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Officials: Demolition At Condo Could Happen Soon, Ahead Of Tropical Storm Elsa; As America Celebrates July 4th, COVID Concerns Remain; Trump Acknowledges Facts Of Case Against His Namesake Company; Trump CFO Indicted On 15 Felony Counts In Alleged Tax Scheme; Pope Francis Recovering After Scheduled Colon Surgery; Taiwan Accuses China Of Psychological Warfare; Americans Finally Venture Out After A Year Of Lockdown. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 4, 2021 - 18:00   ET

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


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[18:00:00]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Any minute now in Surfside, Florida, we're going to get an update from that horrific scene of that condo building that collapses, killing at least 24 and leaving more than 120 others still unaccounted for. Right now, the plan by engineers is to demolish with explosives what is left standing of the condo towers because it is unstable and a tropical storm is bearing down. It's every bit a race against time.

The tropical storm called Elsa has already taken a death toll as it heads toward the U.S. from the Caribbean. And CNN's Karen Maginnis is at the scene in Weather Center for us. CNN's Brian Todd is in Surfside, Florida.

Karen, we'll start with you because there are so many questions about where that tropical storm is right now and how quickly it could get potentially to those affected residents in Surfside, Florida.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Jim, a couple of interesting developments, and that is we looked at the last update from the National Hurricane Center, not a lot changed. It's still has 60 miles an hour winds, it's still moving to the northwest at 14 miles an hour, which is slower than it had been moving over the last several days. And you know the drill, when it slows down, that usually means it's gaining intensity.

Well, in this particular situation, it's still interacting with land masses between Jamaica and Cuba, the Cayman Islands. This is where we're seeing most of the precipitations, five inches of rain being reported in some portions of Jamaica. But the big headline across the mainland United States is that we've got tropical storm watches and storage surge watches out that includes Southwest Florida all the way up towards Ft. Myers and around the Tampa Bay area.

That is significant news. It tells us that the computer models, which have been in fairly good agreement that this was going to edge more towards the west coast of Florida, is in fairly good agreement. And that's why they have issued those watches, a storm surge as well as the tropical storm watches.

Now, as far as the east coast of Florida, still the impacts will be felt, and, yes, the impact will be felt across Surfside as well. The weather will begin to deteriorate as we go into Monday as well as into Tuesday. It's between those two days that I'll think you'll see most in the way of significant thunderstorms, could produce some very heavy downpours, lots of lightning, we could see isolated tornados. But this is what the first responders and the people who are there at that side are having to deal with.

So this is going to make its way, Tropical Storm Elsa is going to make it way through the Florida Keys and then out over the Gulf of Mexico waters. The water is very warm here so you would expect that it might strengthen. And indeed there is some suggestion that this could indeed reach a little bit higher in the tropical storm category, and then it looks like by about Wednesday.

Now, we're looking three days out the impact across the Tampa Bay area. Now, not just there but all the way down the coast to Cape Coral, Bonita Beach, this is where we're looking at perhaps storm surge of one to three feet depending on the tides. We're also looking at rainfall between two to four inches, some isolated heavier amounts.

All right, I'm pointing my finger at Surfside right here along the southeastern coast of Florida. There you can see going into Monday into Tuesday definitely an uptick as far as the volume of precipitation and we'll see bands of potentially heavy rainfall. This is not in direct association with Elsa, but certainly is some of the outer activity associated with that. But we'll keep you updated. Go to cnn.com for more updates. Jim, back to you.

ACOSTA: All right, thank you Karen. And now to Brian Todd in Surfside. Brian, any updates on the demolition process? A lot of folks in that area, as you know, are anxiously awaiting any updates as to when that might take place.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. And we should get word on that. In the next few minutes, they're going to hold a news conference here with the Miami-Dade mayor and some other local officials to discuss an update on the timetable. They do say that they do not -- they did say earlier that they did not have a specific timetable.

We are getting indications though from documents that we've gotten from the condo association board of directors at the Champlain East Tower. They believe it could be early evening sometime. That's what they're kind of advising the residence, but even they say that they are not sure yet. They say that they will get alerted by officials as to when this will come down. And they have advised their residents to evacuate before that happens.

But as for a specific time, most indications are, Jim, that it's going to be early evening. Because I can show you some video that we took -- my team and I, we got a really advantage point over the rubble, over the compromised structure earlier today.

You could see technicians underneath the building getting it ready for demolition. We know that they've been drilling holes, they've been putting dynamite in certain places to get this building ready to be demolished and just kind of prepping the ground work all around these things.

The Miami-Dade Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, has said they're trying to get it to come down basically straight.

[18:05:03]

Other officials have said they may push it a little bit to the west when it comes down so that they do not compromise the rubble that's in place where they believe some of the victims are.

Interestingly, they believed that this building being up right as it is has compromised their ability to possibly get to some of the victims, Jim, so that's why they're so eager to bring it down.

ACOSTA: All right. Brian Todd, we know you'll stay on top of it. Karen Maginnis, thanks for tracking the storm for us. We appreciate both of you.

And we in this country have through a lot this past year-and-half. That's probably an understatement. But today, we celebrate not only our nation's independence but also our new cautious freedom from lockdowns and wearing masks in most places.

And just under an hour, we'll hope to have us join by Dana Bash, Don Lemon, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for an evening of fireworks and star-studded performances. It's going to be a great night. And look who decided to join us for a preview, CNN's Don Lemon is in New York, our Dana Bash is in the nation's capital here.

Guys, did you run this by CNN management that Don Lemon and Dana Bash will be together hosting this program at the same time? I can't believe we got that approved but great to see both of you on this 4th of July. Happy 4th of July. Don, this year, as you know, was especially tough on New Yorkers. I'm sure they're ready to get out and party tonight.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: That is the understatement of the century, Jim. Everyone is ready to get out and party. Everyone is ready to be festive. And you know what since that -- since we haven't had a chance to be together, to love each other, to celebrate, to drink, eat, drink and be merry, what were going to do is, Dana and I are going to reintroduce America to America. We are going to take you around the country, right, Dana? 18 different fireworks shows and celebrations plus more, a lot in store.

I really think, Dana, that New York City has something up its sleeve tonight for the fireworks. I think this is going to be the most spectacular fireworks display you have ever seen. I don't know. What do you think? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know Jim, according to the D.C. folks, they say the D.C. fireworks display is going to be the biggest in the country that you and I are going to see here in Washington. But I definitely think that New York is going to try to outdo D.C., which will be fun to watch --

ACOSTA: They always try.

BASH: -- because it just means more fireworks for all of us.

ACOSTA: That's right. Yes. And I'll get the sense --

LEMON: Don't forget about Philadelphia, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Dallas --

ACOSTA: Yes.

BASH: Right.

LEMON: -- I think everywhere. I think everyone is going to -- Nashville is going to have the biggest fireworks display in its history. And it's all going to be timed to the marine bands and orchestras it's really going to be amazing. So I think, Jim, you're absolutely right. Let's celebrate, this is a time to celebrate and be happy and get to know each other again.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And, Dana, I mean what should people for tonight? Any surprises? We saw you're with the Beach Boys earlier. I'm guessing Don has got some live guests and some big name celebrities besides himself planned for tonight. What can you tell us?

BASH: I mean, that's obviously true. Don Lemon is the biggest celebrity on this. But we're going to have such great music, really great bands that people are going to be able to watch CNN and rock out to. And, you know, it's always terrific to hear live music, to hear performances from our favorite musicians, the hits that we could sing along too, but especially now since it's been so long since we have been able to experience that.

And even if you are not in a city where there's a fantastic musical performance, you can have a front row seat right in your home watching television. We have -- I mean gosh, you mentioned Brad -- excuse me, Nashville, Don. Brad Paisley is going to be having a huge concert with

LEMON: REO Speedwagon, Bill Ray Cyrus, Brad Paisley.

BASH: Exactly, with lots and lots of people. One of my favorites that I'm looking forward to is Susanna Hoffs, the lead singer of the Bangles.

ACOSTA: Oh yes.

BASH: Wait until you see the performance that we have ready for you. It is going to blow you away.

ACOSTA: I feel like I'm back at the neighborhood pool in the 1980s. LEMON: Wait until you see Billy Ray Cyrus. I mean, Billy Ray Cyrus is going to be amazing. Bebe Rexha, is amazing. There's going to be Ne- Yo, Nelly. I mean, we have so many different people that are going to be on tonight. You can't even really named all of them.

But guess what, you can watch on your tablets, you can watch it on your iPad, you can watch it on your phone, you can watch it on your laptop, and you can watch in on your television even if you're out partying, because if you don't want to miss it, CNN is the place to be. We're going to go, Jim, from 7:00 until 3:00 in the morning.

ACOSTA: Wow.

LEMON: So you know, tune into CNN. Sit on your couch. Enjoy it. We got it all for you.

ACOSTA: You certainly do. And, Dana, I don't know about you, the thing I'm most curious about, we've seen how Don Lemon can be New Year's Eve.

[18:10:01]

I think the question is, can Don behave himself on America's birthday?

LEMON: I brought with me some water.

BASH: Let's hope not.

ACOSTA: That's question on it.

LEMON: I can't. You know, I'm going to tell you, honestly I'm going to have a cocktail or two live on television. I'm not going to lie. 'mI totally going a cocktail or two.

BASH: You know what I have to say --

LEMON: I'm going to enjoy --

ACOSTA: I think you should.

LEMON: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: In order to toast our brethren in France, the French, of course, helped the United States with the revolution. We all remember, we all know our American history. So I think in honor of the French, we need to pop some champagne.

ACOSTA: Sounds good to me, all right.

LEMON: We need to have some bubbly. As we say. Hey, Jim, before you go. I just want you to know, Dana and I will not be wearing this. This is -- because it's so hot out right now, once the sun goes down, we have wardrobe changes for you. So get ready for a fashion show as well.

ACOSTA: Don, that is what they call a tease. He knows what he's doing over here. Don Lemon, Dana Bash, great to see both of you. Happy 4th of July.

BASH: You too.

ACOSTA: And hope you'll have a great night.

BASH: Happy 4th.

ACOSTA: We'll all be watching. Thanks so much. And don't go anywhere because the star-studded celebration of July 4th begins right here on CNN at the top of the hour. And as we going to break here's a special July 4th from our men and women in uniform.

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CAPT. ERIC ANDUZE, COMMANDING OFFICER, THEODORE ROOSEVELT: I'm Captain Eric Anduze, Commanding Officer at USS Theodore Roosevelt. On behalf of the entire big stick family, happy 4th of July. We are Theodore.

BENNETT CHRISTMAN, COMMANDER, USS NEW HAMPSHIRE: I am Commander Bennett Cristman, Commanding Officer of the USS New Hampshire located here in Norfolk, Virginia. My crew and I would like to wish everyone here in the United States and around the globe a safe and happy 4th of July. Happy Independence Day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[18:15:00]

ACOSTA: After a year of life behind a mask and coronavirus lockdowns, this is a 4th of July worth celebrating. And that's exactly what millions of Americans are doing right now across the country. From backyard barbecues to big fireworks displays, we are reveling in a largely reopened America.

But how safe are we? Only 20 states have reached the Biden administration's goal to partially vaccinate at least 70 percent of adults by today and the highly contagious delta variant poses a serious threat to those who are stubbornly refusing to get a shot. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says, for that very reason, you may still want to put on a mask. Let's listen.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you put yourself in an environment in which you have a high level of viral dynamics and a very low level of vaccine, you might want to go the extra step and say when I'm in that area, with as a considerably degree of viral circulation, I might want to go the extra mile to be cautious enough to make sure that I get the extra added level of protection even though the vaccines themselves are highly effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: And joining me now is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery of George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, great to see you. Where do you think it's safe to go without a mask if you are vaccinated and where should we still wear them if we've been vaccinated? I think these questions are now coming back and people are grappling with them.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Happy 4th of July, Jim. I think that if you're vaccinated, it's safe to go anywhere. If you have an underlying condition that maybe causes you to worry about your immune system. Perhaps you've been treated for cancer recently, perhaps you're on a disease modifying agent for something like multiple sclerosis, yes, then I think you should still wear a mask even if you've been vaccinated when you're out in public.

But for the vast majority of Americans who have been vaccinated, you can wade into a crowd with a lot of confidence that you will not get sick. The vaccines that we are using in this country work better than we could have possibly hoped for. And you did not need to wear a mask.

Now, you can wear a mask and certainly if you're around people that you think might be vulnerable and you want to sort of help to protect them, then go ahead and put a mask on.

ACOSTA: I'm so glad you're saying this, because this is a question going through a lot of people's mind, including my own. So if you are healthy, and you are vaccinated, and you are not in an at-risk group and you're in an area with really not much virus present and so on, it's fine, you're okay without that mask?

REINER: Absolutely. So, tonight, my wife and I will go down and watch the fireworks on the mall and I won't have a mask on. And I'll feel very confident that even if there are a lot of folks around that I will not get sick. And I want you to feel that way, and I want everyone to know that if you've been vaccinated, you can do that.

Now, if you've not been vaccinated, you can still get this virus. The delta variant is much more contagious than the earlier strains that have circulated in this country and you can still die from this virus. And you must wear a mask when you go out.

ACOSTA: And the Biden administration is missing this goal that it had for having people vaccinated by July 4th. This new polling from the Washington Post and ABC shows that nearly three in ten Americans say they're not likely to get the vaccine, and 20 percent saying they definitely will not.

[18:20:00]

That compares with 24 percent who said no to the vaccine in April. What does this mean for getting everybody to that point of what they call heard immunity, which means, really, just getting the country safe?

REINER: Well, first of all, it means that everyone else needs to be vaccinated. Everyone else in the country needs to be vaccinated and now is the time to do it. And I just want to stress to people that this is the ticket to get your life back. If you haven't been vaccinated, this is the get out of jail free card.

There is some data that suggests that even people who right now say they will not get vaccinated, if we have a full approval for one of the vaccine, a full FDA approval, some of those people will then consider getting vaccinated. So I think once Moderna or the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine or the J&J vaccine is fully approved by the FDA, and we're hoping that happens sometime in this summer, more of the sort of the vaccine hesitant of folks will go ahead and get vaccinated.

ACOSTA: Yes. And right now, with the delta variant spreading around, I mean, that is even an bigger incentive for people right, to get vaccine if they haven't vaccinated yet, because this one is so much more dangerous, this variant.

The poll also showed that 86 percent of Democrats have received at least one shot of the vaccine compared with 45 percent of Republicans. How do you think we fix this? I mean, do we need to dig up photos of -- I mean, I presume somebody took pictures of Donald Trump getting his COVID vaccine when he did that in secret before leaving the White House. I mean, what is it going to take?

REINER: Yes. Well, what it's going to take is for the 100 Republican legislators in Congress who have refused to disclose their vaccine status to tell their constituents that they indeed have been vaccinated, because, virtually, all of them have been vaccinated. They just won't tell their constituents.

I think need we need to reach out to people in different ways. You know, I'd like to see a vaccination event at NASCAR races. I'd like to see Nashville and country music really reaching out to people, because it's those parts of the country, the south, the southwest, up through the Midwest, where we're starting to see surges.

You know, in Florida, currently, Florida is averaging about 2,200 new COVID-19 cases per day. That's about 17 percent. All the cases in the United States are coming out of Florida. And we're seeing that the same thing in parts of the Ozarks and down into Arkansas and Louisiana.

So we need to reach people in different ways. We don't need to shame them. We need to convince them. We need to educate them. And -- but we need people who are trusted in these parts of the country to do that, to reach out because people will continue to die until we vaccinate everybody.

ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, once again, as always with great advice and encouraging people to get out there and get vaccinated, because this is not over yet, as long as we have so many people who are unvaccinated at this point. Thank you, Dr. Reiner so much.

In the meantime, you may want to check your freezer. Tyson Foods is recalling nearly 8.5 million pounds of frozen ready-to-eat chicken products. The USDA says, they may be contaminated with listeria. That's a bacteria, which can cause a food borne-illness. The USDA says at least two people fell ill last month after eating chicken products.

The recalled goods we're produced between December of last year and this April. And they have this number on their bags. It is EST. P- 7089. You can see it on screen there. Please go check if you have Tyson chicken products in your refrigerator. You need to check that out.

And coming up, former President Trump made some interesting comments about the felony charges the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer are facing. What he said and what it means for the case, next. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[18:25:00]

ACOSTA: Former President Trump was back on the campaign trail holding a rally in Florida last night, but among the many litany of lies, he may have let slip accidental truths. Trump set out to defend his namesake company and its CFO from a slew of charges. But in the process, he seemed to confirm exactly what prosecutors alleged.

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DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They go after good hard working people for not paying taxes on a company car. Company car, you didn't pay tax on the car, or a company apartment. You used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is. And you didn't have to pay tax, or education for your grandchildren. I don't even know. Do you have to put this --does anybody know the answer to that stuff?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And a reminder to our viewers, this is the same Donald Trump who said this in 2016. I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do maybe in the history of the world.

Joining me now, former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, thanks so much for being with us. Happy 4th of July. Most lawyers would advise their clients to not talk about charges related to an organization that bears their name. What's your reaction to these comments?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jim, you're exactly right. It's an absolute nightmare for the lawyers of the Trump Organization, because not only are the principles of the Trump Organization, who, by the way, are the Trump Organization as far as what they're saying and what they do, that's how a company gets charged.

[18:30:11]

They're out there not just denigrating the cases of political prosecution and all of that, but they're saying this is no big deal. And that not only has very little jury appeal. Juries do not like rich tax cheats. But it actually says that the people who are running this company making the decisions for the company about this tax fraud scheme don't think it's a big deal, don't think it should be illegal.

So it's really substantively problematic for the Trump Organization as a legal matter, so I think the lawyers were very, very unhappy with all of these comments.

ACOSTA: Right. And prosecutors say Weisselberg evaded taxes on more than $1.7 million of income. Donald Trump Jr. crunched the numbers on FOX and concluded it's just small potatoes in the way he described it. Let's watch.

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DONALD TRUMP JR., TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VP: They're saying $1.7 million over 15 years. But it's not $1.7 million. That's income. The taxable portion of that to New York state is 8 percent. That's $136,000 over 16 years. That's 10 grand a year.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: What do you make of that, Jennifer?

RODGERS: Well, he's actually wrong on the legal basis for that. They charged this case in a really interesting way, a really ingenious way actually, because they charged not just the portion of the tax fraud that was New York state tax fraud, which is about 8 percent of income, they charged the IRS tax fraud as well, the federal tax fraud and the city tax fraud because they named the IRS and the city and the state all as victims here.

So you get to consider all of that amount when you're talking about the actual liability here. So it's a lot more than Don Junior suggests.

ACOSTA: And we're hearing a lot about this being unusual or unprecedented to prosecute this type of case or this amount of unpaid taxes. Is that a relevant point?

RODGERS: Well, it's interesting. I'm not sure it's a relevant point even if it were true, but it turns out it's not true. When this indictment dropped, it turned out far more than just about fringe benefits. Fringe benefits are about small things like if your job gives you a computer or a phone, you know, something small. This is actual compensation.

This is a matter of them taking the compensation due to senior executives and cutting it into portions, the portions that they were going to pay taxes on and the portions that they were going to hand over under the table and not pay taxes on. So this is a real tax evasion scheme. It's not a fringe benefit scheme. So I think that term is misleading and a lot of people think as a result that it's much slower and it's much less important than it really is.

ACOSTA: All right, it's going to be fascinating case, watching this unfold.

Jennifer Rodgers, thanks so much for that expertise. We appreciate you coming on. Thanks so much.

RODGERS: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Right now 84-year-old Pope Francis is in the hospital for a planned colon surgery. We'll bring you an update on his health live from outside the hospital, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[18:37:08]

ACOSTA: We've got some breaking news for you out of Rome where Pope Francis underwent surgery today.

CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins me now from outside the hospital where the Pope is recovering.

Delia, what do we know?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Jim, we've just gotten the update from the doctors and the Vatican. The surgery went well. Let me just read to you a little bit of their very brief statement. They say, "The Holy Father hospitalized in the afternoon at the A. Gemelli Polyclinic was subjected in the evening to the surgical operation scheduled for diverticular stenosis of the sigma. The Holy Father reacted well to the operation conducted under general anesthesia."

Now this diverticulitis as we know is an inflammation of the colon. The sigma is the lower part of the colon, experts tell us. That is the part that the Pope was operated on. Important to note in this statement that this operation was scheduled. We didn't know about it. The Vatican announced it in a surprise announcement this afternoon but it was scheduled so there wasn't a sense that this was an emergency operation.

Indeed we had seen him earlier in the day from his window at St. Peter's Square as he does every Sunday so there was no indication, Jim, that the Pope was unwell. But clearly, experts say, that this diverticulitis of the colon is something that does affect elderly people. It can sometimes be managed with antibiotics, with diet, but sometimes as in the case of the Pope needs surgery. He's here at the A. Gemelli hospital, resting for this evening. There's no word yet on how long the recovery will take -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Delia Gallagher, it sounds like progress. Thank you so much for that update.

And up next, as a global cyberwar on the horizon, experts are warning that the world's super powers are building cyber armies as largescale cyberattacks wreak havoc on government agencies and private businesses. Details next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:51]

ACOSTA: Today there are growing allegations that China is waging disinformation warfare. That comes as experts are warning that a global cyber war could be on the horizon as massive cyberattacks bloom around the world.

CNN's Will Ripley has more on the tensions in the region and the global impact.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prepare for war. The menacing message of mainland Chinese propaganda, aimed at the islands of Taiwan. Military intimidation in real time. 28 Chinese war planes entered Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone. Taiwan calls it the largest air incursion ever recorded.

In this exclusive interview, Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, tells CNN China is engaging in psychological warfare.

JOSEPH WU, FOREIGN MINISTER OF TAIWAN: They want to shape Taiwanese people's cognition that Taiwan is very dangerous and Taiwan cannot do without China.

RIPLEY: More than 23 million people caught in the crossfire. A battle between Beijing and Taipei. A fight for their hearts and minds.

I'm flying to the front lines across the Taiwan Strait to the small island of Kinmen more than 200 miles from the Taiwanese capital, just six miles from mainland China.

[18:45:06]

Kinmen is the only place in Taiwan that saw actual combat during China's civil war, ending in 1949. Many buildings bear the scars. The fighting ferocious. Nationalist forces fended off communist troops, effectively shielding Taiwan's main island, warding off a Chinese invasion.

ANDY YANG, MAGISTRATE OF KINMEN COUNTY (through translator): Kinmen people often say only those who experienced war can understand its horror. We have the right to say loudly we want peace.

RIPLEY: Longtime tour guide Robby Yang takes me underground to one of the island's massive military bunkers once top secret, now abandoned. He also shows me how China's relentless artillery barrage left the island with mountains of old shells.

(On-camera): When the battle ended, the shells kept flying. Local historians say half a million of these landed on Kinmen between 1958 and 1978. But this was not artillery. These shells were full of communist propaganda.

(Voice-over): The beginning of what experts call a decades-long disinformation war. A war super charged by social media.

(On-camera): How dangerous is disinformation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The danger here is that because, I mean, the main goal of all this disinformation campaign is to create chaos and create distrust.

RIPLEY: Is China doing this exact same thing in the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely and also in Australia, Canada, also Europe.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Beijing denies disinformation warfare. China's Taiwan Affairs Office has previously called Taipei's accusations imaginary.

Experts say the threat goes well beyond disinformation. The Taiwanese government says it's hit by 20 million cyberattacks every month. Targets include Defense computer systems, finance, communications, even critical infrastructure.

ALLEN OWN, CO-FOUNDER, DEVCARE (through translator): In information security, we believe World War III will happen over the internet.

RIPLEY (on-camera): Basically every aspect of our life for which we rely on computers could immediately be turned off.

OWN: Yes.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Taiwan's major gas company CPC was hit by a major malware attack. A ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline which U.S. intel believes came from Russia paralyzed the U.S. East Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just image what just happened in the United States. You could do nothing.

RIPLEY (on-camera): Cyber is a bigger threat in your view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

RIPLEY: Than nuclear weapons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. From my point of view because it is happening every day.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen named cyberattacks a matter of national security.

Back on Kinmen Island this 30-foot loudspeaker spent decades blasting anti-communist propaganda to the mainland, a supersized reminder of how much things have changed.

Will Ripley, CNN, Kinmen, Taiwan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Will Ripley, thanks for that. And CNN has requested a response from China's Taiwan Affairs Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but we have not yet received a reply.

Up next, we are just moments away from CNN's special July 4th coverage. We'll take you live to celebrations across the country next.

As we go to break, here's special July 4th greeting from outer space.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGAN MCARTHUR, NASA ASTRONAUT: I'm NASA astronaut Megan McArthur speaking to you more than 250 miles above earth aboard the International Space Station. Together with my crewmates, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei, we wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Independence Day.

SHANE KIMBROUGH, NASA ASTRONAUT: As NASA astronauts, we are proud to represent the United States of America in our endeavor to conduct world class research, return to the moon and go beyond to the planets.

MARK VANDE HEI, NASA ASTRONAUT: This holiday provides us an opportunity to recognize the great things we can achieve when we work together and recognize the value of all people. We hope you have a happy and safe Fourth of July. We'll be watching for the fireworks.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

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[18:53:52]

ACOSTA: Take a look at what Mark Zuckerberg just posted to his Instagram account. This is the Facebook CEO wakeboarding on some sort of electric wakeboard there, with an American flag, set to the song, "Take Me Home Country Roads" by John Denver. Zuckerberg is the fifth richest man in the world with a net worth of $101 billion.

I guess you could have your fireworks tonight. Me personally, I would just rather watch a billionaire riding a wake board carrying an American flag or not. As the case may be.

In the meantime, today we celebrate not only America's independence but also our country's long-awaited return to something that looks like normal. Look at this. Finally, a July 4th with crowds of people visiting the National Mall, free from their masks and the social distancing rules that dominated our lives for the past year and a half. What a difference.

And CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is somewhere on the National Mall as we speak. CNN's Evan McMorris Santoro is in New York.

Suzanne, it is great to see out this Fourth of July. Well, maybe we won't be going to Suzanne. How is the live shot doing right now? How about Evan? All right. Evan, we understand your live shot might be up.

[18:55:00]

Evan, how are you doing right now. We had a little problem down on the mall. We hope Suzanne is OK. We'll get back to her.

Evan, let's go to you first. Boy, it is great to see New York back up and running again and having a big party. How is it going out there?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you said it, Jim. This is really a great metaphor for where New York is at right now. Where I'm standing at the Green Point Terminal Market, this is the Skyline drive-in which was set up during COVID so people could come watch movies together in their cars safely. And as you can see, there's no cars anymore. People are out here waiting for these fireworks displays, hoping to see it soon.

And they're really excited to be back out in New York. And I have here a couple of people who have shown up, Xiomara and Brian.

Nice to see you, guys.

XIOMARA HALL, CELEBRATING FOURTH OF JULY IN NEW YORK: Hello.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now it's not just the nation's birthday. It's also your birthday, Xiomara.

HALL: It is my birthday, too. I'm pretty excited about that. That we're finally like out safely. Masking when we need them but actually celebrating a birthday not over Zoom is kind of exciting.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, yes, tell me about that. Last year at this time, where were you? What were you doing?

HALL: I was at a friend's house. We were at a friend's house and a Zoom party. And I was in New York, at a friend's, and we had a Zoom party. It was international. There were friends from France to Hawaii on Zoom so that was kind of cool but it wasn't the same as this energy. This is great.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So since that time, vaccines are out, people are back out. How does it feel to you to be out here right now?

BRIAN MCCOLLUM, CELEBRATING FOURTH OF JULY IN NEW YORK: It feels amazing. Like, you know, I haven't been seeing people like for a long time. So it just feels so good to feel connected again.

HALL: Right. Right. It almost feels like the way a Fourth of July would have felt.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Yes.

HALL: Before 2020. So again, we're happy to be vaccinated. We're still being responsible like I said, but the energy actually feels the way it should when you want to celebrate summer.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That's great. Happy 4th to you and happy birthday to you. HALL: Thank you so much.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, Jim, that really is the scene out here. We've been talking to people all day at this event, and the feeling here is that the pandemic is something in the past. People are ready to get back out there and party again. And this spot in Green Point is one of the best places to do it -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Excellent. Well, I'm glad to see New Yorkers having a good time.

Let's go down Suzanne Malveaux on the National Mall. I understand Suzanne is ready for us.

Suzanne, how are things looking on your end.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it's really exciting. I mean, we just had a little bit of a breeze here of the cloud coverage which gave a little bit of relief. It's been 80 degrees or so but just take a look at the crowds here. I mean, we're talking about thousands of people who've gathered under the steps here of the Lincoln Memorial. They've been here since early afternoon. They had to have their bags checked to get inside.

But they don't need to wear a mask or social distance or get their temperatures checked. Just their bags checked. And so people are feeling light and easy and breezy. A little crowd wave here going on.

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MALVEAUX: A little energy. I want to swing the camera over here, Eddie. You see the reflective pool here underneath the monument. The National Monument. That is where those fireworks are going to be going off at 9:09 precisely. They're going to last for 17 minutes, and folks are very excited about that. This is something that they've been anticipating. It happened last year, Jim. I don't know if you'll recall. But Mayor Bowser really discouraged folks from coming out.

They did not come out because of those COVID concerns. She says it is all clear now. According to the mayor, 70 percent of adults have at least one of those shots, those vaccine shots, so she's feeling very confident that these crowds should be out here. They're feeling excited about it as well. I talked to one woman who was wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and she explained to me why it was about pride for this country that she wore that shirt. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what our country is built on. You know, people, almost a history of adversity, you know, people coming or rising up. You know, so I think that's important. That's important to the American backbone and that's how we grow. We are all here together. It's a melting pot. We all help built this country and it's our country.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: And her husband, we met him as well. It is his birthday as well. The July 4th birthday. He says one of his gifts is that yes, he gets to enjoy the fireworks with his wife. We should also let you know, Jim, in terms of security, the D.C. police chief says that there are no credible threats, specific threats to this event or to this area.

But all D.C. police officers are on high alert. They are on duty tonight to make sure that this goes off well so everybody is just a little bit jazzed about getting outside and sharing this wonderful evening tonight -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes, I'll be out there soon, Suzanne. I'm ready to party myself. I'm glad to see America is in the same mood. All right.

MALVEAUX: OK. All right. We'll see you soon.

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ACOSTA: See you soon. All right, Suzanne Malveaux, Evan McMorris- Santoro, great to see the New Yorkers having a good time, too.

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Up next, it's time to celebrate. Check it out. Join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for a star-studded evening of music and fireworks. The Fourth of July fun begins right now on CNN. Have a great Fourth of July, everyone. Happy birthday, America.