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Police Arrest 11 People After Armed Standoff In Massachusetts; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Appoints Members To Committee To Investigate January 6; Twenty-Four Dead, 124 Unaccounted For As Search For Survivors Continues; Millions Of Americans Taking Planes, Trains, Cars, Pandemic-Era Record; Prosecutors Charge Trump Organization And CFO With Tax Crimes; Michael Cohen: Weisselberg's Head Is "On The Chopping Block". Aired 3-4p ET
Aired July 3, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Phil Mattingly right now.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: Good afternoon. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Phil Mattingly in Washington. Jim Acosta is off today.
And we are following a developing story out of Massachusetts right now where police say a tense standoff between a group of heavily armed men claiming to be from a group that does not recognize our law is now, thankfully, over. 11 people near Boston have been arrested after they took off into the woods following a traffic stop near the town of Wakefield. They were carrying rifles and handguns, wearing military- style uniforms.
CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro has been following all of this for us. And, Evan, it seemed like a pretty dicey situation there for a little bit. What is the latest?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Phil, an awfully scary, terrifying situation unfolded this morning just north of Boston, as you mentioned. Around 1:30 in the morning, the police, on a routine patrol, stop and found two vehicles on the breakdown lane on I-95. People in one vehicle were refueling the other vehicle.
The police saw a lot of guns. They asked for some licenses. They asked for identification. People did not want to do it. Some ran off and some stayed where they were setting off this nine-hour standoff that led to police having to block off both sides of I-95, tell residents in some of those nearby homes to stay in their homes as they waited for this.
We are now learning a little bit more about what the motivation was. As you mentioned there were some of the groups -- some of the folks in that group mentioned that the laws of the U.S. don't apply to them. They may be part of something called a Moorish Sovereignty Movement, which has claimed that laws doesn't apply to them.
Obviously, the police in Massachusetts say that's not true. You have to actually abide by the laws as they are. They were worried about how this might go down but in the ending it did end peacefully.
But now, come to questions about the group and what happens next to these folks that were arrested, Police say that on Tuesday, they expect them to arrive in court, and for now the roads are back open where they were, but after a very, very scary moment, that vital artery for holiday transportation, I-95, is back open after that long and scary standoff, Phil.
MATTINGLY: Yes, 95 on a holiday weekend, but, obviously, extraordinarily grateful that everyone is safe. That seemed like a messy potential situation. Evan McMorris-Santoro. There're a lot of questions to answer. We'll get back to you if anything pops up. Thanks so much.
Meanwhile, here in Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed eight members to the January 6 committee this week. Now, under the resolution that established that committee, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gets to appoint five people to the committee, quote, in consultation with Pelosi. But if or when he will appoint those members, that, at this point, is anyone's guess.
CNN's Ryan Nobles has the latest from Capitol Hill. Ryan?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a waiting game now to find out how the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is going to respond to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to move forward with a select committee to investigate the insurrection here at the Capitol on January 6.
Now, Pelosi has already unveiled her picks for that committee, eight different members of the House of Representatives, including a Republican, Liz Cheney. Now, McCarthy has not said whether or not he even plans to cooperate, let alone whether or not he is ready to appoint the five names that he will be able to do, of course, with Pelosi's approval. But there is a lot of speculation as to how Republicans will conduct themselves once they are a part of this committee.
And they're already starting to strategize those plans. Sources telling CNN that Republicans are ready to turn the tables on the House speaker herself, especially if that committee starts to focus or zero in on Kevin McCarthy's role on January 6th. There are many House members who have said that perhaps Pelosi should be called in front of this committee to talk about what took so long for there to be reinforcements to help the Capitol Police to respond to the riot as it crushed the Capitol on that day.
But that doesn't seem to be bothering Pelosi or Democrats right now. They continue to say that they are ready to turn this into a fact- finding mission and they are going to go wherever that leads, that includes bringing Republicans in front of this committee and those Republicans could include McCarthy, that could include other members of the House of Representative like, for instance, Greg Pence, the brother of Mike Pence, who was with the former vice president, as the Capitol was under siege. All of them apparently are fair game. At this point, it is all about trying to find as much information as possible as to what went wrong on that day. Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.
MATTINGLY: And thanks to Ryan for that. Obviously, so many more questions to have answered, and hopefully we'll get some of them answered, even if it's at the earliest stages of this committee.
Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar from California. He's one of those eight House members, also a member of leadership picked by Nancy Pelosi to investigate the Capitol insurrection. Congressman, thanks so much for your time.
I kind want to start at 30,000 foot because we've seen so much information about what happened on January 6th. I know you were there. I was there on January 6th as well. But there still seems to be so much out there. What is the most important question for you that this committee must answer when this is all said and done?
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): You know, when this is all said and done, at the end, we're going to wanting to produce a report because we know that it was an attack on democracy. And so the most important thing we can do is to make sure that this doesn't happen again.
You know, the 9/11 report should be the gold standard. But detailing a series of recommendations and changes that we need to make in order to prevent something like this from happening again, that's going to be the focus and that would be the overarching goal of why we will continue to seek the truth throughout this entire effort.
MATTINGLY: To drill in a little bit just because this has been such a prominent issue out there over the course of the last several months, there's been a lot of questions about what was said during the phone call between then President Trump and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the day of the insurrection. There's public testimony from a Republican member of Congress related to that call during the impeachment trial. How interested are you or your colleagues in that specific call?
AGUILAR: You know, we're available and Chairman Thompson said it the other day. We're available -- we're seeking all available information on who knew what when and what those conversations were. So all available information means anything that's relevant to the investigation, to the response, to what led up to January 6th. All of that should be fair game. And that's what we're going to continue to seek and try to find.
MATTINGLY: Is there any reluctance on your side or from the side of your seven colleagues about calling a Republican member because that feeds into the Republican narrative that this is a political exercise to some degree, or are you essentially pushing that to the side and just kind of going to focused on what you guys can accomplish?
AGUILAR: Well, we want to focus on what we can accomplish but we have zero reluctance to follow every available lead wherever that takes us. And so we want all of the information. And so that's going to mean having conversations with people who are there. You and I were there that day, Phil, but many others, there could be opportunities for Capitol Police officers to offer testimony as well. And so those are the things that we're seeking to find.
But specific to the response, as you know, detailed in the Senate report that was put out, I've read inspectors generals' reports in my role on House administration on the hierarchy of Capitol Police and some of the deficiencies that happened that day. So we're going to want to continue to drill down on all of these aspects, but we can't be afraid of where it takes us. And we're not going to be shy about chasing the available information that will help make an informed report for the American public.
MATTINGLY: When you talk about available information, I want to ask you about something, a new report from one of my colleagues over at CNN K-file, he recently uncovered videos and pictures of a conservative YouTuber who participated in the January 6 riot accompanying Republican members of Congress on their recent trip to the border.
We can show you in some video, you can see him here. His name is Anthony Aguero with Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. Here he is Aguero the day after the insurrection bragging about participating in it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY AGUERO, TRUMP SUPPORTER: We were all there. It was not Antifa and it was not BLM. It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday. I'm the first to admit it, being one myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And I guess, Congressman, besides kind of the jarring recognition that somebody who was there is now currently hanging out with your current colleagues in the wake of it, many of whom were there on January 6, what do you make when you see something like this and see the fact that some of your colleagues are still in cahoots, hanging out with -- I don't even know what the right terminology is, but with somebody who was there and openly acknowledged his role on January 6?
AGUILAR: Well, it's disappointing but it shouldn't be surprising to anyone who was there. You know, the misinformation continues to be a key aspect that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to fan those flames and even recently some have speculated that the continued conspiracies related to that day or calling it tourist activity. I mean, this is just absolutely ridiculous, Phil.
And so this just further underscores you know the importance of the role that we have to play and the importance of the product that we need to produce and to take politics out of this and to give something that the American public and policymakers and my colleagues and Capitol Police and 140 Capitol Police officers who were injured that day, something that we can be proud of.
And at the end of the day, that's what we want in a final product.
But it is jarring to hear that individual who pals around with some of our colleagues. And it's frustrating, but it's not going to deter from the work that we have ahead of us.
MATTINGLY: Let me ask you, one of the things that I think myself and my colleagues would pick up is, publicly, some of your Republican colleagues would be in one place and then they would speak to us privately and they would acknowledge that some of the things they were hearing were bonkers or they didn't like it or they were uncomfortable with it or they wished they could go in a different direction but they didn't politically think they could.
You're not considered a partisan in the Democratic caucus. You have Republican friends. When you have candid discussions with your Republican colleagues, do you pick up from any of them that they want this panel to work, that they want a report that does what you wanted to do, or are they all just kind of covering their eyes on this?
AGUILAR: Well, many of the colleagues that I talk to actually voted for the bipartisan commission, which is what we would have preferred in May. You know up until Kevin McCarthy backed away from a John Katko discussed and brokered arrangement that had bipartisan support and then Mitch McConnell asking his caucus in the Senate to do him a personal favor in voting this down.
That's what many of our colleagues privately on the other side of the aisle. That's what -- and, honestly, that's what we wanted because I think it would have added credibility to the report. But, you know, Kevin McCarthy backed away from that deal. He couldn't take yes for an answer. Mitch McConnell torpedoed those Senate efforts and so this is where we're at.
And so the focus in front of us is to make sure this is as apolitical as possible no matter who Kevin McCarthy appoints. We're going to do something that people can be proud of and we're going to do it in a professional and unbiased way.
MATTINGLY: The irony of attacking a select committee that was put together because you opposed a bipartisan commission as partisan is an interesting play. Congressman Pete Aguilar, thank you so much for your time, especially on Saturday. We really appreciate it, sir.
AGUILAR: Thanks so much, Phil.
MATTINGLY: All right. Up next, we'll take you live to Surfside, Florida, where it's now a race against the looming tropical storm in the continued desperate search for any survivors.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:15:00]
MATTINGLY: In Surfside, Florida, today, rescue teams are not giving up their hope in their search for survivors following the horrific condo collapse there more than a week ago. But today, we're learning two more bodies were pulled from the collapse site, bringing the number of confirmed deaths to 24. Still, 124 people are unaccounted for.
And we're learning about new plans just in the last couple of hours to demolish what's left of the condo building in a race against the tropical storm, Elsa, which is expected to make landfall early next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We made the decision to pursue the demolition for the building. I'm supportive of it. I think it's the right thing to do. At the end of the day, that building is too unsafe to let people go back in. And I know there's a lot of people able to get out fortunately who have things there, we're very sensitive to that. But I don't think there's any way you can let somebody go up in that building giving the shape that it's in now.
Our mission is to expedite it as soon as possible. Kevin Guthrie reports to me that once everything is ready to go that it can be brought down within 36 hours. And so it will entail minimal work stoppage from the search and rescue.
MATTINGLY: CNN's Brian Todd is in Surfside for us. And, Brian, this seems to have really happened rapidly over the course of the last 24 hours, this decision. What can you tell us about this new urgency to demolish the rest of the building, Champlain Tower South?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, it is a real race to do this but they have to be deliberative, of course, they have to be careful. But they really are concerned about the dangers that the remaining tower poses and specifically not only the stability of that tower but also the kind of what's hanging off of it.
We got a good view of what's left of the Champlain towers south tower yesterday. We saw a large concrete slab hanging from the building. We saw a large concrete column hanging from the building. And it, frankly, doesn't look like these columns are hanging by much, that they could come down really at any moment.
So those are all the dangers that they're thinking about. And, of course, they try to get this done ahead of the tropical storm that's coming that could get here as early as Monday. Not clear as all whether they can get this building demolished by that time.
But here is the mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett, talking about just the need to demolish that building soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE FLORIDA: The fear was that the hurricane may take the building down for us and take it down in the wrong direction, on top of the pile where we have victims.
We'll allow our rescue workers to pore all over the entire site without fear of any danger from falling debris or falling buildings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: We also have some detail this afternoon about some repair work that was supposed to be done to the Champlain Towers South Complex, an engineering firm that was hired for the towers 40-year recertification, which would have come this year, this is Morabito Consultants, this structural engineering firm.
This firm, according to an October letter that CNN obtained, this firm found deep concrete deterioration near the pool of the building but they could not perform repairs because of concerns about stability and also because of the fact that the condo association or the management of the building was going to keep the pool open during that repair work.
So we have that detail to report to you this afternoon, Phil.
Just a lot of information coming out about the maintenance of that building or lack thereof that may have contributed to the collapse, but, again, we may not know the real cause of this for months.
MATTINGLY: Yes. Just so many details seem to keep coming out every single day. Great reporting by you and our colleagues, yet it still all feels very tip of the iceberg. We focus a lot on the building, Brian, but we're also learning heart breaking new details today about just one of the victims. A seven-year-old girl, she's the daughter of a city of Miami Firefighter. What more can you tell us about that tragic story?
TODD: Well, Phil, this is really difficult to talk about for anybody just looking at these pictures of this little girl, any parents out there. We do have some detail. There was a lady named Nicole Mejias who told us that five family members in Champlain South that she had were in Champlain South when it collapsed, including a picture of this little girl we're going to show, seven-year-old Stella Cattarossi. She was found in the rubble in the last couple of days along with her mother, Graciela Cattarossi.
Stella Cattarossi, seven-years-old, she is the daughter of a Miami City firefighter. That firefighter we are told was on the site at the time that they founding Stella. He was not right there when they found them but he was around that area, and then they brought him over to that to see and to let him know about his daughter.
She was also there along with her grandparents, Gino and Graciela and their auntie Andrea Cattarossi, all of them still missing. They have confirmed that Stella and her mother, Graciella Cattarossi, perished in the rubble.
MATTINGLY: Just the scale of the tragedy. Brian, you've been down there, you know it, but it's tough to get your head around still every single day. Brian Todd, thanks, again, for your great reporting.
I want to bring in now Dr. Richard Moon. He's an anesthesiologist, a Professor at Duke University School of Medicine and an expert on survival under extreme conditions.
And, Dr. Moon, today makes more than nine days since that building collapsed, more than 120 people still accounted for. Everyone is obviously hopeful. But, realistically, as you kind of look through things as you kind of call on your experience, what are the chances that there are actually people still alive in that rubble?
DR. RICHARD MOON, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, DUKE CENTER FOR HYPERBARIC MEDICINE & ENVIRONMENTAL PHYSIOLOGY: Well, generally speaking, if somebody does not have water, they need to -- they're going to lose about a liter to just over a liter of fluid per day, which needs to be replaced. If there is no water available, then they would reach a critical level of dehydration in about a week.
Now, it may well be that there are some people within the building who have access to a bottle of water or two or maybe some collected water from drainage, which would allow them to live perhaps longer than the usual time where death may occur due to dehydration, which is typically a week.
MATTINGLY: And I think that gets to my next question, which is, you can go through some long disaster survivals that we've seen in the past. People have been alive for two weeks or more. You know, in one case in Haiti, a man lived for nearly a month before being rescued after an earthquake in 2010. Obviously, water is extraordinarily important. But what other conditions have to exist for this to even be a remote possibility at this point?
MOON: Temperature is a big deal, because under ideal circumstances where the temperature is comfortable, that loss of roughly 1,200 ml of water a day would be the number. But under hot conditions, where there's greater perspiration or in the setting of somebody who's been injured and may be bleeding, then they would obviously not be able to survive for that long, for a week.
MATTINGLY: I want to talk a little bit about the rescuers, the search teams. They have obviously had an arduous experience here, mentally- taxing experience. What's your sense of what they are going through mentally? Obviously, they're dealing with potential danger but they're also dealing with the mental element of finding those who have not survived. How are they kind of at this moment in time mentally and physically?
MOON: I can't imagine what they're going through right now. It's the toughest imaginable job in the world, looking for survivors, of course, because it is rubble and the potential is that if they were to shift something that a structure might collapse and thereby injure or kill someone who otherwise might be alive, so they're having to pick through the rubble very carefully and that is prolonging the process.
MATTINGLY: And just what real quick to bottom line this, we've heard from those in the rescue operation, even President Biden kind of alluded to the fact that we understand that hope exists but things don't look great right now. Bottom line, what are the odds that somebody is still alive in that wreckage?
MOON: I would say fairly low at this point, although it may well be that some people, some persons in the rubble may have access to enough water to still be alive. One never knows.
MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, hope certainly is out there but a very complicated and difficult situation. Dr. Richard Moon, thanks so much for sharing your expertise on that.
And coming up, as vaccinations ramp up, the nation very much reopening, Americans flocking to the roads and to the skies. A live report on the record-breaking holiday travel numbers, next.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
MATTINGLY: We are now in the thick of the July 4th holiday weekend, and Americans are traveling in numbers we haven't seen since the pandemic began.
AAA expects 48 million people will travel by road and air through the holiday weekend. That is a 40 percent increase from the Fourth of July last year.
Airports, a new pandemic era. The TSA say they screened just shy of 2.2 million people on Friday.
CNN's Polo Sandoval is at New York's LaGuardia Airport for us.
It does look like there's about 2.2 million people behind you. Polo, what are you seeing on this weekend?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Phil, as you see, it usually comes in waves, right?
The big reminder right now is for those folks heading to the terminal and boarding planes, they have to keep those masks on because of that federal mask mandate.
But in terms of what we expect to see in the long run when everything is said and done, over 47 million people according to AAA will have traveled to and from their destination over the Fourth of July holiday.
Just yesterday alone, almost 2.2 million people were screened at some checkpoints throughout the entire country here.
That's obviously a big telling number here. Not only is it a pandemic record but it's higher than the same date back in 2019. So it speaks to that higher level of confidence that people have in
terms of getting back into the skies.
Now, when it comes to what we're hearing from passengers, there's certainly some excitement. There certainly is some relief. Many people here traveling for the first time since the pandemic.
But at the same time, there's also a big concern, as our colleague, Pete Muntean, recently reported here.
There are multiple national air carriers scaling back on some of their flights to try to keep up with that demand.
In fact, American Airlines reducing their flights by about 1 percent to try to not only keep up with demand but also with some of the staffing shortages that they're facing.
I caught up with some passengers and found out that that's something that is really their biggest concern during this pandemic-era travel.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY MEYERS, TRAVELING TODAY: Yes, so there was a lot of people on my plane. No empty seats. I don't know, we're getting back to normal.
There's definitely an increase, you can see it on both the plane and trains. The seats are starting to fill out so that's how I see the increase in the growth.
LISA SCOTT, TRAVELING WITH FAMILY TODAY: They are cancelling flights so I was nervous because I thought they would cancel our flight. There are about nine of us traveling today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: That last woman you just heard from, Phil, is at the counter right now, afraid that her flight might be canceled. That's the biggest concern right now.
In terms of people driving to their destinations, it's going to come with a heavy price at the pump with average price for a gallon of gas at about $3.12, the highest in about seven years -- Phil?
MATTINGLY: Yes. Gas price is no joke. But also no joke, walking into that plane and seeing all the seats are filled now. Still a little bit jarring after the last 15 months.
Polo Sandoval, at LaGuardia, thanks so much as always.
Nobody knows the ins and outs of the travel business like the man himself, "The Points Guy," Brian Kelly. He joins me now.
Brian, it's pretty jam packed out there this holiday weekend at the airports, on the interstates. Airfares are high. AAA says gas prices will hit a seven-year high for Independence Day.
My biggest question is, did we forget that this is what it's supposed to be like on July 4th weekend or is this year different or special in some way?
BRIAN KELLY, FOUNDER & CEO, "THE POINTS GUY": July 4th is always a popular holiday. But this year, people are traveling with a vengeance.
It's kind of crazy to think, a year ago, we're at three times the amount of TSA passengers. And over the last two days, we've had more passengers than 2019, same day.
So the issue here is the labor shortages at the airlines and hotels. You know, they furloughed a lot of employees. They are retired whole categories of planes.
The airlines have not been able to bring them back online or retrain their pilots quick enough. That's why we've seen hundreds of cancellations a week from some of the top carriers.
MATTINGLY: It complicates those who are trying to make plans, maybe are very excited, haven't been able to for the last 15 months.
Let's say you -- and this is entirely a hypothetical and not something my wife is yelling at me about this morning -- procrastinated making summer travel plans, haven't made any arrangements yet.
Where would you send people, that's open for tourists, they won't get stuck paying double or triple for everything like some people feel they are right now?
KELLY: The best deals are to Europe. Europe, the E.U., not the U.K., is open to Americans, especially vaccinated Americans. Even if you haven't been vaccinated, you can get a negative test or show proof of recovery.
We're seeing flights less than $500 round trip from most U.S. cities to Europe.
While the Delta variant is just a concern and, just this week, Portugal put back an 11:00 p.m. curfew, I have a lot of friends in Europe right now and it's unbelievable.
Being at the Louvre at the Mona Lisa with 20 other people. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore Rome without the throngs of tourists.
For those of us who have an appetite for risk and are willing to shift plans if needed, Europe is the spot to go this summer.
But certainly, plenty of other places in the U.S. National parks. I know a lot of people with kids who aren't vaccinated will hit the road. So as you mentioned, gas is up. Use apps like GasBuddy to make sure
you get the cheapest gas. And be flexible with the days when you leave in order to get the best deal.
MATTINGLY: Can I ask, what is your sense of the COVID factor right now? Where the airlines, they're sticking with the mask rules for now. And it's a federal mandate.
But what about theme parks, resorts, those types of things? How does COVID factor into those places?
KELLY: It's pretty much business as usual.
Our top cruise reporter, Gene Sloan, is in the Caribbean right now, on a Royal Caribbean ship, and he said everything is pretty much normal.
No one is in masks on cruise ships. There have been a couple of small outbreaks but it's managed. Most of those people who had it, had asymptomatic infections. It's not the lockdowns that we saw.
So the rest of the world, by no means, is out of the woods. Certainly, the U.S. is not either.
But in general, domestically, it's pretty much business as usual. Hawaii, even next week, is starting to -- if you're vaccinated, you don't need to test negative.
So if you are going to travel, I highly recommend getting vaccinated.
MATTINGLY: You mentioned Europe. I was just over in Europe with the president on a trip and it was wild being over there. They almost acted like they hadn't seen Americans in a long time and were happy to see Americans again.
Where are the other places overseas that you feel like travel is opportune? Other places in Asia? Where are you looking besides Europe?
KELLY: Yes. Asia is pretty much closed. The beach resort of Phuket, the island of Phuket, in Thailand, is open but you have to fly nonstop into Phuket. And it's TBD there. It could close any time.
But Asia is pretty much closed for the rest of the year. Australia closed.
Africa is open. I went to Rwanda and Kenya in December. And it was spectacular.
However, the virus is now spiking in a lot of countries. I was going to Zimbabwe and they're now starting to do lockdowns, South Africa.
So as much as I love to travel and I want people to travel around the world, you know, staying domestic, Caribbean, Mexico, or even to Europe is what I recommend for now just because this Delta variant is a real concern.
MATTINGLY: Yes. I mean, it's still so fluid. As much as it seems like everything is coming out of things, you look around the world and it's not the case.
But great advice as always.
Brian Kelly, "The Points Guy," thanks so much. I appreciate it.
A quick programming note. It is July 4th weekend and that means it is time to celebrate. Tomorrow, join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for a star-studded evening of music and fireworks. The fun begins July 4th, at 7:00 p.m., only on CNN.
Still to come, a well-known attorney says the new charges against the Trump Organization should have the former president's children worried. Why? We'll have that for you, next.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
MATTINGLY: Now to the extraordinary charges against former President Trump's organization and its top executive. Prosecutors accuse the company and its chief financial officer of a 15-year tax scheme.
At the heart of it all, investigators say the companies CFO, Allen Weisselberg, evaded taxes on nearly $2 million of income.
That income, they say, was in the form of rent and utilities and other payments that went completely untaxed.
The former president's son, Eric Trump, who also serves as the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, tried to downplay the charges.
This was his framing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION & SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: These are employment perks. These are -- you know, these are a corporate car, which everybody has.
I guarantee you there's people on this network that has corporate cars. And I guarantee there's people in every company in the country that have corporate vehicles.
This is what they're going after. This isn't a criminal matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Joining me now, staff writer for "The Atlantic," David Frum, former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams.
Elliot, so they're acknowledging it.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. MATTINGLY: And I think President Trump did something similar in the
statement that he put out there. They're saying it's not a criminal matter, these are just perks.
You're a lawyer. What's your take on that?
WILLIAMS: First, my take is don't confess to a federal crime on national television. I would advise you not to do that if you're listening.
Yes, these are perks. Company cars are perks. Your gym is a perk. Your parking pass is a perk. You've just got to pay taxes on it when it's income.
There's a little complexity as to the corporate car question because mileage over, when you're just driving for your personal benefit versus driving for work, is taxed a little bit differently. But at the end of the day, you have to pay taxes on them.
And Allen Weisselberg, you're talking about $1.76 million in untaxed income. That is a serious amounting. It is unlawful. It brings liability to the company and the individual and it's serious stuff. And he's downplaying it.
MATTINGLY: No question about it.
David, you were tweeting throughout the -- at some point this week, you know, several DOJ press releases of people that had similar types of instances that were going to jail for very real time.
The former president doesn't really seem that worried, at least not publicly.
You wrote a piece a couple of days ago and have a bit of a different sense of things. Why?
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You were reporting this morning about a small group of individuals who didn't believe that federal laws applied to them?
Now we are talking about a different group of individuals who don't believe that federal laws apply to them. And they're about to discover that they do.
And thank you. I tweeted -- you just go on the DOJ site and you'll find lots of people who, for amounts as little -- I found someone who add as little as $80 and got sentenced to prison time.
So it's a serious matter.
There are a couple of things to say about this. One of the things that I take away, though, is obviously there's going to be more.
It's not true that people who don't pay taxes on their private school tuition are paying taxes on everything else.
And some of the people -- some other people in the Trump Organization went to the same private school as Allen Weisselberg's grandchildren.
So there's this question about what -- you know, is this a warning from New York prosecutors to the Trump Organization.
Look, these methods are criminal. And you'd better start giving up what members of the family have done.
There's another thing that's sort of striking is, . Donald Trump is supposedly worth, according -- he says, $2.4 billion.
So if you go to the Forbes 400 list and look at the other people worth supposedly the same amount of money and you look up their CFOs, who all have very distinguished records, they're not going to risk prison to save $900,000 in taxes over 15 years.
And you realize the Trump Organization operates much more like a chain of crooked dry cleaning stores than it operates like a supposedly multi-billion-dollar business.
I think one of things we're going to discover is just what a small- town - small time, not small town -- big city -- but small-time, cheesy operation the Trump Organization was with these low-grade frauds that are so easy to catch once law enforcement begins to look.
MATTINGLY: So you're looking at pictures right now live at a large crowd gathering before President Trump's rally in Sarasota, Florida, later this afternoon.
Clearly, no shocker here. The former president supporters continue to support the former president. I don't know why that was ever a question based on the last five years.
But to David's point, it was an interesting thing when you actually -- this seems kind of small. It doesn't seem like a really big deal.
But if that's how the company operates and the former president is atop the company, what is the legal risk here for former President Trump?
WILLIAMS: People might be surprised by this, but there may not be legal risk by President Trump because there may have been documents -- for instance, documents put in front of him about faulty tax payments that he has no reason to believe are actually faulty tax payments, right?
Let's put it this way. almost in political terms. If the president ran his company similar to how he governed as president, he doesn't know what's happening at multiple levels down below him.
It's entirely conceivable that you could not get him on criminal charges based on his knowledge at the time.
It can be very hard to charge people. And I think even -- we saw this with Bill Cosby, just a week ago.
Even though the public may know something untoward or unlawful happened, ascribing liability to the person at the top of the chain can be difficult.
Now, we know from the indictment that there are other individuals and executives who were involved in the scheme and also receiving payments. It just may not be Donald Trump.
MATTINGLY: Obviously, there's more to come, which is something somebody who is pretty familiar with the Trump Organization laid out.
Former President Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, weighed in on this. As you know, served prison time for actions he took while working for former President Trump.
I want to play for you his take on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: What you have right now is Allen Weisselberg's head on the chopping block. And do you think that Donald Trump will protect him?
Well, if Allen looks back at what happened to me, the answer is an emphatic no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: What do you think about that?
FRUM: Well, clearly, the purpose of this indictment, done the way it is, is to put pressure on Weisselberg to give up Donald Trump for just the reasons that you said.
Probably there's going to be very little paper. Donald Trump famously destroyed paper. He famously operated in an elusive way.
So the question is, was this a fraud on Donald Trump or did Donald Trump know? Weisselberg will be the witness to that one way or the other, as there are other people in the organization.
So prosecutors are putting him pressure on him to say tell us whether you had permission to do this.
And he will decide, at age -- I believe he's 78 -- does he want to spend the rest of his life in prison to protect family wealth, family interests, or does he want to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.
And that's going to determine his behavior going forward.
MATTINGLY: That's going to be fascinating to watch. So far, he has chosen the former. But there's a lot more to come here, I would surmise, over the course of the next months and years. David Frum, Elliot Williams, thank you guys very much for taking the
time. Appreciate it.
Take a look at this crazy video of a swirling fire on the water being put out by water. We'll explain. I promise, we'll explain. Coming up next.
MATTINGLY: I want you to take a look at some incredible video that's been emerging of what looks like a large eye of fire in the Gulf of Mexico.
I saw this and thought it was some Hollywood creation and couldn't possibly be real. It is very real.
Mexican authorities say the fire burned for more than five hours, fueled by a gas leak from an underwater pipeline, making it look like the gulf itself was on fire. As you can see with your own eyes.
The good news here is that no injuries are reported.
However, Mexico's oil and safety regulator said there was no spill as a result of the leak. And the company says the pipeline has been closed off.
An investigation is under way. We will keep you posted if, for no other reason than to keep showing this amazing video.
Meet 2012 "CNN Hero," Jake Wood, whose organization is now helping to vaccinate Americans.
His nonprofit, Team Rubicon, normally responds -- and you've probably seen them before -- to natural disasters.
But since COVID hit, his group of military veterans has risen to the occasion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE WOOD, CNN HERO: OK, good.
When COVID first broke out, we immediately pivoted our organization to get our volunteers doing work, like supporting food banks, delivering groceries directly to people's doorsteps, setting up COVID testing sites.
And then most recently, supporting millions of vaccinations across the country in all 50 states.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I get your appointment time and last name?
WOOD: Over the course of the last six months, we've supported hundreds of sites across the country.
Doing simple things, like site setup and teardown, patient registration, optimizing patient flow, to help ensure that their doctors get shots in arms so they can focus on what they do best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
WOOD: It's a modern-day medical war-time effort to get doses into the arms of Americans. And so we were really proud we've been able to support nearly two million doses across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: It's an organization that's done great work for years and, obviously, a very agile organization.
To find out more about Team Rubicon's work and to nominate someone you know to be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com.
We'll be right back.