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Chilling New Video of Flooding Moments Before Collapse; Survivor Recounts Harrowing Escape Through Rubble; 18 Dead, 145 Unaccounted for in Day 8 Of Tireless Search; Pelosi Names 8 Members to Committee Including Liz Cheney; McCarthy Faces GOP Resistance Over Serving on Jan. 6 Panel; Soon Biden to Speak After Meeting with Condo Resident's Families; Trump CFO Indicted on 15 Felony Counts, Alleged 15-Year Tax Scheme. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 1, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We're expecting to hear from President Biden soon. He's in Surfside, Florida meeting with the families of the missing.

The search to find the 145 people still unaccounted for has been halted because of fears that part of the tower could still come down. This as the fire chief gives new heartbreaking details about their initial search and rescue mission.


CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: Unfortunately, during our initial search and rescue efforts while we were working underneath the structure, the same structure that, you know, is significantly compromised right now, we did hear audible sounds. And they were searching for a female voice is what we heard for several hours and eventually we didn't hear her voice anymore. We continued to search and unfortunately, we didn't have success with that.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, that's just heartbreaking. Also new today, video of water gushing into the parking garage moments before the building crumbled. Officials say this could be a significant clue behind the cause of the collapse.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Surfside. Rosa, tell us about the structural concerns, what you're learning there, if there are more clues every day.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, there's just been so many intense moments related to this collapse. Like you were just mentioning initially, there were people running for their lives trying to get to safety. And now overnight what we've learned is that the search and rescue efforts were halted because the alarms, the monitors went off at about 2:11 this morning. And at that point, the search and rescue team had to leave the area.

We've learned from the fire chief that there was a large column that was hanging, it was swinging 6-12 inches. There were other portions of that debris pile that were also moving.

Here's what the chief had to say. Take a listen.


COMINSKY: Concern assesses included 6-12 inches of movement in a large column hanging from the structure that could fall and cause damage to the support columns in the subterranean garage area. Slight movement in the concrete floor slabs on the south side of the structure near the north and south corner of the building, it could cause additional failure of the building. Movement in the debris pile immediately adjacent to the south side of the structure.


FLORES (on camera): And Alisyn, I wish I had good news to share that the search and rescue efforts have resumed, but I've been checking with public information officers here on the scene and they tell me that nothing has changed. They are still waiting for the green light from structural engineers to get back on the scene.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, and Rosa, I mean obviously that only compounds the pain. And hearing from that fire chief that at one point they had heard a voice but weren't able to get to that person, obviously for the grieving families that have been holding out hope -- well, the families that are anxious I should say holding out hope, that it's all just so gut wrenching.

What about that new video that we just played of the water pouring into the garage? Have experts told you if they think that's significant?

FLORES: You know, it's definitely a significant clue. If you think about that 2018 report, that structural report, that spoke about some of the structural damage that was already in the building and how it could deteriorate exponentially if repairs were not made.

I can tell you that my colleague Boris Sanchez actually spoke to the people who took that video. And they were -- actually stayed in a nearby hotel. They heard a big, loud noise. They ran, they started shooting that video, and if you look closely, you can see water gushing. And if you look even closer, you can see that there's -- what appears to be rubble or concrete.

And according to what we know from the reports about the condition, the structural integrity of this building, there were issues with the waterproofing. Back in 2018 the engineers said that the waterproofing was beyond its useful life and that if it wasn't repaired in a timely fashion, there would be an exponential deterioration. In 2021, in April, just a few months ago, in a letter that was sent out to residents we learned that that deterioration had actually progressed.


So Alisyn, it is so telling and it will for sure be an important clue for investigators, because that video was shot moments before the collapse -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Rosa Flores, thank you very much for all of your reporting.

My next guest narrowly survived the collapse. Sharon Schecter was sleeping in her bed when the Champlain Tower South crumbled. She managed to climb through the rubble in the pitch black with her dog and make it out alive.

And Sharon joins me now. Sharon, thank you so much for your time. I've really been looking forward to talking to you about your incredible survival story. But I just want to start with how you're doing today. I mean, it's been a week since you managed to survive this. And 145 of your neighbors are still missing, unbelievably, today. And so how are you holding up emotionally?

SHARON SCHECTER, SURVIVED CONDO TOWER COLLAPSE: Today has not been -- yesterday and today were not good days. I started to become very angry and very, just very jittery. I think it's starting to take a toll on me. I'm very tired. I don't sleep very well at night. And the more I hear about, you know, the structural problems and the comments from the engineers, I think I become angry every day.

CAMEROTA: How could you not be? I mean how could you not be? I'm angry on your behalf. All of us who didn't even live there knowing for how long some of these problems were flagged. Were you aware that there were significant problems with your building when you were living there?

SCHECTER: There were conversations. I rented. This was my third completed year. And every year I would ask, you know, what's going on with the recertification. Three years ago they already had the renderings in the lobby, but they never started construction and they would take the renderings down and put them back up in the lobby.

So this year my lease was coming up for another renewal, but they said in September they're going to start with, you know, major construction. And a couple weeks ago they actually began the roof. And my concern was, you know, if I'm going to be closed in, what are they doing? Because I don't want to be in a building with, you know, banging and noise every day. But you do hear banging and noise in construction. And that has been going on for a long time.

CAMEROTA: I mean and sorry to interrupt you, but that of course is the natural thought, which is, wow, will the construction, you know, get in the way of my life?

Nobody thought, if we don't do this construction, will the building fall, because nobody was raising quite that level of alarm. And it doesn't surprise me to hear that you can't sleep, because you were asleep in your bed at 1:30 in the morning when this happened.

And I just want for recount for people how you got out. You heard what you thought was thunder and you felt shaking that you thought was an earthquake. And you ran, I guess, to your front door and opened it, but instead of seeing your neighbor's apartment right across the hallway from you, you saw nothing. That side of the building was gone, is that right?

SCHECTER: Well, in my situation, my part of the building was not facing Collins. The part that you see that looks like a tower but it's, you know, it's one big building. There are about 12 apartments that face the ocean, single apartments. So after that earthquake, you know, moment, there was no electricity. I went to wash my eyes and there was no water. I went to see if there's a storm. I couldn't imagine where that noise came from.

And when I looked to my left, I saw no building. And I just couldn't believe it that I'm looking at normally all these terraces that obstruct the building next door, which is a very bright white building. You know, there was no building. And I heard noise in the front door and that's when I opened up, popped out my head. I was in pajamas and I see the family -- in fact, that was interviewed on TV one of the other evenings -- and they said come with us, you know, the building is collapsing.

And so I said, go, go, go and I threw on jeans. I said I have a dog. I have to go get my dog. I'm not going to leave one of my children. And so I just threw on jeans, jacket, grabbed her and started going down the only staircase. Already I saw it was the rubble. It started breaking apart. I met a woman in the stairwell that was in a walker trying to get down. I tried to help her. I couldn't, but I didn't want her to feel disconnected.


And I said let me call help and I kept screaming so she would hear my voice and not feel alone until we got to the ground floor. I saw a couple I knew. They were with another girl from my floor that had a stick. They were trying to open up the exit door, which was I guess obstructed by debris. We couldn't get out and then we had to go through the garage. And all I kept saying -- I had a flashlight -- was you know, we have to keep moving, keep moving, we have to get out. We'll find the light. Just find the light and, you know, we'll be outside.

We did it. And then that was the first moment when I saw light and we were outside, you know, still not safe because we had to get to the front. Which, you know, we couldn't get to, we had to climb over cars. But it was the first moment that I looked up and I saw the building from the ground up, which was -- it was shocking. It was I can't even express how I felt at that moment. But we got out. And --

CAMEROTA: How could you, I mean, this is a living nightmare what you're describing and it's all so surreal. And I know that it's going to be a roller coaster for you. And you need to prepare for that, because having lived through something like that will take a long time for you to process. And I know that you are in the process of that. And so Sharon, we only have a few seconds left. I mean who do you hold responsible for what happened? SCHECTER: At this point, I don't know. I don't want to say, because I

don't know. I don't know who is in charge of the renovations. I don't know at what point it was discussed that the building was possibly unsafe and we needed to start the renovations, you know, yesterday. At this point, I'm not sure, I'm not sure. And so I don't want to make a statement. You know, with words, that you know I'm just not familiar.

CAMEROTA: I understand.

SCHECTER: With you know --

CAMEROTA: Sharon, take care of yourself. We'll check back in with you. We really appreciate you.

SCHECTER: Thank you. It's hard.

CAMEROTA: I can imagine.

OK, still ahead, Republican Liz Cheney will serve on the committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. What some other Republicans are now saying about that.



CAMEROTA: Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named her picks for the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Representative Benny Thompson will lead the panel. In addition to six other Democrats, Pelosi also named Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney to the panel. Cheney is one of only two Republicans who voted in favor of forming this committee.

Minority leader Kevin McCarthy now denying reports that he told GOP members not to accept offers to sit on the panel or he would strip them of committee assignments.

Chief Congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins me now. So Manu, just catch me up on this, is McCarthy participating with this?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know yet. We have not heard whether or not he will name any of his five picks to this committee. And he's in a bit of a difficult situation here because Republicans that we talked to up and down the line, my colleagues, Melanie Zanona and Annie Grayer talking to Republicans, they don't want to serve on this committee.

Including members who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Moderates who are in difficult races as well. They view this as politically toxic. they view it as a situation where there's a no win, when you have to defend Donald Trump or they potentially have to whitewash what happened on January 6th. Either way is a lose-lose situation.

And McCarthy himself is facing a lot of questions about whether he would name people who downplayed the January 6th insurrection, people voted to overturn what happened on January 6th. He will not say if those people could get on the committee. And also Nancy Pelosi, according to the resolution, has veto power essentially over his picks. She can say no if McCarthy goes a way she disagrees with.

Now this all comes as the committee is starting to lay out its plan forward. I talked to the House Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson about what he plans to do. And he made clear nothing is off limits including potentially talking to Donald Trump and Republican members of Congress.


RAJU: You would not resist calling in Donald Trump?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I would not. But from the standpoint of doing our work.

RAJU: How important would it be to hear from those members of Congress who were having conversations with Donald Trump in the run up to January 6th? People like a Mo Brookes? Or Jim Jordan and those types?

THOMPSON: Well, I think we need to have access to all available information. And part of what we plan to do is hire some of the best people who can help us get access to that kind of information. So if we need to get it by request or by subpoena, I'm not reluctant to do either.


RAJU (on camera): Now the first hearing is going to be with Capitol Police officers themselves who will detail their experiences on that day. As far as Liz Cheney is concerned, I asked her if she was concerned about getting punished. She said she's not. She said this is above partisanship right now. She said she has not been told whether or not she will lose her committee assignments over deciding to take Pelosi's offer -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Manu, thank you very much for that important update.


All right, we're going to return to Florida next, where President Biden is expected to speak at any moment. He just wrapped up a meeting with families of the people who have been killed or are still missing in the Surfside building collapse.


CAMEROTA: President Biden is expected to speak shortly in Florida after meeting with some of the grieving and anxious families in the Surfside building collapse. CNN's Nick Valencia is there for us. So Nick, I know those meetings were in private. Do we know what was said?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that Biden used his past trauma and pain himself to try to personalize the message speaking to the families. But the fact is here, Alisyn, that those family members I've spoken to either didn't make the time to meet with the president today or flat out told me they don't want him here.

Soraya Cohen says she believes that the president is taking away energy from the resources of the rescue mission. She told me that she doesn't want to be comforted. She just wants to know where her husband and brother-in-law are right now.


SORAYA COHEN, HUSBAND AND BROTHER-IN-LAW MISSING IN CONDO COLLAPSE: I'm very upset that he's here. As you know, my children would not want anything that's going to delay, you know, when every single second counts. We cannot afford to being slowed down even one second.


VALENCIA: These families are clearly very emotional and for good reason. And adding to their stress is the fact that they are grieving publicly. This is still very much so a rescue mission, one that was put on pause earlier today for safety concerns for those workers. But if you talk privately to some of these on the crew, some of the members on the crew, they tell you that they are not wondering or waiting for a miracle.


They know that they only can hope to find something that brings closure to these family members still waiting for answers -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean Nick, I understand the families' anxiousness and obviously their devastation. But the search was halted because of safety concerns. But hopefully it will be able to start back up again as soon as possible. Nick Valencia, thank you very much.

All right, stay with us. We return to the breaking news this hour and the charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg. We'll give you all the take-aways.


CAMEROTA: OK, back to our top story, criminal indictments against the Trump Organization unsealed. This indictment alleges a 15-year tax scheme involving CFO Allen Weisselberg. The charges include a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larceny and falsifying business records. Prosecutors also allege that Weisselberg evaded taxes on $1.7 million worth of income.

Elie Honig is back with me. OK, Elie, I know you have read through these 24 pages of the indictment, what are your main take-aways.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A couple things -- Allen Weisselberg is in real trouble here. The Trump Organization is in real trouble here. $1.7 million that's not chump change. That's real money. That's potential jail time for Weisselberg.

Also that the allegation they falsified documents is really incriminating. It shows they knew that it was wrong. The other big thing, there are others involved. This indictment repeatedly talks about people who were involved in this scheme. Who are they and are prosecutors going to have enough to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and to charge them in the future?

CAMEROTA: When are we going to find those out?

HONIG: One never knows with prosecutors, right. It's interesting to me that they haven't done it yet. So let's see what comes next.

CAMEROTA: Elie Honig, thank you, very much.

All right, "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.