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Militia Group Faces Weapons, Conspiracy Charges After Highway Showdown; U.S. Sees Spike In Violent Crimes; 331 Mass Shootings This Year; Presidential Building In Miami: Beach Evacuated Out Of Caution; Afghan Flee To Major Cities As Taliban Advances Continue; Jeff Bezos Steps Down As Amazon CEO. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 5, 2021 - 09:30   ET



POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Accused of conspiracy to commit a crime here. They again eventually were arrested without incident here and investigators are still trying to dig a little bit more into exactly who these men are. They claimed that they were on their way some private property to do some, some training.

But in the meantime, we are learning a little bit more about the about these men and how they subscribe to more sovereign ideology here specifically belonging to a group by the name of the Rise of the Moors. We have a little bit more about them right here. Basically what they are, they're based in Rhode Island they are they've declared themselves basically a state here, their own sovereign territory. The group claims to be an independent sovereign nation and says that they have territorial rights over property.

Now, that belief is actually rooted in a treaty that goes all the way back to the 1780s, between the early U.S. and Morocco and additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which among their other roles, also classifies extremist groups just last year, classified them as an extremist anti-government organization.


MARGARET HUANG, PRESIDENT & CEO, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: This group is primarily people of African descent, and their beliefs, really, really focus on their refusal to accept any authority from the U.S. government. They don't take driver's licenses, they don't seek gun licenses. They don't pay taxes to the U.S. government.


SANDOVAL: Now, Southern Poverty Law Center are also adding that in terms of numbers, it's really difficult to say, Jim, but when you go onto social media, when you go on to their YouTube channels, as I did this morning, you do see that they do maintain a heavy presence and do have a very big following as well.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And we should note, the FBI is said that domestic terror groups like this one are the greatest terror threat to the country this time, not so much international terrorism.

Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: It was sadly another violent weekend across the U.S. A block party in Toledo, Ohio ended in gunfire last night local affiliate there WTOL reports multiple gunman shot, multiple people, at least five people. In Cincinnati, two people were killed, three more hurt in another shooting. And those are just two of several mass shootings over the course of the last several days.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has been following it. Listen, it's in the numbers here. Right? I mean, gun crimes, gun violence is up in this country. What more can you tell us? And what is law enforcement that you've spoken to saying is behind this?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. Well, it's not where you want to be thinking about when you think of warm weather and a Fourth of July weekend, but unfortunately, it's a reality. I mean, big picture we've seen more than 330 mass shootings this year, according to the National Gun Violence Archive, that's when for more people are shot and unfortunately we added to that list this weekend. In Texas in Fort Worth, eight people were shot near a carwash after a group of men got into an argument there and police believe the majority of the people that were shot in that incident were actually innocent bystanders.

In Georgia not quite a mass shooting, but an awful situation where a pro-golfer was shot and killed by still unidentified man who drove on to the 10th hole and a white pickup and shot 41-year-old Gene Siller. This happened in the Atlanta area at the pine tree Country Club and my hometown of Kennesaw. When police found the truck there were two more dead bodies in the trunk also, apparently shot.

Then here in Chicago, four more people were shot in a drive by shooting in the -- on Saturday night and six were actually shot in a single drive by incident early this morning. And we also just recently learned a Chicago police commander and police sergeant were shot in the early morning hours of today trying to break up a large crowd. They're expected to be OK.

One of the pieces of good news here in Chicago is violent crime has actually been trending down as of late for the first time as of June 30th, the number of homicides this year is down compared to the same point last year, but there were still over a dozen people killed over the course of this weekend. So there is still significant work to be done. Not just here, but in many other major cities across the country as well. Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's a notable number there. See if the trend line remains down in Chicago.

Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

Weather review (ph), a hundreds of buildings now in South Florida has prompted the evacuation of residents from multiple buildings including one in Miami Beach. We're going to speak to the mayor of Miami Beach, next.



SCIUTTO: Well, South Florida officials remain on high alert following the collapse of Champlain Towers South. Over the weekend, the city of Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a residential building this out of an abundance of caution the location there. This is at least the second building order to be evacuated in the broader Miami-Dade County since the Champlain Towers South collapsed at will nearly two weeks ago now.

I'm joined now by the mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber. Mayor, thanks for taking the time this morning.

DAN GELBER, MAYOR, MIAMI BEACH FL: Thanks. Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So first, I want to talk about Champlain Towers because you had the rest of the building, building taken down overnight, beyond the search for the hope of survivors but also the remains of those lost. You have a lot of families right now without a home anymore, place to live. And I imagine folks in the area are reaching out to help. Where are these families going?

GELBER: Well, there's an outpouring from our community. I mean, that tower was literally on our North border where, you know, seven and a half mile Barrier Island, so it's really our neighbors. There's a huge outpouring people are trying to get them located to other buildings which they are to take care of them.


But right now, it's really this open wound as the whole world is watching just hundreds of people hoping against hope to find a loved one.


GELBER: But there's like we always do our people, our neighbors, people down the street, strangers are providing all sorts of funds and resources and housing and things like that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You I know are getting lots of calls from residents now who quite naturally are looking at their own building and say, do I have a problem here? And your town is ordered structural ending engineers to every building that's in this 40-year recertification process window. How far have you gotten? And are they finding structural issues in many places.

GELBER: Well we had 507 buildings in just our city that were commercial residential that fit into the category of the 40-year recertification. We went through all of them within a week, we started Friday morning, after the after Champlain tower fell. And we got through all of them, really, by the end of the week, the end of the following week. And the result is that none of them had any structural issues.

We also have required all of those buildings to get a licensed professional within 21 days to issue a report on both the electrical and the structural issues, because we want to make sure that anyone that's behind is caught up. And we want to know if there's something there.

SCIUTTO: It's understandable. Listen, it's early. I mean, there are a lot of questions. And there are a lot of theories as to what caused the collapse to Champlain South, was a design error (ph), you know, questions about the water table, their concrete deterioration, imaging, and a whole host of things, and perhaps a combination of things. I just wonder, as you look at this, are you concerned about a broader issue here, right? Either with the way these certifications are done inspections are done, or perhaps even environmental questions right as to what the water table is doing to the foundations of these places.

GELBER: Well listen, I grew up in this city. And I remember when the beach erosion brought the beach right up to the foundations of our hotels, there was no beach and sometimes in the '70s and '80s, regrettably. So -- but we have to make sure we're not going to assume that just because we've been doing it a certain way that we're right, we're not going to let inertia be the organizing principle of sort of our protection. So we're going to make sure that this what has been a once in a lifetime incident is not got any application system wide. And we're going to be very careful, we're looking at our codes or processes, because it may be that our codes are fine. But our processes for requiring working done and condominiums and waterproofing isn't as -- it doesn't have the bells and whistles it needs.

So we're going to do absolutely everything we can to really do an informed review. And we are going to wait to see what the experts say the cause of this horrific incident really was because that will help inform what we do as well.

SCIUTTO: One of the saddest elements of this right is that there were warnings about this building, questions about maintenance issues with the concrete deterioration. There were discussions, debates, even in the condo association, et cetera. Do you believe that there needs to be a reassessment as to who exactly whether it's the government or the condo board and when says, you got to do this, right? You can't just you know, wait, or punked?

I mean, is there a fundamental fix that has to be made here? So, you know, you're not allowed to kind of push these things down a lot.

GELBER: That's I think you put your finger on it in the sense that we're seeing that this really has, I think, illuminated the process where sometimes condo boards can sort of have differing opinions and new leadership comes in. And of course, the costs of assessments is something that's unexpected. We've got to really look at that government cannot allow, I believe, a dangerous situation, or a deadly situation to exist, we just can't allow it.

So, I think you can expect that the bells and whistles are going to change a little bit on this process. If we find out that this was entirely avoidable, which, you know, because of action or inaction, you know, it's still an obviously a tragedy, but it makes it's just so much more acute and so important for us to act. So I'm in (INAUDIBLE), I know a lot of my colleagues are in government across Florida and locally, to review these codes and to review the processes by which we require work to be done.

SCIUTTO: Yes, well, we wish you the best of luck. You got a lot of tough decisions to make going forward.

Mayor Dan Gelber, thanks very much.

GELBER: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, U.S. officials are now updating evacuation plans for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan as U.S. troops continue to pull out, this as the U.S. general overseeing that withdraw warns. We should be worried about the Taliban's quick advance. We're going to have much more on this next.



SCIUTTO: It's just into CNN we have learned that Afghans are fleeing to major cities as the Taliban take control of more territory around the country. The Taliban claimed to have taken over about 150 districts across Afghanistan just since May. CNN cannot confirm that exact figure. This is happening as a top U.S. general however, warns that the Taliban's advance is a serious concern.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now. Oren, I mean, you also saw some Afghan security forces fleeing across the border out of the country. Are Afghan security forces capable of stopping the Taliban advanced without U.S. military help?


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, look, it's very possible the answer to that question may well be no. That being said the Afghan military has the support of the United States now and moving forward, but in a fundamentally different relationship than it has been in the past. The U.S. will continue to carry out counterterrorism strikes against suspected terrorists, plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland or against allies. And we've now learned over the course of the past couple of days that the U.S. has the authority, military leaders have the authority to continue carrying out strikes against the Taliban in support of Afghan forces.

But none of that, at least at this point, has stopped Taliban advances as they've essentially raced through the countryside. And here's a map showing the advances they've made over the course of the past few weeks and the past few months. As you see thousands of displaced persons fleeing those areas under Taliban control.

General Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, essentially gave a bleak assessment of what the future may hold for Afghanistan watching these Taliban advances right now.


GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER, NATO RESOLUTE SUPPORT MISSION: We should be concerned the loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain, has to be concerning. One, because it's a war as physical, but it's also got a psychological or moral component to it. And hope actually matters and morale actually matters.


LIEBERMANN: The Biden administration has made it clear, though, that this is the Afghan military's fight. This is a fight for the country of Afghanistan. The U.S. mission is complete at this point, and the fundamental assistance to the military would be in the form of finance. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Oren Liebermann, we'll be watching closely. There's a lot of concern on the ground there. Thanks very much.

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Although that troop withdrawal is almost complete, CNN has learned that the White House has yet to finalize its policy for pursuing terrorist groups, which continue to be active in Afghanistan.

CNN's Katie Bo Williams joins me now. Katie, but does this mean they haven't worked out the strategy for drone strikes, Special Forces missions, et cetera? I mean, because you have two components of that, right? The U.S. military, but also the CIA? I mean, and if so, how is that possible that they haven't worked it out?

KATIE BO WILLIAMS, CNN REPORTER: Yes. So for months now, the Biden administration has been reviewing what it calls its lethal force authorities, of the rules for the use of lethal force in Afghanistan after this withdrawal is complete. And the wars declared to be officially over. Now, that does include both DOJ authorities and CIA authorities. But yes, what we're talking about here is drone strikes against suspected terrorists.

And part of that review is looking at whether or not after the withdrawal is completed after the U.S. is officially no longer in Afghanistan, whether or not that board needs to be raised whether or not it needs to essentially be a little bit more difficult to carry out drone strikes against suspected terrorists targets in Afghanistan. Now, that kind of review is perfectly reasonable and to be expected, given that the United States is going to an entirely different footing in Afghanistan than it has been for the last 20 years.

But it is notable, as you suggest that this review hasn't been completed before now, given that just in the last week, we've seen the departure of the last combat troops out of Bagram Airbase and U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan falling to their lowest level yet.

So it does -- it really hints at or highlights the sort of delicate balancing act that Biden is trying to strike here in both ending a war against an adversary that is still fighting while still maintaining counterterrorism capabilities in a country where we're still worried about al-Qaeda, still worried about ISIS.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And the question in general, can you pursue these groups effectively from outside the country? Principally, that's going to be a big test.

Katie Bo Williams, thanks very much.


SCIUTTO: Leaving in his prime? Jeff Bezos stepping down as Amazon's CEO starting today. What this means for that company, and the world of business? That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: It is the end of an era today Jeff Bezos officially stepped down from his role as CEO of Amazon exactly 27 years after founding the enormous company.

Here with me is CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans.

Christine. I mean question is what's next for Bezos?


SCIUTTO: But also what's next for Amazon?

ROMANS: Yes, what a journey right from a garage in Washington where it was an online bookseller into something that was absolutely critical during the pandemic. You know, he has 51.7 million shares of Amazon. So he is still going to be involved. No question. He still has an executive, he's executive chairman of the board. So even though he is giving up the day to day operations to a trusted lieutenant, he is going to still be a huge presence. And every time that stock moves, he will feel it. Every dollar that stock moves, he makes $51 million. And through the pandemic made another, you know, 80 billion adding to his huge stack of wealth.

He's going to look at -- look, he told he took employees back in February that he wanted to focus on new initiatives, cutting edge technologies, his properties, like the Washington Post, and Blue Origin, his space endeavor, he's going to go to space on July 20th. So he's got a lot of irons in the fire. And, you know, he's a moonshot guy, right? He likes to look at far out ideas and figure out how to fix big problems. And so I think that's what you'll see him doing.

SCIUTTO: Moonshot literally and figuratively.


SCIUTTO: I think, Christine, all of us have to look at what we're doing with our garages and find some better more lucrative uses for them. Apparently.

ROMANS: What can -- well, how can we make money out of our garages? I can't -- I just need to clean out my garage is what I need to do.


SCIUTTO: Yes, goodness gracious. Christine Romans, thanks very much.