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At Least Four Dead, 159 Missing in Condo Collapse; Derek Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years for George Floyd's Murder; Biden Pledges Support for Afghanistan as U.S. Troops Withdraw; Executed Iranian Athlete "A Hero for Millions". Aired 4-5a ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More than 48 hours after two towers of a condo complex came crashing down, at least 159 people remain missing, as crews dig through the rubble, searching for any signs of life.

A judge sentences a police officer to 22.5 years in prison for murdering George Floyd.

The question now, could this case change the way officers do their jobs in communities of color?

And President Biden pledges U.S. support to Afghanistan, as the Taliban presence in the embattled country increases.

Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: Search and rescue teams are working through the night, searching for survivors after the catastrophic building collapse in the town of Surfside near Miami. Part of the 12-story Champlain Towers came crashing down during the early hours of Thursday morning.

Four people are confirmed dead and the whereabouts of 159 others are unknown. It is still not clear what caused the high-rise condominium tower to collapse. Rescue teams have been facing daunting obstacles: heavy smoke from fires within the building, unstable mountain of rubble, as well as heavy winds and rain.



BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The vigil was held Friday evening to remember the lives lost and to pray for those who are unaccounted for. CNN spoke to Miami-Dade's fire rescue chief, who has a message for those awaiting news of their loved ones.



CHIEF ANDY ALVAREZ, MIAMI-DADE FIRE-RESCUE DEPARTMENT: Have hope. There's always hope. I was in Haiti and, eight days after we were there, we took a girl out of a collapse. And you've got to have hope. And we are doing everything that we can to bring your family member out alive.


BRUNHUBER: And that's what so many people are doing, holding on to hope as the careful search goes on. CNN's Natasha Chen has more from Surfside.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE (D-FL), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But that hope is fleeting as crucial hours pass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they are alive down there like what's going on like how buried are they in there, is there a possibility that they're alive, like truthfully look at this mess. I mean, what are the chances?

CHEN (voice-over): Officials say about 55 of the 136 units at the 12- story residential building in Surfside collapsed early Thursday morning, still no clue what the cause. Search and rescue crews are working around the clock using heavy machinery, sonar cameras and specially trained dogs to try to locate the missing in the rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you get lucky you find them in the pocket and we're able to basically by hand remove the rubble if it's not too heavy.

CHEN (voice-over): But those efforts are being met with new challenges; fires at the collapse site as well as rising water and shifting materials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It then challenges the integrity of what's still standing there and then that delicate balance of saving lives while risking lives.

CHEN (voice-over): Crews are now looking at the license plates of cars in the parking garage to try to determine who was in the building. The residents represent an international and cultural mix.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My nephew was here with a wife and three small children, 2, 6 and 9. They had an apartment there. We never lose hope.

CHEN (voice-over): Overnight, President Biden declared an emergency in Florida making federal aid available. The Feds are also sending a team of experts to study the structure which was undergoing a 40-year certification and determine whether an investigation that could impact building codes is necessary.

An attorney for the association of condo residents tell CNN an engineer had conducted inspections to determine needed repairs, but the only work that had started was on the roof.

Judy Spiegel is among the missing. Tonight, her husband, Kevin, who was out of town at the time of the collapse, and their three adult children are holding out hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to be hopeful. I want to be with her.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How from one second to the next second, a dramatic change in life. It's unbelievable.

CHEN: The Chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said that initially they had hundreds of people on the team searching and now today they've been assisted by more agencies who have come to help them.

He also said that it may not be clear to us on the ground or even if you look at the aerial footage what the work is exactly that they're doing underneath the rubble.

And some of them are going underneath there to where the basement was trying to go up into the building that way, all the while contending with dangerous conditions like falling debris -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


BRUNHUBER: Now those dangerous conditions are unimaginable and have been described as even being like the Twin Towers and 9/11 or flattened buildings after the Haiti earthquake. Officials spoke to CNN earlier and described the conditions.


SALLY HEYMAN, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COMMISSION: We have over 300 firefighters from multiple task forces onsite, which is in the buildings, on top of the building, under the debris and subterranean and they are battling it and made a massive task force.

But what's happening is a fire in the building and the lower floor between 2 and 3 and also in the garage area is hindering their efforts to continue search, rescue and, hopefully, recovery.



CHIEF JOSEPH ZAHRALBAN, CITY OF MIAMI FIRE-RESCUE DEPARTMENT: Miami- Dade Fire Rescue has done an exceptional job of keeping this fire under control to the point where we could continue to work safely.

Now you might look at it and see the fire has not been extinguished. We look at it as they have done an excellent job, allowing us to continue to work because, if they weren't doing such a good job, we would be forced off the pile. And then nobody would have the opportunity for survival.


BRUNHUBER: Those rescue efforts are taking an emotional toll on emergency crews, as they search through the rubble in hopes of finding survivors. A trauma surgeon working in the search told CNN's Anderson Cooper what they're finding.


DR. HOWARD LIEBERMAN, MIAMI-DADE RESCUE, URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TASK FORCE: A lot of people, you know, you just think about rubble and metal and twisted steel.

But we're seeing, you know, stuffed animals, teddy bears, a box of diapers, a child's bunk bed and we're finding a lot of pictures, family pictures.

And it's a little bit more emotional than going somewhere, you know, where there's no one, let's say, for a hurricane, where they had enough warning and they had evacuation time and they got out.

But this, you know, that it happened in the middle of the night. For the first time now I just saw the video and, yes, it's pretty impressive.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Have you -- I know, there's obviously dogs onsite. There's devices where you, you know, sound devices you put into rubble. I know, in other places, sometimes even like, everybody has called for quiet on the site, just so you can hear in case anybody is tapping.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, there was, prior to me getting there yesterday, around 1:00 pm or so, they did hear some tapping. There was some noise. And, you know, it kept up for a while and then, over the course of the day, they sort of -- that dissipated.


BRUNHUBER: So as teams scour the site hoping to find more survivors, some family members are trying to help in the only way they can. And it comes with a sad realization.


PABLO RODRIGUEZ, SON/GRANDSON OF MISSING WOMEN: I received a call from a reporter this morning letting me know that they were taking DNA swabs at the Surfside community center and then I heard it on the news as well. So we headed over there and the scene was a bit chaotic. There were people everywhere. It wasn't really organized. Then, I don't think the rain helped, so they moved us to another location where it continued to be chaotic until we kept asking everyone where we can provide the DNA swab. Finally, we were able to do that.


BRUNHUBER: So as they tried to stay positive, Pablo Rodriguez and other loved ones of the 159 people unaccounted for, helplessly wait for answers. CNN's Nick Valencia has their story.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a heaviness here today in Surfside. That heaviness comes amidst the uncertainty, where family members have told us that they're really just not getting much information at all.

There are some people that are holding onto hope but others who have resigned to the fact they believe, they say, that they're just going to get bad news and they're waiting for that news to come.

Then there are others like Soriya Cohen (ph), whose frustration is bordering on downright outrage. Her husband and her brother-in-law, Brad and Gary Cohen, she says, were on the 11th floor asleep at the time the building collapsed.

She believes both those two men are still alive but she says time is running out. And she says that she's embarrassed by the recovery effort here. This is the message that she had for the first responders.

SORIYA COHEN (PH), WIFE AND SISTER-IN-LAW OF MISSING MEN: You shouldn't be allocating your resources. You need to call in other teams to help you and you need to do this immediately because every minute that goes by could be another life. It is not just the life of the person. My children are going to be orphans.


VALENCIA: Soriya said her 12-year old woke up in the morning, unable to have breakfast because she couldn't stand to think that her dad was perhaps still alive, buried under the rubble and not being able to get help.

At this point, the reunification center has been moved from about a block away to this hotel behind me here, where people inside, who have come out, have described about 100 people inside, just really waiting around for information.

Earlier in the day, we saw governor DeSantis come by. He was only inside for roughly 15 minutes before he left. Some are being proactive, opting to get some mouth swabs in the case that they need DNA to identify bodies pulled from the rubble -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


BRUNHUBER: Now of course, many people are wondering how this tragedy happened and if it could have been prevented. Earlier, CNN asked that very question to John Pistorino (ph). He's the structural engineer hired to investigate the collapse. He also helped write the inspection guidelines for buildings in Florida. Here he is.


JOHN PISTORINO (PH), STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, COLLAPSE INVESTIGATOR: At this particular point in time, it's very important not to speculate as far as what caused this building to go down.

Engineers have a specific routine as to how go about doing a forensic evaluation. And so that's the way it should be approached.

The 40-year inspection program that happened since 1974 was certainly intended to prevent something like this from happening. And so nothing really like this has happened until this has occurred.

The thing is, though, that we expect building owners to maintain their buildings. You don't wait 40 years and then start looking for trouble or signs. These buildings themselves are supposed to be maintained, according to the way they've been built originally.


BRUNHUBER: Much more to come on CNN, including details on the sentence handed down for the former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd. That plus community reaction straight ahead.

Plus the NYPD is looking for four people who vandalized a George Floyd statue in Brooklyn. The latest on the manhunt coming up. Please stay with us.






PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE'S BROTHER: The fact that Gianna will grow up knowing that her father will make a difference in the world. But the fact that that she cannot have a sweet 16, she cannot have him walk her down the aisle, she will not be able to have prom with a daddy dance, this is not something realistic.


BRUNHUBER: That was George Floyd's brother, reacting to the sentence a judge on Friday gave the former police officer who killed him. Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years for second degree unintentional murder. So that is greater than the state guidelines but less than the prosecutors requested.

Chauvin probably won't spend the entire time behind bars. Our Omar Jimenez has more on that and more from Minneapolis.


JUDGE PETER CAHILL, MINNESOTA JUDGE: The State of Minnesota versus Derek Michael Chauvin.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen months to the day after murdering George Floyd, Derek Chauvin was sentenced.

CAHILL: The court commits you to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for a period of 270 months.

JIMENEZ: Twenty-two and a half years in prison after the former Minneapolis police officer was convicted on charges of second degree unintentional murder, second degree manslaughter and third degree murder.

Judge Peter Cahill wrote in a sentencing memo, "Mr. Chauvin, rather than pursuing the MPD mission, treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings, in which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor."

The prosecution capping off an effort more than a year in the making.

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: A police officer is not above the law and George Floyd certainly is not beneath the law.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): During the sentencing hearing, the family expressed the impact George Floyd's murder had on them, including his 7-year-old daughter, Gianna Floyd.

GIANNA FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: Well, I ask about him all the time.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): His brothers speaking directly to Chauvin.

TERRENCE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: Why you didn't at least get up?

Why you stayed there?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): And making their pleas to the judge.

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: Give Officer Chauvin the maximum sentence possible.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Chauvin's mother spoke in his defense, never acknowledging the Floyd family. Instead --

CAROLYN PAWLENTY, DEREK CHAUVIN'S MOTHER: Derek, I want you to know that I've always believed in your innocence and I will never waver from that. JIMENEZ (voice-over): The court found the opposite. And for the first time, the 45-year-old former police officer addressed the Floyd family.

DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There is going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Outside the courtroom, mixed feelings of celebration and wanting more.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: This is the longest sentence that a police officer has ever been sentenced to in the history of the state of Minnesota. But this should not be the exception.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): It's the close of a first chapter in a story that continues long after 9 minutes and 29 seconds impacted the world and changed it, as Floyd's daughter said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could say anything to your daddy right now, what would it be?

G. FLOYD: It would be I miss you and I love you.

JIMENEZ: Now 22.5 years is the sentence. But he could serve just 15, since, here in Minnesota, you serve the first two-thirds of your sentence in prison and then become eligible for supervised release for the final third.

But he's still got two upcoming federal trials that could add more to that, stemming from alleged civil rights violations.


JIMENEZ: He also still has the opportunity in 90 days to appeal this case, especially since the judge denied his request for a new trial just before the sentencing. That's separate from the appeals process.

We reached out to the attorney representing Derek Chauvin to see if he had any comment on the sentencing. He simply responded, "No comment" -- Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.


BRUNHUBER: CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney Areva Martin joins us now.

Thanks for being here. George Floyd's sister said the sentence shows police brutality is, quote, "finally being taken seriously." The prosecutor asking for 30 years, saying, quote, "It is the beginning of accountability."

I know from seeing your reaction on social media that you disagree, you're disappointed with this sentence.


AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm disappointed, Kim, because, when you look at the heinous nature of the crime, if you look at other cases that have been prosecuted in the state of Minnesota, there was justification for this judge doubling the presumptive sentencing.

We know the presumptive sentence was anywhere between 12 and 15 years. The prosecutor presented evidence during his statement of a case in Minnesota, where there was one aggravating factor. And the presumptive time period was actually doubled in that case.

And when you look at this case, the judge found actually four aggravating circumstances. So I think the 30 years that the prosecutors asked for in their pre-sentencing hearing and what they asked for -- pre-sentencing motion, I'm sorry -- and in the hearing today, was absolutely justified on the evidence and on precedent set in the state of Minnesota.

BRUNHUBER: Is part of the frustration that many Black and Brown people have been, you know, sentenced for a lot longer for a lot less?

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. And we heard George Floyd's brother make reference to that, when he gave his victim impact statement. He said, look, we don't want a slap on the wrist. We know, if this were -- roles were reversed in this case, if this were one of us, he said -- basically he admitted, if this were an African American defendant, who had been convicted of murder, three counts, they would be, he said, under the jail.

So we've seen too many cases where African Americans, Latinos, people of color, are serving much longer than 22 years in prison. And many times, it's for nonviolent drug charges.

So, clearly, we should not be dismissive of the fact that this is a historical sentence and the fact that it's probably the longest sentence ever for a police officer in the state of Minnesota. We don't want to lose sight of that.

And, clearly, Derek Chauvin has been held accountable. But nor do we want to overemphasize or suggest that this is somehow the ending of what has been, what we've seen played out in this case and so many other cases, of the systemic racism that is persuasive in so many police departments across the United States.

BRUNHUBER: So on that then, which do you think is more likely, that this case and verdict and sentence will go some way to deter police from actions like this?

Or will it do more to hold officers accountable if they do something like that?

Or neither?

MARTIN: I think the jury is still out, to be honest you with, because there have been officers that have been convicted for murder and have been convicted, have been sentenced, have served jail time. And yet we continue to see African Americans killed by police at disproportionate rates. Police in this country kill about a thousand people a year.

So I don't think we can draw a straight line and conclude that simply, because Derek Chauvin is going to serve 22.5 years -- and we should note that, in the state of Minnesota, he will only serve two-thirds of that time, so about 16 years -- that that is going to necessarily deter or change the culture of policing in this country.

We have a real issue in this country when it comes to policing, particularly policing communities of color. BRUNHUBER: Looking ahead then, what do you think this case, this

sentence, might mean for the other three officers accused?

MARTIN: I think it spells trouble for the other three officers. When those three guilty verdicts were read by the jurors in April, just a couple -- a month or so ago, I can imagine that those three other defendants were shaking in their boots.

They now know that jurors are rejecting their claim that they used the appropriate level of force, that they followed training, that they did not do anything wrong with respect to how Mr. Floyd was treated on that day.

So, you know, to get those guilty verdicts handed down and now to have a 22.5 sentence handed down by the judge.


MARTIN: I can imagine that those defendants are incredibly nervous about what the prospects are for them, when they go to trial in March of next year.

BRUNHUBER: Always appreciate your analysis, Areva Martin, thank you so much for joining us.

MARTIN: Thanks, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: After the sentencing hearing, Floyd's family called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. President Biden asked that the measure be approved by the anniversary of Floyd's death in May. But it remains in negotiations. He weighed in on Chauvin's sentence from the White House. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't know all the circumstances that were considered but it seems to me, under the guidelines, that seems to be appropriate.


BRUNHUBER: Now earlier, I spoke with Anika Bowie, the vice president of the Minneapolis NAACP and I she talked about where the community goes from here and whether Chauvin's lengthy sentence represents a turning point. Here she is.


ANIKA BOWIE, VICE PRESIDENT, MINNEAPOLIS NAACP: I think it gives a sense of accountability and a sense toward justice to George Floyd's family, who we want to send our deepest gratitude, right, who held strong throughout this slow and deadly (ph) process of our judicial system.

But let's be clear. Black people in Minneapolis alone, aside from the entire nation, knew that Derek Chauvin was guilty prior to the murder of George Floyd. This is an officer who was part of a police department, that has hundreds and hundreds of lives on their hands, right?

It is very clear that we know that the Minneapolis Police Department has blood on its hands and Derek Chauvin's sentencing does not wash it away.


BRUNHUBER: You can see more of my discussion with Minneapolis NAACP vice president Anika Bowie next hour, right here on CNN.

The New York Police Department is on the hunt for four vandals, suspected of a possible hate crime. They believe these individuals were involved, directly or indirectly, in defacing a George Floyd statue in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Floyd's brother had unveiled the six-foot tall statue for the Juneteenth holiday but the NYPD says vandals painted over the face and the inscription on the base and stenciled in the words of a neo-Nazi white supremacist group. New York governor Andrew Cuomo had a terse message for the vandal, quote, "Get the hell out of our state."

Still ahead, another night of massive search and rescue operations in Florida, two days after a deadly building collapse. We'll bring you an update and hear from people who witnessed the disaster firsthand.

Plus, some of the theories behind what may have caused the building to collapse. That's just ahead. Please do stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

We're turning now to Florida, where four people are confirmed dead and 159 remain unaccounted for following Thursday's condominium tower collapse in Miami. Rescue teams are relentlessly digging through piles of rubble, desperately searching for survivors.

CNN's Chris Cuomo is in the town of Surfside and shot this video from the disaster site.

And one of the big questions everyone is asking, what caused the building to collapse so suddenly?

Officials are promising an urgent investigation but experts say, at this stage, it's impossible to pinpoint the cause.

Right now, we want you to hear from the people who were there on the scene, those who witnessed this disaster as it unfolded. Some were inside the building when it happened. Others were just steps away from parts of the structures that vanished right in front of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a really loud clap of thunder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It kind of felt like a jet took off above the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chandeliers and the pendant lights just swaying completely and that was not normal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least my husband and I woke up to that, to him grabbing me and saying "What is that?"

And the whole bedroom was just shaking so violently that honestly, I was prepared for the building to come down because it was not something stable. There was nothing going on that seemed normal about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, until we opened the door, we didn't know anything happened to the building. The unit was intact.

I looked to the left and the apartment to our left was half sheared off. I looked forward, which is where the elevator shaft is and it was just a hole. So that that was the real thing. At that point, we knew we -- it was a race against time, because I didn't know if the rest of the building was coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear this large, like rumbling noise, I don't know where and I actually just see like, white clouds like -- of just dust coming out. So I told my mom and my sister who were also parked outside, we'll have to start running. We ran -- all we just see was just white dust like thick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked down the hallway and there was nothing there. It was just a pile of dust and rubble and paint falling from the ceilings.

We went down to the garage, in the basement, water was pouring down from the pipes and we realize that we had to get out of there because staying down there, we could drown knowing how -- what it looked like outside my door, I thought that any minute we could be that same pile of rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just don't know why we're here. The rest of the people aren't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having gone out to the hallway and seen that it was mere feet from the wall that my kids were sleeping in, it could have been a very different thing.

I could have walked into the living room, checking on them and found that rubble and it just -- I don't think I've processed it. It looks like I'm in that mode but I don't think I've really processed what happened.


BRUNHUBER: The first class action lawsuit has already been filed against the collapsed towers' building association. It asserts that the disaster could have been prevented, quote, "through the exercise of ordinary care, safety measures and oversights," and seeks damages of more than $5 million.

So what do we know so far about this 40-year-old building?

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.


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

But did that happen here, where local officials say robust inspections are the norm?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There had not been really any concerns.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Among the theories, the ground.


FOREMAN (voice-over): This building was constructed 40 years ago on a spit of oceanfront 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 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This past weekend there was some water in the garage and it was coming up.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Could a sinkhole be to blame?

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have sinkholes in south Florida in a long, long time I can remember.

FOREMAN (voice-over): 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Differential supplement. If the area building settles more than others, so then the column will get, you know, pulled in. So that can cause distress there.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Pablo Rodriguez's mother is missing. He spoke to her the day before the collapse.

PABLO RODRIGUEZ, SON OF MISSING WOMAN: She said she woke up around 3 o'clock, 4 o'clock in the morning and heard creaking noises.

FOREMAN (voice-over): 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 (voice-over): 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 income Miami in 1974.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

FOREMAN: The concrete roof is being worked on. The building was undergoing improvements as part of this 40-year renewal of its coverage there basically.

On top of that, we know, in 2015, there was a lawsuit and that lawsuit was about, according to a lawyer involved, water coming through a crack in the wall into a unit there. It was settled for an undisclosed sum. We don't know how much money was involved. We do know this, though: while the hunt for survivors goes on, the

search for answers does, too, and could go on for a long time -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Right now, search and rescue teams are still looking for more survivors but there's been an unexpected hurdle in the way: the weather.


BRUNHUBER: All our thoughts are with the victims and their families. And you can help them. You can go to and find links there to charitable organizations that have been verified by CNN.

Well, the U.S. and Afghan leaders meet in Washington as American troops exit Afghanistan in a precarious position. We'll explore what President Biden and Ghani are saying next. Stay with us. (MUSIC PLAYING)





JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending. It's going to be sustained and our troops may be leaving but support for Afghanistan is not ending.



ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: In moments of great transition, things happen. But you will see that, with determination, with unity and with the partnership, we will overcome all odds.


BRUNHUBER: Those were the U.S. and Afghan presidents, giving their assessment of what lies ahead, once the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is finished. The leaders met in Washington Friday as the September 11th deadline draws near.

But already Taliban forces are seizing more and more territory. Phil Mattingly has more on the circumstances surrounding the meeting and what the Afghan leader is hoping to achieve.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani had several messages that he wanted to deliver to President Biden. Obviously, there was no question the troop pullout that President Biden had, already, announced was not going to change, no matter what President Ghani put on the table.

But there is clear need, clear necessity, for more U.S. assistance as the U.S. moves through that process. The country's security situation, very clearly, deteriorating amidst Taliban offensives throughout the country. Particularly, in the north.

Real concerns from U.S. intelligence officials that the country could fall, within six months of the U.S., officially, departing after September 11th. Where things stand right now, the U.S. is not changing.

And President Biden is not moving off of that September deadline, making clear, the U.S. will continue humanitarian support, will continue its presence at an embassy in Kabul. And there will be about 650 U.S. troops there to protect that embassy. But that security situation, that is up to the Afghans. Whether or not

a peace agreement gets signed, the U.S. Supports it but that is, also, up to the Afghans. Of course, there is also the big question of those Afghanis who helped U.S. forces, U.S. personnel, over the course of the last 19 years.

The administration's still working through that process, as well. As of now, they have identified a certain group of those individuals that are going through the special immigrant visa process.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): They will be evacuated before the September deadline to a third country as they move through that process.

How many that will be and what that third country is, that is still up in the air. But obviously, a very complex situation.

And the Biden administration making very clear, despite the visit, in person, from the Afghan president, they are not changing their posture on this. All they can offer is hope and assistance, not of the military variety -- Phil Mattingly, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris headed to a political hot spot back home. She went to the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, visiting a migrant processing center in El Paso, Texas.

Harris leads diplomatic efforts to stem the record tide of migrants coming from Central America. She hadn't gone to the border as vice president until now, which opened her up to criticism from Republicans. But Harris said she wanted to visit Mexico and Guatemala first to start addressing the root causes of migration.


BRUNHUBER: The CDC is urging Americans to get their second coronavirus vaccines. The aid agency says more than one in 10 people in the U.S. who have gotten their first shot have missed their second dose.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the best way to protect against variants, like the highly transmissible Delta variant, is to be fully vaccinated and she says, even if you missed the preferred window for getting the second shot, get it now.

The Food and Drug Administration is adding a warning about a rare heart inflammation, linked to two COVID-19 vaccines, heart conditions that have been reported in hundreds of young men and teens, who got either the Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech shot.

But a CDC adviser says they've been recovering quickly. The FDA is now advising people to see a doctor if they notice chest pain, shortness of breath or a fast-beating heart after vaccination.

In Australia, the greater Sydney area is now under a new stay-at-home order. It kicked in a short while ago. It is local time and it lasts for two weeks. The city has recorded dozens of new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours.

Restrictions are rolling out in the rest of the Australian state, including one person per square foot rule both indoors and outdoors.

Navid Afkari, a wrestling champion executed in Iran, was larger than life. But in death, he might have become even larger. We'll show you why, stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: In 2020, the wrestler Navid Afkari was executed in Iran. He had been found guilty of murder at an antigovernment protest. But in a trial that his family says was a sham, he denied the charges.

Audio clips of him standing up to the authorities in Iran now circulate freely. And his courageous stance has emboldened his supporters to keep fighting.

CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Don Riddell has been speaking to some of them to find out who was Navid Afkari.



DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Navid Afkari was the life and soul of the party. He was a top wrestler in Iran but he was executed by his government in 2020.

SARDAR PASHAE (PH), FORMER IRANIAN WRESTLER: I knew something happened. And when I listened to one of their voice mail apps, my journalist friend, I just cried, you know, I couldn't control my tears.

Sardar Pashae is a former junior world champion from Iran. He was involved in the campaign to try and save Afkari's life.

PASHAE (PH): They were telling me, that if you can be available in one hour, to have interview and I just kept saying I can't. And they wanted me to be there but it was one of the most difficult moments.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Afkari had been accused of killing a security guard during a protest rally in 2018, a charge that he confessed to initially but later retracted, because he said he had been tortured.

During this exchange in court, he can be heard challenging the authority of the judge in a trial that his supporters say was rigged against him. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).




RIDDELL (voice-over): His family and human rights groups in Iran say that no compelling evidence was ever presented in the case against him. In such a strict society, where any challenge to authority could be severely punished, it is very uncommon for such a recording to even exist, let alone be out in public.

Leaked by human rights activists, its very existence is evidence that Afkari's death has now galvanized those who are calling for change. Before he was hanged, Afkari recorded an audio file in prison, demanding that the world take notice of his plight and of the countless other political prisoners who are detained in Iran, tortured and executed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

RIDDELL (voice-over): A campaign group called United for Navid is now using his defiant and courageous stance to highlight the oppression of other athletes and citizens by Iran's strict governing regime. They want the International Olympic Committee to ban Iran from the games.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Navid was sending an audio file from prison, he had hope. I have the same hope. I want to do something. And this is the first step. United for Navid actually is trying to get the attention of the rest of the world, to not ignore when people are asking you for help.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Since Afkari's death, life has become very difficult for those who are close to him. Two of his brothers are also in jail and the family is under pressure not to speak, which is why one family member agreed only to talk with CNN if their identity could be protected.


RIDDELL (voice-over): They say that Navid's mother is conflicted in her grief.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's so sad for losing Navid.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And second feeling, she's so proud of Navid because she knows that Navid choose the right path.

RIDDELL (voice-over): For those that Navid Afkari left behind, the direction of that path is now uncertain. But his fate has prompted other athletes to speak out against the government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They found that (INAUDIBLE), you know, that he bear his name like his body. But it never happened. He's a hero for millions of young athlete and he's everywhere now.

RIDDELL (voice-over): An execution intended to silence and intimidate may just have had the opposite effect -- Don Riddell, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: And the Iranian government has said repeatedly that Navid Afkari was not tortured and that his confession wasn't forced. CNN has asked the government if he received a fair trial and we haven't received a response.

I'm Kim Brunhuber. The latest on that tragic condo collapse in Florida, when CNN NEWSROOM continues in a moment. Please do stay with us.