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Top Officials Hit Back Against Offensive Republican Criticism; John McAfee Found Dead in Spanish Prison Cell; Delta Variant Detected in All States but South Dakota; Rescuers Respond to Partial Building Collapse Near Miami; Ethiopian Military Admits to Airstrike in Tigray; Hong Kong Newspaper Apple Daily Prints Final Edition; Buckingham Palace Admits It Must Do More on Diversity; Superstar is Born in NBA Playoffs. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 04:30   ET



PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And that these rioters were far from acting like tourists as one Republican has suggested.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: And the judge Paula Reid just mentioned sits on the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia. His name is Royce Lamberth. And on Wednesday he handed down the first sentence to a Capitol riot defendant. The Indiana woman will be on probation and pay a $500 fine for trespassing. Here's what Judge Lamberth said about Republican efforts to whitewash the riot.

I don't know what planet they were on -- the release of new videos of the insurrection --will show the attempt of some Congressmen to rewrite history that these were tourists walking through the capitol is utter nonsense.

And the Pentagon's top officials pushed back on Republican efforts to question the Defense Department's diversity efforts during a House Armed Services hearing that was supposed to be focused on the budget. Instead several Republican lawmakers questioned the Defense Secretary, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Critical Race Theory, a concept that recognizes systemic racism as part of American society. Just take a listen to their strong response here.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): How should the Department of Defense think about Critical Race Theory?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Could I make a comment, secretary? I'm sorry.

GAETZ: I'm very limited on my time, General Milley -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just want to make a comment that the --

GAETZ: I've asked the question to Secretary Austin.

AUSTIN: I don't know what the issue of Critical Race Theory is, and what the relevance here is with the department. We do not teach Critical Race Theory, we don't embrace Critical Race Theory, and I think that's a spurious conversation.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS: I want to understand white rage. And I'm white. And I want to understand it.

So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.

I've read Mao Zedong. I've read Karl Marx. I've read Lenin. That doesn't make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend.

And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, "woke" or something else because we're studying some theories that are out there.


BRUNHUBER: And general Milley's forceful pushback comes after other military officials have faced similar questions from Republicans over efforts to promote diversity and combat extremism.

Spanish authorities say everything indicates possible suicide in the death of software magnet Jon McAfee. His body was found in his prison cell near Barcelona on Wednesday The eccentric 75-year-old was awaiting extradition to the U.S. on tax evasion charges. CNN's Al Goodman is live this hour in Madrid with more. Al, a tragic end to a controversial life, I guess you can say. What more can you tell us?

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kim. McAfee's death comes about 24 hours after the Spanish court had granted his extradition to the United States began to notify on Tuesday the parties to the case, the lawyers. But that case wasn't sent out to the media until Wednesday, which was just hours before his body was found in that cell. Medical personnel at the prison tried to revive him, officials said. Officials haven't said if he was in a cell by himself.

He was arrested last October in Barcelona at the airport. The extradition hearing was held this month, just a few weeks ago. And the U.S. argued that although he is no longer associated with the famous anti-virus software firm that bears his name, McAfee. In recent years he had been earning millions and not paying taxes by promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting, work speaking engagements, even selling his life story for documentary. McAfee appeared remotely by video from the prison before the court hearing in Madrid, to say that the charges were politically motivated. But the court did rule for his extradition saying he could be tried in

the United States for tax evasion -- for the alleged tax evasion for the years 2016, '17 and '18. But they said it could be appealed.

As you say, the last couple of decades of his life -- he was 75 -- with incredible events back in 2012 in a small Central American country of Belize, he fled the place after the death of his neighbor. He lived for a while in neighboring Guatemala. He moved to Canada, in 2016 he ran for president of the United States as a libertarian. And promised a product that it would be a game changer. The antivirus software company that bears his name, continues to be one of the most widely used in the world -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Al, thank you so much for that update, really appreciate it.


The coronavirus pandemic is being blamed as the major cause behind a drop in life expectancy in the U.S. A new study shows that between 2018 and 2020 life expectancy dropped significantly more in the U.S. than it did in other high income nations. Now that gap had been growing over time, but it ballooned to a difference of about 4.7 years after the U.S. saw particularly the high mortality rate in 2020 due to COVID-19. The United States has had more coronavirus deaths than any other country in the world.

Meanwhile the highly transmissible Delta variant may trigger a new phase in the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S. it has been detected in all states except South Dakota. A top medical expert says it could become the dominant strain in areas with low vaccination rates in a matter of weeks. As CNN's Erica Hill reports, the U.S. CDC director is calling it an opportunistic virus.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY DIRECTOR OF THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: About two weeks ago, we've had about 10 percent of our strains being the Delta variant. And now more recently, about 20 percent of our strains here in the United States are the Delta variant.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A rapid increase for this more transmissible potentially more dangerous strain of coronavirus and a warning.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGIES AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: It will be the dominant strain among those areas, those regions of the country where the vaccination rate is lower than we would like.

HILL (voice-over): These four states have the lowest vaccination rates for adults in the country. Among those 18 and older less than half have at least one shot. Compare that to Vermont where nearly 85 percent have at least one dose and 75 percent are fully vaccinated. Yet even an area's doing well the push continues.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: We are going to keep innovating new ways to get people the vaccine, new ways to make it work for them.

HILL (voice-over): More companies requiring shots. A source tells CNN employees and guests entering Morgan Stanley's New York offices next month must be vaccinated. In Texas, 153 employees at Houston Methodist who refuse to get a shot, have now resigned or been fired. Despite a drop in COVID deaths, thanks to the vaccines. A CNN analysis of CDC data finds those dying are now younger and disproportionately black.

WALENSKY: Nearly every death due to COVID-19 is particularly tragic, because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19 is at this point entirely preventable.

HILL (voice-over): As the Delta variant spreads, concern also growing for kids, especially those 11 and younger, who aren't eligible for the vaccine.

FAUCI: The best way to protect the children is to bring the level of virus circulation to community down. The best way to do that is that those i.e. adults who are eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated.

HILL: Following a meeting Wednesday to discuss cases of mild heart inflammation in younger people after receiving the vaccine. Top health officials that note this condition is extremely rare and said the risk of not getting the vaccine is far greater. They went on to reiterate the vaccines are safe and effective.

In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: A building has partially collapsed just north of Miami Beach. Emergency crews are there and CNN is getting more information on the story, we'll have an update next.

Also ahead, after 26 years in print, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper is closing. And with its last edition, goes a trusted pro-democracy voice as Beijing tightens its grip on the territory. We'll have that story coming up. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: More now on our breaking news. Dozens of rescue crews are responding to a partial building collapse in Surfside, Florida, just north of Miami Beach. More than 80 fire and rescue units including technical rescue teams are on the scene. Now we don't have any word yet on injuries or the cause of the collapse. One man who arrived on the scene shortly after the collapse talked to CNN affiliate WPLG about what he saw. Listen to this.


MICHAEL RUIZ, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Yes, I live by, so I came by and I have never seen so many ambulances and police in my life all at once. It looked like something from like 9/11 literally. And so the back of that building, I was able to go to the back and I have video footage and photos of the entire building collapsed from the 14th floor. So there is a third of the entire building that you cannot see from the street, but it is completely gone in the back toward the beach side. And it just looks like -- it almost looks like I said, like 9/11, like if a bomb hit or something. And it just completely wiped it out. There is a pile of rubble.


BRUNHUBER: And we'll continue to bring you more information as we get it. Again, a breaking story out of southern Florida, more than 80 fire and rescue units are on the scene of a building collapse in the town of Surfside just north of Miami.

And this just in two CNN, Ethiopia's military is now admitting it carried out an air strike in the war torn Tigray region Tuesday after initially denying that such an attack occurred. Witnesses say a market was hit by the strike killing as many as 30 people. Military spokesperson says only fighters is civilian clothes were targeted. So let's bring in CNN's Larry Madowo live in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. Larry, so authorities now admitting that there was air strike but still plenty of denials about some of the details. What are we learning?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning that the national defense force considers the dozens who were killed and several more injured in this air strike Tuesday to be Tigray fighters, not civilians. In fact the spokesperson of the military Colonel Getnet Adane telling CNN that these people could be actors posing as civilians and he does not say -- and he does not consider any of them to have been civilians. And he says this did not the target busy market in Toboga, but a militant gathering. And that is the message from the Ethiopian military's this morning.

Which contradicts eyewitnesses and CNN's own reporting, aid agencies and Tigran rebel leaders all saying, it was a busy market, and it was on the 33rd anniversary of the massacre which marks the day when more than 1,000 Tigranes died neat the end of the Ethiopian war. And even this admission that it was in fact an air strike by the Ethiopian military came only two days after this happened. And after condemnation from the U.N., from the U.S., from the European Union, though notably not from the African Union.


This is a region which did not have an election on Monday when 80 percent of the country did participate because of the ongoing civil war there, and there's no date for when that election will take place. And the military seems to consider this reporting an attempt to overshadow what was generally a peaceful election. But this is a place which has been in conflict, where it's difficult to ask if there's (INAUDIBLE) and any sort of life is completely cut off. And so this latest escalation, the worst fighting that's been seen here since the conflict began in November.

BRUNHUBER: All right, really appreciate the update on that developing story. Larry Madowo in Addis Ababa, thank you so much.

It's the end of an era in Hong Kong where the last edition of the region's largest and loudest pro-democracy, anti-Beijing newspaper has hit shelves. Apple Daily has printed its last edition after 26 years, a casualty of Hong Kong's year old national security law and many fear press freedom as a whole may have gone down with it. CNN's Ivan Watson was there when the final issue went to print.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the sprawling newsroom of one of Hong Kong's most popular newspapers, Apple Daily. But it's not likely to be functioning for much longer. Because the staff here are working to put what management say will be the final edition to bed. And that's because less than a week ago, hundreds of Hong Kong police raided these offices and began going through computers and hard drives and they arrested at least five of the newspapers top executives.

And those individuals are now being accused of essentially treason. They have allegedly incited foreign governments to put sanctions on the leadership of Hong Kong and of mainland China through the articles that they had published. The leadership of Hong Kong vehemently deny that this is an effort to stifle Hong Kong's free press.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: And don't try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities for using the national security law as a tool to suppress the media or to stifle the freedom of expression.

WATSON: Throughout sporadically rainy night, several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the offices of Apple Daily and in an impromptu show of support, a gathering that is now attracted the attention of the police.

And now the final edition is in print in these predawn hours. The headline here says Hong Kong's painful farewell in the rain. The management of Apple Daily say since the police seized the company's assets they cannot afford to continue publishing this daily newspaper. Meaning, these printing presses will soon go silent for the very last time.

The British foreign secretary, the European Union have denounced this and is part of a broader crackdown in Hong Kong where opposition politicians have been rounded up and face different kinds of charges, the pro-democracy marches in protest that once was part of the cities culture have not been tolerated for a year. Ostensibly on the grounds of public health because of the coronavirus pandemic. It has taken just one week for the authorities in this city to kill this newspaper.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


BRUNHUBER: There is breaking news right now in the town of Surfside, Florida just outside of Miami. Part of a building has collapsed, and emergency crews are on the scene. So we're getting more information on the story. We'll bring you an update next. Please do stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Recapping our breaking news now. Dozens of rescue crews are responding to a partial building collapse in Surfside, Florida, just north of Miami Beach. Police released this image of what appears to be a residential tower with much of it reduced to rubble. Now this is on the famous Collins Avenue, one of the most well-known streets this south Florida. So there is no information yet on injuries or even how it happened. But authorities say they have technical rescue teams and multiple fire units there to assess. Now a man who owns property in the building was at the scene shortly after the collapse. Listen to this.


WILLY GOMEZ, PROPERTY OWNER: You know, family has a unit there and we have a tenant that lives in one of the units. A I just came to see where it was. I couldn't really see what part of the building. And I'm like, it's like unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your reaction right now? I mean, your biggest worry.

GOMEZ: Oh, my god, there has people that were there. I mean, there's got to be people that were there in these units. I mean, is like what is going on? I don't think if they got any notice before this happened. It's like, it had to be like all of a sudden. I don't know if people were able to get out or heard something or what, but it's -- man, I just hope people were not in there, people were out.


BRUNHUBER: Once again, dozens of rescue crews are on the scene of a partial collapse of what is apparently a multistory residential building in Surfside, Florida just north of Miami Beach. Stay with CNN for the very latest. We'll bring you any updates as soon as we get them.

Buckingham Palace now admits in its annual report that the royal household isn't diverse enough. It also says that it was working on becoming more diverse even before Prince Harry and his wife Meghan accused some members of the royal family of racism. That was during their big interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year when they mention comments about the color of their son's skin before here is born. Here is CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: The British monarchy is often described as a white institution. And Buckingham palace accepts now that it does need to do more to address diversity amongst the staff working here. For the first time in their annual financial report, they've broken down the numbers in relation to diversity. [04:55:00]

So 8.5 percent of Buckingham palace staff, royal household staff considered themselves diverse. The palace has a target of bringing that up to 10 percent by the end of next year.

A senior royal source says the results are not what we would like but we are committed to improving this. Hence we've started to publish for the first time our diversity statistics to ensure they we are both open and transparent about our efforts to improve and we fully expect to be held accountable for the progress that we make.

Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex famously made allegations of racism within the royal family. But this report isn't about the family itself rather the staff that work for them.

Max Foster, CNN, Buckingham Palace, London.


BRUNHUBER: A superstar is born in the NBA playoffs. CNN's Don Riddell has our minute in sports.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS: The fifth seed Atlanta Hawks are still causing upsets in the NBA playoffs. In game one of the Eastern conference finals on Wednesday night, they beat the third seed Milwaukee Bucks on the road. And once again it was the Hawks young superstar Trae Young who did most of the damage. The 22-year-old scored a whopping 48 points along with 11 rebounds and six assists.

Meanwhile a dramatic night of action in the European football championship where Germany were heading out of the tournament until a late equalize from Leon Goretzka, but instead knocked out their opponents Hungary. And the other game in that group, Portugal and France drew 2-all, meaning that both go through to the next round. Cristiano Ronaldo, the star of the show with two penalties, meaning he's now scored 109 international goals, that is a tie for the all- time record.

And Spain finally came alive in their final group game, the 2008 and 2012 European champions thrashing Slovakia 5-nil. Their coach had promised a sparkling performance and now Enrique certainly delivered. That's it for now. Back to you.


BRUNHUBER: I'm Kim Brunhuber. That's our newscast. "EARLY START" is next.