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CNN NEWSROOM

2 Men Charged with Conspiracy in Alleged Plot to Attack Democratic Party HQ in Sacramento; FAA Tells Airlines Boeing 737 Switches Could Pose Safety Risk; FAA Grounding Hawaii Cargo Airline After Plane Ditches into Ocean; Cases Surge A Week Before Tokyo Olympics; Gov. Cuomo Expected to be Questioned in Sexual Harassment Probe. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:33:45]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There are stunning new details coming out about an alleged plot to blow up the Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Two men are in custody and facing federal charges.

Authorities say one had amassed a huge cache of weapons, including firearms, ammunition and pipe bombs. According to the indictment, that suspect wrote, quote, "After the 20th, we go to war." President Biden's inauguration was January 20th.

So let's get more from CNN law enforcement correspondent, Whitney Wild.

Whitney, do we know what they were planning?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: We do. They were planning to bomb the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento.

This is just the kind of case federal officials have been warning about for months, extremists looking for opportunities.

Here, a plot was stopped before anybody could be hurt.

Authorities say two men a plan, planned to attack that Democratic headquarters in Sacramento.

The scheme was that they to start a movement to overthrow the government. They knew that they would be domestic terrorists. They hoped to inspire others.

They were infuriated by former President Donald Trump's loss in the general election in November.

Investigators say they also truly believe Trump won the election, buying into the Big Lie that has generated so many conspiracy theories.

And now, apparently, more threats of violence than we ever knew didn't end of January 6.

[14:35:04]

This threat was real.

One man arrested in January, with his personal weapons. He had 49 firearms, according to investigators, thousands of rounds of ammunition, five pipe bombs.

And here is the scariest part, Victor and Alisyn. Prosecutors say all of the political and social conditions that motivated them to plan what they themselves described as a terrorist attack remain.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used or affecting interstate commerce. That's the federal charge. They are due in court in coming weeks.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: Whitney Wild, thank you for the reporting.

The FAA is ordering airlines to perform inspections that could mean the difference between a safe flight and potential catastrophe.

BLACKWELL: It's telling airlines to immediately inspect switches that help control cabin air pressure on all Boeing 737 planes.

Let's find out more from CNN aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean.

So, Pete, why is the FAA ordering this now?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Victor, this is what is caused a latent failure, meaning that it is not immediately obvious to a flight crew. That's a big issue on a critical system.

The switches control cabin altitude pressure warning system. In essence, you need that to breathe on a commercial airliner like a 737.

The FAA says, "Failure of these switches could result in the cabin altitude warning not activating if the cabin altitude exceeds 10,000 feet, at which point oxygen levels could become dangerously low."

The FAA found three problems on three airplanes back in September of 2020. And the failure rate increased at last check in May.

So that is why its ordering inspections on 2,500 737s in United States.

Airlines need to do this as part of routine maintenance within the next 2,000 flight hours, that can rack up quickly on a commercial airliner, or within the next 90 days.

BLACKWELL: Let's move on to the FAA grounding cargo airlines after one of its airplanes went into the water off Hawaii. Tell us about it.

MUNTEAN: And what is really interesting here, Victor, is we're learning that the FAA was already investigating this company, called Rhoades Aviation, for months.

It is the company that operated Transair flight 810, the 737 that went down off the coast of Hawaii back on July 2.

What is so interesting here, the FAA yanked the company's ability to fly after it said that it found maintenance discrepancies throughout the earlier investigation.

And also the pilots of that Transair flight, important to note, did report mechanical problems before going down. They said that they were having problems with both of the 737 200 engines.

BLACKWELL: Aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean.

Pete, thank you so much.

Positive COVID cases related to the Olympic games as some athlete completes drop out over concerns of getting sick. We'll have the latest, live, from Tokyo next.

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[14:42:37]

BLACKWELL: We're a week out from the start of the Olympic games in Japan and there's a dramatic rise in new COVID cases in Tokyo.

It is raising serious concerns about the threat the Delta variant poses to the games, athletes, journalists, everyone there.

CAMEROTA: And one of the top players for the U.S. men's basketball team has been ruled out after entering COVID safety protocols.

Tokyo just reached a six-month high for COVID cases and recorded three days with more than 1,000 new cases.

CNN's Will Ripley is joining us from Tokyo.

Will, this is troubling. This is not going in the right direction.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly isn't, Victor and Alisyn. The last month or so, the numbers have been trending up. And now they are seeing their highly daily cases since January.

This is one week out from the opening ceremonies and Tokyo is in its fourth COVID-19 state of emergency. Restaurants are banned from serving alcohol. There's already that spectator ban, first in Olympic history.

So the venues and taxpayer spent billions to put up will be sitting largely empty. And now word that there will be drastic changes to even the ceremony

of athletes receiving their medals. They won't have the medals put on them. Somebody will walk up with a tray and then they take the medal off the tray and put it around their own neck.

They have to live in an athletes village where they cannot high five each other, are discouraged from any sort of interaction.

How do you stop these, in many cases, kids from socializing? They have to wear masks at all times.

And the concern is that with this outbreak in Japan, if they come do break this bubble, that it is inconsistently enforced because, yes, we're in a bubble right now, but we interact with everybody at breakfast every day.

But here in Japan, there were two protests just today, one in Tokyo, the other in Hiroshima.

And when the IOC president went to Hiroshima, survivors of the atomic bomber said that he was insulting them with his presence.

So that is how Japan is feeling about the Olympics.

But Jill Biden will be coming here along with other foreign dignitaries to cheer on Team USA.

And you have, so far, according to Reuters, seven teams hit in some way by COVID.

[14:45:04]

You mentioned Bradley Beal, who is with Team USA, is out because of safety protocols. We have counted so far around maybe 30 Olympics- related COVID positive test results.

And that is a small number considering that there are thousands of athletes and other people connected to the Olympics that are coming into Tokyo.

We've taken seven or eight COVID tests ourselves since we arrived.

So really the bigger problem for Japan, the bigger safety issue, are Japanese citizens who are largely unvaccinated. Their vaccination rates here, Victor and Alisyn, still less than 20 percent.

CAMEROTA: Man, this is not the upbeat fanfare that usually precedes the Olympics.

BLACKWELL: No. No.

CAMEROTA: Wow.

RIPLEY: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Will, thank you very much for all of that. Stay safe. Now to this. Governor Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to meet with

investigators tomorrow. They are looking into sexual assault allegations against him. We'll talk about the questions that he could face.

BLACKWELL: And a programing note about the brand-new CNN original series, "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM." From "Seinfeld" to "Golden Girls" to "New Girl," this episode is all about the friendship. Watch "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM," Sunday night at 9:00, only at CNN.

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[14:50:38]

CAMEROTA: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will face questions from the New York attorney general related to sexual harassment allegations.

He's accused of kissing an aide on the lips after a one-on-one meeting and asking another aide inappropriate questions about her sex life.

He denies touching anyone inappropriately.

BLACKWELL: CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, is with us now.

Elie, what does this tell us about how far along they are into this investigation?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Victor, it tells us they are at the very end. When doing an investigation, typically, the last or nearly last thing you'll do is sit down and question the subject. In this case, Governor Cuomo.

You want to know the full extent of the allegations and, if necessary, you want to have the other proof in hand that you need to challenge or question that person if they deny it.

It tells me we're really close to the end here.

CAMEROTA: Elie, what are they going to ask him tomorrow? And won't he say what he has been saying, I didn't mean any of that, I was just asking questions?

HONIG: He may say that, Alisyn. These are difficult cases.

I think investigators will go through the questions and ask him, do you admit this, do you deny it happened?

Some of the conduct he has admitted. Other pieces, he's denied.

And if you get into disputed areas, and that's where the other evidence will come into play.

By this point, investigators should have other supporting documents, whether texts, photos, travel records, you name it, from all of the complainants.

That kind of evidence should really tip the balance one way or another for the investigators.

BLACKWELL: Let me get your take on a statement from the senior adviser calling this political.

"We have said that the governor doesn't want to comment on this review until he has cooperated but the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general's review."

You think that's a valid complaint?

HONIG: No, Victor, I'm not seeing the political angle here at all. The attorney general is a Democrat like Andrew Cuomo.

The word is she would like to become governor someday. She didn't come forward with the allegations. We have individuals complainants.

Also, the attorney general has appointed outside lawyers to conduct this investigation.

And it's worth noting, most of the leading Democrats in New York State have called for Andrew Cuomo to resign.

It's hard to see there being a political angle behind this.

BLACKWELL: We'll see what we learn from what happens tomorrow.

Elie Honig, thanks so much.

[14:53:19]

There's a troubling new warning from the CDC director. She says this is becoming pandemic of the unvaccinated. Los Angeles County is reinstating the mask mandate to protect people there. Should more American cities do that?

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[14:58:32]

BLACKWELL: We want to show an emotional reunion for one of the survivors of the Surfside condo collapse. Jonah Handler (ph) was pulled from the tower's building soon after the building crumbled to ground.

CAMEROTA: Now, we're seeing the first pictures of that teenager as he reunited with the first responders who helped rescue him.

His father posting these photos on a GoFundMe page as way to thank the first responders and to help pay for his physical and emotional recovery.

Meanwhile, the grueling search for victims buried in the debris continues. So far, 97 victims been found in the wreckage.

Among them, Jonah's mother. That's heartbreaking outcome. He has a long road emotionally.

I think about these victims because, in one moment they were asleep in their beds, and in the next their lives were over or in rubble.

How do you recover from that kind of shock from your system?

BLACKWELL: It will take a long time. There are entire families that are gone. It's not just limited to the U.S. This part of south Florida has connections to the Caribbean, South America. There's a lot of families hurting.

God bless the people there doing this recovery work now. It's not easy for them either.

[14:59:55]

CAMEROTA: No. Absolutely. That is such a good reminder.

BLACKWELL: New hour. It's good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CAMEROTA: I'm Alisyn Camerota.