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Several Fatalities in Bridge Collapse at Florida International University; Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization in Russia Probe. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 15, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from another country and I can't really say, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So, tell me what it is you know and what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was crossing the street at the moment the bridge was coming down. And I don't know if he was -- I don't know really. He was just severely injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: And you got a phone call from who, his sister?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: And was she here, too?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. She just called me saying that he was injured and rushed to the hospital.

ANA CABRERA CNN HOST: That sound from a witness near the scene of Florida International University where this pedestrian bridge had collapsed on 8th avenue just below. Crushing a couple of cars and leading to the death of several people according to local officials. Again, this is in Miami, Florida, if you're just joining us.

We've been continuing the coverage of this breaking news happening in the last couple of hours. Right now, we understand the governor of Florida is on his way to the scene and the investigation just barely beginning into what may have happened here that went so horribly wrong. I want to bring in Kaylee Hartung, our CNN correspondent who's been following the situation, speaking with local authorities. Kaylee, bring us up to speed on what you've learned.

KAYLEE HARTUNG: CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, it remains the Florida Highway Patrol telling us that several are dead, as they continue to try to secure this structure and search for survivors. There are five to six vehicles crushed beneath that bridge. This, in addition to the many injured, according to the Miami Dade fire rescue. Though we don't yet have a specific number there.

You can see that aerial picture from our affiliate, WSVN. Their helicopter chopper pilot asked by police to move away from the site of the bridge collapse so that emergency crews could hear any possible survivors as that effort continues there. What we have learned here today, Ana, is that this bridge was being billed as the first of its kind pedestrian bridge. Its construction and installation called a milestone. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart is Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development said at the time that construction progressed, that this bridge really illustrated a creative solution to transportation challenges.

That this was a collaboration on local, state and federal levels of the public be and private sector, really setting an example for how bridges could be constructed moving forward. That, with the help of accelerated bridge construction methods. What we've learned there is that the goal with this bridge's construction is that it would be less disruption to that busy traffic way that we learned Southwest H Street is in that area of FIU's campus.

That portion of the bridge you see there on the right side intact, on the left in crumbles. That 950-ton section of the bridge was constructed offsite. And then just this past Saturday, that bridge itself was swung into place, so much so that crowds gathered to watch this feat of engineering and construction. As we've learned, this was still an active construction site. Now learning that it wasn't expected to be completed until early 2019.

But just this past Saturday, a celebratory moment in this engineering and architectural and construction feat that it was actually a -- I mentioned a collaboration between so many entities, but FIU had created an accelerated bridge construction, University Transportation Center to also be involved in this marvel that the campus was immensely proud of. And yet today here we see this bridge now taking on a completely different significance in the history of this university.

CABRERA: Kaylee Hartung, thank you for that reporting. Let's bring in an expert on bridge design and construction and engineering.

[15:35:00] Amjad Aref is with the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Buffalo, expert. Thank you so much, Amjad, for joining us. Based on what we just heard from Kaylee's report and what you're seeing in these the aerial images of the bridge that's now collapsed what's your read on what happened?

AMJAD AREF, STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING EXPERT: Well, as I just heard, it accelerated bridge construction, which means less disruption to traffic and construct the bridge very quickly. However, these systems require careful attention to detail during construction. Because the system, once it's complete, is really stable and, as designed. But during construction, the structure is required certain attention because it lacks the redundancy to take the load safely to the ground. So, my take there, maybe this is a problem, instability during construction from unfavorable loads may came on the bridge. And the load path to take it safely to the ground is not there because the structure is still under construction.

It is a novel system to do accelerated bridge construction. However, the details of construction are extremely important and crucial to the safety as we see in this particular example. I don't know the system that they are talking about, because I just watched the news and I saw some little details. That's my take on this kind of construction. And we have done research at the University of Buffalo on accelerated bridge construction and we know some of these issues are very, very important.

CABRERA: Amjad Aref, thank you very much for giving us your take, your expertise. It's very much appreciated. We're continuing to follow this story. We'll get a quick break.

Plus, we're following breaking news in the Russia investigation. We're now getting word special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed documents from the Trump organization. The White House just responding in the White House daily briefing. Stand by. Much more after a break on CNN.


CABRERA: We're continuing to follow breaking news out of Miami, Florida. We are watching and waiting word on exactly what the plan of action is here in Miami. Where the officials, emergency responders are on scene right now. This bridge collapse that happened, the pedestrian bridge recently installed but was still in the construction process on the campus of Florida International University. The officials there telling us that there are multiple fatalities as well as multiple cars still trapped below the rubble of that bridge that's come down. We'll continue to bring you new information as we get those details from that story.

In the meantime, we have more breaking news this hour. Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump organization to turn over documents related to the Russia investigation and their financial dealings. This marks the first time that we know of that Mueller has requested these documents directly related to the President's businesses. Here's what the White House press secretary had to say about this moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Special counsel has subpoenaed the Trump organization for its dealings with Russia. Is this a red line? Is the President upset about this?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As we've maintained all along, and as the President has said numerous times, there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia. For specific questions regarding the Trump organization, I would refer you to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Is that statement that the president made in that interview back in July still stand that it would be a redline for the special counsel to be investigating the Trump --

SANDERS: We are going to continue to fully cooperate out of respect for the special counsel. We'll not going to comment for any specific questions about the Trump organization I would refer you there.


CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown and Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio. So, Pamela, I'll start with you. You've now confirmed this reporting about the subpoena. What more can you tell us?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What this shows, Ana, is that Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia, possible coordination between the Donald Trump campaign and Russians continues to pick up steam even as the President calls the whole thing a witch hunt. We have learned that Robert Mueller's team subpoenaed the Trump organization in recent weeks, asking for documents relating to President Trump's businesses and Russia. What's notable here is that a couple of months ago the Trump organization voluntarily handed over documents to Robert Mueller's team having to do with Trump's businesses from 2015 on primarily, according to sources.

And so, it appears that Robert Mueller's team looked through these documents and decided that it wasn't enough. That it felt like it wanted to issue a subpoena to make sure that it had everything it needs for the investigation. Now I spoke to sources close to the president's legal team. Because as you know, Ana, they've been saying for a while now that they believe that the investigation is close to being wrapped up, that there was no wrongdoing here.

And they say they viewed the subpoena as a way for Robert Mueller's team to essentially clean up to make sure they have all the relevant documents. But there's a lot we don't know here, Ana, in terms of what exactly was asked in this subpoena, what the scope of it is. We are told from sources, though, that it has to do with Russia. This is certainly not something though, I can tell you, that the President and his team want this late in the game. In their view they believe that this is wrapping up, but it doesn't appear so -- Ana.

CABRERA: In fact, "The New York Times" is reporting that this is only a signal that there may be several more months of investigation to come. Pamela, how is the Trump organization specifically responding to this?

BROWN: Well, Alan Futerfas, the lawyer for the Trump organization did release a statement. He said, these reports are old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.

What's interesting here, though, is while subpoenas are not unordinary, for Robert Mueller his team has certainly issued a lot of subpoenas throughout the course of this investigation.

[15:45:03] But on the White House side, we know that they have been handing over documents voluntarily. The White House has not been subpoenaed. So, it is noteworthy, though, that in contrast the Trump organization, which has also voluntarily been handing over documents, it has been subpoenaed as part of this investigation -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you for that. Michael D'Antonio, let me bring you in now. You have seen some of the inner workings of the Trump organization, and the Trump family and their financial dealings, I guess. Remind our viewers about the president's past business relationships with people in Russia and pursuits of Russia organization expansion, let's say.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well, actually, his relationship with Russia, what was then the Soviet Union, goes all the way back to the 1980s when Perestroika began, and Mikhail Gorbachev was opening Russia to the world. He went to Moscow and tried to shake the trees there and see if he could make something fall out. He wanted to develop properties there and made a big noise about it. And then when he returned he actually talked about how he thought he was the best person to negotiate arms treaties with the Soviet Union. As if he knew anything about it. But I think this is all grandstanding.

Going forward this was an on-again, off-again think for Donald Trump. Where I think he was intrigued by this big market. It was a nation opening up to foreign investment for the first time. And he really saw opportunity but was never able to capitalize on it. Most recently with the Miss Universe Pageant that he held there in 2013, there was again new initiative. And with his business partner there, there was an expectation that something grand could be constructed but it never was.

Really, the pertinent thing, I think, where Robert Mueller's investigation is concerned is if the Trump organization gave him information, you can bet it was cherry picked. For decades, Donald Trump has released selective information that couldn't be checked. And really wasn't verifiable. So, the fact that the special prosecutor could go back and issue a subpoena makes perfect sense to me.

CABRERA: and I'm just reminded as recently as 2015, there was discussion about a possible Trump Tower in some e-mails back and forth between Michael Cohen and people in Russia about that potential business opportunity there in Russia. But let's listen to what the President said just last year about Robert Mueller's investigation and what he would do about looking into family finances.


SCHMIDT: molar was looking at your finances and your family's finances, unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what he actual charge is?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say, yes. I would say yes.

By the way, I would say, I don't -- I don't -- I mean, it's possible there is a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don't make money from Russia.


CABRERA: So, this talk about a redline there, Michael, how do you think the President may react to this news about the subpoenas?

D'ANTONIO: Oh, I think he's pretty upset. Sarah Sanders may not have been willing to give that answer at the White House briefing room, but this is the kind of thing that would drive President Trump up the wall. When he said in that clip of yours that he doesn't do a lot of business with Russia, maybe there was one condo somebody from Russia bought.

In fact, he sold one piece of property for about $100 million and 60 million in profit to one single Russian. So, he knows that there are vast numbers of deals that he's made with people in Russia and so former Soviet republic, this has got to have him very anxious. And so, this is a red line for him. He may feel he can't enforce it, but I'm sure that this is very irritating to him and he's looking for some way to stop it.

CABRERA: Michael D'Antonio, we always appreciate your insight. Thank you, sir.

D'ANTONIO: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: A quick break here on CNN. Much more of our breaking news. Of course, the Russia investigation breaking news, the subpoenas issued to the Trump organization. And also, this news out of Florida, where the ongoing rescue operation continues on the site of Florida International University where this pedestrian bridge collapsed on a busy avenue below. Stay with us. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What's going through your head now standing here figuring this out? Can you put it into words?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can because -- I've known him since I was 11. We grew up in the same neighborhood. It's just -- it's ridiculous. Like, how could this have happened? This -- this was completely recently installed. This is just ridiculous. And I can't even begin to imagine what the families that have lost people in this horrific accident.

[15:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: I'm so sorry. Can we just get the spelling of the first and last name for the record, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: There you have it, possibly one victim --

CABRERA: Again, that was a witness to the Florida bridge collapse as the pedestrian bridge came down on busy 8th Avenue, near Florida International University. We're getting some new information right now, the mayor of Miami-Dade just confirming one person officially dead, six people transported to the hospital after this bridge collapse.

However, there are at least eight vehicles, Mayor Gimenez says, that are known to be trapped underneath the rubble. He says, that the focus right now is trying to get to those vehicles, and the people inside them as quickly as they can. You can see a litany of officials and emergency vehicles on scene right now working to first secure the bridge and get to those maybe trapped underneath it.

I want to bring in Rene Marsh who is joining us now with more on the federal response to this because, Rene, we know the NTSB is planning to go there to the scene to investigate.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Ana, you know, in that sound that you just played there from the witness, I mean, the key question he asked is the one the NTSB is going to ultimately have to answer. How did this happen?

We know, as you've been reporting over the last couple hours, this was just erected, this pedestrian bridge, just on Saturday. So, it really boggles peoples' minds to see it came crashes down killing so many people. The NTSB telling us that they will, indeed, launch -- we don't have a certain time as far as when they will get there, but they will be looking into the design of the bridge and what caused this collapse -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you so much. More on the breaking news when we come back.