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Trump Organization Facing Charges?; 10 Dead, 151 Missing in Florida Building Collapse. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 28, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Victor is off today.
And we begin with the agony and uncertainty for a fifth straight day in Surfside, Florida, hundreds of family members still waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones after the catastrophic collapse of a condo building on Thursday. The death toll has risen this afternoon, 10 people now confirmed dead, 151 still missing.
Miami-Dade's mayor emphasizing this is still a search-and-rescue mission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: I repeat, the search-and-rescue operation continues. As the governor and the congresswoman said and the lieutenant governor, there's going to be a thorough and full investigation of what led to this tragic event.
We are going to get to the bottom of what happened here. Right now, our top priority is search-and-rescue and find the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: As you heard Florida officials promising a full investigation into what happened.
We're learning new details about previous signs of trouble for this 12-story building. A 2018 report by a structural engineer found major issues with waterproofing around the pool and abundant cracking in concrete columns in the building's garage.
Despite that report, a Surfside building official assured residents two days later that the building was -- quote -- "in very good shape." "The Miami Herald" reports a condo resident called her husband moments before the collapse and said the building was -- quote -- "shaking" and that she saw a sinkhole where the pool used to be. Then the line went dead, and that woman is now missing.
Let's go straight to Surfside and CNN's Rosa Flores.
Rosa, tell us more about that 2018 report and the red flags that were in it. ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it really raises so many questions about who knew what when and what was done and what was not done.
But you're absolutely right. This report was released in October of 2018. And it had some major red flags, this report saying that this building had major structural issues. It also specifies that there was deterioration, there were cracks in the concrete. One of the biggest issues was with the waterproofing.
According to this report, it was beyond its useful life. And there were systemic issues as well. When it comes to the waterproofing, this report says that it was laid flat, rather than at a slope, to allow for the draining of water. So water was ponding, would have to evaporate into the air.
Let me go ahead and read you a portion of this report because it really is going to give you an idea of what we're talking about here. Quote: "The waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive, as well as all of the planter proofing, is beyond its useful life and therefore must be completely removed and replaced. The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas."
And here's the key: "Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially." This report goes on to say -- quote -- "Abundant cracking and spalling of various degrees was observed in the concrete columns, beams and walls. Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion."
This report is nearly 3 years old. Of course, we have been asking questions of officials here in Surfside, who knew about this and what was done.
Here's what the Surfside mayor had to say. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BURKETT, MAYOR OF SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: We have directed our staff to go ahead and scan every shred of documentation that the town of Surfside has, which includes going to our archive storage sites. We have got boxes, and we're sending those boxes to a printing scanning company.
And those documents will be available for your review. We will get to the bottom of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: And, Alisyn, the mayor says that he wasn't here at that particular time when this report was published.
But like you heard there, he says that he's making all of these documents available to make sure that investigators get to the bottom of I -- Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Still so many questions at this hour.
Rosa Flores, thank you very much for taking us through that.
So, rescue teams from Israel and Mexico have joined the massive search for survivors. More than 400 personnel are trying to find signs of life and identify remains.
Among the confirmed victims is 54-year-old Stacie Fang. She's the mother of the teenager seen pulled from the rubble on Thursday.
The vast majority of families still have no word on their loved ones. And, today, search-and-rescue coordinators responded to concerns that the search is moving too slowly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAIDE JADALLAH, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE ASSISTANT CHIEF: We're talking about pulverized concrete. We're talking about steel. Every time there's an action, there's a reaction, as yesterday is a perfect example.
Now, we have family members at the site to basically see exactly what we have done. This is unconventional, especially so early in the stages. However, as the individuals continued to work, feverishly, with urgency, they witnessed a rescuer tumble 25 feet down the mountain.
That is a perfect example of the situation that we're dealing with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now from Surfside.
So, Nick, I know you have been talking to many of the family members, and the waiting is just the most torturous part for them. What are they telling you?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And these local officials, Alisyn, have found themselves using these press conferences, in many ways, to speak directly to the families which they meet with twice a day to ensure them and ensure the rest of the world what they're doing here.
It is not enough, though, for a lot of these families I have been speaking to, not enough because there's no sign still of life. There's no information that they have. The same information given essentially on Friday is what they have to go off of today.
These family and friends are becoming just anxious by the day and as the hours tick by. It was just a short time ago that three buses we saw depart from what is the reunification center here, the hotel you see behind me, to take some family and friends to the site of the collapse, much like they did yesterday, this provided some of those family members who went yesterday the ability to see the scale of the operation.
And for others, like Michael Noriega, who found personal belongings of his grandmother, it provided, he said, some bit of closure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL NORIEGA, GRANDSON OF MISSING RESIDENT: It made us believe that there is purpose in this pain. You know, my grandmother was a believer. She lived for her faith. And in moments like this, you have to really question what the foundations of your life are on.
And what it made us realize is that God is with us in the pain. It felt like something that he had given us as a gift to say, look, whether your grandmother is underneath that rubble, my presence is with her, and she's OK, and if she's not alive underneath that rubble, that she's in heaven with Jesus and that she's OK.
And so that was the sense of comfort that we got from finding her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: Some have comfort. Others have been just anguished by this ultimate test of faith.
I spoke to one family member earlier who says he's preparing himself for the worst news, preparing himself never to see his mother or grandmother again, although he's not received official word. He does still, though, want to pivot now to accountability. And he hopes that those watching hold those responsible for the safety of this building accountable for what happened -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Nick, understood. It's all very heartbreaking. Thank you very much for the report.
Joining us now are Carlos Naibryf and Ronit Felszer. Their son, Ilan Naibryf, is among the missing in Surfside. His girlfriend, Deborah Berezdivin, has also not been found. Carlos and Ronit are joining me from Fort Lauderdale.
Thank you both very much for being here. I know that the waiting has been hell.
Are you getting regular updates? When's the last time that official -- you heard from officials?
RONIT FELSZER, MOTHER OF MISSING RESIDENT: Are you talking to us?
So, we -- there was a briefing this morning 9:30. And there's another one today at 5:30. Those are the briefings we hear. No one reaches out to us by phone, only at those briefings. You can go into those briefings through Zoom. Otherwise, you have to be present.
CAMEROTA: Have you been down to the site of the rubble yet?
CARLOS NAIBRYF, FATHER OF MISSING RESIDENT: I was five hours at -- I mean, at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, after it happened, and then we were together with the family yesterday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.
I mean, it's like an explosion. It's like a bomb was launched there.
FELSZER: It's like AMIA, 1994, all over again.
CAMEROTA: I mean, I know the pictures the video, it looks just apocalyptic. So, I understand.
I know that your son was staying at his girlfriend's family's condo and that they were there for the funeral of another friend, who had, I believe, died from COVID.
Have you been in touch with Deborah's family? And what are they telling you?
FELSZER: So, there's two things. It wasn't a friend of theirs. It was their father -- the friend's father who had passed away from COVID, that, first of all, to clarify.
And, yes, we have been in close contact with them. Deborah's family, they are here. We're together always for the briefings at 5:30 and with all their family members.
CAMEROTA: Have they been able to tell you anything or find out anything yet about the condition of that building?
FELSZER: No, we -- that's -- we're not asking those questions at this time. At this time, all we want is that they both come back to us.
When you spoke to CNN on Friday, you told Anderson Cooper that you were hopeful, but that it was very, very difficult. And so now that days have passed, how are you feeling today about what is next?
NAIBRYF: Well, I know that after, three or four days that this just has happened, the -- from Mexico are here, the guys from Israel are here.
They are approaching the case in a very professional manner. We know that they are doing their best as fast as they can to find all the missing people, as they should, and the other -- at the same time, we have contacted the people from Israel here at the evacuation center or reunification center, where they were asking to every family member the clothes that actually they may be wearing, or if they have a mark, or where they -- the apartment was located, so they are able to dig or to look for -- within the property on the right place.
FELSZER: So, basically, what they did was, they're -- the IDF is interviewing each family members of each floor to understand what the layout of the apartment was like and where the -- what kind of furniture was in there, then find out, our children, what they were wearing, if they had a necklace, if they had scars or marks on their body.
With that information, they have basically -- they have engineers that analyze where and how to drill. I think they're making one hole through the center and one laterally.
And that's what we know as far as what's going on at this moment.
CAMEROTA: Yes, thank you for explaining all that. I mean, it's obviously painstaking work. But it sounds like they're the best in the world at how to do this.
And so what can you tell us about Ilan? What do you want our viewers to know?
NAIBRYF: He was a 21-year-old young adult, bright, love -- everywhere to go -- went made an impact, his primary school here in Florida, high school in Hawaii.
Now he's a UChicago physics major.
FELSZER: And molecular engineering minor.
NAIBRYF: About to start -- I mean already started his project or start up (INAUDIBLE) and in one day...
FELSZER: We tend to always tell our children, don't drink and drive. Don't drive at night. Don't drive fast. Don't go to this party. Don't jump off a cliff. Don't jump out of an airplane. Don't do this. He was going to Hawaii in a couple of weeks. And I was like, please don't do anything crazy.
And we always -- we're always trying to take care of our kids. And you know what? God has a different plan sometimes.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I understand. All parents understand exactly what you're saying. You can only protect them for so long.
But, Ronit, I mean, it sounds like you and your husband are so, so proud of him, that he had just finished his junior year at the University of Chicago and had a really bright, promising future.
FELSZER: We have three amazing, amazing children. They have their significant others that are here supporting them too.
We -- some -- I'm embarrassed almost even to admit it. We thought we had the perfect family.
Today, are you still, with your family, believing that there will be a miracle?
NAIBRYF: Let me answer this, Alisyn.
I believe that the chances are very slim, because -- not because of him, because of the way that this collapsed. It was like -- yes, like, a bomb. I mean, it's -- and all the concrete is rotten. In other words, when you go to the site and you see the building in pieces, you are able to see on your eyes that the quality of the material, they don't break that way, at 40 years old, that whole building.
FELSZER: And there was a fire, and there was rain. And it's just been horrendous.
NAIBRYF: So, I understand that, realistically, it's very hard to have that miracle.
It may happen. But we have 150 missing people, 152 so far. Most likely, one, two, I don't know, three, but -- because, look, four days have passed, and they haven't made too much progress, but not because they are not doing the right job, just because it's very hard.
Everything has been -- I think it's in pieces. It's -- that's the problem. So, we -- a miracle can happen, yes, but we have to be very realistic.
FELSZER: We want to believe in a miracle because we still don't have physical presence, in part or in whole, of our son.
So you always have that window. Would I call it hope? Would I call it that I would like a miracle? I'd like the miracle. I'm realistic. We're realistic parents. We're grounded parents. We hope that we can have our son returned to us and make the decisions accordingly.
CAMEROTA: Ronit Felszer, Carlos Naibryf, we're praying for you. We really appreciate your time. And we're also just holding out hope for everyone there.
Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.
FELSZER: Thank you.
NAIBRYF: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: We will have much more on this ahead. And we will be right back.
CAMEROTA: Today, lawyers for the Trump Organization are meeting with the Manhattan district attorney's office in an effort to try to convince prosecutors not to pursue criminal charges against the company. A source tells CNN the Manhattan DA informed the Trump Organization
they could be facing charges as soon as this week in connection to the benefits the Trump Organization provided company employees.
Prosecutors are reportedly eying Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer.
With us now to talk about this and more, we have CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig -- he's a former federal prosecutor -- and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
Elie, first things first.
I didn't know you could go in and convince the prosecutor not to charge you with criminal charges. That's -- this is commonplace?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You certainly can try.
Yes, it's very commonplace, Alisyn. This happens behind closed doors at prosecutor's offices all the time. The defense lawyers for a corporation or an individual who might be charged soon come in. They make a whole presentation. It can be elaborate. Sometimes, they give you big binders, or they will do a slideshow or something.
And, really, the arguments, the pitches they make are one of two things or both of two things. One, this would be unfair. You're targeting my client. You're picking the wrong person. And, two, you're making a mistake. You're going to lose this case, prosecutors.
I imagine that Trump's lawyers...
CAMEROTA: They're going to say both of those things.
HONIG: They're going to say both those things. These pitches rarely, if ever, succeed, but that's what the pitch is going to be today.
CAMEROTA: And is it wrong to give company employees fringe benefits, like they're alleging?
HONIG: It's wrong, and it is potentially against the law.
But I will say this. It's unusual to indict a corporation criminally based just on tax benefits relating to fringe benefits. Usually, you look for bigger things like systematically ripping off consumers or bribery paid to public officials. So this is on the lower end of the seriousness scale that corporations commit crimes of.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's put a pin in that and move on to Bill Barr.
CAMEROTA: Bill Barr is fascinating, as you well know, since you have written the book on it.
He is now talking about Trump's big lie and saying that he knew before he ever said anything publicly that it was all B.S. He says -- here's a book. It was with Jonathan Karl, ABC News reporter.
Here's an excerpt. Bill Barr says to him: "My attitude was, it was put-up-or-shut-up time. If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all along -- all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all just B.S."
HONIG: Can we do a little fact check on this one?
HONIG: So, Bill Barr was very much for the big lie before he became against it very late in the game.
For example, June of 2025, five months before the election, just as the big lie was really taking root, he did an interview with NPR, and where he talked about the massive threat of voter fraud. And NPR shortly after that had to issue a take-back piece entitled, "NPR Let the U.S. Attorney General Tell a Falsehood on the Air."
That's a pretty rough piece for NPR to have to run. A month later, Bill Barr testified in Congress. Again, he endorsed the big lie. And then Bill Barr came here to CNN and he spoke to Wolf Blitzer and he had this to say. I think we have the clip of what he said to Wolf Blitzer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: As far as widespread fraud, we haven't seen that since...
BARR: Well, we haven't had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots that's being proposed.
BLITZER: You have said you were worried that a foreign country could send thousands of fake ballots, thousands of fake ballots to people, and it might be impossible to detect.
What are you basing that on?
BARR: I'm basing -- as I have said repeatedly, I'm basing that on logic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So, your point is, he was stoking the big lie all along. HONIG: He was stoking the big lie.
Later in that interview with Wolf Blitzer, Bill Barr tried to say that DOJ had indicted a case involving 1,700 false ballots. The next day, again, another tape-back, DOJ had to issue a correction, saying it was actually one ballot, and somebody lower in DOJ was mistaken there.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's bring in Gloria.
So, Gloria, why is Bill Barr now speaking out to Jonathan Karl about this? I mean, he's trying to, I guess, show that he knew it was B.S. and rehabilitate his image now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's probably it. It's kind of a rehab tour, a little bit of conversion, after you served, trying to kind of say, not me, oh, no, no, no, I never thought there was going to be election fraud.
He was so vociferous about it before, as you guys point out, saying, of course it could happen. Of course it could happen. And then, suddenly, maybe he just saw the MyPillow guy too many times or heard Donald Trump too many times ranting about it, and talked to his folks at the Justice Department who did their due diligence.
And he finally couldn't live with it anymore. And he was going to leave anyway. And he didn't want to leave before he could state this. Of course, Mitch McConnell wanted him to state it sooner than he did. But, in the end, he decided to say, you know what, there really wasn't any there there.
And, of course, the president will never forgive him. And maybe Bill Barr doesn't really care anymore.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, by the way, Mitch McConnell also had a chance to speak out sooner.
BORGER: Yes, exactly.
CAMEROTA: ... know that he was pressing Bill Barr to do it, but he also could have done it.
CAMEROTA: All right, thank you very much, guys. Sorry that we're short on time. We have so much breaking news.
CAMEROTA: Gloria Borger, Elie Honig, thank you. Really appreciate it.
So, the U.S. launching airstrikes on an Iran-backed militia on the Syrian-Iraqi border. They were targeting U.S. soldiers. So we have a live report from the Pentagon about this next. We're also continuing, of course, to follow the devastating situation in Surfside, Florida, the growing concerns about the structural integrity of the other buildings built around that time.