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Ten More Victims Found in Surfside, Death Toll Now 46; CNN Reports, McCarthy Plans to Put Republicans on January 6 Committee; Officials Say, All June COVID Deaths in Maryland Were Unvaccinated People. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 7, 2021 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Have banned Donald Trump for their platforms.


The former president already fundraising off of this, by the way, a big shock, right? He sent out a text alert asking for donations.

I appreciate your time today on Inside Politics. I hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Have a great afternoon. But don't go anywhere, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello and thanks so much for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Let's hit the top headlines today. In Surfside, Florida, ten more victims pulled from the rubble nearly two weeks after that tragic condo collapse. The official death toll now stands at 46. Search efforts are still operating at full capacity. We'll have the latest there.

At the same time, Tropical Storm Elsa has made landfall in Florida. The biggest threat right now, heavy rain and 65-mile-per-hour winds. So where is this storm heading next? That's ahead.

And talk about a U-turn, or is it? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy changing his strategy when it comes to the January 6th select committee. We'll dig into that.

But let's begin in Surfside and Rosa Flores is standing by, where officials just gave their latest update. It was heartbreaking. Emotions were high, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, emotions were very high. This day marks the biggest increase in the number of people that have been pulled from the rubble in one day. There was a ten -- the number of people who died increased by ten, that's double digits. And according to the fire chief, there were no signs that those people had survived the initial collapse.

So, emotions are very raw. Emotions are very high here. Officials becoming visibly emotional, including the mayor of Miami-Dade County. Take a listen.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL): Our commitment to this mission is deeply personal. This is our community, our neighbors, our families. And our first responders have truly searched that pile every single day since the collapse as if they're searching for their own loved ones.

I just came from greeting the team that's going out at noon. Our Miami-Dade County Task Force 1 members who have been here since the beginning, they could go home but they're still here.


FLORES: And we've been talking a lot about the weight that these families have been waiting for answers, this agonizing wait. Well, now, the family members of these ten individuals are transitioning from that waiting period into planning for their funerals. So there's a lot of emotion here on the ground as search and rescue teams continue to sift through the rubble looking for survivors.

Now, officials here are also taking this moment not just to comfort the families but also to make sure that other families don't go through this again. The Mayor of Miami-Dade County mentioning that 40 other buildings were audited in Miami-Dade County. They only found issues with the balconies of one particular building.

But, Ana, I can tell you that on Friday, I was in North Miami Beach when another building with 156 units was deemed structurally unsound. And so those people had to evacuate in the matter of two or three hours.

So there's a lot of emotions here in South Florida, not just with what's happening behind me but with concerns about other buildings in this area.

CABRERA: And the concern about Elsa. Rosa Flores, thank you for staying on it.

Let's talk more about this tropical storm. CNN's Randi Kaye is in Clearwater, Florida. And, Randi, you saw the brunt of Elsa overnight. Now areas north of you are the ones getting hit.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hello to you, Ana. We certainly did see it overnight. We had winds here between 50 and 70 miles per hour. We were pounded by rain. They were expecting four to six inches here overnight. So it was quite a storm overnight, but what a difference a day makes if you look around here, but that is certainly not the situation in Cedar Key, north of us, which is getting pounded now. They're having lots of rain there and wind certainly. There's also some concern for flash flooding in that area.

And then from there, not only is it going to hit now in Northern Florida, but it's going to make its way to Georgia and the Carolinas as well. But it did make landfall, as you mentioned, in Taylor County around 11:00 A.M. That's on the Northern Florida coast. So they are dealing with that.

Meanwhile in the Florida Keys, off key west, the Coast Guard is dealing with an issue as well. There was a capsized boat about 23 miles offshore. 22 people were in that boat. 13 of them have been rescued. Nine of them are still missing. I'm told that it was seven men and two women who are still missing, so they are still looking for them.


But, once again, things are definitely improving here. They were ready though, I should point out. The governor had about 6,000 utility workers ready to go just in case there were massive power outages. There were about several thousand people without power but they are working on that. And, of course, the National Guard was ready to do search and rescue and put up their helicopters if need be, and they have the high water vehicles as well ready to go.

So, luckily, it doesn't seem as though not much of that was needed, Ana, as things are certainly improving as the day has gone on here in Clearwater Beach. Back to you.

CABRERA: That sounds like good news. Our fingers are crossed. Randi Kaye reporting there in Clearwater, Florida, thank you.

Let's turn to Capitol Hill now. It's been six months since the insurrection. We're just learning the House Republican -- the top House Republican is shifting strategy on the investigation. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is close to naming five Republicans to sit on the select committee launched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. So instead of boycotting this panel and threatening to punish Republicans who participated, McCarthy will now enlist a handful to play defense.

This is new reporting from our Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona. And also joining us to discuss is Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman who chaired the House Intelligence Committee. He's now a National Security Contributor for us and the Host of the CNN original series, Declassified. It's great to have both of your voices and your presence here with us.

Melanie, let's talk about your reporting first. What brought about this change in McCarthy's thinking?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, initially, there was a debate inside the House GOP about whether to just boycott this panel altogether as a way to sort of paint it as partisan. But once Nancy Pelosi appointed Liz Cheney to her side of the committee, which will ensure that Democrats have bipartisan buy-in for their investigative work, it became clear that the boycott strategy was no longer a viable option for the GOP.

So, instead, I'm told Kevin McCarthy is indeed planning on appointing Republicans to the select committee. And the thinking there is that Republicans want an opportunity to try to shape a counternarrative, play defense for Donald Trump and essentially try to throw some sand in the gears of the investigation as much as possible. CABRERA: Chairman, this is obviously an incredibly important issue, a true attack on America's democracy. It looked at first as though no Republicans besides Liz Cheney would participate in this investigation. Do you think it's important that Republicans are involved?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. Listen, I've never thought it was a good idea ever to walk away from a debate or any discussion when you are an elected member of Congress. And so, oftentimes, people would boycott things by leaving the floor. You're actually leaving your voice off the table. And I just never think that's a good idea.

I mean, obviously, it's so politically charged now. I mean, the big thing here is if the commission itself comes out of the box very, very partisan, this thing will be absolutely not worth the time or money or effort. If they come out and say we're going to take this serious and go through a methodical view of the material, I think it could be helpful. But both sides need to play that role, not just one team.

CABRERA: Well, you talk about both sides, but Republicans were the ones who rejected the bipartisan commission that would have given them equal seats at the table, equal subpoena power. I just wonder why they would try to make this partisan politics to just want to get to the bottom of what happened.

ROGERS: Well, I mean, I don't disagree with you but to say that this commission isn't full of politics is probably not that accurate. Listen, I've been through a lot of these on both teams. These things can get off the rails early into bitter partisanship, especially now when House control might be up next year. So that's what I'd watch out for.

Remember, the FBI is still in the middle of their investigation. If king for a day, this commission would actually start working through what are the physical security failures that happened, and, clearly, they did, and then use the FBI material as those cases mature and they go to court and that material is made available to the commission, what other factors were going on here?

If you do that, I think you can actually get to a place where there's real value in this commission. If it turns into subpoenaing the president right away and Republicans being obstructionists and the Democrats saying this is all about Donald Trump, I think it's worthless, honestly. I just think it's a worthless event. If they do it right, this could be really valuable. But both sides have to play a role here to say we're not going to be partisan.

CABRERA: Right, right. Can you see a circumstance, though, in which it would make sense to subpoena the former president?

ROGERS: Maybe. I mean, the FBI didn't necessarily believe that was the case and so I'd want to know why. What did you know that we can know here versus saying well, we can't find it just because you didn't think so we want to -- maybe. But I would argue you have a long way to go before you use that subpoena to subpoena the president -- the former president of the United States.


You just don't want to set that precedent.

So what did the FBI know that allowed them to make those decisions in their investigations? And then what information is coming out of these investigations? You shouldn't try to retread that. A, a congressional committee can't really do it like the FBI can do it, so use that as your base to ask questions and gather more types of information, including from the FBI.

I'm going to guess you're going to have a better picture of why they decided when they compared the evidence, it wasn't the right track for them to do it, that would be really informative to the commission. It doesn't mean they might not take the next step but I wouldn't do it until you have all of that information and can make an informed decision if that's the right decision.

CABRERA: And, Melanie, who is McCarthy considering putting on this panel?

ZANONA: Well, we certainly can expect to see some trusted Trump allies, some bomb throwers on this panel, people like Jim Jordan, who played a really big role in Trump's first impeachment defending him and he's someone that McCarthy feels like he can really rely on and trust. Also people like Elise Stefanik and Mike Johnson, I would watch out for. They're both in GOP leadership. They both saw their profiles rise in aligning with the former president.

But at the same time, I'm also told that McCarthy recognizes the importance of appointing some members who are a little bit more pragmatic, a little bit more serious, who can potentially have some more credibility in the debate. So he's looking at members who have experience in law enforcement, security matters, legal matters. He's also facing pressure to appoint a woman to the panel, so it's not just a bunch of men up there.

But, look, notably, two names who are not on the short list are Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, who are some of the most controversial fire brands in the party. But I think that's just a reflection of the fact that Kevin McCarthy is trying to strike the right balance here.

CABRERA: I mean, we have been hearing from some of these insurrectionists in court documents, on our air, as they have come on and been interviewed. And I hear time and again they were driven by this idea that the election was stolen in some way and they thought what they were doing was righteous in some way to try to take back what was unfairly taken from them. And this is the big lie that has been propagated and is still being pushed, not just by the former president but by current members of Congress.

Chairman, do you worry that if McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers don't push back on the big lie, we will see more violence ahead? ROGERS: Well, I think they should absolutely tell the truth about what happened. President Trump is not going to be president by the end of August. I guess that's the new kind of conspiracy theory being thrown around out there, mainly because it gets picked up by social media. And then people who already have some doubts, this allows them to think it's a bigger group and they get kind of sucked into this idea and you can become radicalized on that spectrum.

So, yes, I absolutely believe we need to set this record straight. I think there probably was some minor problems around the country. Those should be looked at to try to make sure we don't have that problem again in the future. That's all fair game. But we need to make sure people understand that Joe Biden, if you like him or not or voted for him or not, is the president of the United States. Let's go find out what is underlying and stirring up all this hate, discontent and disfranchisement that candidly is dangerous for all of us as we go forward.

CABRERA: Right. We know misinformation is what's stirring it up and there are a lot of sources of that misinformation currently and people aren't being told the truth. I mean, we do know that these individual cases of voter fraud are being looked at. There are investigations. But the bottom line is there's nothing that suggests there was widespread fraud. In fact, we've heard from all the officials on this, from President Trump's administration, from his former A.G. to other DHS officials that there was no evidence and that this was the safest and most secure election in American history by many accounts.

Melanie Zanona, I appreciate your reporting. Congressman, please stick around for our next story, because it's related.

The FBI says its investigation into the Capitol riot has uncovered a militia-style group that wanted to surveil the Capitol, wanted to test homemade bombs and ultimately secede from the U.S., all under the guise of a, quote, bible study group.

Now, the FBI infiltrated this Virginia-based group while building their case against a man now charged in the January insurrection.

I want to bring in CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild with the latest on this. And, Whitney, I've been looking at your reporting. The court documents we have our hands on say this man arrested spoke with an undercover police officer on January 6th at the Capitol. Investigators say he was wearing all black in an effort, they believe, to disguise himself as Antifa.


And we just showed that picture of him. They say he's the man wearing that white mask with the big grin.

But it's his alleged actions since that day that really are even more concerning. What are you learning?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, those are more concerning but he hasn't yet been charged in that case. He hasn't been formally indicted, or he hadn't, as of this morning, so we may see these charges expand. But the reason, Ana, you make the astute point that it's what happened after the 6th that is so important for this grand conversation we're having about whether or not there is a persistent threat.

There was warning from federal officials right after January 6th that people would feel emboldened after that day. They feel like that was a win. And then for the months following, try to effect violence that was inspired by what they saw on January 6th.

He is an example of someone who was inclined to this extremist idea and had made motions toward trying to possibly affect those ideas. For example, federal officials say that he had stash of weapons, that he had an AK-47, that he had, as you pointed out, intended to develop and test Molotov cocktails, all of this information coming from the FBI.

They infiltrated this group using an undercover agent. Here are a couple of things that happened in these meetings they were able to infiltrate. As you pointed out, they were under the guise of a bible study group, some conversation about bible, but mostly a conversation about secession, weaponry and combat training, methods to have these private communications.

At one point, this man, Fi Duong, told an undercover agent that he was thinking about making a manifesto. And here is a quote that appeared in the court documents related to this case. If I get into a gun fight with the feds and I don't make it, I want to be able to transfer as much wisdom to my son as possible.

There were several events that are outlined in these documents. There was a May event, in which there was a discussion about plans to make and then place Molotov cocktails. There were other discussions within this group that Fi Duong was affiliated with about surveilling the Capitol, looking for weaknesses. And then, finally, again, this emphasis on weaponry and training that the FBI points out in these court documents.

The bottom line here is that, again, there was this interest in continued violence that was inspired by this far-right domestic violent extremism.

Again, he has not been charged with anything that happened after January 6th. Federal officials have charged him, however, with going inside the Capitol on the day of the insurrection. He's facing four federal charges for that. As of this morning had not been formally indicted, had not yet entered a plea. CNN reached out to his attorney but did not get a comment. Ana?

CABRERA: Whitney Wild, thank you.

Let's bring back former Congressman Mike Rogers. And this obviously speaks to this possible ongoing threat. What's your reaction to this reporting?

ROGERS: Yes. This, to me, is classical really good FBI work. They had a threat. They developed enough probable cause to introduce an undercover agent to try to determine what they were up to. And, you know, if you remember the days of the Michigan militia, I hate to say it as a guy from Michigan, but they were of the same mindset. They didn't believe in the government, they didn't believe in law enforcement, they didn't believe in those things. As a matter of fact, the only law enforcement official they believed in was the elected sheriff. And they thought that was the only form of law enforcement that they could respect.

And so there's this ideology surrounding who these folks were. And so social media, again, and the internet allows them to believe that there's a lot more of them than there may be and it affirms their beliefs. I'm not the only one that believes we should do something about this and our government is bad and we should do something about it.

And so I don't doubt that they had an original bible study group, if you will, and did have those kinds of conversations that morphed in over time into what you saw, which was dangerous ideology that was gaining steam and they were becoming more emboldened, like building devices, bomb devices and other things.

So, I think there's probably more of that around than we'd like to think around the country happening, and the FBI has just this tall order making sure they follow the Constitution. But they also need to make sure that they can keep an eye on these groups that they don't morph into something more serious and sinister and dangerous.

CABRERA: Former Congressman and former Chairman Mike Rogers, it's really great to have you with us. Thank you for your perspective and your expertise that you bring to the table.

Meantime, take a listen to this. A flight to paradise put on hold after a group of unruly passengers refused to put on their masks. Maddening details, next.

Plus, another huge blow to the fastest woman in America, Sha'Carri Richardson is now officially out of the Summer Olympics.

And lions and tigers and vaccines? Oh, my. Why zoos are starting to vaccinate their animals against COVID.



CABRERA: If you or someone you love hasn't received a coronavirus vaccine yet, you need to hear this. In Maryland, officials say, out of the 120 deaths reported last month, all of them were among unvaccinated people. That's about four deaths a day. Think about that.

And it comes as the highly contagious new delta variant accounts for more than half of all new cases in the country.

I want to bring in CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She's also a former Baltimore health commissioner. Dr. Wen, you just wrote a piece in the Washington Post where you argue it's time for President Biden to make the case for vaccine requirements.


Obviously, this is a sensitive topic but make the case to us. Why do you think this is a good idea and what do you think President Biden needs to do?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Ana, I'm not saying that the federal government should be mandating vaccines, but rather than there are a lot of companies, there are over 500 colleges and universities, growing number of hospitals, health care systems that are mandating vaccines for their employees, for their students. They want to create a safe environment for everyone.

And right now, the Biden administration has been using this language of individual choice, basically saying that if you are vaccinated, why should you care if other people around you are vaccinated as well? But, actually, we know from the data that if you are vaccinated, you are the safest when everyone around you is also vaccinated. If you are surrounded, on the other hand, by people who are unvaccinated, especially if you keep on being exposed to unvaccinated people, your risk is additive. And so at some point, you could get a breakthrough infection, you could spread COVID-19 to others.

And so I think it's just really important for the Biden administration and for the CDC to be emphasizing that the safest place for everyone is around other people who are also fully vaccinated and that the federal government can really help with that messaging and the approach to help individuals, individual workplaces or people who are planning weddings or schools to be able to have proof of vaccination.

CABRERA: And you make the point not everybody actually has the choice to get vaccinated right now because some aren't eligible, some are immune-compromised and some are too young. Obviously, the vaccines are only authorized right now for 12 and older, and so I think your points are well taken by a lot of us, a lot of parents.

President Biden, he is trying something to go and push this vaccine rate. He's going to go door to door, he says. And there are other ways driving out vaccines, making sure pediatrician offices are giving them, doctors' offices.

But you have Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene comparing this to medical brown shirts in a recent tweet. Here she goes again making another reference to Nazi, Germany. It's obviously extreme, really beyond the pale, but people pay attention to what she says, which is why I bring it up. She has a following. She is a sitting member of Congress. How do you counter her take on personal freedom when it comes to vaccines?

WEN: Well, what she's saying is just dangerous and not true. I think the best counter to people like her is trusted community messengers. People are not necessarily going to be following the medical advice of politicians or even media figures.

What they will be listening to, the people they'll be listening to are their doctors, their pharmacists, people who they trust in their local communities. And actually that is all of us as well. We are also the trusted messenger to someone. That could be a friend, it could be a cousin, it could someone who looks up to us in a different way.

And so I think having those conversations, approaching people who have not yet received the vaccine with compassion, not with judgment, is really important. And I think, ultimately, we have to make the case that, yes, this is about us and protecting ourselves. It's also about protecting our family members and those around us and our community too.

CABRERA: Dr. Leana Wen, always good to have you here, thank you.

Now, imagine it's time for your long-awaited vacation. Your flight gets delayed until the next day all because a group of passengers didn't want to wear masks. Well, this happened on a flight to the Bahamas.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins us with this story. Pete, if I were on that flight, I think I would have like smoke coming out of my head. What happened?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's such an interesting case, Ana, because, typically, these mask-less passenger incidents have to do with one or two people, not 30 teenagers, like in this case. American Airlines says this all happened on a flight from Charlotte to Nassau in the Bahamas when these teenagers caused a scene. They refused to wear a mask, wouldn't follow crew member instructions and then were kicked off the plane. The worst part of this is for everybody else onboard.

This flight was originally scheduled to leave on Monday evening, instead got delayed into Tuesday, so a big headache and a big inconvenience for all the other passengers.

Here's what they said.


STEPHANIE KRZYWANSKI, PASSENGER ON DELAYED FLIGHT TO BAHAMAS: Some people's vacations were ruined. They were only going for a couple of nights. Now, they have to get (INAUDIBLE).

MALIK BANKS, PASSENGER ON DELAYED FLIGHT TO BAHAMAS: It was bad. Firstly they were yelling, they were cussing, they were being very obnoxious. It wasn't all of them. I wouldn't say all of them. I'd say 75 percent to 80 percent of them were being terrible kids, saying smart stuff.


MUNTEAN: Now, a source familiar with this incident tells me there was only one adult chaperone for these 30 teens, but we just heard from the mom of one of these teens. They're from Winthrop, Massachusetts, near Boston, and she said that American Airlines is really blowing this out of proportion and denies there was ever a mask incident in the first place, so the kids are taking the blame unnecessarily. So we will see how this develops, Ana.

CABRERA: And the FAA is now looking into it. Thank you, Pete Muntean, for that reporting.


We are just weeks away from the Tokyo Olympics, and so U.S. athletes are gearing up, but not this U.S. track star, one of the world's fastest women.