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TSA: Pandemic-Record 2.2 Million Travelers Screened At Airport Friday; FAA Posts PSA Of Kids Reminding Adults To Behave When Flying; Emergency Order Issued To Demolish Remaining Structure; Neighbors Helped Others Escape Moments Before Tower Fell; Eleven Arrested In Police Standoff With Armed Group In Massachusetts Town; Two House Republicans Vote For January 6 Select Committee; Trump CFO Weisselberg Indicted On 15 Tax-Related Charges. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired July 3, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this holiday weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue to follow breaking news 11 people now in custody after a tense armed standoff in Massachusetts. Police say the incident involved heavily armed men wearing tactical gear and body cameras. They say the suspects claim to belong to a group that doesn't recognize U.S. laws.
The standoff lasted about nine hours and forced the shutdown of Interstate 95 North of Boston residents in two cities had to shelter in place before police were able to arrest all the suspects. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is following the story for us. So Evan, how did it all get started?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, as you mentioned, the scariest part is over and that these aspects are in custody. But it all began this morning in a very scary moment this morning when a police officer around 1:30 came across two vehicles in the breakdown lane on 95.
And interact with people in those vehicles who were wearing guns and we're out and about and we're saying they you know they didn't abide by U.S. laws. And that led to this standoff. Some suspects fled into the woods next to the highway. Some stayed in the vehicles and had to have these negotiations with police that ended just a few minutes ago with these arrests.
Now what we know is that there are a lot of guns involved in this case. Just a few minutes ago, police finished doing a press conference - police issuing a press conference where they spoke about what they seized in the vehicles and they're finding a lot of guns that they can see with their own true eyes and expecting to get more as they bring people back in and as they search those vehicles.
Now what we don't really know a lot about is the motivation of this group yet. We have heard from police, as you mentioned earlier that they were people who were didn't believe in the laws of the U.S. apply to them. One of their leaders spoke with police in stress. He wasn't antigovernment, but just that he didn't have to abide by U.S. firearms laws.
Well, in Massachusetts, according to police, the laws definitely states you can't open carry weapons the way these guys were. And you can't be on the highway with guns the way these guys were. And that's led to these arrests, but we're going to expect you to know a lot more about what this motivation actually was as the day goes on.
But for now, what we know is that it was a dangerous standoff situation on a major American highway on a holiday weekend. And it was resolved peacefully by police with negotiation and according to police, some tactical maneuvers, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Alright, Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much. All right and now to the millions of Americans on the move this Fourth of July weekend the U.S. has now set a new pandemic error record for air travel. Nearly 2.2 million people pass through TSA checkpoints on Friday. That's the most people screened in a single day since March 5th, 2020.
Industry experts expect the holiday travel numbers to peak on Monday and the TSA says some airports are busier right now than they were at this point in 2019. AAA expects a total of 48 million people to travel by road and air this weekend. That's a 40 percent increase over the last Fourth of July weekend. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on the spike in travel.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By now most Americans who plan to travel this holiday weekend may have already braved the Fourth of July frenzy on the roads.
VALENTINE CHAVARRIA, TRAVELER: I think it's going to be pretty busy and congested. Yes, that's why I didn't want to wait and leave any later than today.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Or at some of the nation's airports, many of which seem to be bursting at the seams on Friday. AAA expecting nearly 48 million people will have traveled either by road or by air by the time this Fourth of July weekend comes to a close, most of them some 43 million opted to drive to and from their destinations according to Andrew Gross from AAA.
ANDREW GROSS, MANAGER, AAA PUBLIC RELATIONS: The biggest difference probably the number of people traveling by car and there are a number of factors figuring into that international travel is still down. Cruising has not picked back up yet.
And people may generally feel more comfortable traveling by car you can decide when you're going to leave where you're going to stop? And maybe not everybody in the family is vaccinated yet.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Gross expects rising fuel prices likely aren't keeping families from a long overdue post pandemic getaway. It will come cheap though with the cost of a gallon of gas averaging $3.12 nationally the highest in seven years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $11 a month, 2.5 gallons.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Experts say not only is summer demand to blame but a shortage of fuel truck drivers that has left some service stations empty. Flying this weekend, you want to adhere to your air crews' instructions or face paying some hefty fines.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received over 3000 reports of unruly passengers this year alone majority of incidents related to noncompliance of the federal mandate requiring mask wearing on flights.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Hoping to address people who don't listen to crew instructions, the agency rolled out a video message for those who should know better from those who do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll go to jail if they keep doing that stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is so unsafe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They should know better if they're like adults.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITFIELD: Alright, some of the lessons coming from our kids. So as Americans across the country enjoy the holiday weekend, experts are sounding the alarm about the Delta variant. The CDC says the hyper transmissible strain is likely to blame for a 10 percent spike in cases nationwide, and experts are worried that the Delta variant will make it harder to reach herd immunity.
Joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Carlos del Rio an Executive Associate Dean at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta so good to see you "Happy Fourth weekend".
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Happy Fourth Fred.
WHITFIELD: So Dr. Del Rio, this our President Biden lands in Michigan, where he is taking part in a nationwide America's back together tour to tout the country's progress against the virus. The First Lady is in Maine today, the Vice President is in Las Vegas. What do you want to hear from the president and his support team today?
DR. DEL RIO: Well, I think we need to get the message that the pandemic is not over. Many, many people, including the president wanted the Fourth of July to be the day we celebrate independence from the virus. We are not independent from the virus yet. We don't make that decision the virus does. Unfortunately, we are not where we want it to be in any immunizations, the president had, you know, kind of goal of having 70 percent of the nation having received at least one shot by July 4th, that's not going to happen.
And with the surge in the Delta variant, I'm concerned that in regions of the country that don't have high immunization rates, we're going to see - we're going to see increases, we're going to see surges we're going to see hospitalizations.
WHITFIELD: The White House is also set to deploy response teams across the U.S. to areas with a high spread of the Delta variant. They will conduct surge testing, provide therapeutics deploy federal personnel to areas that need support staff or vaccinations. What more do you believe they should be doing?
DR. DEL RIO: That that is all very good and I'm really happy they're doing that. My only - my only advice would be that it needs to be done quickly. You know, health departments and public health in general works fairly slow. And this hyper transmissible strain, you cannot wait for the usual process, you really have to do it quickly.
I've been saying for a while that if somebody gets diagnosed today, we should rapidly reach out to their close contacts to their household to their close, you know, friends and family, and be sure that they're all vaccinated, because likely they're not 99 percent of cases we're seeing right now are all unvaccinated.
And we need to really target those very specific way in order to prevent outbreaks from happening.
WHITFIELD: You just mentioned, you know, the U.S. is going to fall short of President Biden's goal of having 70 percent of the adults vaccinated with at least one dose by tomorrow. So, what do you say to people who continue to be either hesitant, you know, they're waiting it out or resistant altogether?
DR. DEL RIO: Well, you know, what I keep on telling people and I, you know, listen to the concerns, but I keep on telling people, these vaccines are very safe, they're highly effective. I would not have vaccinated myself, I would not have allowed my entire family, including my kids and their spouses to be vaccinated if I had any doubts about the safety and efficacy of this vaccines.
And really, the way to get back to normal that wait to get rid of this virus is to get everybody vaccinated. So every person that gets immunized not only is protecting themselves, but they're protecting their community. They're protecting their loved ones. So I'd tell you know, do it for yourself, but also do it for your family and your loved ones.
WHITFIELD: In L.A. County and also in Missouri, there is an urging of people wearing masks, even if you have been vaccinated in indoor public spaces. Where are you on that? And do you believe other cities or even states should follow suit given the spike in cases? DR. DEL RIO: Well, I want to emphasize to people that if you have been vaccinated if you're fully vaccinated, the current vaccines protect against a Delta variant. So you don't need to get very anxious about it. The problem is if you're not vaccinated, if you're not vaccinated, you are really at very high risk of getting infected and getting sick with the Delta variant.
So my recommendation is, you know, I still wear a mask when I go to places that are crowded, like grocery stores and you know, indoor places. But in general, like I'm not wearing a mask, I think, you know, I feel pretty free to be mask-less because I'm fully immunized.
WHITFIELD: Alright, Dr. Carlos Del Rio, thank you so much. Appreciate the advice stay safe this holiday weekend and beyond.
DR. DEL RIO: Happy Fourth.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. Alright, still to come this hour, a state of emergency in Florida as the state prepares for Tropical Storm Elsa, how this has impacted the search efforts in Surfside?
WHITFIELD: Plus, is being called an eye of fire how it formed and how it was snuffed out coming up. And this July 4th, America is open, it's time to celebrate join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for a star studded evening of music and fireworks. Here's a look at the "All-Star" lineup.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: July 4th, let's get ready. America is open. It's time to celebrate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Full on fireworks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With coast-to-coast performances from Bebe Rexha, Billy Ray Cyrus, Black IPs, Blues Traveler, Brad Paisley, Chicago, - Forerunner, Neo, Nelly, Reo Speedwagon, Sammy Hagar on the circle, Susanna Hoffs, The Beach Boys, Tasha Cobbs - Trisha Yearwood and more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for the "Fourth in America" live July 4th at seven on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: You don't want to miss it.
WHITFIELD: All right, new developments now on the search and rescue efforts in Surfside, Florida. A major storm could force rescue teams digging through the rubble of the collapse condo building to suspend operations again.
Tropical Storm Elsa was just downgraded from a hurricane this morning, and it could make landfall in Florida as early as Monday. And officials have issued an emergency order to demolish what remains of the tower after it was deemed not structurally sound.
CNN's Natasha Chen is there in Surfside and was also at a news conference that just took place a short time ago. So Natasha, what are they saying?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, the new a demolition plan is a departure from what we heard about yesterday. The new plan is to try and get the remaining part of the structure to come down before the storm possibly hits this area.
So with the storm possibly coming through here late Monday, they would like the building to come down before then because they don't want this storm to take it down for them and possibly go in the wrong direction so that is the new strategy.
And the governor did speak today saying that once there's a green light, this process can happen quickly within 36 hours. Again, this is different from what was told to us yesterday and the county mayor said that is because a new demolition expert was brought to them who knew how to do this very quickly.
And what they would do is create a tarp - put a tarp over the area that's already been searched, so that when the demolition happens, they can differentiate between the debris that's already been searched and the debris that hasn't been searched so a lot of details here for structural engineers to go through and the process that needs to happen before the demolition.
The Governor DeSantis did say that this is really important to protect the safety of the people on site. He also talked today about the emotions of going back to the memorial wall that you visited earlier in the week talking about all these families with 126 people unaccounted for, and those who have already lost loved ones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The amount of outpouring you see has grown exponentially was very, very moving. Because when I first went, I knew some of the families. Now I've met a lot more of them. And so I recognize these folks, and I've heard stories about what they, their lives and what they meant to their family and friends?
So it was really, it was really moving the communities come together. And I think that's made it easier. I know the families really appreciate all the support. But it's tough. And it's really been difficult to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: A lot of high emotions all around the community, including anxiety from people in other buildings, worried about potential damage and what could happen to their buildings of similar age?
Now right next to the one that collapsed Champlain Towers East our calling Brian Todd obtained a memo from a source close to that building, saying that there's spalling concrete on one pillar that happened after the South Tower collapsed. We have some images there to show you what that looks like.
So they're currently working on shoring that up. They've placed 13 sensors around the building to monitor any movement. That's according to that memo. Seven structural engineers apparently have been through that building to ensure that it is safe for people in there but they are also doing everything they can to ensure that safety ensure up of that damage that's being seen there, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Painstaking. All right, Natasha Chen thank you so much there in Surfside, Florida. Alright, so as the search for survivors enters day nine we're also hearing incredible stories of how some residents escaped the collapse. CNN's Randi Kaye introduces us to two survivors who got out with just moments to spare and reunited again for the first time in front of our cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ESTHER GORFINKEL, RESCUED BY NEIGHBOR: The first thing I heard, boom, my bed shake, and I see my apartment is shaking.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Champlain Tower South shook in the middle of the night; Esther Gorfinkel was in bed on the fifth floor. The 88-year-old grandmother quickly made her way from unit 509 to the stairwell. Soon Alfredo Lopez spotted her. He and his family had escaped apartment 605.
ALFREDO LOPEZ, HELPED RESCUE NEIGHBOR: I remember Esther told me that she had her knee was bothering her and that she wanted to stop. Now, I told her, you know, stopping is not an option.
KAYE (on camera): There was no way you're going to let her stay.
LOPEZ: No, I just you know, like, it just didn't even occur to me, you know, like, I mean, I can't you know, she's a human being.
KAYE (voice-over): But Esther couldn't walk on her own. So Alfredo picked her up, tossed her over his shoulder and carried her down.
LOPEZ: I don't know how many flights of stairs. It was - it couldn't have been that many because I'm really not that strong.
GORFINKEL: He yells pick me up. You'll pick me off.
KAYE (voice-over): Esther and Alfredo hadn't seen each other since that terrible night when he saved her life until we brought them together.
LOPEZ: How are you? GORFINKEL: I'm so happy.
LOPEZ: I'm so happy too. I'm so happy to see you. And, you know, we made it out, you know? So that's what's important, right?
GORFINKEL: Yes. Yes, that's important. Over there--
GORFINKEL: --somebody is watching.
LOPEZ: Absolutely. It wasn't, you know, simply you know Esther just wasn't our time.
KAYE (voice-over): Together they recounted their chance meeting in the stairwell and their narrow escape.
GORFINKEL: Came down many - you don't talk. You don't say anything. Let's roll. Let's roll. Let's roll. Let's go.
KAYE (voice-over): They made it to the garage, but they still weren't out of danger. The garage ceiling had collapsed and water was ankle deep.
LOPEZ: There was one car that was pancaked on top of another car that was pancaked on top of a huge slab of concrete.
KAYE (voice-over): After they cleared the garage, Alfredo put Esther over his shoulder once again, and carried her to safety on the beach.
KAYE (on camera): What do you think about somebody who would do that?
GORFINKEL: They thinking somebody else when they see something bad. You know, you need to help each other in bad times, too. There is no other choice. Remember, everybody got time. What I can tell you, it's just so beautiful that they helped you.
You know, if you help everybody, whoever knocks on my door, I gave it to them. And then God gave me the prize of my life because I did so many good things.
KAYE (on camera): How lucky do you feel today?
GORFINKEL: I know I'm very lucky to be here with my family. Thanks God. Thanks God.
KAYE (voice-over): That night, Alfredo and Esther lost everything they owned, but they escaped with their lives and a friendship that is sure to endure.
GORFINKEL: And he will be very happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: And it really was a team effort getting Esther out of that building safely. Another man did help Albert Aguero (ph) and of course she would like to thank him. He pulled as Alfredo pushed to get Esther out of that garage area.
And Esther also believes that her parents and her husband also had a hand in her getting out of there alive. She believes that they gave this man the strength to rescue her. And in speaking with Alfredo he does suffer from a bit of survivor's guilt.
He got very emotional talking about the moment that he opened his apartment door to flee with his family. And he looked at his next door neighbor's apartment and it was just a big black gaping hole. The apartment was gone. And that still is haunting him to this day. I'm Randi Kaye, in Surfside Florida back to you.
WHITFIELD: Incredible, Randi lots of heroes that day and lots of heroes still. All right, still ahead a 10th standoff ends in Massachusetts. 11 people are now behind bars after I-95 had to be shut down. We'll take a closer look at what happened and how it was brought to a peaceful end?
WHITFIELD: All right, updating our breaking news from the top of this hour. 11 people now in custody after a 10th armed standoff in Massachusetts. Police say the incident started as a traffic stop involved heavily armed men wearing tactical gear and body cameras.
Several of the arm suspects have fled into a wooded area near the Interstate - 95 where the traffic stop occurred. Authorities say the suspects claimed to belong to a group that does not recognize U.S. laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. CHRISTOPHER MASON, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: I can share with you that a number of firearms have been seized. I cannot share with you the exact number. The two vehicles that were at the scene are being towed from the scene.
They will be processed pursuant to court authorized search warrant and only then will we know the exact number of firearms that have been seized. I can tell you that firearms both long guns and handguns are in plain view. And we anticipate those will be seized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Juliette Kayyem is with us now is CNN National Security Analyst and she's also a Former Massachusetts Head of Homeland Security Secretary. Juliet so good to see you, I hope I got that title right. I know you've been with Homeland Security. OK. Well, straight me out on it shouldn't be close enough. What is it?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I was a Head of Homeland security for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where this event took place just about 20 miles north of here. WHITFIELD: OK, great. And I know you also worked on the federal level too. OK. So that is important. So help us understand how you're seeing this? This all unfolded very close to where you are. And you know, what's your reaction to what you've heard about the suspects, you know, these disabled vehicles trying to fuel on the side of the road but then police were met with the suspicions of a lot of weaponry that they had?
KAYYEM: That's right. So they were armed - they were armed in the car this happens overnight. They're driving they allege from Maine - Rhode Island to Maine or Maine to Rhode Island.
So you're going to have to come through Massachusetts. This is a obviously busy highway. They alleged or there's some reporting that they're from a group called the Moorish American army. This is not a very well-known group.
So that is relevant because they're televising the arrest. And so what we have to be cognizant of is, is many of these groups want attention for a variety of reasons. And this is a group that we didn't -- no one knew who they were five minutes ago. And now we're talking about them.
We have some of the strictest firearms rules here in Massachusetts, and we are not an open carry state. So just having the guns in the car would be grounds for arrest, having a bunch of armed men in a car would be sufficient to at least begin the investigation. And then when they ran, that was clearly probable cause. So they'll be arrested on charges related to I think gun possession at this stage, and then figure out what their motive is later.
WHITFIELD: All right, and you helped explain why it is that we did not hear great detail from the police --
WHITFIELD: -- about who this group is, how they're identifying them, you know, what their belief system is.
WHITFIELD: But then I wonder if you can give us an idea how they will now be investigated or even questioned.
KAYYEM: Yes. So they are having a social media presence right now. And so what you want to do is figure out who the leaders are and whether this wasn't a staged thing, because they stopped a major highway on a holiday weekend. So there's a lot of not happy people right now in Massachusetts.
And so what they're going to do is they'll do the investigation, both what the men had on them, what they had in the car, what is at their homes, and then what is the organization like to figure out whether there's any motives, one or excuse me, there are motives. But what are the motives related to this. Did it have to do with some
sort of training? Did it have to do with a specific attack or a planned attack? And that will become clear relatively soon, things are started -- the state police will probably have a press conference later on today.
WHITFIELD: All right. So police did credit, you know, de-escalation tactics --
WHITFIELD: -- of the officers who first arrived on the scene. And they also credit negotiators with helping to bring a peaceful end to this standoff. So a lot clearly was going on all at once.
WHITFIELD: So given your experience, you know, how would they go about coordinating prioritizing these many approaches?
KAYYEM: Right, so the number one thing and that's why I'm grateful I'm talking to you at 12:30 because at 9 o'clock, this wasn't true, is everyone has been found. When you when you have people leave the car, or run away from the car vehicles, you're a little bit worried of what they might do and desperation.
So the fact that they've all been caught really has sort of led everyone in law enforcement take a deep breath. I was talking to someone in the state police. This is a very good scenario right now for the state just given all of the things going on over the weekend and the reports by the Department of Homeland Security to just be, you know, more vigilant at this stage.
So that's sort of -- that's the good news part. The bad news part is a bunch of armed men are traveling in a car to do something and we don't know what that something is. So that's where the investigation is going to go right now. But I -- as part of this, is clearly we're talking about an organization of who we did not know who they were and now they -- we know who they were.
So part of this is the ratcheting up that I always talk about with you, the sort of publicity, the calm strategy that is such a part of these armed militias. And but they came to Massachusetts where we do not, we have very strong gun control laws, so you're not allowed to do what they did.
WHITFIELD: All right. And then just to underscore your point, you know, it's incumbent upon everybody to pay attention.
WHITFIELD: All right, Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much. Good to see you.
KAYYEM: Good to see again.
WHITFIELD: Happy Fourth weekend.
KAYYEM: Happy Fourth. It's nice to see you.
WHITFIELD: Good to see you as well. Thank you.
All right, still ahead, House Leader Kevin McCarthy can appoint some Republicans to the Select Commission investigating the Capitol riots but it's the commission that nearly no Republicans want to be on right now. We'll talk about that next.
WHITFIELD: All right, just two House Republicans crossed party lines this week to vote for a Select Committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose one of those GOP lawmakers to serve on the Committee and now the focus turns to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to see what he will do. He has a chance to select five. CNN's Daniella Diaz joins us from Capitol Hill. And Daniella, how are Republicans responding to the potential of being chosen for this Committee?
DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Fred, House Republicans don't want to be seen anywhere near this Committee. They see this as potentially damaging ahead of the midterms. The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is in charge of choosing who he will appoint to this panel. But he issued a blanket threat to freshmen House Republicans this week, telling them that if they join this panel, he will strip them of their Committee assignments.
But that's not stopping one Republican from serving on this Committee. That is Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was one of two Republicans to support this when it was put to a vote in the House. The other was Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. She took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's invitation to join the panel. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed shock when a reporter asked him about this at his press conference this week. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I don't know in history where someone would go get their Committee assignments from the Speaker and expected to have -- from the conference as well. Well, I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi. It would seem to me is since I didn't hear from her maybe she's closer to her than us. I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAZ: So because of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's strong words, so many Republicans do not want to be seen anywhere near this Committee. Even the 10 House Republicans that voted to impeach Donald Trump earlier this year, most of them are not interested in this Committee at all, either.
But that's not stopping two conservative firebrand House Republicans from joining or being six -- excuse me, expressing interest in this Committee. Names you wouldn't believe Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, they have both said that they are interested in joining.
But in the end, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has final say over whoever McCarthy chooses and appoints to this panel. And it's not likely she will want two Trump allies to serve on this panel. So bottom line here is, it's unclear what McCarthy is going to do and he's not giving any hints, Fred.
WHITFIELD: And then is it possible, Daniella, that he doesn't appoint any? And then does that mean the Select Committee could be no more? Or would the House Speaker be able to select another five herself?
DIAZ: Fred, this would all be in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hands if McCarthy does not move forward with this.
WHITFIELD: All right, Daniella Diaz, thank you so much on Capitol Hill.
All right, New York Attorney General Letitia James says the investigation into the Trump Organization will continue this week Trump CFO -- Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was indicted on 15 charges related to a 15-year tax scheme. The indictment alleges that illegal activity also involved other unnamed executives, Weisselberg and the Trump Organization pleading not guilty to all charges.
Michael Zeldin joining us right now, he's a former federal prosecutor and a former special assistant at the Department of Justice, so good to see you, Michael. So this indictment accuses Weisselberg and others of evading taxes by getting bonuses that were off the books. How is that alleged to have worked?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So it was interesting. Weisselberg had a set salary of $980,000. And in normal circumstances, you receive your paycheck every month or biweekly. And at the end of the year, you get your W2, and you pay your taxes on your direct income.
What the scheme that is alleged here is that Weisselberg would get indirect payment of a portion of that $980,000. And those indirect payments in the form of rent on an apartment that he was living in, leases on Mercedes Benz, high -- tuition for his grandchildren, all that was deducted from his direct payments, and then not reported as income.
So in fact, he got $980,000 but it was direct and indirect. And neither he nor the Trump Organization reported to the tax authorities, the indirect payments, the tuitions, the rents, and that constituted tax fraud, according to the prosecutors in Manhattan.
WHITFIELD: And so Michael, prosecutors say they know this, because they discovered there are two books that the Trump Organization would keep, a book for, you know, the IRS and then books for the banks. So those were the competing, you know, figures that prosecutors assessed. So then, based on that, and then based on information they have involving at least two other people within the Trump Organization. And when the district attorney says or says that the investigation is ongoing, is there a likelihood that there are other people that will be netted, or charged?
ZELDIN: Well, it appears as if there are other individuals who were beneficiaries of this same scheme. You know, you mentioned this spreadsheet, you always hear of like the smoking gun. Here we've got the smoking spreadsheet which is to say that there was a spreadsheet, an internal spreadsheet that kept track of all of these indirect payments to Weisselberg to make sure that Weisselberg didn't get paid a penny over the $980,000 of his salary.
But that spreadsheet was just an internal record keeping one that which went to the government to the tax authorities was only the smaller portion of that money. That's the scheme here that, you know, the indications of fraud generally are concealment and phony records. And both of them are present here. And it appears that to your exact question, other officers may have benefited similarly to Weisselberg.
WHITFIELD: OK, so Eric Trump, the President's son came out and said, these were just fringe benefits. And that was no big deal. So when does it go from being fringe benefits to an alleged tax fraud scheme?
ZELDIN: Well, I'm not sure what the younger Trump is referring to. These were part of Weisselberg's salary. It's quite clear from all of these internal records that he had a direct salary, and that salary was offset by these indirect payments. Those indirect payments are taxable income to him.
He didn't report them on his taxes. The Trump Organization didn't withhold the proper amount of taxes from those indirect payments. And so Eric did have a point of view that these were fringe benefits, but were taxable benefits, and no one paid taxes on them, and that constitutes fraud.
WHITFIELD: And that he's calling it a fringe benefit. But then prosecutors, the D.A., and the A.G. are all calling this criminal activity. Did Eric Trump just admit on behalf of the Trump Organization that this was indeed happening?
ZELDIN: Well, I think that everybody in the Trump Organization knew what was going on here. It's just impossible to believe that you maintain an internal spreadsheet where you keep to the penny what was going on, and then deny the tax authorities the information. So this is a, you know, this is a closely held company. This is not a --
ZELDIN: -- large public corporation. And the reputation of Donald Trump always has been that if anything, he is a master of controlling of the funds within his corporation. So I think this is well known within the organization. I think it probably went to the very top to the CEO of the organization. And claims of innocence and lack of knowledge or rogue employee, I don't think will have any merit in this case.
WHITFIELD: Right. And a lot of folks can't forget on the debate stage when Hillary Clinton was pressing him on it. He essentially admitted that kind of evading taxes. Well, it makes me smart. All right, Michael Zeldin, thank you so much.
ZELDIN: Well, they make him smart in the short run. In the long run, he may be smart behind prison bars.
WHITFIELD: Oh boy. All right, we'll see. Thanks so much, Michael Zeldin --
ZELDIN: We'll see.
WHITFIELD: -- appreciate it.
All right, now, take a look at this. I know your eyes are not deceiving you. It's a crazy video of a swirl of fire on water. We'll explain.
WHITFIELD: All right, just moments ago, President Biden landed in Traverse City, Michigan where he is taking part in a nationwide America's back together tour to tout the country's progress against the virus. We'll take you there live coming up.
And now this incredible video emerging of what resembles a large eye of fire in the Gulf of Mexico. CNN's Matt Rivers is in Mexico City. So Matt, what is this?
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, this is video that just went viral extremely quickly in Mexico here yesterday evening when this first came out. And then of course it's kind of gone viral worldwide. This is the results of a leak in a gas an underwater gas pipe just west of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. This is a structure that is owned by the Mexican state oil company, Pemex.
And they say that a leak in one of their underwater apparatus is actually sparked, what you see there, which is looks like the Gulf of Mexico is essentially on fire. While we look at this video, I can tell you there were no injuries reported this leak was eventually kept after about five, five and a half hours of work.
Yesterday during the day by the state oil company, they say no injuries were reported. And Mexican government officials are obviously monitoring for any potential oil spills as a result of this. They say so far, that didn't happen at this point. But it is kind of remarkable when you watch this video, Fred. It almost feels like it could be worse than it actually is.
WHITFIELD: Yes, it's very remarkable. All right, Matt Rivers in Mexico City, thank you so much.
All right, more news in a moment. But now here's today's Mission Ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The use of telemedicine exploded during the pandemic and some startups are using that momentum to innovate.
DEDI GILAD, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, TYTOCARE: My youngest daughter suffered from a lot of ear and throat infection and I found myself doing a lot of unnecessary travel to the tuition to really take care of her. And then the thinking was, how can I make this entire interaction from home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dedi Gilad co-founded the telemedicine tech company, Tytocare, which developed a home medical kit that allows doctors to see inside a patient's ears and throat, even listen to their heart and lungs remotely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beautiful.
GILAD: With our kit, you can really give the physician a remote hand and ears and eyes at the patient home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gilad says during the peak of the pandemic, they saw a 400 percent increase in demand for their home diagnostic kits. Other telemedicine startups like Kiira Health are reaching new patients by specializing in virtual care for young women in college, especially women of color.
CRYSTAL ADESANYA, FOUNDER & CEO, KIIRA HEALTH: Black and Brown women historically have had a lot of barriers to healthcare. And a lot of times students don't feel comfortable going in because they do not see a provider who looks like them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The company finds physicians with diverse backgrounds to pair with the specific communities they serve. Kiira says it currently works with 3,000 students with plans to expand up to 22,000 students later this year. But despite significant growth, it's unclear whether these new approaches in virtual care will find success once the pandemic ends.
JOHN BATSIS, MD, UNC SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I think the big thing that we need to think about is, do these devices work? And we don't know. There needs to be a lot more research and a lot more validation. But I think we'll get there.
[12:59:58] WHITFIELD: All right, hello again everyone. Thank you much for joining me this holiday weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin this hour with a major storm potentially threatening search and rescue efforts underway in Surfside, Florida.