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Interview with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava about Collapsed Building Search and Rescue Efforts; Death Toll Rises to Nine, 152 Still Unaccounted for in Surfside Building Collapse; Bill Barr's Double Speak on Trump's Claims of 2020 Fraud; Cyber Chief Warns Adversaries Want to Target U.S. Infrastructure; "Lady Boss, The Jackie Collins Story" Features the Author's Persona. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 27, 2021 - 20:00   ET



BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: When we launch the James Webb telescope in November it will peer back in time almost to the beginning.


NELSON: And then we'll find additional information. We'll find --

BROWN: OK. This is fascinating. We hope you'll come back on the show to discuss all this with us.

NASA administrator, former Florida senator Bill Nelson, thank you.

And your next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are you telling families who are still hoping to find their loved ones?

MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: We are working 24 hours a day, nonstop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As more time goes by, I just feel that it's just looking more and more dim.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have under estimated President Biden since day one. I expect that President Biden will sign the infrastructure bill.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): While we can welcome this work and welcome collaboration with Republicans but that doesn't mean that the president should be limited by Republicans.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We cannot continue to add on things that we can't pay for. We're writing checks our kids can't ever cash. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Welcome to CNN's live special coverage of the tragedy in Miami. I am Pamela Brown in Washington.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Surfside, Florida, as the sun sets on a fourth day of searching and waiting. Crews will continue their work throughout the night including teams who have come all the way over from Israel, as well as Mexico. We are told this is still considered a search and rescue mission. The death toll now stands at nine but more than 150 people are still missing. 150 people. More than 150 people are still missing.

The anguish for families is unimaginable. The Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava spoke about allowing them to visit the debris site earlier today.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We did give all of the families an opportunity to privately visit the site. This was something that many of the family members had requested and so our teams worked to set up something to accommodate them and I think that it turned out very well and they were very grateful for the opportunity. And we ask you to continue to pray for all of them, all of the families during this impossibly difficult time as they're waiting for news and to continue to pray for our first responders who continue to toil to find loved ones.


BLITZER: Tonight, amidst all of this anxiety is clearly spreading along the south Florida coast as beach front residents, they wonder understandably so if their buildings are really safe. The city of Miami now wants qualified structural engineers to inspect all buildings, all buildings over six stories tall and 40 years old and they want reports back within 45 days.

Joining us now, the mayor of Miami-Dade County Daniella Levine Cava.

Mayor, thank you very much for joining us. We're just getting some new information that shortly after that inspection back in 2018, they said the building was totally safe. Things were great. You know, it's obviously, a serious problem.

LEVINE CAVA: Absolutely. Well, it's really critical that Surfside get to the bottom of that and on our part for the county and unincorporated, not the cities we are going to be looking at all of the 40 plus buildings over five stories making sure that everything is in order and they're recertification.

BLITZER: So every building and condo building over six stories in Miami-Dade County?

LEVINE CAVA: Over five in Miami-Dade County.

BLITZER: Over five stories.

LEVINE CAVA: Correct. But the cities also do their own building inspections. So this would be the parts of the county not in cities.

BLITZER: And then within 45 days they have to be -- they have to file a report?

LEVINE CAVA: Within 30 days -- this is internal. We are going to be reviewing those files.

BLITZER: You are?

LEVINE CAVA: Yes, indeed.

BLITZER: The Miami-Dade County.


BLITZER: And your major concern is, God forbid, something like that could happen on other buildings?

LEVINE CAVA: Yes, we want to be sure that whatever recertification needed to be done and that any findings were followed up.

BLITZER: You say that the family members who actually visited the rubble, the search and rescue site earlier today, they wanted to do it for a while. You finally -- you and your colleagues agreed.


BLITZER: That they were to a certain degree relieved. Tell us about that. I know you spoke to some of them.

LEVINE CAVA: Well, I think we know that in grieving there is a process and there are steps and obviously people are angry and frustrated and then as they see what's being done, they see the work that is round the clock that they believe that people are truly caring for what happens to their loved ones.


It helps them to have some peace and some closure, even as they're still grieving for the potential that they'll never see their loved ones alive again.

BLITZER: Are they still holding on hope, though, you think?

LEVINE CAVA: I think some are. I think some are. But I think others are recognizing that the chances are closing, and for example, not only that bodies have been found but even body parts. And so that's very sobering news. It doesn't mean that there couldn't be a chance that there is an air pocket or a place where someone could still be rescued. So we're all holding out hope for that.

BLITZER: What are the biggest problems right now that you see because there are still enormous problems involved in this operation? LEVINE CAVA: Number one, of course, is making sure that our rescue

effort continues. Not only to seek survivors but to protect the fire rescue workers. They are still laboring under very dangerous circumstances. They're highly motivated to find people but the conditions are very difficult. So --

BLITZER: Fires have gone away, though, right?

LEVINE CAVA: The fire has not totally disappeared but it's very much diminished and the smoke is under control so it has allowed them to continue to explore in more parts of the rubble.

BLITZER: Because these men and women who go to that area, they're risking their lives.

LEVINE CAVA: They are, indeed. And not only from the smoke and so on but debris can fall on them. They're breaking through walls. They're going into tiny crevices. It is very dangerous work and that's why we have structural engineers monitoring every step of the way and making sure that they're walking only where they can safely walk and so on.

BLITZER: Are you getting everything you need?

LEVINE CAVA: We are. The outpouring of support has been so uplifting. Our federal government, the president called me the very morning of this building collapse to say what could he do? I asked for FEMA help. By the end of the day, we had been assured FEMA was on its way and by the next day, they started showing up along with the Florida Department of Emergency Management.

We are embedded now with multiple staff members from both. They've started a process application to help individuals. We're opening up our family assistance center with 22 agencies assisting tomorrow. It's really quite wonderful.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, I know the FEMA director, the new FEMA director was here today and you had a good meeting with her.


BLITZER: Do you think it's appropriate for the president of the United States to come and visit and meet with the families? Under a situation like this --


BLITZER: -- that would be a normal thing for a president to do.

LEVINE CAVA: Yes. Well, I have every reason to expect that he will be exploring that.

BLITZER: Did he tell you that he would come?

LEVINE CAVA: We're certainly open to it and we're exploring whether and when would be a good time.

BLITZER: I suspect he will come and he's waiting probably for an indication from your colleagues when would be a good time.

LEVINE CAVA: When is the good time. Yes.

BLITZER: For him to come but I --


BLITZER: Knowing the President Biden, I'm sure he'll want to meet with the families and with you.

LEVINE CAVA: Yes. Absolutely.

BLITZER: To express his gratitude.

LEVINE CAVA: And totally dedicated to making sure that all the resources needed come to us here.

BLITZER: Yes. So we'll wait to get that word from you.

Mayor, thanks for all you're doing.

LEVINE CAVA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are grateful to you. I'll be here again tomorrow so we'll continue this conversation.

LEVINE CAVA: Very good.

BLITZER: All right, thank you very much, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. You're doing an excellent job for the American people and your constituents here.

LEVINE CAVA: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Joining us is Thomas Von Essen. He was the New York City Fire Department commissioner during 9/11.

Thomas, thank you very much for joining us. Can you give us some insight into what's happening do you believe at this stage of the search and rescue efforts?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT COMMISSIONER DURING 9/11: As the mayor talked about, it's getting more and more difficult to believe that they will find survivors. The fire fighters and the rescue folks (INAUDIBLE) those facilitating will keep going until they really, truly believe there is no hope.

You know, the construction is so good I think in this country that it makes collapses like this even more difficult for people to survive because of all the steel and the heavy concrete that are part of our building construction. You hear some of these poor countries where they often find survivors because they've been underneath the stone or (INAUDIBLE) material for a week or so. They don't have that weight. They don't have the compression that we've seen.

And I can't remember an incident like this that reminds me more of what we had on September 11th just on a smaller scale and without the heat and without the vaporization of all the material.

BLITZER: I know you're also very concerned, Thomas, about possible health risks for the men and women who are involved in the search and rescue operation. It is a dangerous -- they are risking their lives going into that area, aren't they?

VON ESSEN: The folks that you find underneath digging those tunnels, Wolf, when they dig through all of these voids, well, they look for voids, they hope for voids, they make voids, they just moving so slowly and they try to shore up these tunnels as they go through hoping that they're going to find somebody.


I'm surprised that they haven't found more fatalities at this point to tell you the truth. But -- and then you've got to start working outside, and worry about debris falling off the building that is still standing, worried about shaking, worried about movement. They did have a good tunnel, a big tunnel, I'm sorry so they had access to try to get where they could put that fire out. So difficult to find those fires when you have 12 stories of balled up material and it's not visible but the smoke is just doing so much damage anybody who might have survived and waiting for a rescue.

BLITZER: That smoke is a real danger potentially to firefighters, the other rescue crews. All of us remember what happened on 9/11. Talk a little bit about that potential danger.

VON ESSEN: It's real. We don't know there is so much material burning under there. You have automobiles. I'm sure there is propane. There is gasoline. There is computers. There are batteries. There is all kinds of horrible things, chemicals that they will be inhaling and I'm sure the guys in the tunnels are not wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses. I'm sure they're only using respirators. So the guys up on top, you can see they're only using respirators but they're able to avoid it. The smoke seems to have gone away. Most of it. As the major mentioned, the fire has been put out. And you know, they'll just keep going and doing the best they can.

BLITZER: Well, God bless them. I know they're risking their lives.

The former FDNY commissioner, Thomas Von Essen. Thomas, thanks very much for joining us. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And joining us now Bettina Obias.

Bettina, thank you very much for joining us. I know your aunt and uncle.


BLITZER: Were residents in this building.


BLITZER: Tell us -- first of all, I'm sorry we're meeting under these circumstances.

OBIAS: That's all right.

BLITZER: It's very difficult for you.

OBIAS: Thank you.

BLITZER: I know it has been. Tell us a little bit about your aunt and your uncle.

OBIAS: Well, my aunt was a -- she was like my second mother. She's the matriarch of our family. She was the glue that kept us together. She was a retiree of the International Monetary Fund. She was a budget official in the IMF. And my uncle, Claudio Bonnefoy, he's the legal counsel for the United Nations, and he also served for the Intelsat in Washington, D.C. They were pretty much natives of Washington, D.C. for 40, 50 years.


OBIAS: Until they retired and moved here 15 years ago.

BLITZER: How long have they been living in that building?

OBIAS: I believe it was 15 or 16 years ago that they moved?

BLITZER: Really?


BLITZER: And they enjoyed south Florida like everybody who lives here.

OBIAS: Oh, yes. This was the dream of them -- a place to retire and so we were happy that they live here because my sisters live here.


OBIAS: So we're so close here but at the same time now, in retrospect, I think things are different.

BLITZER: Obviously.


BLITZER: Bettina, tell us how you actually heard what was going on here and what you immediately did.

OBIAS: So, surprisingly, something was telling me to come here on Thursday morning. I woke up at 4:00 in the morning, OK, without knowing this happening. So when I arrived at the airport, my sister texted me that my aunt --

BLITZER: So you flew here. Let's be precise. You had no idea what was going on.

OBIAS: None. BLITZER: Where did you come from?

OBIAS: Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: From Washington. So your flew here.

OBIAS: That's correct.

BLITZER: Your flight arrived Thursday morning at what time?

OBIAS: 6:00 in the morning.

BLITZER: So an early flight you took.



OBIAS: Yes. So as soon as I heard, I took a Lyft and came here and it was raining and pouring and it was surreal. So at the same time, it's just like I was just trying to be strong and, you know, try to be together.

BLITZER: And then you heard what was going on and --


BLITZER: And that was that. What went through your mind when you heard that?

OBIAS: When I heard it, I was really hoping -- I started bargaining. I said, Lord, please, let them be alive because I want to spend more time with her. I promise to spend more time with her and take care of her. You know, she was my mother here. She took care of all of us. She was the most -- my own Renaissance woman. She played piano professionally. She painted. She drew.

She was a member of the Feed the Hungry. She was the matriarch that any family should really have. And so losing her is a big loss for all of us.

BLITZER: And so what you were doing, and it's totally understandable, I would probably do the same thing.


BLITZER: You started talking to God and begging.


BLITZER: Begging for help.

OBIAS: Yes. And so when I saw that -- for some reason, the Lyft driver drop me off four blocks away from the reunification center. And so as I was walking, it was raining, I was pulling my baggage, and I stop right in front of my aunt's building. [20:15:09]

My legs just fell. My legs became so weak and I scream and cry. And so --

BLITZER: Because you could see --

OBIAS: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: -- the collapse?

OBIAS: Yes, it hit me. I just couldn't understand how. I think it would only take a miracle for somebody to really survive that kind. But, you know, I still believe in miracles. So when I was walking through crying, the commissioner saw me and then this lady girl was crying, too. She says that her brother or uncle just came last night with his children and they all slept there. There was five children with him. So it pretty much changed my -- I was like, my God -- my heart went out to her. So --

BLITZER: So incredibly sad. I know you've been speaking to other family members.


BLITZER: You've been here ever since. So tell us about those conversations.

OBIAS: I had -- we all have our way of really accepting and dealing with our grief. You know, so, some people are just going to be -- the denial for some people is really great or I'm very much like I have accepted, you know. So we all have our own way of processing this grief so that we try to huddle together and talk together with love and understanding and patience because there is a lot of energy of, you know, loss. A lot of energy of loss and a lot of pain. So a lot of people have lost, are very wounded. We're very much wounded.

BLITZER: Did you go today to the site with the other family members to see the actual search and rescue operation?

OBIAS: I skipped that today because I have been there the past two days and I was just completely psychologically and emotionally spent. So I thought I really don't want to because I've already been there a couple of times.


OBIAS: But my aunt did. My aunt and uncle and brothers and sisters did.

BLITZER: They went to the --

OBIAS: They went today.

BLITZER: To see --


BLITZER: A final thought and then I'll let you go.


BLITZER: A final thought on your aunt and uncle who live in that building.


BLITZER: Tell us about them.

OBIAS: Well, I just want people to know that these are people who really lived their lives to the fullest. You know, they were such people of great inspiration, focus so much of their energy and doing something positive and being a source of support and strength, and so I hope that her story will inspire people to know that -- you know, just focus on the love and the forgiveness and the family because sometimes you don't have any second chances. Can I also say something?

BLITZER: Of course.

OBIAS: I also would like to thank so much the mayor for all their work they have done on behalf of my family from the bottom of our hearts. We thank them so much. They brought the K-9, there have been dogs for people who are so wounded from the loss. Those small things mean a lot to us. So thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts.

BLITZER: Bettina, thank you so much for joining us.

OBIAS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you for your story and thanks for sharing some beautiful thoughts about your aunt and uncle.

OBIAS: Thank you.

BLITZER: And we're all praying for a miracle.

OBIAS: Thank you. I'm praying for everyone, too, I am.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope. Thank you so much.

OBIAS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Bye, bye.

Heartbreaking story indeed. Pamela, just one story but there are so many, more than 150 people, wonderful people who live in that building. 150 people are still unaccounted for. Officially unaccounted for.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: You wonder how many of those were children, Wolf. She just talked about children being in the building. You see their faces in some of these poster boards of the missing and the unaccounted for. But incredible to hear her strength as she talks about her family members that were inside that building before it crumbled to the ground.

Wolf, thank you so much for that. We'll be checking back in with you soon.

And coming up this hour, part three of my exclusive interview with cybersecurity chief Brandon Wales. I ask how America can keep cybersecurity challenges from becoming a full-blown national security crisis, and whether Russia has changed its behavior after the Biden- Putin summit.

But first, double speak from the former attorney general Bill Barr reportedly calling out the big lie in private before amplifying it in public.



BROWN: While many Republicans are content to just stay silent on Trump's election lies or even parrot the conspiracy, one of Trump's former top allies says, quote, "It was all BS," and that he knew it was in the very beginning when Trump is spewing those lies after the election. That's what former attorney general Bill Barr recently told ABC's John Karl about Trump's voter fraud claims.

The harsh rebuke a different tone from what Barr said about the topic in his December resignation letter. Quote, "I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon on the department's review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued at a time when the country is so deeply divided. It is incumbent on all levels of government and all agencies acting within their purview to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcome."

Again, I want to remind you in this article with Jon Karl, he has claimed that he knew from the beginning it was all BS and yet that's what was in his resignation letter.

I'm joined now by CNN senior political analyst and Politico chief Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza.

Great to have you with us on this Sunday, Ryan. What is your read on these comments from the former AG? Is this about distancing himself from Trump? What do you think?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. This is a bit of a cleanup and reputation polishing now that he's gone and he'd probably not going to serve again in any Republican administration. He was thinking about his legacy.

When it was important to speak up about this stuff, judging by the quote you just showed, Pam, he played a bit of a game sort of signaling that maybe some of what Trump was talking about, you know, was accurate.

[20:25:14] Now months later, in some of these interviews after his reputation is really taken a lot of hits and not just for this but for how he dealt with the Mueller report, he's saying it was all BS, which is what he knew at the time. So, you know, I'm not sure how much of an act of bravery it is to point this out now. It's just, you know, like talking about the weather outside. Everyone knows that this was BS.

BROWN: Right.

LIZZA: The time to really speak up about this was quite a while ago.

BROWN: Well, and the irony is that resignation letter, you know, we talked about the importance of public confidence and upholding the integrity of the election. He knew those lies were BS and he did say at one point that, you know, there was no widespread fraud to overturn the election but then he goes on and tries to sort of walk that line, playing both sides.

Let just look at the timeline. Let's lay it out to help everyone kind of digest this. You have June 2020 before the election Barr raised concerns over expanded mail-in voting but he didn't share any evidence then. Then you fast forward to September, he's talking to my colleague Wolf Blitzer saying that mail-in voting is, quote, "playing with fire." Fast forward to November 9th, 2020, Barr authorized federal prosecutors to pursue substantial allegations of voting irregularities, this was by the way against DOJ protocol.

Then December 1st, 2020 Barr tells AP that DOJ has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Fast forward to December 14th, 2020, Barr resigns and we know what he said his resignation letter as it pointed out, and then today's revelation, Barr says if there was evidence of fraud, I have no motive to suppress it but my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all BS.

What do you make, though, as you lay it out like that of just the back and the forth trying to play this game essentially?

LIZZA: Well, before the election, I mean, it does seem like the comments were political at a time when the president and Republicans were raising the possibility that there was something wrong with mail- in balloting, he was playing along with that political strategy and they were doing that at the time for two reasons. One was to discourage Democrats who were more likely to take advantage of mail-in balloting, and the other was to sort of set up, from a Trump perspective, to set up some kind of post-election, you know, fraud allegations.

And once that Genie was out of the bottle, we've never been able to put it back in, right? Anyone who was talking about the possibility of fraud and raising the idea that the system was not safe, we hadn't recovered from that yet. Right? There are a lot of people out there, a huge chunk of the public that thinks that there was fraud, and he was part of that. He was part of a group of Republicans that diminished the confidence in the 2020 election.

BROWN: Yes, and it got baked in, that distress of the election got baked in for so many because of what Barr and other Republicans were saying even before that.

I want to also talk about this other bombshell in this interview that "The Atlantic" published. Barr confirmed that Senator Mitch McConnell basically said, I need your help. It's too politically risky for me to call out Trump on voter fraud but you can and Barr went along with it eventually. What do you think of that type of political overlap here with an attorney general and Mitch McConnell?

LIZZA: Well, there are a couple of things here. You know, one is exactly what you point out. This is -- was it appropriate for McConnell to be having that conversation with the attorney general, and the second takeaway from the article is Mitch McConnell's post- election priority was Georgia. He realized that the effort to discredit the election was messing with Republicans' attempts to win Georgia because their voters weren't going out because they were being told that the -- you know, what's the point of voting? There was all this fraud in November so why go to the polls in the Georgia run offs?

So that was -- you know, the big criticism of McConnell always has been all he cares about is, you know, maintaining the majority in the Senate and he tolerates quite a bit of nonsense including from Trump as long as that was -- as long as he kept that majority. So he was scared about losing Georgia rightfully so, and he was rightfully concerned that the talk about fraud was messing their turnout operation there to the point where he went to the attorney general to try and get some trouble because he knew if he said it, he wouldn't have any credibility.


BROWN: And I also remember at the time a source had told us, told me then we later reported that Trump was using Georgia as leverage over Mitch McConnell, and that Mitch McConnell was concerned that if he did come out and speak out against Trump's election lies that then Trump would seek revenge and sabotage Republicans. So that was also part of the calculation apparently according to our reporting.

Ryan Lizza, as always, great to have you on the show. Thank you so much.

LIZZA: Good to see you, Pam, thank you.

BROWN: And when we come back, we return live to Surfside, Florida, where the entire community is pulling together in prayer and hope. Wolf Blitzer will speak to a rabbi of Temple Menorah not far from where the condo collapsed.


BLITZER: We're back with our breaking news. The new information we just learned from Florida officials right here about the search for victims and survivors of this Florida high rise collapse.


We have some new numbers. They haven't changed much. Nine people have now been confirmed dead with 152 people still unaccounted for. That includes members of Temple Menorah which is just a few blocks away from where we are, the scene of this collapse.

Joining us now, the leader of that temple, Rabbi Eliot Pearlson.

Rabbi Pearlson, thank you so much for joining us. I know this has been extremely painful for you and other members of your congregation. First of all, you know people who live in that building who are now officially listed as missing, right?

RABBI ELIOT PEARLSON, TEMPLE MENORAH: Correct. Besides the couples that I married and I named their children, besides them, Temple Menorah is part of a community that's very interwoven or (INAUDIBLE), conservative, and Jewish and non-Jewish, we're all very, very close. So I know so many members of the community that are unfortunately, we're waiting to hear the news.

BLITZER: Tell us about some of these wonderful people.

PEARLSON: Well, there is Coach Arnie and Miriam. I mean, they're part of the staple of south Florida. Arnie, coach -- is a coach here for 45 years. I've been getting phone calls left and right from people, professional athletes that he trained over the years, and Miriam, you know, fled Poland and went Havana, fled Havana, came here. And friendship is another interesting aspect of our community is very heavily Latin and Cuban.

And you're talking about people who have been friends since kindergarten, 70 and 80 years who have been best friends and their children have married each other. Their grandchildren married each other. You know, when I first came to Temple Menorah 32 years ago we've had weddings with 800 people and the joke was yes, we're only inviting our immediate family. Why? Because were treated as family and that's why this is so difficult at times.

BLITZER: I know you're trying to comfort the families who are searching and desperately praying for a miracle right now. How are those conversations going? So it must be so difficult, Rabbi.

PEARLSON: It's difficult. But you have to understand that I personally believe in God very much so. I believe in God, I feel God's presence, and my years as a rabbi, I've seen miracles occur. I've seen people of every given, you know, six weeks to live and they're still with us. I mean, and danced at their children's weddings here in south Florida. And I tell the story many times, I remember 30 years ago Hurricane Andrew, a woman and her child were found in the bathtub 100 yards away from their house days later.

It happens. So I tell these people persevere, believe in God, and I also believe very much in prayer. I believe in prayer not only does it change the as we say in the high holidays (speaking in foreign language), we believe in prayer but it also empowers us to change ourselves and empower ourselves to be strong for those people who need us.

BLITZER: I know in the Jewish tradition, Rabbi, and you can explain this better than I can, that when something terrible like this happens to wonderful people, the natural question is, how could God allow this to happen? And the answer that rabbis -- I wonder if you agree. The answer that rabbis always give is God works in mysterious ways that we don't understand.

PEARLSON: That's absolutely correct. But more importantly, you know, God created a world that (speaking in foreign language) which means that it's physics, which means if I park a car on a hill and I don't put on the emergency break, and I don't put it in park, gravity is going to make it go down the hill. There's nothing I can do about that. The real question is not why bad things happen to good people but how we respond when bad things happen to good people.

And that's what's happening in this community. I participated in an interface prayer service. It was totally ad hoc. A minister, a priest, evangelical, a rabbi, reformed rabbis, and we all came together. And that's what happens when bad things happen to good people. Good people are empowered to make a difference in the world by how we respond when bad things happen.

BLITZER: Rabbi, thank you so much for what you're doing. Please pass along our love to all the families that you're talking to. This is such a painful, painful moment.

PEARLSON: And thank you to your entire CNN crew. You're doing a marvelous job.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

PEARLSON: We appreciate you being here.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Rabbi.

Pamela, over to you.

BROWN: Thanks so much, Wolf. And when we come back, there have been many headlines about cyberattacks on big American companies but there are many more that stay under the radar. More from my exclusive interview with America's chief cyber official up next.



BROWN: The tone may have been somewhat positive but President Biden made it clear. He confronted Russia's Vladimir Putin directly about the serious cyberattacks targeting U.S. companies when the two met in Geneva last month, but did that face-to-face showdown actually get the message across?

I asked that question to the man in charge of U.S. cyber defense in my exclusive interview.


BROWN: Are there any major changes from Russia since the Putin summit? BRANDON WALES, ACTING DIRECTOR, CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE

SECURITY AGENCY: I think it's too soon to tell. There is a lot of work happening across the U.S. government in diplomatic channels and we'll want to see what fruit those bear.

Ransomware attacks are happening almost every day someplace in this country. Some ones are big and they're well-known like Colonial and JBS, but most of them are below the radar. The companies don't tell anyone. They may pay and they may just rebuild their networks, and unfortunately, that will continue. I'm not aware of any significant ransomware attacks that have happened in the last two weeks but we should not be surprised if they do.

BROWN: I remember recently the energy secretary told Jake Tapper, my colleague, that the Russians are in the U.S. power grid. You hear that and it's pretty scary to hear that. What does that mean and what is the likelihood that they would actually launch an attack on the U.S. power grid?

WALES: So we know that multiple nation states want to target our critical infrastructure to hold it at risk at a time and place of their choosing. We assume that would likely be in the event of some type of conflict. They want to hold our infrastructure at risk to try to affect U.S. political decision making during those environments, during those times. So we need to work hard to make sure that our systems are protected and that they don't have the ability to hold our most sensitive assets at risk.

BROWN: But in worst-case scenario, what could happen? Just trying to understand what could happen? Trying to visualize that?

WALES: From the adversary's perspective, they want to hold our infrastructure at risk to potentially turn it off, to disrupt our power at a critical time potentially of military mobilization, let's say. They want to be able to affect U.S. -- the morale of the country by disrupting critical services, whether it's power or water or the pipelines that move critical commodities around the country. They want to disrupt those to affect the American people's will to act globally.

BROWN: So basically, they're holding it as leverage?

WALES: That's their goal. There is more the U.S. government needs to do and there is more the American people and the businesses in this country need to do to make sure that our cybersecurity challenges don't turn into real national security crisis for this country.


BROWN: What can the American people actually do that's within their control?

WALES: Sure. And, you know, we like to say we want people to be cyber smart. Do the basics of cybersecurity in your home and in your business to make sure that you're not a potential victim of a cyberattack.


BROWN: And I want to thank Brandon Wales, for joining us. President Biden has nominated Jen Easterly to become the new head of the cybersecurity agency there at DHS but the Senate has yet to confirm her.

Well, she was a one-woman empire and tonight, for the first time, we'll see author Jackie Collins in a way few ever have. The director and producer of the new CNN Film "LADY BOSS, THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY" join me next.


BROWN: The late romance novelist Jackie Collins is one of the most successful authors of all time. In the new CNN Film, "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY" explores the personal life of the 1980s icon. Here is a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Took me forever but I finished it, and then I looked along my bookcases, saw a publisher that I had a lot of their books and I thought well, if I like what they publish, maybe they'll like what I write.

In those days you actually had to send a big thick manuscript off, and I think it got picked up by the first publisher that it got sent to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four hundred pounds. 400 pounds she got for that first book. How did I remember that? Anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what was that book called?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- was it "The World is Full of Married Men"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Chapter one, Claudia was in bed. She was a very beautiful girl and she knew it. And David knew it. So everyone was happy."



BROWN: And joining us now are Laura Fairrie and Lizzie Gillett. They are the director and producer of "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY."

Great to see both of you. So let's jump right into it, Lizzie, starting with you. Jackie Collins was a huge celebrity, best-selling author and cultural lightning rod. What was it about her that made you want to tell her story?

LIZZIE GILLETT, PRODUCER, "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY": Well, I'd be honest, I didn't know anything about Jackie Collins when I was presented this idea of a documentary, and I Googled her, and saw that she'd sold 500 million books. And immediately thought well, there's going to be a market for that documentary. But very quickly, we started uncovering the real Jackie story and we all just completely fell in love with her.

BROWN: What about you, Laura?

LAURA FAIRRIE, DIRECTOR, "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY": Well, I knew Jackie because I'd read her books as a teenager at school. You know, they were passed around and she was basically my sex education. So I had a wonderful connection to her in the beginning and just loved the idea of exploring who she was and looking behind the public persona, the (INAUDIBLE) print, the shoulder pads, the big hair, and uncovering, you know, the moving and vulnerable story of Jackie Collins.

BROWN: And Laura, Jackie Collins considered herself a feminist but critics often dismissed her and her books as, quote, "sleazy." What is your take on how Jackie viewed and portrayed women?

FAIRRIE: Well, she was a complete trailblazer, of course. And, you know, what was amazing about Jackie was that she took what she observed around her and her inexperiences and put those into her books, you know, so from everything from being a scarlet on the casting couch when she was a young woman, to having her own very difficult relationship with men, or observing the relationship between her father and mother.

You know, she took those stories and she put them into her books, and she rewrote the endings for the ones that she would have wanted for women. So she just had this wonderful fantasy twist on the reality and she gave women an example of how you could live your life. You know, she really turned the tables on men.

BROWN: And she had such a glitzy, flashy, glamorous public profile, Lizzie. How did her private life compare to her public persona?

GILLETT: Well, that's what was so interesting making the film was that I think the film manages to capture both, you know, Jackie Collins was fabulous and was completely amazing and did have that glamorous life. And, you know, the film has her teenage diaries where she talks about Marlon Brando, the parties, and Hollywood in the '50s and the way she feels about her and her sister and her teenage years.

But also, what we were able to uncover in the film is, you know, the real Jackie Collins at home is an amazing mother. She made dinner every night. She didn't have other people really look after her children. And these difficult relationships she had with men which for all of us I think quite reassuring that someone as trail blazing and as powerful as Jackie Collins can still make mistakes.

BROWN: You mentioned the diaries, you have access to even more, Laura. You had her home photos, her movies, even an unpublished manuscript. How did all of that help you bring the real Jackie Collins to life?

FAIRRIE: Well, of course, it was, you know, a film maker's dream to walk into the front room of her daughter Tiffany's house and be presented with this unbelievable amount of archive. You know, Jackie had kept everything, every personal letter, every diary, list of characters, photographs, home video footage, so there I was just being given this, you know, wonderful and beautiful connection to the authentic private Jackie as well as just, you know, a huge amount of wonderful options to make, you know, a beautiful film with.

BROWN: And Lizzie, you had mentioned earlier about her relationships with men. The film looks at many of Jackie's personal relationships. What did they all reveal about her?

GILLETT: I think that it's a universal story. You know, we ultimately made in our childhood and that's like Jackie like all of us was formed in her childhood and then the rest of her life was making up for that and trying to change and having endings that she wanted so what I love about this story is it's, you know, fabulous and entertaining but really it's a very universal story for all of us.

BROWN: All right, Lizzie Gillett, Laura Fairrie, thank you so much.

GILLETT: Thank you.



BLITZER: While we wait for news on the more than the 150 missing residents of the Champlain Tower South right behind me, we want to pay tribute to the nine victims who have sadly been confirmed dead. Authorities have identified four of those lost in this tragedy.

Stacie Fang, age 54. We know that her 15-year-old son Jonah Handler was the boy who was pulled alive from the rubble in the moments after the collapse. Also among those lost, Antonio and Gladys Lozano. The couple have been married for 59 years. Also killed in the collapse, Manuel LaFont age 54. He leaves behind two children.

Sadly this list will surely grow. Our hearts are with all the families who have lost loved ones. Our deepest, deepest condolences to those families, and to the loved ones, know that we want those who have passed to rest in peace, and as we say, may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks very much for joining us this evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer. I'll be back here throughout the day tomorrow in Surfside, Florida, reporting on all the late-breaking developments including tomorrow night in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Pamela, I know this has been difficult for you, it's been difficult for us. But it's been so difficult for those --