other victims, but by the community, when the judge takes all of those impact statements into consideration, the fact that Chauvin has not shown any remorse or accepted any responsibility for murdering George Floyd, I think we're looking closer to the 30-year range, much higher than the 12.5 pre-sentencing -- or the presumptive 12.5 years.
BLACKWELL: Those impact statements, we expecting to hear some of those tomorrow?
HONIG: Yes, Victor. So here's what's going to happen in the courtroom tomorrow.
It shouldn't be a long proceeding. First of all, both -- the lawyers for both sides are going to have a chance to make legal arguments. Now, they have already put in briefs, so this should be fairly quick.
Then we are going to hear victim impact statements from the family members of George Floyd. That, I think, is going to be extremely dramatic. I have been in courtrooms for this kind of thing. It is a very solemn, sort of riveting moment.
And then Derek Chauvin will have the opportunity, if he so chooses, to address the court, to express the kind of remorse Areva was talking about. I don't know whether he's going to do that. A lot of times, when someone gets convicted at trial, and they're going to appeal, as Derek Chauvin is, they choose not to speak.
And then, finally, the judge will pronounce the sentence.
BLACKWELL: All right, Elie Honig, Areva Martin, thank you very much.
We got to move forward on the breaking news out of Surfside, Florida, An update on the number of people who are missing after that tragedy overnight.
CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Surfside with an updated number.
What do you have?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, we have just confirmed with Miami-Dade Police Department that 99 individuals are unaccounted for.
That is the latest tally on the numbers of people that they are still looking for at this hour. Remember, the last time we checked in, we had spoken to the fire marshal, who said that his rescue teams are out there and they are hearing sounds coming from the rubble, including possibly one person near the garage collapse.
So, clearly, the effort is still under way. But that number is increasing. We started with 51 unaccounted for. That came from the reports coming into the county's hot line. And now police are telling us nearly double that, that they have 99 people unaccounted for as they search in the debris, in the rubble after this building collapsed.
BLACKWELL: And, Leyla, now that we know that this number has nearly doubled of those unaccounted for -- and, again, we should point out that officials say that some of those people could have not been at home at the time, maybe they are on vacation.
But the search that is happening there, some of the challenges they're facing, some of the inclement weather that is passing through, just lay out what they're facing to try to find these survivors.
SANTIAGO: This is a massive effort. I mean, we are seeing people from every agency, it feels like, in this state coming here to help in this search-and-rescue.
We have had quite a bit of rain. And, of course, there's the integrity of the structure, right? The building is partially collapsed, and it is not stable, so much so that they have evacuated a small hotel that's nearby, because they were concerned about the building continuing to collapse.
It was a partial collapse. So search-and-rescue is out there. They are trying to get to anyone who's under the debris, but they have challenges of weather, of other structures nearby, and then just trying to get to those who they can still rescue and save a life.
BLACKWELL: And the reunification center, those people who are either waiting there or waiting for a call, what do we know about those families and the efforts that they're making to find some evidence of life, some maybe late-night tweet or a phone call missed or something to find out if their loved one is safe?
Well, you know what's interesting about that, Victor, is, CNN was over at that center, that community center, where they are using it as a place to reunite families. And many people there don't have their phones. They don't have their phones because they left. They ran out and didn't grab the cell phone on the way out.
So that is also part of the challenge of people not being able to reach loved ones, because they left their cell phones behind in the hurry of trying to get out safely.
We do know that the Red Cross is on scene, that they are helping or trying to help families that have been displaced to find a place to stay temporarily.