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CNN NEWSROOM

Search For Survivors Intensifies 60-Plus Hours After Condo Collapse; Sideshow Acts Abound As Trump Circus Returns; Gen. Milley Rejects GOP Criticism About Lack Of Diversity At DOD; Biden Vows To Relocate Afghans Who Helped U.S. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 17:00   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 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 the fire that continues to burn inside the rubble of the collapsed Florida building. Officials say crews have created a trench in the meantime to try and isolate the fire as they search for victims. Four people are confirmed dead at this point. That number may go up as 159 others are still unaccounted for. It's now been 60 hours since the condo tower collapsed in the middle of the night, leaving so many desperate for word from their missing loved ones.

And our Wolf Blitzer is on the scene for that. And I just know, Wolf, this must be so heartbreaking to be on the scene of what is just an unspeakable tragedy, so many people down there desperately waiting for any kind of word that their loved ones might be alive.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And it's so heartbreaking to speak to the families, to speak to the loved ones of those individuals who are still missing. It is awful indeed. And my heart goes like all of our viewers, my heart goes out to them.

Jim, we still don't know why or how this happened, but we are learning that three years ago, an engineer did raise concerns what was described as structural damage of this Florida complex behind me. This triggers new concerns about the condo's sister building just a block away. Officials are now telling residents to evacuate out of that building out of an abundance of caution, and they're also cautioning that it might take months, yes, months to know for sure what went so horribly wrong here.

Some structural engineering experts are weighing in. They're calling the 2018 report truly alarming. We're going to have much on that coming up in a few moments.

But let's begin our coverage this hour with that desperate search for survivors. Dozens of people are still unaccounted for and their families are growing more worried and more frustrated clearly by the minute.

CNN's Randi Kaye is here in Surfside with me.

Randi, what are rescuers saying to you about the chances of finding people alive?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are not giving up, Wolf.

They're working in these 15-minute shifts, but they really have to be pulled off the job, pulled off that pile. They're so determined to try and find survivors. The mayor said they're committed to try to find someone, anyone who could still be alive, and the obstacles that they're dealing with are quite something.

They have debris falling on them, plus they have fires breaking out. There's a deep fire that's been burning in the rubble pile today. They've been trying to work with that. They built that trench, that was mentioned, using some heavy equipment to get down there and isolate the fire. They're trying to find some of these survivors in some of those safer pockets.

And the fire is spreading laterally and so, they're having a hard time isolating it. They're using foam on it, some water, and some infrared technology. But still, Wolf, the numbers, that tells the story here. Four people dead. 159 still unaccounted for.

I spoke to a rabbi who has a synagogue just up the road from the building that collapsed, Rabbi Zalman Lipskar. And he said that at least 20 people associated with his synagogue are missing. They range in age from 20 to 60 years old. He spoke to one woman who's missing seven family members. They came into town for a funeral and they were all staying at that building.

He's also missing the parents of his childhood best friend. He knew that couple very well and now his best friend is trying to explain to his own young son why his grandparents are missing. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RABBI ZALMAN LIPSKAR, SHUL OF BAL HARBOUR: So, so one of my childhood friends, he told me his son -- I was at his house at 1:45 in the morning, and he says, what am I telling my son. He wants to know how we can go to sleep when our zadie, our grandfather, and bubbie, grandmother are lying in trouble and dirt. Why are we going to sleep, why are we not there, why are we not pulling off the cement blocks and bricks.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: You can only imagine, Wolf, right, how hard it must be for a young son to understand what why they're missing and why they haven't been found. It's hard enough for us as adults to comprehend the scene here. So, it's very difficult for these children to try to explain it to them.

BLITZER: I don't know how you explain it. And, Randi, as you know, one of the most handing images is this lone bunk bed on the top floor. Do we know anything about the family, whether they lived there, whether they're okay?

KAYE: We don't know who lived there, Wolf, but that is a chilling image.

[17:05:00]

And you can only imagine who lived there because there you see the bunk beds so you think they would have children or maybe teenagers who might have been using those bunk beds.

But they are just on the edge of the building, that wall was just clearly sheared off and they're just teetering right there. And you can see that the sheet is actually torn off if you look closely on the upper bunk and the lower bunk bed, still has some pillows and some pink and white flowered sheets, it looked like to me. But there's a black desk chair that is right next to it as well. It's just a haunting, haunting image, Wolf, of what is left behind.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. All right. Randi, thank you very much. We'll get back to you.

I'm joined now in Surfside by Joel Hernandez, a CNN contributor, former member of FEMA's urban search and rescue team that's on the scene here searching for survivors.

Joe, thank you very much for joining us.

JOE HERNANDEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, you and I, we can smell the smoking, the fire that's burning amidst all this rubble. What is it?

HERNANDEZ: We had a parking garage underneath that building, mattresses that are burning, we had natural gas that was inside there as well. It created a fire. It's a constant reminder during every collapse that that is a very similar situation every time we see that.

BLITZER: How much of a complicating factor is that for those involved in a search and rescue operation because you keep seeing smoke and some fire.

HERNANDEZ: Sure. Absolutely. It hinders every operation one way or the other. But the rescuers were able to find a way around that early this morning, late last night they started to dig a trench along one side of that rubble pile, so they can get lower into the ground, let the smoke rise above their heads and still enter that rubble pile.

BLITZER: You've been involved in these kinds of search and rescue operations. How likely is it we're going to find survivors?

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely likely. Even the Haiti earthquake, we found several, several days later into it. As long as there are rescue members in there willing to take that chance and risk their lives to find others, and there are void spaces within that pile, we've been confirmed that there void spaces, we've even had sounds of people making sounds last night. So, there's a chance for people to be -- not to lose hope.

BLITZER: Because they did say they did hear some sounds yesterday. But so far, I'm told they haven't heard any sounds. Today, what does that say to you?

HERNANDEZ: You know, it could be also a shift in the sand. A shift in the sand could close that sound transferring from one place to the other. So as the time goes off and the pile keeps being layered, we may come back to hearing those same victims asking for help.

BLITZER: What goes through exactly what your colleagues are doing right now in this search and rescue? It's still officially called a search and rescue operation as opposed to the bad news when it becomes a recovery operation.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely, which saddens everybody's heart, including responders. And so, as they're now, they're meticulously finding a way to get on top of that rubble pile. They're dropping listening devices, Delsar devices so that they can pick up sounds, motions, moans, any type of signal that the victim may make underground.

Additionally, they're picking up parts of that lids or the piling from the floors and putting wood cribbing into that to help suspend that so they're able to put search dogs inside, those dogs that were highly trained, give them a way in, and they will try to find that live victim. It gets backed up if there is a confirmation with a search camera.

So, we've got listening devices, live canines, and search teams, all doing the same thing trying to find the victims in there.

BLITZER: I'm pretty worried about the potential for serious injury or even worse for some of these search and rescue men and women who are involved in this. They're walking around in very, very dangerous areas.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely. We've been told we're looked down upon. Remember how dangerous it was with the widow and widower makers at Ground Zero during the World Trade Center. Nobody came out with serious injuries. We're hoping the same thing will happen here. That's why they can't run into the building because of the pieces of concrete that are still hanging above the responders.

BLITZER: But a lot of volunteers have come in not just from here but indeed around the world to help out in the search and rescue operation.

HERNANDEZ: Correct. We have two federal teams here, both from south Florida, one from metro Dade, the other one from the city of Miami, and we have six state teams that have come in to help with that response, state urban search and rescue to help out the FEMA urban and rescue component. So, it's great to see them all together helping during this response.

BLITZER: We're told the team from Israel has actually come in as well.

HERNANDEZ: Yes.

BLITZER: With a lot of experience in this kind of --

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely. We got a lot of learning from the medical side from them as well, because it's just as important to medically treat and stabilize those victims prior to being removed, increases survivability up to 85 percent if you're able to aggressively treat those patients with the medics and the physicians underground.

BLITZER: When you go into a building that's still standing, how risky is that?

HERNANDEZ: A hundred percent risky. OSHA wouldn't want to be in there. They tell us all they get out, but that's what they do for a living. They want to get in there and try and save lives to prevent any kind of death from happening.

[17:10:01]

BLITZER: The other building that's -- you know, sister building to this one, still standing and now people are recommending, maybe they should evacuate that building. What do you think?

HERNANDEZ: I believe that they should evacuate it just for themselves. That way -- they'll have a sense of peace of mind. Nothing can really be done with that building while there's still an active search going on nearby, because that question was raised as well.

But absolutely, if that was going to make them feel better and at least decline their emotional feelings they're going through because that's going to be a long time to erase that. So, it's probably better to get off that pile area and not have to view that over and over again.

BLITZER: Joe Hernandez, thank you very much. And you're a hero.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: All these other men and women who have been doing -- they are heroes as well.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: This is difficult, painful, and I'm sure they will suffer because of what they're going through as well.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Emotionally, it's so painful.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely they will. That's close (ph) to incident stress debriefing that they'll have go through. BLITZER: I'm sure.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely.

BLITZER: I give them all the credit in the world. Thanks so much.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you. Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, I'm going to throw it back to you but it's -- you know, as hard as it is to watch this on television and see the video, I've got to tell you, I've been here now, what, 24 hours.

When you see it and you speak to the folks in person and walk around as I did earlier today and just try to get a little glance of what's going on. It's so, so hard to observe, it's so painful to see especially in this area that you and I know so well, this area here just north of Miami, north of Miami Beach and Surfside. It's an awful situation indeed.

ACOSTA: It really is, Wolf. It's just hard not to recall the pile at Ground Zero after 9/11, and the firefighters on top of that pile, you know, doing that painstaking work of just carefully going through the debris and the hopes of finding survivors there, and, Wolf, just doing amazing work, talking to everyone down there. We'll check back in with you shortly. Thanks so much for that.

And the question, of course, as you know, Wolf, that everybody wants an answer to at this point is what caused a beachside condo full of families to suddenly collapse, and are other buildings at risk of failing? I'll talk to a structural engineer, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:16:17]

ACOSTA: We are keeping a close eye on the search and rescue operation underway in Surfside, Florida, right now as 159 are still unaccounted for after that horrific condo collapse. We're also learning new details about issues with the building structural integrity. Back in 2018, an engineer raised concerns about major structural damage to the concrete slab below the pool deck and entrance drive and that abundant cracking and spalling was observed in the concrete columns, beams, and walls.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're watching what some engineers are calling a classic column failure, what they'd expect if the key support column gave way.

But did that happen where local officials say robust inspections are the norm? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There had not been really any concerns.

FOREMAN: Among the theories, the ground. This building was constructed 40 years ago on a spit of ocean front land, a barrier island. It's the kind of area some engineers had long said is too sandy, too close to moving water to be stable and witnesses say --

KEVIN SPIEGEL, WIFE MISSING IN COLLAPSE: This past weekend, there was some water in the garage and it was coming up.

FOREMAN: Could a sink hole be to blame?

A former fire chief says they are just not common here.

ROBERT DAVID PAULISON, FORMER CHIEF, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: We don't have sink holes in south Florida in a long, long time I can remember.

FOREMAN: A second theory, the whole building was sinking. A study from Florida International University showed a gradual sinking of the building or maybe the site in the 1990s. Experts say this is unusual and likely wouldn't have caused the collapse but could have contributed to another threat.

KIYA MIYAMOTO, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Differential settlement. If the certain area where building settles more than others, so then the column will get, you know, pulled in. So, that can cause distress there.

FOREMAN: Pablo Rodriguez's mother is missing. He spoke to her the day before the collapse.

PABLO RODRIGUEZ: She just told me that she had woken up around 3:00, 4:00 in the morning and had heard like some creaking noises.

FOREMAN: But experts would expect other signs, too.

KOBI KARP, MIAMI ARCHITECT: People in the building would see cracks in their floors. The table would not be flat. Things would roll off.

FOREMAN: And yet, another theory, the building itself. Humid and salty air can corrode and weaken steel and concrete. That was the cause of a partial collapse of a federal building in Miami in 1974.

GREG BATISTA, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: And I've seen up and down the coast hundreds of buildings where you have concrete problems. It could be a building. It could be a dam or seawall. These kind of things happen if not tended to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And our thanks to Tom Foreman. Now my next guest is an internationally recognized structural engineer. Matthys Levy. He's also the author of a book, "How Structures Fail: Why Buildings Fall Down."

Matthys, it is unclear what exactly caused the collapse. What is your reaction to this report that there were warning signs three years ago?

MATTHYS LEVY, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: (INAUDIBLE) it's almost unconscionable. (INAUDIBLE) and causing the concrete to pop out around the reinforcement (ph). Those kinds of things are really dangerous and should have been warning signs that something should have been done earlier.

[17:20:00]

ACOSTA: So there were -- you would consider these to be warning signs in that report.

LEVY: Absolutely. Everyone that I mentioned this to agrees that no one should wait three years after receiving a report like this.

ACOSTA: And you think this could have caused that collapse?

LEVY: So, the proximate cause of collapse, we won't know for quite a while, but it certainly -- a very strong possibility that there was a failure in one or more columns because if you look at the method of failure from the videos that have been taken, the failure occurred by the center of the building suddenly falling down, the end portion of the building then following suit, being -- falls down.

But the corner between the existing -- the building that's still standing and the building that fell down, that is the area that I think caused the collapse or the area in which the collapse originated.

ACOSTA: And my colleague Wolf Blitzer talked to a woman last hour whose mother lives in the building and is missing. She says her mother complained about feeling tremors while the building next door was being built. When you hear that, do you get concerned?

LEVY: Well, we don't know what kind of tremors they were or what was happening at the time. But if they were drilling piles, for instance, that can be quite noisy and can also cause vibrations to travel through the soil to the building itself. So that could be a concern.

ACOSTA: All right. Matthys Levy, thank you so much, as you're looking these lives in Surfside, Florida. We hope to get to the bottom of all this as soon as possible, and thanks for your expertise in all of this as investigators continue and rescuers continue to go through that wreckage to find out exactly what happened and if there are any survivors.

Matthys Levy, thanks so much.

Coming up, they're back. The crowd is ready and waiting for the return of the Trump circus. The preview of that and all of the side show acts that come with it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:26:47] ACOSTA: The Trump circus is back on tour again starting tonight in Ohio. And if you check under the big top at his rally tonight, the former president is certain to roll out a clown car full of lies to outrage his supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never admitted defeat. We have a lot of things happening right now. I think that that was an election that was, I don't think -- all you have do is read the newspapers and see what's coming out now. No, I never -- the word is concede. I have not conceded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Yes, he's been complaining about a rigged election for nearly eight months now, but each week, Trump's big lie gets smaller, when compared to the chilling new body cam videos from the insurrection released by federal authorities.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

ACOSTA: And the big lie just gets more sad when you consider Trump has bought into the insanity that he'll be reinstated in August, sending out an e-mail this week -- have you seen this -- vowing he'll be back in 2024 or before. Or before?

That's a nod to Mike Lindell, the MyPillow guy, who claims he came up with this bogus August timeline. But this week, Lindell told me, Trump's summer reinstatement could slide a bit. Yes, you se, Lindell says he'll reveal his findings of what he calls a symposium in August. Then he says the Supreme Court will have no choice but to throw out the 2020 election and make Trump president again.

Yes, then the aliens land on the mall. No, I'm just kidding about that part. Just making sure you're paying attention.

But Lindell explains some of his thinking to "The Daily Show".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If August doesn't happen, what do you say to these people?

MIKE LINDELL, CEO OF MYPILLOW: And then the states are going to pull it down because they're doing audits in every state. Pennsylvania is doing audits. They're doing it here in Wisconsin, Maricopa will get done. Everywhere they've done an audit like in New Hampshire, they (INAUDIBLE).

Every place that we've done audits that we've done, the machines, it's the same thing, every one --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, there's a plan. It's like watching the Bigfoot show. They don't find Bigfoot at the end, but if you tune in next week, maybe it's going to happen. (LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: That's funny stuff and it would be great if we could all just have one big laugh.

But this is getting dangerous. There's this wacky conspiracy theory under investigation in the so-called Arizona audit, that bamboo ballots were allegedly shipped in from California. It's nuts.

Take a listen to what one host on the Trump propaganda network, OAN, said about this the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEARSON SHARP, OAN REPORTER: When all the dust settles from the audit in Arizona and the potential audits in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin, what happens to all these people who are responsible for overthrowing the election?

[17:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEARSON SHARP, OAN REPORTER: What are the consequences for traitors who meddled with our sacred democratic process and tried to steal power by taking away the voices of the American people? What happens to them?

Well, in the past, America had a very good solution for dealing with such traitors -- executions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Executions. He said it so calmly.

Now, that same host claims he was only discussing a legal process and wasn't calling for any executions.

But just in case the big lie and the bamboo ballots that they think came from China don't pan out for the former president, the same cast of characters on the far right have been warming up their latest circus side show, something called Critical Race Theory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): And let me tell you right now, Critical Race Theory is bigoted. It is a lie. And it's very bit as raciest as a Klan in white sheets.

(CHEERING)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Critical Race Theory. They're propagandizing to our children. They are turning our children away from faith. TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT":

Unfortunately, Critical Race Theory is a lie. It makes Americans hate each other. It's a tragedy in that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Don't be fooled. Critical Race Theory is an approach to understanding our society about looking at the racism that's shaped our past and how it still exists in our institutions.

But look at what the manufactured outrage in this theory has created.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're teaching children to hate others because of their skin color. I am disgusted by your bigotry and your depravity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because i do not want Critical Race Theory taught to my children in school does not mean that i am a racist, damnit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: What's next? An insurrection at your local school board meeting?

But hold on. These same folks on the far right, they love the military, right?

Meet General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said understanding the history of this nation is critical to understand it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: 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've read Meo Tse-tung, 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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: That didn't sit well at FOX News where Tucker Carlson was doing Tucker Karlsson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: He's not just a pig. He's stupid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Is that what we're teaching our kids now? That it's OK to refer to a general as a pig?

His colleague, Laura Ingraham, was sounding like she wants to defund the military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARUA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE": We're paying for that? Why is Congress not saying we're not going to give you a penny until all of this is eradicated from the military budget. Nothing.

This is my offer to you, nothing. That's what I would say.

I'm totally outraged by him and his ridiculous response today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Private Ingraham, Private Carlson, what is your major malfunction? The general has seemed to have touched a nerve.

Here is what is so threatening about Trumpism. It's not just about the big lies.

It's about pitting one set of Americans against another over the election, over Critical Race Theory, or whatever the next unserious outrage theory comes out of FOX News or Mar-a-Lago.

If we stop fighting each other and start embracing the truth, these guys over here, they're going to run out of things to talk about. And maybe even run out of money, too.

But, hey, they could run off and join the circus. I hear they're hiring clowns.

Coming up next, stunning images out of Tour De France where a man with a cardboard sign caused a massive pileup. That's next.

[16:34:24]

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: And you're looking at live pictures of that tragic condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. At this hour, at least 159 people remain unaccounted for. Four people have been confirmed dead.

It's been more than 60 hours since the buildings fell but crews have not given up any hope of finding survivors. And we'll take you back to Surfside in just a moment.

But first, we're learning new details about just how unhinged and volatile Donald Trump became in the wanning months of his presidency.

According to an upcoming book by "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Michael Bender, Trump's language became increasing violent as protests erupted around the country last year.

Bender says that the then-president would highlight videos of law enforcement getting physical with protesters and say he wanted to see more of that.

According to the book, Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, quote, "That's how you're supposed to handle these people, crack their skulls."

At another point, Trump allegedly told officials, quote, "Just shoot them."

When he got pushback, Trump said, quote, "Well, shoot them in the leg or maybe the foot, but be hard on them."

Joining me now is retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General, if you were in that room hearing that from the president of the United States, what would you do in that moment?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think I would do what the representatives of the Joint Chiefs and the secretary of defense did. They tried to talk him down and provide some courses of action that did not include illegal activity, like he was considering.

[17:40:00]

And also just attempt to give their best military advice, which the rest of the story seems to indicate General Milley and Secretary Esper did to try and bring him back from the edge.

It's unbelievable behavior, Jim, and just not understandable.

But that's the kind of things the senior and military adviser has to do to a president that's a little bit unhinged.

ACOSTA: Republicans questioned the Joint Chiefs chair, Mark Milley, General Mark Milley, this week about the Defense Department's diversity efforts, and alleged embrace of Critical Race Theory.

It's something they want to teach inside the military for sensitivity and whatnot.

And he was asked specifically about a seminar class at West Point, called "Understanding Whiteness and White Rage."

And i want to play Milley's response for you. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MILLEY: 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've read Meo Tse-tung, 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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: What do you think about this course? Do you think it's appropriate? And what do you think the cadets are getting out of it?

HERTLING: Yes, I absolutely do, Jim. And what we have to do first - and I will say that I asked a friend of mine at West Point to send me a core syllabus and, thankfully, he did. I saw what the entire course was.

The Critical Race Theory lecture was one of about 30 or 40 classes where cadets who were taking this elective were introduced into various ideas about culture, diversity, race, sex, and how it contributes to their role as leaders. That's the course.

So to have these two congressmen, one of which is mine, Congressman Waltz, and Congressman Gaetz, jump on this issue as part of a hearing that was supposed to be discussing the $700 billion-plus defense expense budget just shows they're not taking their job seriously.

And truthfully, if you look at their syllabus of this course and the other course that's taught at West Point, the four years there are to give cadets an indicator of the kinds of things they might face in combat, in leading their soldiers, and in serving as leaders of character in the Army.

So you have to get a bunch of diverse views.

The great thing about Critical Race Theory and the debate going on -- there's actually a good side -- it's causing people to look at exactly what it is.

And just like many other theories taught in graduate-level education, it has to do with postulating some ideas and basing it on a theory that interacts with the way you live your life.

It's just one of many ideas that these cadets see while they're in the course that, truthfully, after i saw the syllabus, i wish i was a cadet again and could have attended that course.

ACOSTA: I want to ask you about the ongoing troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. President Biden is vowing to protect thousands of Afghan nationals who

worked alongside American troops and diplomates. It's an important issue. He's working to relocate them while they await visas.

Why is this effort so critical, do you think?

HERTLING: This is some of the serious things that i think our Congress should be discussing, as opposed to the craziness that they are talking about right now.

There are literally thousands of Afghans who are looking for the special immigrant visas.

I served a lot of time in Iraq and was part of an area that was on the initial throes of withdrawing when U.S. forces started coming out of there.

The interpreters, the workers that serve with you, they take a great risk while serving alongside American soldiers.

When the American soldiers leave, the enemy of the American soldiers will quickly come after them and their families.

So it's very important that this Special Immigrant Program, SIV, is provided for these individuals so they can get out of the country and not assassinated by the Taliban.

We've already seen some of those activities taking place.

Truthfully, Jim, they're in a great deal of danger. And they should be brought out of the country and provided some help as they gave us when we were in combat alongside them.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. It's an important issue. We'll be following it.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you very much for being with us this afternoon. We appreciate it.

HERTLING: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Now to stunning images of the Tour De France where a fan on the side of the road, holding a cardboard card, caused a massive crash during stage one of the race.

Officials say a German cyclist hit the spectator and that large sign, causing a domino effect. Another competitor was injured and actually had to withdraw.

[17:44:59]

And look at this video out of Winthrop, Massachusetts. We'll explain what happened right after the break. Just look at the shocking video. We'll have details in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ACOSTA: We are following breaking news out of Massachusetts at this hour. Police say at least three people have been shot in Winthrop, a residential area near Boston.

Police say it started with this, a large truck that crashed into a home. Officers who arrived, they were then called to a shooting nearby where they found two wounded people and a suspect shot by police.

It's unclear right now how the crash and shooting are related and what condition the victims are in. But we'll get you the latest information as it comes in.

[17:50:05]

In the meantime, romance novelist, Jackie Collins, is one of the most successful authors of all time. But her best story may be the one she never got a chance to tell -- her own.

Now, the CNN film, "LADY BOSS: THE STORY OF JACKIE COLLINS," explores the personal life of this 1980s icon, who promoted her own particular brand of feminism while building a Hollywood and literary empire.

Our Alisyn Camerota has a look at what made Jackie Collins the ultimate boss lady.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: An hour from now, CNN will carry, live, Soviet leader Gorbachev's address to the Soviet Union.

But first, author, Jackie Collins --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Scandal.

JACKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR: I'm not in the mood for blackmail.

CAMEROTA: Intrigue.

COLLINS: If she wanted the bitch dead, she was going to have to do it herself.

CAMEROTA: And lots of steamy sex.

COLLINS: Fast, pure, exciting lust took over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's hot stuff you write.

COLLINS: Well, I like to entertain people. Let's put it that way.

CAMEROTA: Jackie Collins, author of 32 novels, more than half a billion copies sold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all learned sex from you.

COLLINS: I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about that?

COLLINS: I write good sex. That's why.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: A self-styled brand of feminism filled her stories. Strong and sexually empowered women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls can do anything. That was her motto.

CAMEROTA: The books drew from reality as Collins hob-knobbed in Hollywood.

COLLINS: I saw plenty but I'm not naming any names.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: But you will be reading about it.

CAMEROTA: Her Hollywood life started in the shadow of her older sister, Joan.

JOAN COLLINS, ACTRESS: There was always an extra man hanging around, and she loved it.

CAMEROTA: But Jackie's own foray into acting fizzled.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hello.

COLLINS: Would you like a drink?

CAMEROTA: A first marriage to an abusive and drug-addicted man ended in divorce and his suicide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was the defining point, I'm guessing in her life to moving her on, I think, to protecting herself.

And how did she do that? She created a world for herself of wonderful characters who wouldn't let her down.

CAMEROTA: She found happiness with her second husband, for more than two decades before he died of cancer. Several years later, her fiancee succumbed to a brain tumor.

COLLINS: Everybody looks at me and they think, oh, she has this fabulous life. But I also nursed two men through terminal illnesses.

CAMEROTA: Through it all, Jackie kept writing.

COLLINS: I'm going to do "Lady Boss," which is the third book about Lucky, who lives her life with all the freedom and style that men have always managed to live theirs with.

CAMEROTA: When Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer, she kept working, hiding it from everyone. RORY GREEN, DAUGHTER OF JACKIE COLLINS: She'd had a lump. And we don't

know -- this is two years and I don't know if it was longer than or not. But she just hadn't -- you know, she thought that she could defy it.

CAMEROTA: Jackie Collins lived life on her own terms, a trait familiar to her readers.

COLLINS: But there lies the difference, Lucky said. I'm not everybody else.

CAMEROTA: An unapologetic "Lady Boss."

Alisyn Camerota, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Be sure to tune in. The all-new CNN film, "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY," premieres tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Since the start of the pandemic, people of color have been devastated by COVID-19, dying at a much greater rate than white Americans.

This week's "CNN Hero" is working to change that. She's a pediatric surgeon who has spent the last 14 months building trust and bringing testing and vaccinations to those in need in her hometown of Philadelphia.

Meet Dr. Ala Stanford.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ALA STANFORD, CNN HERO: African-Americans were dying at a rate greater than any other group in Philadelphia, so I jumped in.

We were intentional about getting black and brown communities the access and care they needed.

Those who are most vulnerable, they need to have the support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm done. Feel great.

(CHEERING)

STANFORD: Just seeing folks come out, day in and day out, their presence says anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she's smiling.

STANFORD: There was all this narrative, black people don't want the vaccine, but they were lined up.

We had to lever the trust of the people. You know it's saving lives. Data shows it.

I couldn't allow one additional life to be lost when I knew I could do something about it.

Everything was done for them, to make sure they get the care they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: To date, Dr. Stanford's group has tested and vaccinated more than 75,000 people.

See how she does it and get her full story and nominate someone you know to be a "CNN Hero" at CNNheroes.com.

[17:54:53]

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Pamela Brown takes over on CNN NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.

Have a good night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)