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At Least Four Dead, 159 Unaccounted For In Florida Condo Collapse; CNN Presses GOP Lawmakers On January 6th Conspiracy Theories; Mike Pence: Would Be "Un-American" For One Person To Reject Or Overturn Electoral Votes; VP Harris Visits U.S./Mexico Border Amid Criticism; President Biden Speaking Out After GOP Accuses Him Of Bait & Switch On Infrastructure; No Survivors In Hot Air Balloon Accident In New Mexico. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington, alongside my friend Wolf Blitzer who's at the scene of the deadly building collapse in Surfside Florida.

[16:00:05]

We'll go to Wolf in just a moment who is on the scene there. But in the meantime, the breaking news that we are following at this hour, fires are burning inside the wreckage of that collapsed condo building in Florida.

Officials say crews are battling those fires on top of a desperate search-and-rescue effort. It's now been more 60 hours since people inside the Champlain Towers South condo building disappeared into the rubble. Four people are confirmed dead, and the search for those 159 people still unaccounted for at this hour grows more desperate by the minute.

And investigators are struggling to learn what caused this seemingly stable building to crumble to the ground in an instant, and today, we learned engineers raised concerns about the structural damage at the Florida complex back in 2014. Now there's growing concerns about the condo's sister building just a block away. Officials are now telling residents to evacuate out of an abundance of caution. All families could do right now is wait for the news of their loved ones.

Officials say there's still hope of finding survivor, but CNN's Wolf Blitzer can tell us on the ground in surfside. Wolf, it's getting more desperate by the hour. And this big revelation today, which is not going to come as any comfort to anybody on the ground there that an engineer warned three years ago that there were major structural issues with the building.

Wolf, that -- that is devastating news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yeah, it's devastating, and it's so heartbreaking to so many of the families, loved ones who are gathered, waiting, hoping, and praying right now.

Jim, as you know, experts say it may take months, months, to get to the bottom of what happened here in Surfside, Florida. But back in 2018, managers were urged to make repairs and we understand that work was set to begin soon. We're going to have much more on that coming up in a few moments.

But let's begin with the late-breaking developments on the rescue efforts. Fires and rain are making this very difficult for emergency responders.

CNN's Randi Kaye is near where crews are continuing their search for survivors.

Randi, you've been here for quite a while. Update our viewers on the very latest.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the last few days, Wolf, we've had torrential rains, heavy smoke, and the fires continue to burn inside that rubble. So, they are dealing with a very deep burning fire. They're trying to put it out, but it's hampering search-and- rescue earth efforts. I'm told that the fire is burning laterally, so it's very hard to isolate. They're using foam, they're using water, they're using infrared technology.

There's also a trench that they built with some heavy equipment. They dug that trench so they can try and isolate some areas that they can still safely do some search and rescue. Because that is a top priority, but still have to say, stay away from that fire that's burning. Still the numbers have not changed, four dead, 159 still unaccounted for, possibly in that file of rubble. And many of those who are missing were associated with a synagogue just up the road in Surfside, Florida.

I spoke with Rabbi Zalman Lipskar from that synagogue and he says at least 20 people from his synagogue have not been heard from, ranging in age from 20 years to old to 60 years old. Some include parents of the rabbi's childhood best friend. He told me how that man is struggling to explain to his own young son that his grandparents are missing. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RABBI ZALMAN LIPSKAR, SHUL OF BAL HARBOUR: So one of my childhood friends told me, his son last night. I was at his house at 1:45 in the morning, and he said, what am I telling my son? Gussy (ph) -- he wants to know how he can go to sleep when our zaide, and bubbie, grandmother, are laying in the rubble and dirt? How do we go to sleep? Why are we not there? Why are we not pulling off the cement blocks and bricks?

So, it's -- it's -- there's no words to just, just give him a hug. A hug and a kiss say we're here as a family together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: And, Wolf, as you know, families have expressed frustration. Many of them saying let's get more people in there. Let us go in there and dig through that rubble desperate to find survivors, Wolf. BLITZER: Amidst all of this, Randi, we're learning more about this

building's history and the concerns that it wasn't necessarily structurally sound. What can you tell us about that?

KAYE: Yeah, we're talking about this 2018 structural field survey report. So, it's three years old but important to note that in it, what they cited was sizable cracks in the concrete slab below the pool. Crumbling in the parking garage where rescue crews were working very much in the last couple of days, abundant cracking in the parking garage, including the columns, the beams, the walls.

[16:05:02]

And they also noted previous garage repairs were failing. So, none of this had been taken care of since that report in 2018.

It's important to note, though, Wolf, that this report did not indicate that the building was facing imminent collapse or even at risk of collapse. So, I just wanted to make that clear. And now, the Surfside mayor is saying that he's not sure how the building handled this report and what they did, if anything, about these cracks.

He's now calling on the sister building of this collapsed condo building to be evacuated because it was built around the same time, the same materials by the same developer and he thinks it needs a full structural investigation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah. Out of abundance of caution. That's what a lot of folks now are recommending.

Randi, thank you very, very much. Let's discuss this and more with CNN contributor Dave Downey, a former Miami-Dade fire rescue chief, chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Urban Search and Rescue Committee.

Dave, thanks very much for joining us.

First of all, what's your reaction to this reportedly years ago, these engineers found structural, serious structural problems with this building?

DAVE DOWNEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm really just hearing details this afternoon. I've been working out here most of the day, but it seems as though things were reported back in 2018, but I don't have the details what the investigation revealed and what the significant damage was.

BLITZER: So, tell us what's going on right now. They say the search and rescue operation is still under way, but a lot of folks are giving up hope.

DOWNEY: Well, we want everybody to maintain hope. The rescuers have hope. We are still in rescue mode. There's been a lot of setbacks. The fire has complicated things. The weather has complicated things.

And -- but the teams are working on the rubble. They're now starting to systematically de-layer the building, very surgically removing floor-by-floor to look for void spaces. We're still in rescue mode. We still hope for survivors. And until such time as we are confident there's no more survivors, we're going to continue that way.

BLITZER: But they're going to continue to search and search and search.

DOWNEY: They're going to continue and search. At some point when we transition to recovery, these same rescuers are still going to be there, because our goal is to bring closure to all of these families. We hope we bring home survivors, but we want to bring closure to all of these families.

BLITZER: Survivors. Some have suggested maybe some people might survive a week, ten days, after a disaster like this. Is that realistic?

DOWNEY: Well, I can tell you personally I led the team in Haiti and we rescued a small baby eight days after the earthquake. Very difficult, different type of collapse, but there's definitely cases where people have survived multiple days. There's a lot of factors that come into that, the type of the collapse, the type of the void spaces, if they're there, the elements that you're dealing with.

But we're going to maintain hope until such time as we're -- sure there's no more survivors.

BLITZER: Tell us what's going through the minds of the men and women who are -- you know them -- who are involved in this search and rescue operation right now? It must be so, so difficult. So painful.

DOWNEY: Well, they're focused. You know? They're focused on their tanks. They're focused on their job. They understand the risks. The risk is being measured, but they're taking considerable risk.

With this heat and humidity, they work 12-hour shifts and they're cycling half hour at a time on work, because they're wearing heavy equipment because of the smoke, having to wear respirators which complicates work on the pile. So these rescuers are positive frame of mind. Every one of them I've talked to, I've been out there on the pile. They are doing everything that they can to try to recover survivors.

BLITZER: Yesterday, I spoke with the Chief Alvarez. I don't know if you know him.

DOWNEY: I know him well.

BLITZER: He got very emotional when he noted the job is to give orders to these people to go out there and potentially risk their own lives in this search operation?

DOWNEY: Well, it's an incredible level of stress. I can tell you, I was team leader in Haiti. And I never was under no stress, knowing what harm's way I was trying to put the rescuers into. But we do it based op our training, based on our experience, taking calculated risks.

BLITZER: You understand the frustrations of the families and the loved ones, what they're going through right now. They're living through hell.

DOWNEY: I can only imagine. I mean, I feel for these families. I've been involved in search and rescue over 30 years. It's -- it's always heartbreaking. The stories are heartbreaking. That's why we try to stay so positive, to try to help as much as we can. But I understand the frustration.

I mean, there's -- there's the unknown. You know, you look at that structure. It has considerable damage, but we still have some hope.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope, indeed.

[16:10:01]

Dave Downey, thanks very much for your you're doing and your friends and colleagues are doing as well. We're counting on them. Appreciate it very much.

DOWNEY: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you, Dave.

Right now, hundreds of family vacillating between hope and grief.

Up next, we'll take you live to the reunification center where people are so desperate for not only good news but indeed for any news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One second, you're overwhelmed. It's really difficult not to break down now. And then, you know, another, you get a semblance of normalcy because you just say, well, it's impossible. This doesn't happen. Buildings don't just collapse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:10]

BLITZER: More now on breaking news out of Surfside, Florida, where families are so anxiously awaiting answers about their missing loved ones. More than 60 after that 12-story condo collapse, 159 people still unaccounted for and today, hope is the only thing these families have and they want answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a mother. I don't know the best way to go about this, but it's impossible that in four days, nobody emerged dead or alive. Please, don't tell me about the two people. I know about it. It's not enough. Imagine if your children were in there. You're going

to leave here and take a nice picture and I know you're doing everything you can, but it's not enough. You gave us a promise, and you're not fulfilling it and you can fulfill it. Respite is not important when my daughter is dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: My heart goes out to that mom.

CNN's Ryan Young on the scene for us here in Surfside. He's over at the reunification center. Ryan is not very far, a block or two from where I am.

It's nearly impossible, Ryan, to imagine what these folks are going through, but I know you're speaking to them. Tell us what you're hearing.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, just pain right now, because so many people are walking around with blank faces. They want some sort of information. They really can't believe after all of these hours, no one else has been found. And they continue to ask us, have we heard any additional information? They want to believe that most is being done in terms of trying to grab some people from below that rubble.

They understand there's a fire there. They understand there's heavy pieces of equipment that are being used but at the same time they want answers, and the answers are not coming fast enough. You understand their desperation from the sense of they want to know why it's taking so long. But at the same time, no one could ever imagine the pain of maybe believing your loved one is trapped under that rubble.

In fact, listen to this woman talk about her ex husband being trapped and she believes that's down there, the father of her two kids. She's still holding on to hope. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADRIANA LAFONT, EX-HUSBAND MANUEL LAFONT MISSING IN CONDO COLLAPSE: I'm sure they're doing their best. I -- I mean, I don't have any doubts. I mean, I understand people, I mean, families, it's a very hard situation. They're in the hotel. They feel hopeless. Like with the time, but I have my faith. I mean, strong as -- every day. And I have a feel feeling Manny is alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Yeah, Wolf, you think about that, holding on to faith. You hear a lot about that when it comes to religion. Adriana LaFont believes her ex-husband is still alive, still fighting so he can be unified with his family again.

But also, watch this, this is a vigil we walked upon last night and you see people crying as they were praising the Lord and trying to find solace as we walked upon this vigil, we saw people holding hands and talking about the fact they were desperately hoping the rescuers would be able to save them. They said they want to see more action. They obviously understand that a lot's being done.

And, Wolf, when you think about this, especially where you're standing, that toxic plume of smoke kind of is all over this area of the city, but people still are hoping that their loved ones can make it through this. A lot of questions and a lot of bad answers at this point, Wolf, because the little piece of hope they were hoping for, may be some people would be found in the last few hours and that just hasn't happened as of yet.

BLITZER: Yeah. So, so heartbreaking, and you're right. That plume of smoke. You feel it soon as you get to this area. All of this is so heartbreaking, as I keep saying. I fear it's going to get even worse.

All right. Thanks very much, Ryan, to are that. We'll get back to you.

Coming up, we're going back to Jim Acosta. He's live in the CNN NEWSROOM. He went down to the Capitol in search of answers why Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene continue to push false conspiracy theories about the January 6th insurrection. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:23:45]

ACOSTA: A D.C. Metropolitan police officer who was attacked by rioters on January 6th finally got a meeting Friday with Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy. During the insurrection, Michael Fanone was tased and beaten with a flagpole. He suffered a heart attack and a concussion. Now, he's dealing with traumatic brain injury and post- traumatic stress disorder. And he wants McCarthy to set the record straight with Republicans trying to downplay what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I went there with a specific request. I asked Kevin to denounce the 21 house Republicans who voted against the Gold Medal bill which would recognize and honor my co-workers and colleagues that fought to secure the Capitol on January 6th.

I also asked him to denounce Andrew Clyde's statements regarding January 6th, specifically that it was something of a normal tour day here at the Capitol. I found those remarks to be disgusting. I also asked him to publicly denounce the baseless theory that the FBI was behind the January 6th insurrection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:25:00]

ACOSTA: Now we've been trying for weeks to invite some of the GOP members who have been spreading false conspiracy theories about the January 6th insurrection. But they refused to come on our show, so we went up to Capitol Hill to find them. While still decline to answer our questions, one member who would speak with us, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: You take the bike to work, huh?

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Sometimes.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The man with the bicycle is Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks.

Congressman, is there any way can we get you to talk about January 6th?

BROOKS: I do not talk with CNN because I do not trust CNN to be honorable or truthful.

ACOSTA: Yes, the same man who said this on January 6th.

BROOKS: Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.

ACOSTA: Since then, he's peddled the bogus conspiracy that Antifa was behind the insurrection at the Capitol.

Can I ask you, do you still believe Antifa was behind January 6 --

BROOKS: I already said what I'm going to say. I don't trust you all to be truthful or honest.

ACOSTA: Well, can you tell us if you regret what you said on January --

BROOKS: I do not trust CNN to be truthful or honest. So, I do not --

ACOSTA: Well, I'm asking you questions, I'm asking you fair questions here, sir.

BROOKS: I do not trust y'all to be truthful or honest with anything CNN does.

ACOSTA: It's on video. If you can just talk to us for a moment --

BROOKS: See you.

ACOSTA: Then he rode off.

BROOKS: You'll lie through your teeth any chance you get.

ACOSTA: Well, I'll give you the chance to come on if you don't mind.

Congresswoman --

We also caught up with Marjorie Taylor Greene who did agree to stop to talk to us. For weeks, she's been spreading the false flag theory that the FBI was

somehow involved in the riots, despite all of that body cam footage showing Trump supporters and right wing supremacists storming the Capitol, not to mention hundreds of arrest of riot rioters. When we pressed her for evidence to back up her claims, she didn't offer any.

You've seen the video that's come out so far. What do you think of that video? It seems to show a lot of Trump supporters involved in the rioting. I didn't see any Antifa or FBI --

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Here's how I see it.

ACOSTA: Yeah.

GREENE: The American taxpayers pay for everything here, right? They pay for the building, they pay for the cameras, they pay for the staff. They pay my salary. They pay for everything and this is the type of video they deserve to see publicly. So, you can't hold it --

ACOSTA: I'm asking you about yourself. When you look at the video, don't you mainly see Trump supporters involving in the rioting?

GREENE: There's all kinds of people involved in rioting, black clothes, red hats.

ACOSTA: They're Oath Keepers. There are people from the Proud Boys.

GREENE: That's what we've read and seen. Yes.

ACOSTA: They've been arrested.

GREENE: Right. They're being held, some of them in solitary confinement almost 24 hours a day in the jails here.

ACOSTA: I'm wondering f they're being held in jail f they're in solitary confinement like you said, where does this stuff come from about FBI and Antifa, where do you getting that from if I may? I'm curious about that.

GREENE: These are the reports that have been coming out, information that there may have been FBI operatives. We don't know who what that means. Is that informants? Is that -- where does that go?

ACOSTA: Where is the proof the FBI was involved? Where's the proof Antifa was involved? Don't you owe it to people to produce that proof?

GREENE: I don't know. I didn't cause the riots, so I certainly don't owe it.

ACOSTA: There's no evidence.

GREENE: Look. Look. There are questions that need to be answered. There are things.

ACOSTA: You can ask questions about anything. As she repeatedly dodged our questions, she did welcome Nancy Pelosi's

announcement that a select committee will investigate the insurrection. In fact, she said she wants to be on the committee.

Would you like to serve on the committee?

GREENE: Sure. She should put me on the committee. That would be great, you know?

ACOSTA: And you would show up and ask questions?

GREENE: Absolutely. I worked hard all my life and I would work hard there as well.

ACOSTA: But Greene has formed her conclusion that former President Donald Trump is not responsible for January 6th.

You don't think he's responsible?

GREENE: I don't think he's -- no, absolutely not. He's not responsible. The people that did the things here, they're responsible for it.

ACOSTA: They're on video saying that they did this for Trump and so on.

GREENE: We can go all day long, and every single time I'm going to tell you, President Trump did not tell the people to riot. President Trump told people to march here peacefully.

ACOSTA: Do you think this was an act of domestic terrorism here?

GREENE: I think it was a riot.

ACOSTA: A riot by whom?

GREENE: By people who came to the Capitol and --

ACOSTA: The FBI rioted, the Antifa rioted?

GREENE: I don't have a list. If you want to do your job as a journalist, there's people in jail. They're being held in solitary confinement. You can look up their names and see what their charges are. Those are the people being charged.

ACOSTA: Have you met with any of them? Have you talked to any of them?

GREENE: Absolutely not. I don't know any of them. They've committed crimes and they need their day in court. And that's absolutely what needs to be -- what needs to happen.

[16:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): As for the conspiracy theory about the FBI, Greene say she is willing to accept that the bureau wasn't involved.

But she wants to -- get this -- see the evidence. Yes, even though she hasn't offered any proof of her own.

(on camera): But if the FBI tells you, Congresswoman, we didn't have any involvement in that --

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I think it would be --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: -- would you believe them?

GREENE: Well, I'm sure, yes, of course. If they say there weren't and show proof they weren't, of course, I would.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Sounding a lot like the former president, Greene talked about the negative coverage she's received, like when she compared mask mandates on Capitol Hill to the Holocaust.

GREENE: You guys aren't very nice to me though. You say terrible things about me all the time on your station. So it doesn't make me feel very welcome or wanted to come.

And I'm sure you can understand, from my perspective, why I would feel that way.

ACOSTA (on camera): Well, there's been coverage of things that you've said. For example --

GREENE: Things that were said as a candidate, not things I've never said as a member of Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: There was something you said about the Holocaust. You came out and apologized for that.

GREENE: Absolutely.

ACOSTA: But there was a lot of coverage there.

Did you learn anything that experience?

GREENE: I totally talked about it out here. I mean, I even had a press conference --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: Do you think maybe it's time to choose your words more carefully?

GREENE: I think you need to choose your words more carefully.

(CROSSTALK)

GREENE: Do you know why so many Republicans can't stand CNN? Because you guys don't choose your words.

ACOSTA: There are a lot of Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: -- who watch CNN and like CNN very much. A lot of them come on here --

GREENE: I don't know one. I honestly don't know one.

ACOSTA: I can introduce you to some. There are many.

GREEN: I don't know one single --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: I'd be happy to do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And we will get her those names. I wonder if I have any hair left. I may have torn it all out.

We invited Greene to sit down for a live interview with us to answer more of our questions. We'll let know if she agrees to do it.

We hope this is the first of a series of interviews up on Capitol Hill pressing these lawmakers, Republican lawmakers about these bogus conspiracy theories about January 6th.

We feel like it's our responsibility to do it. We're going to continue to do that.

Joining me now is staff writer for "The Atlantic," David Frum and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

David, what's your reaction to Marjorie Taylor Greene saying she wants to be on the select committee to investigate January 6th? Does that make any sense?

DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Marjorie Taylor Greene is hardly the first crazy person to be in the House of Representatives. It's over the long centuries, there have been many people like her.

What normally happens is that parties have mechanisms to deal with that. They have ways of making sure she doesn't go on television, presenting her with incentives for not doing it, consequences for doing it.

And they would turn a different face to the public and talk about issues that are affirmative.

Her celebrity is a consequence of the breakdown of the Republican Party because they're not able to say -- Speaker Sam Rayburn didn't greet members of his own party because he said the American people will elect anyone to any party once. He said, get re-elected, and then we'll talk.

But those mechanism have broken down and so they are vulnerable and they are taken hostage.

Even Mo Brooks, who's an eccentric personality, he has the rationality to know, don't go on the camera and talk about this.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, she loves the camera, she'll go to it, and there's nobody to say let's -- I mean, Kevin McCarthy should be interposing his own body. If you could get to him, you wouldn't talk to her.

ACOSTA: Right.

Maria, Mo Brooks could not pedal away fast enough from us. He's been peddling these false conspiracies, but he could not pedal away fast enough.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: What do you think? Should Nancy Pelosi have anything to do with putting Marjorie Taylor Greene and some of these other lawmakers that have been peddling these conspiracy committees on that committee?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Because what Nancy Pelosi wants to do is for this select committee to be serious and to actually focus on the business at hand.

And that is trying to get to the bottom of what happened with the insurrection on January 6th.

Which, by the way, CNN has a special called "TRUMP'S INSURRECTIONS." Trump's words, Trump's deeds caused that insurrection.

David is right. There were mechanism in both parties where people who were actually doing damage, not just to the party but to the country by things they were saying and doing, were marginalized.

The Republican Party is not marginalizing people like Mo Brooks or Marjorie Taylor Greene. In fact, that's part of the problem they have.

Kevin McCarthy is stuck between Trump and a hard place. He can't disavow them because then he'll piss off Trump. We know the biggest fear Republicans have is pissing off Trump's base.

Until they try to figure out what real leadership is and try to figure out that the politics they are putting out there is doing not just grave damage to their party long term but to the country, we're going to try to continue to struggle with this.

I'm glad you're out there in their face and other journalists as well. They need to be on the record so everyone can see where they stand.

ACOSTA: And we have a great congressional team that's been doing that. David, we were talking about leadership. We saw maybe a glimmer of that in former Vice President Mike Pence who spoke out this week and tried to separate his actions on January 6th from Donald Trump.

Let's listen to that and talk about it on the other side.

[16:35:06]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, there are those in our party who believe that, in my position as presiding officer over the joint session, that I possess the authorities to reject or return electoral votes.

Truth is, there's almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: What do you think of that, David?

FRUM: Well said, and well that he said it. He is an example of the -- the permission structure.

The problem the Republicans have is not that there's this Trump base. Not anymore. He's a loser. And most Republicans understand that.

Because what he is able to do is to pull votes away. He's like a hostage taker. He has just enough clout.

Imagine this. I mean, when Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008 and went on to face John McCain, Hillary Clinton could have peeled away eight or 10 points away from him.

She couldn't have gotten herself elected but she could have destroyed him.

Normal politicians don't gratuitously hurt their own party for their own reason of injured vantage.

I'm sure that's been true with presidents and candidates throughout history. They have their grievances, but they keep them quiet.

What every Republican has to face is Donald Trump would rather blow things up -- he'd rather punish than help his party if they cross him.

They have to constantly think, well, he could take away the eight points. He can do to the whole party what he did to the Republican Senate majority.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, right now, but for Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. Maria, I want to ask you about this because Vice President Kamala Harris was down at the border at a processing facility in El Paso after a lot of criticism about why it had taken her so long to get down to the border.

She had this moment on NBC. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At some point, you know, I -- we're going to the border. We've been to the border.

So this whole thing about the border, we've been to the border. We've been to the border.

UNIDENTIFIED NBC CORRESPONDENT: You haven't been to the border.

HARRIS: And I haven't been to Europe. I mean, I don't understand the point you're making. I'm not discounting the importance of the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: She's now, of course, been to the border since doing the interview.

Is that enough to put this to rest? Obviously, not enough for the FOX News crowd.

CARDONA: Yes, nothing will be enough for the FOX News crowd. She knows these issues.

ACOSTA: Should she have done this sooner, do you think?

CARDONA: Look, I'm glad that she finally went. She should have embraces that she was a border-state attorney general and Senator for 15 or more years. She knows these issues.

This is what she started talking about while she was in Latin America and what she talked about on the border here.

No, it absolutely will not be the end of it, Jim, right? The border and immigration, as you know, is one of the most difficult -- I don't know that there's a more difficult issue in politics than immigration.

But I'm glad she went. And I'm glad she went and tied the two trips together. Root causes are critically important to what happens at the border.

So the fact that she was talking about it in a holistic way is going to help her.

At the end of the day, I think we all have to remember the issue of immigration is not going to get fixed until cob actually passes some kind of reform.

Again, talking about the difficulty of issues, immigration is probably front and center in terms of the difficult there are.

ACOSTA: No question.

Maria Cardona, David Frum, thanks so much for all of that.

President Biden speaking out after Republicans accused him of a bait and switch on the infrastructure deal. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:51]

ACOSTA: It was supposed to be a rare moment of bipartisanship but now some Republicans are fuming over an infrastructure deal that they cut with President Joe Biden, basically saying this was all a bait and switch.

Let's go to CNN White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz, who's live at the White House, and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux up on Capitol Hill.

Arlette, to you first.

I understand President Biden has just done a major walk-back. What's going on? Explain this to us.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he has, Jim. President Biden really doing some major cleanup today after Republicans had expressed frustration with President Biden's earlier statement in the week when he said the bipartisan infrastructure agreement and his American Families Plan needed to reach his desk at the same time.

Now, the president released a statement a short while ago saying, "My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had agreed to, which was certainly not my intent."

"So to be clear, our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan. Likewise, they should have no objections to pass my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposal in tandem."

"We'll let the American people and the Congress decide."

The president said, bottom line, I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan and that's what I intend to do. And he plans to do that with vigor.

We've seen him reach out to some Republican Senators who had initially worked with him on the infrastructure plan after the president earlier suggested that he would not sign one without the other.

But today, President Biden issuing a bit of a walk-back as he's trying to clarify that he will support these plans being passed in separate ways. That they don't necessarily -- aren't necessarily tied one to the other. I'm also the president will be hitting the road this week to start his

sales pitch on that infrastructure proposal, delivering a speech in Wisconsin, as he's trying to not just sell this to the American public but also to lawmakers in the months ahead.

ACOSTA: All right.

And, Suzanne, what are Republicans saying on Capitol Hill? They're kind of getting a mixed message from the White House right now.

[16:44:59]

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Weel, there was certainly outrage expressed both publicly and privately.

The negotiators who were part of that group, 10 Senators, who put together that infrastructure plan, immediately pushed back. Not only Republicans but Democrats as well.

You have Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Susan Collins saying there's no reason to tie these two bills, infrastructure, bipartisan support, and this huge reconciliation bill that's aspirational at this point.

But you have Senator Lindsey Graham -- I'll read it quickly -- who was very outspoken and critical earlier in the week, saying:

"If Biden is going to tie them together, he can forget it. I'm not doing that. that's extortion. I'm not going to do that."

"The Democrats are being told, you can't get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants. And I'm not playing that game."

"Most Republicans could not have known that. There's no way. You look like an F'ing idiot now."

You had this extreme and immediate response, pushback.

Some Democrats saying they were simply whining over a process in policy.

But it was clear that at least some Republicans and Democrats as well who say, look, in good faith effort here, let's not make this look like this this a conditional situation that's taking place.

The liberals, the progressives, on the Democratic side, making it very clear to the administration they need legislation, whether or not it is through reconciliation, a simple majority of not, to address what they call the human infrastructure needs of society.

They're going to make it very difficult just to simply address infrastructure alone in this bipartisan fashion.

They want to see something much more ambitious on the table. That's what they're fighting for. As you know, Jim, the Senate is now in recess. It will be a couple of

weeks or so before we get to see the language, some of these agreements are turning into legislative texts.

It's very important that if the Democrats, specifically the progressives, want to do more beyond this, bipartisan, they're going to have to get more support -- Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. We thought we had a deal, but it may be a work in progress.

Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

Arlette, thanks to you as well. We appreciate it.

We'll be taking you back to Surfside, Florida, soon, and the sight of that tragic condo collapse. Crews are doing everything they can to give possible survivors a chance as they desperately look for signs of life. Over 159 people still unaccounted for at this hour.

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[16:52:01]

ACOSTA: Tragedy earlier today in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That's where a hot air balloon with five people on board crashed to the ground in a residential area. This just into CNN, there were no survivors.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro has some more details.

Evan, this is awful. What happened?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we're still learning the full details of this case. What we know, so far, is horrific, as you say.

Shortly after 11:00 a.m. local time, police and fire in Albuquerque arrived at the scene of this wreck where they found four dead and a man in dire condition. He was taken to the hospital where he later died.

The victims range in age from 40 to 60. And police believe that one of those victims was the pilot.

The details of this crash are just absolutely awful. The balloon the gondola, the part that the people stay in, separated from the envelope, the balloon itself, after it hit power lines.

The balloon came down in an intersection. And that envelope, that balloon part, that floated around and came down in the backyard.

What we know is -- definitely don't have all the details on this. But we know there's an investigation under way from the federal agency's NTSB and the FAA, as well as the local police.

Now, Albuquerque is a mecca for ballooning. They have large annual event every year where thousands come to participate with these balloons.

But we know events like this one today were not alone. I called the NTSB and they told us about eight fatal crashes with balloons since 2008, not including today's crash.

The NTSB has been calling for more regulations of hot air balloons for quite a while now.

We will know more about this particular crash at a press conference coming up in the next hour.

But, for now, we have these horrific details and this lasting conversation about balloons and their safety -- Jim?

ACOSTA: Yes, indeed, that is correct.

All right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

Romance, power, feminism, She wrote the book on it. But this is the only story she never told. CNN Films' "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY" that is tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR: Hi. I'm Jackie Collins. I write novels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She put female sexuality at the center of the world, and people lost their minds.

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very shy and never really knew what she was writing but she was always scribbling away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wrote about strength and strong women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jackie was the first author to write about women who behaved like men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She broke ground for all of us woman.

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we very quickly made her very controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God forbid a woman should be writing about sex.

COLLINS: I'm not claiming to be a literal genius. I'm claiming to be a terrific storyteller.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a little taste, Jackie.

COLLINS: Of the wine?

(LAUGHTER)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls can do anything.

Girls can do anything.

That was her motto.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the boss.

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was like a character from one of her books.

(SINGING)

[16:54:57]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, we all love that end line, "justice for all females."

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington, alongside Wolf Blitzer in Surfside, Florida, at the scene of that deadly building collapse where Wolf has been all day long.

[17:00:02]

In the meantime, we'll talk about the breaking news as well, the urgent search-and-rescue efforts that are now being hampered by a fire that continues to burn inside the collapsed rubble.