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CNN NEWSROOM

Massive Cyberattack Hits Hundreds Of Businesses; Police Standoff With Heavily Armed Men Ends In 11 Arrests; Twenty-Four Dead, 124 Unaccounted For In High-Rise Condo Disaster; Los Angeles Reports Most Single-Day Cases Since Mid-April; L.A. Official: Fully-Vaccinated People Should Mask Up Indoors; Search & Rescue Paused In Surfside Ahead Of Planned Demolition; Gas Leak Sparks Surreal Underwater Light Show. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 3, 2021 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:23]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A standoff between police and heavily armed men ends with 11 in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can imagine 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung on an interstate highway at two in the morning certainly raises concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as tomorrow the State of Florida will demolish the rest of the collapsed building in Surfside.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It is structurally unsound.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This pandemic is certainly not over. For people who are unvaccinated, their risk is very high right now. This delta variant, that's more contagious than any of the other variants that we've seen thus far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday.

And we begin with news of a massive global ransomware attack that has hit hundreds of businesses, this could impact you. Cybersecurity experts saying that it is the worst they have seen and that hackers deliberately struck on the July 4th Weekend to create maximum chaos and force companies to make even bigger ransom payments.

President Biden has just weighed in saying the U.S. government is still not certain if Russia played a role here, but what appears to be clear at this hour is that this is the same gang of cyber criminals believed to operate out of Eastern Europe or Russia that hit the meat supplier, JBS Foods in the spring.

CNN White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz is traveling with the President in Michigan. So, Arlette, this is a huge test for President Biden and what he does next, if in fact, Russia is to blame in this recent attack.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, these types of security attacks were really a main focal point of President Biden's sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin just last month. Now, what we know so far is that a ransomware attack hit a software vendor called Kaseya.

It provides many products to IT management companies, and cybersecurity experts have said they believe that that same group responsible for that attack against a meat supplier, that that group, which is believed to originate either in Eastern Europe or in Russia, that they were responsible for this attack.

Now the Federal government has not a scribed responsibility to anyone just yet, and President Biden as he traveled here in Michigan, he told reporters he was briefed on this attack while he was on Air Force One making his way over here, and he said that the Federal government does not yet know who is responsible, but he suggested it may not be the Russian government.

Take a listen to what he said to reporters a short while ago in Central Lake, Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, we're not sure who it is. The Director of the Intelligence Community will be giving me a deep dive on what's happened, and I'll know better tomorrow. And if it is, either with a knowledge of and/or a consequence of Russia, then I told Putin, we will respond.

We're not certain. The initial thinking was it was not Russian government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Now, in those comments, the President was referencing his discussion, that face-to-face sit down with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Geneva last month where the President said that he told Putin that if these type of cyberattacks were to continue, that the U.S. would be ready to respond.

Of course, these issues of cybersecurity and cyber threats between the U.S. and Russia are really such a point of contention between the two countries.

Now, as we start to learn more about this ransomware attack that's affecting that software vendor, the U.S. officials have said that they will continue to monitor it, that they're working with the vendor, and also ensuring that those possibly impacted parties are notified as they want to make sure that the impact of this is not as far reaching as perhaps those hackers had hoped.

BROWN: Yes. That's right. Government officials at this hour just got off the phone with one source, they are still trying to piece together all of this information for attribution to see who is responsible for this, but as you pointed out, cyber experts believe it is this criminal gang based out of Russia or Eastern Europe.

Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

And now what started as a traffic stop -- have you heard about this -- escalated into a nine-hour standoff between Police and heavily armed men wearing military style uniforms. This is just quite a story here. Let's bring in CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. He is standing by with the very latest.

Good evening, Evan.

[18:05:11]

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Pam. Yes, there's really a sigh of relief north of Boston tonight as this armed standoff that blocked a major interstate ended peacefully.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COL. CHRISTOPHER MASON, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: We were able to successfully resolve this situation through a combination of negotiation and some tactical maneuvers.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): An hour's long standoff between heavily armed men and police on one of the nation's busiest interstates ended without incident as authorities took 11 people into custody.

Still, many questions are left about what exactly was behind this potentially dangerous Saturday morning just north of Boston.

MASON: They wanted to be heard. They wanted to be -- a variety of not demands, but requests that they just be allowed to leave the area, transit the area without any accountability. And at the end of the day, we couldn't accommodate that.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): Overnight, a Highway Patrol car came upon two vehicles in the breakdown lane on I-95. Police say the heavily armed men wearing tactical gear we're attempting to refuel one of their vehicles. After learning the men were armed, but not carrying firearm licenses, the State Trooper called for backup, some of the men fled into nearby woods.

The standoff began.

MASON: We are currently engaged with the subjects through our hostage negotiation team. We are talking with the subjects -- some that are in the woods, some that are still at the vehicles in the breakdown lane where the original interaction occurred, and we are hopeful that we will be able to resolve this peacefully with them.

We're committed to a negotiation with them, having a conversation --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): Portions of I-95 were closed in both directions for several hours on a busy holiday weekend. Those in nearby homes were told to go into lockdown as police attempted to negotiate with the group.

JAHMAL LATIMER, IDENTIFIED LEADER OF WAKEFIELD STANDOFF: I don't know if you can see this, but he's loading his gun right now.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): The armed group appears to have livestreamed their side of the standoff online. It's unclear if the man filming the incident was one of the 11 arrested.

LATIMER: We are not anti-government. Our nation which our flag is right here has a treaty with your government.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): They appear to belong to a group called Rise of the Moors, which seems to be connected with the Moorish Sovereignty Movement that believes among other things, an 18th Century treaty between the U.S. and Morocco grants them special rights.

In livestreams from the highway, one member insisted they did not break laws and they did not intend to be hostile. Police said the men were passing through the state on their way to attend some sort of training operation.

LATIMER: We're abiding by the peaceful journey laws of the United States Federal courts.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): But Massachusetts officials said the state's laws are clear.

MASON: They did not have gun licenses on them. First of all, Massachusetts does not allow the carrying of a loaded or unloaded firearm on an interstate highway such as this.

You can imagine 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung on an interstate highway at two in the morning certainly raises concerns.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): The men eventually surrendered to police on site without incident where they seized a still undisclosed number of guns.

MASON: 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 a court authorized search warrant, and only then will we know the exact number of firearms that have been seized.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): The vital artery that is I-95 was finally reopened to holiday travelers, but the investigation around the incident is ongoing. It is expected officials will look into this little known group and their motivations.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): So, look, things now safe again and open for travel right there in Boston. But authorities say the men they arrested today will appear in court for the first time on Tuesday, which would be a lot more questions about just what happened last night and this morning, and just what it means for the -- you know, the coming period of time here in the country -- Pam.

BROWN: That's right, especially at a time when the F.B.I. has said that domestic terrorism is such a huge threat in this country. So, clearly we need to learn a lot more about what was going on here in this group.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

Meantime, search crews in Surfside Florida are coming through as much rubble as they can before a potentially major storm makes things even more difficult. Tropical Storm Elsa could impact the area as early as Monday. Officials say they want to tear down what's left at the Champlain Towers South building as soon as possible before the storms winds arrive.

CNN's Brian Todd joins me now from Surfside. So, what is the latest thing on the ground -- Brian.

[18:10:01]

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, we are waiting to hear -- we should hear from officials very soon because they just gathered for a news conference, waiting to hear the timeline for this demolition.

It is the demolition of the remaining part of the Champlain Towers South complex going to take place, maybe as early as tomorrow or will it take place within the next couple of days. We are going to hear that timeline, hopefully very shortly now.

But again, the urgency to demolish that building because the dangers that it presents here, it really has ramped up in the last 36 hours or so because we've gotten some real -- really stark visuals of the building that remains up and the things that are hanging from it.

There are concrete slabs, there's a large concrete column hanging from the side of that building. There are also questions about the stability of that building. There have been sensors that have gone off indicating cracking going on. All of this, as rescue teams are working just a few feet away from it.

Plus, you know, with the arrival of the tropical storm, possibly Monday, you know, again, with the high winds there, they are really concerned about that building still remaining up.

Here is what the Miami Mayor Francis Suarez had to say about all this a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: First responders who are there on the scene, and who are risking their lives, who are underneath a very unstable ground in terms of some of the search efforts below ground and on top of piles that are shifting and moving. That building can come down at any moment.

We have to stop work a couple of days ago or a day and a half ago because it had shifted about six to 12 inches. And so you know, with a looming hurricane, it's more important than ever that a decision to be -- you know, to take down the building be expedited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And again, the Mayor spoke about a looming hurricane, but when it gets to South Florida, it could just be a tropical storm, but still, you know, with 40 mile an hour winds maybe 40 to 60 mile an hour winds. Pamela, we've talked to structural engineers who say that's going to present a lot of problems if that structure remains up.

There's just a ton of debris, kind of an open face of that building, hanging from it, presenting a lot of danger.

BROWN: And we just learned that officials there will be holding a press conference soon to give us updates. We're going to be monitoring that for any new information.

Brian Todd, live for us in Surfside, Florida. Thanks so much.

And coming up for you this evening, as the Delta variant spreads, Los Angeles urges everyone to mask up even if they are vaccinated. The Public Health Director joins me live coming up.

Also ahead, a massive cyberattack hits hundreds of businesses. I'll speak to an expert who says it's the worst ransomware attack the U.S. has ever seen.

And in the Gulf of Mexico, have you seen these incredible images of a so called Eye of Fire that erupted after a gas leak in an underwater pipeline.

But first, new reporting tonight on the length Donald Trump and his allies are willing to go to reverse his election loss in Arizona. CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein is live with us next to discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:05]

BROWN: New details about the Trump White House's scramble to try to overturn the 2020 election results. In the weeks after his defeat, Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, and Arizona G.O.P. Chair Kelli Ward targeted Arizona election officials with a pressure campaign according to the "Arizona Republic." But unlike in Georgia, where the G.O.P. Secretary of State recorded a

call with the President, the key Maricopa County Republican refused to get on the phone with Trump.

CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein joins me now his latest book is "Rock Me on the Water: 1974, The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics." Great to see you, Ron, as always. Why are these latest revelations so significant to you?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you. Well, first of all, Happy Fourth to you and everybody watching.

Look, I think there are two real important conclusions that come out of these revelations in Arizona. One is that we simply do not know all the ways in which Donald Trump used and abused his power as President. You know, it just underscores the need for a more comprehensive understanding of what he did in office and all of the ways in which he may have gone beyond the proper boundaries of the use of presidential power especially given that he may ask the country to restore it to him again in a little over three years.

I was talking to our colleague, John Dean a couple weeks ago for a story I was writing, and he noted that when Nixon left office, we had so much of a better idea of everything that had happened than we do under Trump.

I had the same feeling when the revelations came out about the subpoenaing of communications records for not only journalists, but Members of Congress. We just don't know. As Donald Rumsfeld who passed this week might have said, there are known unknowns.

And the other point real quickly, this really underscores the risk in what so many Republicans in states are trying to do increasing political control over officials with election oversight. The actions by the Republican State Chair in Arizona shows the risk in what's going on in terms of these red states trying to increase the leverage of elected officials, Republican legislators to influence the decisions of people who are supervising our elections.

BROWN: Yes, it sort of gives the game away, and you make an important point there because people might hear about this segment or will be watching around the globe, well, this happened in the past, you know, I'm sick of Donald Trump and so forth. But here's the thing, it has to do with the future. It has to do with the future elections. It has to do with democracy and the core of it. Let's listen to what Arizona Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs said about the calls last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: We knew this was happening in Georgia. We suspected there were some attempts to undermine the election here and now, we have it clearly in tapes and, you know, Arizona law makes it clear that interfering in election is against the law and that is exactly what this appears to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [20:20:13]

BROWN: So, keep in mind, as we know, Georgia has opened this criminal investigation into Trump's election scheme here, and it's also worth noting, this is different, but it's still under the same umbrella. Michigan's G.O.P.-controlled Senate recommended the Attorney General and Michigan investigate people who pushed false claims to raise money or publicity for their own ends.

Donald Trump raised millions of dollars pushing baseless claims about the election. Should there be a Federal probe over all of these election shenanigans or protections put in place to prevent this in the future?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the answer really is both. I mean, you know, I think there are a lot of people who are uneasy. As I said, there's just so much we don't know, particularly about the post-election period. It is coming out episodically.

The January 6th special committee, you know, Select Committee in the House may get at some of this, but there does need to be a more full accounting, not only because of the question of whether Trump will try to obtain these powers again, but also, because as you know, we have discussed many times, this big lie about election fraud is becoming the basis for what is I think, without question, the most broad reaching attempt to rollback Americans right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

And these are laws passing in red state after red state, as I've written on a completely party line basis, with virtually every Democrat voting no, every Republican voting yes. And really the only lever Democrats have -- the other big thing that happened, of course, in the last few days was the Supreme Court made clear the six Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, further vitiated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act after eviscerating the preclearance provisions. So, the courts are not going to be an answer.

The one lever Democrats have to try to push back on this is their control of Congress and their ability to set a national floor of voting rights and also as members have introduced lately, more protections for election officials. But none of that can happen unless the Senate Democrats agree to change the rules to allow that to pass with 51 votes.

BROWN: Right. The onus right now is on Congress to do something. But look, when you look at Donald Trump and where he is now all these months after the election, there are sizable crowds that have been gathering there at the speeches. There are crowds gathering tonight. Why has nothing seemed to diminish Trump's appeal with the base, not even a historic loss?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, because he is as much a demand side phenomenon as a supply side phenomenon. And by that, I mean, there is a substantial portion of the Republican Coalition, maybe two-thirds to three- quarters that feel as if the America they know is being irrevocably transformed by demographic and cultural change, and they demand a voice.

You know, Trump, crystallized that feeling. He expressed it in the most harsh, belligerent, openly racist terms that we have seen from a national figure in Georgia since George Wallace in 1968, but he didn't create it, and there is that demand in the Republican Party.

And so, I think -- you know, he continues to feed on that. If he doesn't run, you'd see a number of Republicans trying ways -- Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton -- to try to speak, to scratch that same itch among a big portion of the Republican base, which by the way, has made them very receptive to these anti-small "D" democratic maneuvers in the states.

And so this is just the reality. That is I think, the driving engine of the Republican Coalition at this point. Trump is responding to and if he is not in, there will be somebody else articulating those themes, maybe not quite as personally belligerent away, but this is a part of our politics now and it is not going away.

BROWN: All right, Ron Brownstein, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much for coming on. Happy Fourth to you

BROWNSTEIN: Happy Fourth, Pam.

BROWN: Well, the Delta variant is quickly spreading across California making up more than a third of the new cases and a recent spike has Los Angeles urging everyone there to wear masks. Coming up, I'll speak to LA County's Public Health Director, Barbara Ferrer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:36]

BROWN: New concerns tonight over the delta variant, the highly transmissible coronavirus strain that's been detected in at least 98 countries, and according to the C.D.C., likely the driving factor behind the 10 percent spike and new U.S. cases this week.

Despite nearly 157 million Americans being fully vaccinated, infection experts warn this variant will continue to feed off the people who haven't gotten their shots. Here is what Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University told me Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE IN THE DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, the more unvaccinated people are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply. When it does, it mutates and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road. So, unvaccinated people are potential variant factories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And as far as herd immunity goes, health officials say, don't count on it at least anytime soon, so long as the strain continues to rapidly spread. And California is one of 18 states with at least half its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but its most populous city and county could be flirting with another wave of infections.

This week, Los Angeles reported its most new cases in a single day since mid-April and the state's positivity rate has doubled in recent weeks.

[18:30:07]

BROWN: Now, public health officials there are urging people to mask up if they're in public places, indoors even if they're fully vaccinated. Barbara Farrar, Ferrer rather, joins me now. She is L.A. County's Public Health Director. Thank you so much for joining us, Barbara.

I want you to listen to what CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner said earlier today about mask wearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You shouldn't be concerned at all. My wife and I walked through a small antique store with plenty of people around today. We weren't wearing masks. We're a fully vaccinated. I am not worried about contracting this virus. You can shed your mask if you are vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So Dr. Reiner says no mask if you're fully vaccinated. The CDC says the same thing. Why do you recommend fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors?

BARBARA FERRER, DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Yes. Thank you so much, Pamela, for having me. And obviously, we agree both with CDC and lots of the medical experts across the country that are noting how much protection this vaccine gives a fully vaccinated people. I do think you have to take into account local situations and I want to point out that both the federal governments and many state governments have actually asked fully vaccinated people to keep their masks on and other settings and we all comply with that.

We all wear our masks whenever we're on any public transit. We wear our masks regardless of vaccination status when we're in health care facilities. We wear our masks when we're at schools in California.

So there are lots of settings where even though we know that the vaccines provide powerful protection to those who are vaccinated, the slight risk that a vaccinated person could shed enough virus to infect somebody else, coupled with just creating less and less risk in those settings where there are many unvaccinated people makes it a prudent tool that I think has its place in this full reopening that we've done in L.A. County.

I want to point out since June 15, we've almost tripled the number of new cases here in L.A. County as more and more of our public health restrictions have disappeared, including the requirement to wear a face covering. Now we are not requiring people who are vaccinated to wear those face coverings indoors.

We're just made a strong recommendation if you're indoors, in a setting where you don't know everybody else's vaccination status. And in fact, there may be unvaccinated people around for security for others and for safety for others. It is best at this point to prevent another surge here in L.A. County by having everyone in those settings where it could be crowded and you're indoors often with poor ventilation to keep those face coverings on.

BROWN: So then do you think the CDC loosened its mask rolls too soon?

FERRER: I think the CDC has been very clear that local jurisdictions need to adopt recommendations and requirements based on local conditions. And I think for all of us, none of us want unvaccinated children under the age of 12 to be at increased risk as well.

Many folks may not know, L.A. County has more than 10 million people. While we've done a great job getting folks vaccinated, 68 percent of our population 16 plus, has received at least one dose of the vaccine, 59 percent of people 16 and over are fully vaccinated. That leaves us with 4 million people that are not yet vaccinated, including 1.3 million children under the age of 12.

So as we go about our full reopening, I think it is prudent to make sure we're still taking care of unvaccinated people, be those adults who are not yet comfortable getting vaccinated or may not be able to get vaccinated because of medical conditions or they're just young children who are not eligible to get vaccinated yet.

BROWN: So with the numbers you just laid out there how much of it, vaccine hesitancy represents those numbers versus there's just so many people in California, so many people to get vaccinated and that's a big factor here.

FERRER: I think it's a little bit of both. Improving access to vaccines has been a constant theme here in L.A. County. We have 765 permanent vaccination sites. This past week, we had 270 mobile teams that were out doing pop up sites in various communities bringing vaccines to where people are living and working. But that work of improving access obviously needs to continue.

We do also talk to lots of people who still have questions about the vaccine safety.

[18:35:01]

They have questions about efficacy. They hear a lot of false information on social media that we need to counter. And we need to be able to give people time to get good information to be able to feel like they have an opportunity to get all of their questions answered, so they too will feel comfortable doing what so many other people have already done and come in and get that vaccine.

BROWN: All right. Barbara Ferrer from the L.A. County Health Department, thanks so much. And we have some breaking news out of Surfside, Florida. Authorities

just announced that they will suspend the search and rescue mission ahead of a planned demolition of the building.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: We're continuing to move forward with due diligence and with setting a specific timeline for the demolition. We don't have that for you yet.

Search and rescue does have to pause temporarily while the demolition preparation is underway and that there is threat to the standing building that is posed to the first responders as we've told (inaudible) includes activities like drilling into columns in the unsafe structure.

So it has been determined by our engineers and our fire department in constant communication with the demolition team as the process is underway that we need to put a temporary pause and we are continuing to receive updates about the condition of the standing structure and we will begin the search and rescue once again on any sections of the pile that are safe to access as soon as we're cleared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Be sure to stay with CNN. The news conference is ongoing and we'll bring you the very latest. Also ahead terrifying scene out of Japan when a giant mudslide came crashing into a city. That story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:55]

BROWN: Turning to Japan where two people are now confirmed dead and at least 20 others are missing after a massive and sudden mudslide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: This is the shocking moment, a wall of mud and water swept through a popular coastal resort town southwest of Tokyo. It damaged or destroyed as many as 300 homes. Emergency crews search for hours for survivors but suspended the search when darkness fell.

Japan's Pacific Coast has been experiencing torrential rains for days. It is expected to continue until at least Tuesday. Disaster officials are warning people that more mudslides could happen anytime.

And turning now to New York where a grand jury indicted the Trump Organization and its CFO. Allen Weisselberg was brought into court in handcuffs Thursday and hit with 15 felony charges over an alleged tax fraud scheme that spanned 15 years. But legal experts are split on where this case may be heading and just how worried other Trump Organization officials should be.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg joins me now with more on this. So Dave, good to see you. Happy Fourth. Do you think that this is just the tip of the iceberg or is this the full extent of the charges in your view?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, good evening, Pamela. I think this is the tip of the iceberg. I think we're in the early innings here. Because prosecutors want to get to the big fish and that is Donald Trump, one way to do it is to go to the guy who is in the room when it happened, Allen Weisselberg. But how do you get Weisselberg to flip on Trump, you got to charge him with a crime because he wasn't going to flip on him if it was just promises or please. It was going to be a pair of handcuffs that could change his behavior.

Now, it was easy for Weisselberg thumbed his nose at state prosecutors when he was a free man. But now he's got the feeling of that cold, unyielding pair of handcuffs around his wrist. And he better make that decision soon, because in prosecutor terms, the first in is the first to win. The best deal goes to the person who clips first. And to me the issue is whether Weisselberg flips before or after Trump throws him overboard like Trump did to Michael Cohen. So the big question is when, I think, not if Weisselberg flips.

BROWN: And Weisselberg is said to be intensely loyal to Trump. Obviously he hasn't been giving prosecutors what they wanted. They've charged him. They're hoping for a plea deal. But what happens next for prosecutors if Weisselberg doesn't intend to strike a plea deal?

ARONBERG: I think the prosecutors will look at Weisselberg's family and they'll continue to squeeze Weisselberg in other ways because they already apparently gave a deal to Jeff McConney. The comptroller who works directly for Weisselberg. McConney appear before the grand jury and I think that's why you saw a level of detail in the indictment that a lot of people didn't expect, because McConney in testifying before the grand jury had to be given immunity. So now you've got a cooperating witness, someone who works directly for Weisselberg.

So Weisselberg is going to face a lot of problems if he doesn't flip. And I think that is inevitable, because Weisselberg is 73 years old. He doesn't want to spend five years or more in state prison. And what's to say that Trump will continue to support Weisselberg, because according to Michael Cohen, Trump promised Cohen that he would support him throughout the whole process. But as the legal bills started piling up, those promises went away.

So using a metaphor, it's kill or be killed time. Weisselberg has to decide because if he doesn't cooperate and then Trump is charged anyways, Trump is certainly going to point the finger at Weisselberg.

BROWN: What do you say to what the attorneys for the Trump Organization have contended? Say, look, this is about mistakes on Weisselberg's personal tax returns. This is about politics. There are other firms that have done far worse. What do you say to that? ARONBERG: Pamela, when I listen to that, to me, those sounded a lot

like admissions. I mean, if I were their lawyers, I'd say stop talking.

[18:45:02]

Because you'll notice they're not denying that this stuff occurred. They're saying, well, this is just small ball. It's small potatoes. But I've never heard of a company perk of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to tuition for a CFO's grandchildren. And if it was done, then those companies would surely pay taxes on it.

I mean, you could do whatever you want for fringe benefits, but you got to pay taxes on it. And I know they're talking about the car, because the car is in a little bit of a gray area. But the car is not the extent of all this. You got car, rental, tuition, you got Christmas bonuses, cash and it's an interesting defense by saying, well, look, it's all a witch hunt.

But I think what that did, Pamela, was lower the expectations for a lot of people to where we were surprised that this is a scheme that was more deliberate and longer and much bigger than anticipated, and importantly, showed a level of intent we didn't expect. Because the Trump Organization, according to the indictment, had two separate sets of books. One for the IRS and one internally that tracked the hidden compensation given to Weisselberg so they could deduct it from his salary.

BROWN: All right. Dave Aronberg, thank you so much for joining us on this Saturday.

ARONBERG: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: And just two weeks from the Tokyo games, thank you, one American athlete may miss the chance of a lifetime after testing positive for marijuana. Not exactly a performance enhancing kind of drug. Are the rules of a date? We're going to ask a sports analyst, Christine Brennan next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:50:57]

BROWN: We are less than three weeks away from the Summer Games in Tokyo and there are a lot of Olympic stories in the news right now. I'm going to bring in CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan to run through some of them with me. Hi, Christine. Happy Fourth to you.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: So let's talk about this story. It's been a real talker among people. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced yesterday that sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana. She has been suspended from the U.S. Olympic team. Richardson accepted a one month suspension that could still clear her to compete in Tokyo if she is named to the team. What are the odds of that, Christine? BRENNAN: I think everyone in the country, Pamela, is rooting for that

to happen, because this is an athlete who has been honest and truthful and said she made a mistake. She knew the role. She wasn't supposed to be ingesting marijuana, smoking marijuana, whatever she was doing while she was competing. She did it. She owned up to it.

And (inaudible) she has, there is such a sense, overwhelming sense in the country of how wrong this seems, what a sports tragedy this is and everyone would love to see her get that chance. But it would be in the relay the four by 100 relay. It wouldn't be in the 100 meters which she won a couple of weeks ago in Eugene, Oregon at the Olympic trials and was so brilliant. And it's such a new fresh face, 21 years old. She can't do that because that victory was erased, that was negated when she tested positive for marijuana.

BROWN: So she told NBC's Today show that she uses marijuana to cope with the unexpected death of her mother, which she learned about from a reporter during an interview. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON, SPRINTER: Apologize for the fact that I need to know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time. But sitting here, I'll just say don't judge me because I am human. I mean, I'm you. I just happen to run a little faster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Should we give athletes a little grace with something like this. As she says, these people aren't just athletes, they're also human beings. After I lost my mother, I had significant mental health issues that I had to deal with and should there be more grace?

BRENNAN: It's a great point. The mental health conversation that Naomi Osaka started a month or so ago, I think actually comes into play here, Pamela. If U.S.A. track and field had a resource for her or other athletes, if they knew that they could call someone, so she has this - here's this devastating news about her biological mother and she's also at the most important event of her life, the Olympic trials.

And as she said, she was so emotional. She was so devastated that she chose marijuana. If she could have chosen a phone call and had someone on the other end of the line saying, hey, let me talk you through this. Let me come over.

You come here. Being on site, which is something, again, a conversation that a national or international conversation we started because of Naomi Osaka and her conversation with all of us through Instagram at the French Open, Michael Phelps in the Olympic World in the United States as brought this up. Others have talked about it as well.

It's a shame that there wasn't that resource for her or if there was that resource she didn't know to make that phone call or text or get in touch with that person. It seems to me that's something that every Olympic athletes should have at their fingertips and it's certainly something moving (inaudible) the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and all of the committees around the world should be looking at and dealing with. This is a very, very big issue right now, not only in the United States but, of course, around the world.

BROWN: It certainly is. Christine Brennan, thank you so much.

And we're following new developments in Surfside, Florida. The search of the collapsed condo site is now suspended. We're going to have a live report.

[18:55:00]

But first it looks like an optical illusion or a special effect but this scene is very real. We're going to explain the eye of fire in the Gulf of Mexico up next.

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[18:59:50]

BROWN: We have some incredible video to share with you tonight of what has been called an eye of fire and you can see why. Just look at the scene from the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula.

[19:00:02]

Authorities say an underwater gas leak near an oil platform sparked a fire that burned for more than five hours. Wow.