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Defense Official: 15 People Were On Both Calls Between Gen. Milley And Chinese Counterpart On October 30 And January 8; NIH Director: "There Is Not" A Clear Answer On Whether We Need COVID Vaccine Boosters; Criminal Investigation Opened Into Death Of Former Housekeeper For Murdaugh Family, Lawsuit Filed On Behalf Of Her Estate. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Got BOLO, Be On the Look-out, you need to beware, of the people calling for Milley's head.

One, they're distracting from the real headline, from this book, confirmation of how out of control President Trump was that many knew, perhaps including those calling for Milley's head, they knew what was going on with Trump. And there are real questions about why Rubio and others never spoke about Trump, the way they are talking about the man, who protected the democracy, from him.

Second, even if you do want to keep the spotlight on Milley, and accountability, and transparency are key, we don't get enough of it, you now need to add another key fact that they are all ignoring. Milley did what he did with the consent of Trump's Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper. So much for Milley going rogue!

So now what? Again, I still think Milley has to testify, in the open, no national security veil, no closed meeting, open meeting. Why? Because then we're going to have to hear interpretation from politicians.

We know he's scheduled to speak in two weeks. But we're told part of its going to be closed. Now, they'll say, "Well, there's national security." I'm telling you, it's problematic.

Look, even better? He should come here. I'll give him the full hour to explain. And there won't be competing agendas going on. We can get after the truth, without that toxic two-side play going on.

But either way, if he's going to go to Congress, don't get distracted. That Woodward book, "Peril," is not about Milley. It's about Trump, and his enablers, specifically confirming that Trump was as bad as reported and suspected.

And that was known, likely, by many, in the administration, and perhaps those like Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Hawley, the same senators, now saying they're about the "Principle of checking power!" Where were you then? Why were you all quiet about Trump and his ravings?

You want to go after Milley for what he did? Why don't you, account for why you did nothing? How could you not have known, what was so openly feared, especially in that gossipy D.C. media political swamp that you all inhabit?

Now, part of the answer is that some of these guys tried to help Trump's election madness, and they all fear him.

Earlier, President Biden threw cold water, on any suggestions about Milley. He threw his full support behind him, saying he has quote, "Great confidence," in the General, after revelations emerged, from this book, about his calls to his Chinese counterpart, to reassure Beijing that Trump wouldn't start a war.

A big reason that he didn't go rogue, as Rubio and Co. would like to suggest, is now known.

A defense official tells CNN, Milley's calls, on October 30th, and again on January 8, were handled under proper protocols. There were 15 people, on both video conference calls, including a representative from the State Department. And the official says the readout was shared with the entire Intelligence Community.

Milley conducted the October call, in consultation with then-Defense Secretary, Mark Esper. No going rogue!

And this comes directly from the General's office.

"All calls" came "from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, were staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.

The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject."

Now, those are material facts that greatly change the contextual concerns that we had. Does it change anything for Cruz, or Paul, or Josh Hawley?

Now, remember, January 6th fist pump fame, right? "I always wave to people!" Listen.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I hope these reports are inaccurate. But he does need to resign. He needs to resign. And if he won't resign, he needs to be fired.


CUOMO: Even if he did it, with the Secretary of Defense, and 15 people on the call, and followed all the protocols? What did he do wrong? What did he do wrong? Articulate it now, legal genius! Does Marco Rubio want to take back his letter to Biden now? The Senator immediately jumped to conclusions, calling Milley "Treasonous," and also calling for his firing.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I think he told them, "This wasn't normal. I had to do this for the good of our country," because he wanted to make himself look good.

This is a constitutional violation. It's a violation of his oath to the Constitution. But it also is treacherous.



CUOMO: Maybe you shouldn't form your positions, while driving. Maybe you should like not just pull over to video, and maybe you should just think, and get all the facts, and not just go to the womb of Fox, to have your frenzies incubated.

There is no shame in their game. Rubio won't come here, to make the case. He doesn't want to deal with these facts. He wants to stay in the womb, where it's warm and safe, now attacking Milley, for worrying about how Trump would use nuclear codes.

Remember this?


RUBIO: A con artist is about to take over the Republican Party.

We're about to turn over the conservative movement to a person that has no ideas of any substance, on the important issues, the nuclear codes of the United States, to an erratic individual.


CUOMO: "An erratic individual! Shouldn't have the nuclear codes!" That was Rubio's point. What changed?

Trump didn't.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got impeached twice. I didn't change.


D. TRUMP: I became worse.


D. TRUMP: I became worse! (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Truest words he ever spoke!

What changed was Rubio went from a player to a pawn perhaps. Perhaps the only principle that guides Rubio and Co. is what is best for them, because those guided by principles, absolutely should have been alarmed, as most of us were, by this.


D. TRUMP: This is a fraud on the American public.


D. TRUMP: This is an embarrassment to our country.


D. TRUMP: Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election.


D. TRUMP: All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the States, to recertify, and we become president.


D. TRUMP: We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

We had an election that was stolen from us.

Go home. We love you. You're very special.


CUOMO: They let all of it go. They don't even want to investigate the Insurrection. But they want Milley to go down, "Out of principle!"

Now, they are all worried about President Biden. "Ah, I'm worried about what he says. I don't know that he's mentally on his game. You hear about that magic buzzer?"

But they sat like those three monkeys, no see, no hear, no speak, during this tour de farce!


D. TRUMP: Person, woman, man, camera, TV.

They say, "That's amazing. How did you do that?"

I do it, because I have like a good memory, because I'm cognitively there.


CUOMO: So, I guess the clinicians were surprised that he was competent?

The man couldn't pronounce Thailand, a long list of other embarrassments.

Our Pandemic President, you'll remember, thought you could inject bleach, to wipe out COVID. But they're worried about Biden? Not the guy, who took a sharpie, to alter a hurricane's path, and said, "You can nuke hurricanes?"

You know why they were quiet. The same reason they're loud now. This is the game, to help Trump.

Why do I have to address Trump? Sure as hell isn't because I want to. It's because he's still in control of the players, in half of this game, we call politics, and he is still the Republicans' best chance, to return to power. So, that is the state of play.

Let's turn to a better mind, who's been sounding alarm bells, as both a clinician, and a Trump relative, Mary Trump, his only niece, out with a new book, "The Reckoning."

Welcome back to PRIMETIME. It's good to see you. They're trying to have a reckoning here on Milley!

But his mental state is the subject of this book. And he had people all over him rattled. What does it say that so many saw that he was in a state of decline near the end?

MARY TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S NIECE, PSYCHOLOGIST, AUTHOR, "THE RECKONING": It says that they were finally paying attention perhaps. But I think an even more important question is why do they keep it secret? Why did they not do anything about it?

General Milley was in a practically impossible situation, because he was dealing with an incredibly fraught, potentially dangerous, situation, because his Commander-in-Chief was no longer competent to the extent that he ever had been.

But more than that, the entire cabinet was in dereliction of its duty. They should have invoked the 25th Amendment. And failing that, how could any responsible adult--

CUOMO: Right.


M. TRUMP: --think that it was a good idea, to leave Donald unchecked, at that point?

CUOMO: Unchecked, I hear you.

25th Amendment, you know why it never works. The President, all he has to do is say, "No, I'm fine." And now, you have this whole secondary review process that the amendment lays out. And it's just too hard that way. But it's something that they talk about. They didn't want to talk about it with him, though, not his own people.

Now, I'll get to that in a second. There's another thing I want you to help me with, Mary. This is why I needed you tonight.

Your uncle likes to use the word "Magic" and "Magical." "The Pandemic will magically disappear. The vaccine is like a magic pill." He believed he had magic powers to deal with what he perceived as an insurrection at the border.

Now, I'm not saying he thinks he's a wizard. But what does that speak to, in terms of his concept, of power and potency?

M. TRUMP: It's a really interesting question, because, on the one hand, it shows that he's really delusional.

And, on the other hand, it shows how unwilling he is to do the hard work. So, it's simply, by virtue of his presence, and his leadership that these things will suddenly be fixed somehow.

And it's also a sign that he was not willing to take any of the threats, to our country, seriously, and just really expected, and based on his track record, why wouldn't he, just the very fact that he exists meant that everything was going to be just fine.

And, by fine, for him, that meant that he was going to get away with it, which so far, he has.

CUOMO: Kevin McCarthy told your uncle, on January 19, "I don't know what's happened to you in the last two months. You're not the same as you were for the last four years."

Do you believe that he has suffered a significant decline? Or do you think it was just episodic stress, meaning, once the moment passed--

M. TRUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: --he was OK?

M. TRUMP: Yes, I think it's, quite frankly, absurd to suggest the Donald was totally fine, in 2016. He never has been. He's always been deeply psychologically disordered. But, as you just said, stressors can exacerbate any pre-existing condition.

And what must not be forgotten is that, on November 7th, he suffered the worst humiliation, the worst loss of his life. It was incalculable, the damage that it did to him. The narcissistic injury, that it caused, cannot be overstated.

And part of the reason we know that is because he effectively stopped doing his job--

CUOMO: Right. M. TRUMP: --after he lost.

CUOMO: Or he started to see his job differently, which is to just stay in power.

Now, the fealty and fear, being shown, by the supplicants, Rubio and the others, how does that empower the mentality of Donald Trump, to want to get back into power? How much is that fuel for him?

And what do you believe is the expectation of what he would be open to, in order to regain power?

M. TRUMP: I think that is the biggest problem this country is facing, because the Republican Party, Republican leadership, have decided that their best path forward, to retain power, in the future, is Donald, which is kind of shocking.

They are willing to overlook anything. They are willing to prop him up. They are willing to concede to him.

And it is allowing him, not just allowing him, to continue the lying, about the election, about the insurrection, and about anything else he can lie about, including General Milley's role. But it gives him a relevancy, he wouldn't have other had.

It gives him a larger audience, because they are passing on his talking points. And it's something, as you said at the beginning, unfortunately, we cannot look away, because he is continuing to be allowed, to be such a significant factor, in our country's politics.

CUOMO: I would have lost every dime, betting on the posture of the party, after President Trump's exit, because they're making it hard for him, Mary, not to run. They're fighting all his battles. They're saying he was right about everything. They're making it hard for him not to - and they - they clearly don't want to take him on.

Anyway, we'll see what the next chapter is.

Mary Trump, the book is "The Reckoning," thank you very much, as always. Be well.

M. TRUMP: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, now to the current president, cracking down on the unvaccinated, why, because the rest of us can't be held hostage. That's why.


Now, do we need a booster shot? Do they work? We're getting into bad water here already, why? Bad messaging, people are worried that this is a money play by Big Pharma.

We were told that they were going to roll it out next week. The FDA isn't meeting to until Friday, about whether or not we need one, and why. This is how we get into trouble. Did Biden get ahead of the science? Do we have the coordination?

Let's bring in one of the top players in our nation's COVID fight. Can this man clear up our confusion? Next. Dr. Collins.








CUOMO: If we go back nine months, when the FDA first met, to authorize Pfizer's vaccine, it was easy to anticipate the outcome. Authorization.

But the same can't be said, when advisers meet, this Friday, over Pfizer's booster shots. Why? Well, the Biden Administration has pushed a September 20 rollout, for weeks, but there's heated debate inside the FDA, over dueling sets of data.


The latest, three studies, two of which are notably sponsored by Pfizer, support the argument, for boosters. New data from Moderna also suggests the same.

But it was just a week ago that the CDC published three separate articles that suggested otherwise, no need for boosters. Over the last two months, there's been other data, and confusing talk, frankly, from the top, wavering between not needing it, and needing it.

The impact is real, because it adds to skepticism. And we cannot tolerate that right now. Others have rushed to get a booster, I'm sure you're hearing the stories I have. And hasn't even been FDA-approved, I don't even know how they are getting it.

Dr. Francis Collins is the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and he joins me now.

It's good to have you, Doctor. Thank you.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Glad to be with you, Chris. That's quite a setup here. Let's see what we can do to straighten this out.

CUOMO: Well, look, I don't bring you on here, to attack, but just to help.

Is there a clear answer to whether or not a booster is necessary?

COLLINS: There is not, which is why we are having this public discussion, on Friday, with all of the data out there that everybody can look at.

If we were an authoritarian country, we would have just told you the answer, and that would have been that. But that's not how we do things. We have a lot of data, a mountain of it. And reasonable people have not quite come to the same conclusion yet. Some of the data just got published today.

This is a great lesson in how science should do what it does, which is to look at the evidence, bring all the opinions together, and then make a decision. And I don't know why that should be seen as a negative, when in fact, this is the right way, to get to the answer that we can actually defend, and not something arbitrary.

CUOMO: Well, it would have been fine, except that you're in a very toxic climate, where everything gets politicized.

Except Biden, the President came out, and said September 20, for a rollout, had confidence in it. You had Fauci and others saying it is time for a booster. And now, it seems like that's not true. That's the problem.

COLLINS: Well, I was part of the group of docs that looked at the data, three or four weeks ago, could see what was coming, want to get ahead of this virus, not behind it, and made it very clear that FDA and CDC would have to do their official job, looking at this.

But you didn't want to get caught unprepared. So, let's start that process. Let's see what FDA and CDC say. If they come down, on favor of boosters, then, by the week of the 20th, which is very soon, we'd want to be ready for that.

So, it was a preparatory step. It was in no way supposed to undercut the official review process of FDA and CDC. That was made clear all along. But I think people forgot to notice that.

CUOMO: Well, that's the problem, right, because the messaging matters. And if the President seems to be getting ahead of the science, when he says, "Follow the science," it creates skepticism, at a minimum.

In the debate, you have an additional wrinkle now. The additional wrinkle is Pfizer or Moderna? It now looks like they're not equal. We always speak about them the same way. But now it looks like Moderna is better. Is that true?

COLLINS: There are some data suggesting that Moderna vaccine may sustain itself a little longer than the Pfizer. It happens to be a slightly higher dose, so maybe that's not a big surprise.

We just have an abundance of good things here. When we started building this vaccine program, we thought we'd be lucky to get one that works. And now, we have three. And they're a little out of sync, in terms of the data, in terms of when they got authorized, in terms of when their booster data will come in. That's just the way it has to be, at the moment. And it is actually a good thing that we're not depending on a single vaccine.

So again, I think this is the way science works. I'm sorry, if people feel a little confused and frustrated. I will tell you, I was one of the biggest skeptics of the docs--


COLLINS: --in the White House about boosters. And I've become convinced, particularly looking at the Israeli data, Chris.

And a lot of that will get presented, on Friday, including by some of the Israeli scientists, because Israel's about three months ahead of us. They got most of their population immunized in April, and they could start to see what happens.

And what they could see is that people who got immunized, back in January, by the time you got to July, their protection would really had started to drop off, and not just against any infection, but even against severe infection. And that's the signal you want to watch for, to say, "Ooh, might be time to do something like a booster."

I think that's the most compelling data. There is some U.S. data, from the Mayo that also suggests the same thing. But let's look at that data, on Friday, and see what the group says.

Much of that is very new. Not everybody, who's been commenting, in the last couple of days, has even seen all of it. And then, let's see what all of the scientists, and all the experts, can come up with, as far as a response. This is a good thing. This is the way we ought to be doing it.

CUOMO: Yes. It's just that people have an expectation that it was already done, and that we were ready for a September 20 rollout. And now, you guys are debating it, which is fine.


I've been saying all along, on this show, to you, Doctor, and about you, you guys don't make great messengers, because you go on the facts. You don't just stick to a position, no matter what the facts are. And people aren't used to that.

People are used to a government official, named Dr. Collins, who will come on, and say, "No, it will always be this. And anybody who says anything else is wrong. And we are confident." That's politics. It's not science.

So, thank you for explaining the process.

COLLINS: It is not.

CUOMO: We look forward to clarity. COLLINS: All right, we will try for that.

And again, one of the other things, Chris to watch for is with the boosters, are we trying only to present - prevent severe disease?

Or what about people who just get pretty darn sick, with a breakthrough, and who then infect other people, or maybe they get long COVID, which we just had a big announcement about, today?

There's a lot of things to think about here beyond whether people are actually really sick in the hospital. That's going to have to be discussed also, on Friday, and then next week, by CDC.

CUOMO: You are welcome back to discuss what you guys come up with. And please, take the invitation.

COLLINS: I would be glad to, anytime.

CUOMO: Dr. Collins, be well, and thank you.

COLLINS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Now, I want to turn to something else.

This is one of - I've been doing this a long time, OK? And my background is mostly in crime and crime reporting. That's what I did in ABC, for years, all over this country, all over the world. I've never seen a fact pattern, like the one I'm going to take you through tonight.

It's a case in South Carolina. Maybe in like some kind of mob situations, I've seen this much intricate death, and mystery, but not in just some family, and some small-town life. This case in South Carolina that involves the Murdaugh, the Murdaugh family, is like nothing I've ever seen. And it just keeps getting weirder.

The once-prominent lawyer, Alex Murdaugh, is at the center. His wife and son were murdered. There was an earlier potential murder, now, years earlier that may be in the mix. Now there may be two.

Then, he was shot, in the head, months later. Now, he's going into rehab. And the suggestion is that he set up his own headshot. And now, there is a warrant for his arrest, from something completely unrelated.

And that's not all. There are breaking developments. And we are back with someone, who's been closely following it all. Again, I have never heard anything like this! Next.








CUOMO: Again, it's no hype. I've never seen anything like this, OK? This case gets stranger, by the day, and here's why.

So, you have Alec Murdaugh. He's part of this multi-generational power family, in this small place, in South Carolina. An attorney, they've been like generations of prosecutors down there.

So now, this guy, Alec Murdaugh, is an attorney, who police say, confessed to ordering a hit on himself, as part of an insurance scheme.

His attorney says now there's an arrest out for - the warrant out for his arrest, in the crime of insurance fraud, involving himself, as a victim, which is already kind of twisted.

His attorney says he's going to turn himself in tomorrow for that. We'll see. He's currently in rehab. He says that all of this erratic behavior is a function of his addiction.

Now, the man Murdaugh allegedly hired to shoot him is already in custody. It is this guy, Curtis Edward Smith.

He's a former client of Murdaugh's twice over. He's facing several charges, including assisted suicide, and insurance fraud. He shot Murdaugh in the head, and somehow managed to just have it be a scratch.

According to an affidavit, Murdaugh says he wanted to kill himself, so his son could get the life insurance money. Now, that son is, sadly, the only surviving member, of Murdaugh's immediate family.

You may remember the headline, from three months ago, when his wife and son, were found murdered by him.

Police still haven't made any arrests in that case. And the state authorities keep saying "Don't jump to any conclusions! Don't jump to any conclusion!" They're not making any conclusion!

Now - no, no, no, no, I want to be very clear. Murdaugh found his wife, and son, and said, "I found them. They've been shot. They're not breathing." I never suggest that he killed them. We don't know that.

Murdaugh allegedly told police that he'd been depressed, since the death of his wife and son, and that it led him to addiction. And, at one point, he checked into rehab. But that's just one aspect of this story. There are all these other deaths, OK?

Police announced hours ago that they've opened a criminal probe into the 2018 death of Murdaugh's former housekeeper of 25 years. Supposedly, she died by tripping over dogs, and falling. But the death certificate says "Natural causes."

Tripping over a dog, falling and dying is not natural cause. So what did the coroner say? Never went to the corner!

So, why did police reopen the case? Could there be any connection to the death of Murdaugh's wife and son? And, by the way, there are two other murders in this story.

Joining me now is a man, who has been following the details, since the beginning, Host of "The Murdaugh Family Murders: Impact of Influence." Good title! That's the podcast.

Matt Harris, welcome to PRIMETIME.


CUOMO: Now, this is the weirdest situation I have ever been a part of.


CUOMO: Not least of which is how much interest is being. Now, a little bit of this is media as a pack animal. We're starting to cover this, and it's going to be more, so it's going to be there.

You've been on it for a long time. Just to start with the initial supposition, you ever heard of anything like this? And is that what drew you to look deeper?

HARRIS: Yes, I know, of course. If you haven't heard of it, I certainly haven't heard of this kind of different tentacles that come from one family that have left death and destruction, in the way, that they're connected to, again, not charged with anything, but connected to at least five deaths that we are talking about right now. And so--

CUOMO: Right. So, you got one back in 2015, of some guy, who was found in the road.



CUOMO: And now, all the sudden the State's looking at it again, while they were investigating the mother and the son.

HARRIS: Right.

CUOMO: The son killed somebody in a boating accident, with the father, in 2019. He got charged for that. Then you have him, and his mom, get shot and killed. The father finds them.

Then he gets shot in the head by one of his ex-clients, but it doesn't kill him. And now, he's in trouble for that.

And now, they want to look into the housekeeper, whose death certificate does not match the circumstances of her death.

Do I have it right?

HARRIS: Yes, well, most of it. The boating accident, Paul Murdaugh was indicted on driving - or boating under the influence. And that never came to trial, because he was killed before that happened.

It was his father's boat. But his father wasn't on the boat. But his father was right there, at the scene, and at the - or was at the hospital, right away, talking to all the other people that were on the boat, all the kids that were on the boat, saying "Don't talk! Don't talk!"

He was kind of controlling the scene is what the nurses and techs said in their depositions, about how Alec was - and Alex's father too, were running around the hospital, and making sure that no one was speaking to SLED or the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department. So, that is also come up that he might be involved in obstruction of justice for that.

We had the Stephen Smith case in 2015 ruled a hit-and-run. But in depositions that were given, the Murdaugh family names come up 25 times or something. I guess, as far as we know, none of the Murdaughs were interviewed about that.

Law enforcement was very skeptical of being a hit-and-run. The coroner was skeptical of being a hit-and-run. But the pathologist was the only one, who ruled and audited being a hit-and-run.

CUOMO: Now, a big aspect of this that drew your intrigue is the power of this family.


CUOMO: Murdaugh is not just Alec Murdaugh. They're generations of them.

Ooh! I mean we need Matt. Is he still there? I cannot--

HARRIS: Yes, I am.

CUOMO: All right.

All right, so let me do this. We're going to be reporting on this. And Matt is going to be a part of it, Matt Harris. He's been following it. You can go look at his podcast. And you'll see what he's been able to piece together. It all revolves around this one family. But how? We still don't know.

Now, the latest chapters, where we're going to pick up our coverage, 2018, 20-plus year housekeeper dies, how? We're not exactly sure, because the way it was described does not match the death certificate.

Then the family brings a wrongful death claim. There's a settlement. But it's never paid. Now, the police are reopening it, and looking at it. You'll hear "SLED." That's the state investment - investigative entity. That's what it is in South Carolina. We have the attorney, for the estate of the housekeeper, has questions of his own, and things he wants you to know, about this family, and how this place works, next.









CUOMO: This case in South Carolina that involves a very prominent family, and an attorney, named Alec Murdaugh, just keeps twisting and turning. Today, police announced they've opened a criminal investigation, into the 2018 death, of Murdaugh's longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.

Now, she died. And it was described as a trip and fall accident, but the death certificate said "Natural causes." Those two things don't go together.

Her family then successfully sued Murdaugh for wrongful death. Was awarded more than half a million dollars, money they say they haven't received. Now, the family has new questions about what killed Gloria.

Joining me now is Eric Bland. He's the attorney representing Satterfield's (ph) estate.

It's good to have you, sir. Thank you.


CUOMO: So, what is your understanding, as to how someone, who allegedly tripped over dogs, fell and died, got a death certificate that said "Natural causes," and no investigation?

BLAND: Well, I mean, if you're in charge of the solicitor's office, and you have the most powerful law firm, in the county, one of the most powerful law firms, in the state, and you have the last name of Murdaugh, you probably can get done, anything you want to accomplish.

CUOMO: The Murdaughs, just so people know, Eric? Because, this is all second nature to you, but everybody's getting caught up on this story.

The Murdaughs have a history, since 1920, of having someone run the solicitor's office, until 2000, and like 2005, 2006, 2007. This guy though, Alec Murdaugh was never in that office. He didn't run it.

But you believe they still have influence over how things are investigated and prosecuted?

BLAND: Yes, he's also a part-time solicitor, Chris. He gets to prosecute cases when he wants. So even though he's--

CUOMO: As a volunteer?

BLAND: As - it's more not quite a volunteer. It's if he decides he wants to be on the prosecution side, he walks into an office. He handpicked his select - his successor, Duffie Stone, who was a classmate of mine, a very good attorney.

But don't kid yourself. This is a Murdaugh office. They control the civil court system down there. They control the criminal court system. They know all of the jurors because they've woven themselves into the fabric of the town. This is a very, very powerful family.


BLAND: That you do not see in many jurisdictions.

CUOMO: What do you think happened to Gloria?

BLAND: We'll find out. Certainly, there were questions by my clients.


Because after she unfortunately fell, she was airlifted, to a hospital, and she had a traumatic brain injury, she never was able to communicate with them for the next three weeks, until she died.

So, it was Alec Murdaugh, who told the story of that she had tripped and fell, down the stairs, over his dogs. And so, they trusted him. Remember, this woman worked for this family, for 25 years. She was part of the fabric of this family. And they trusted him.

And, amazingly, Chris, he hand-walked them, to his, best friend, and college roommate, to bring a lawsuit against himself, on behalf of the estate.

Now, as a lawyer, 33 years, I've never heard that where you encourage somebody, and take them to a lawyer, who you handpick, and then have that lawyer bring claims against you.

This was not a lawsuit. These were claims. So, a demand was made, by his best friend, and a whole bunch of different types of insurance, primary insurance and excess insurance.

They all contributed to a settlement. None of these settlements ever ended up in court, except one, the one that's attached to our lawsuit, for $505,000, from Lloyd's of London.

There's no court orders approving any of these settlements. And it's required under the law, if you have a wrongful death, or a survival case, a judge has to approve these settlements. None of that exists in the court record.

And our clients never found out that these cases had settled these claims, until it was printed into paper, by investigative reporters. And so, when they came to us, thought, "Well, we all - we were, you know, we didn't get $505,000."

It turns out, Chris, that the claims were settled for more than $2 million.


BLAND: And so, my clients haven't seen dime one of $2 million. And it's our job to get them answers, and get them their money back.

CUOMO: Well?

BLAND: And we will.

CUOMO: We will stay on this situation. I am a phone call away. I'll give you my number, in the break. And we'll see where this leads.

Eric Bland, thank you very much. Send my best to the family.

BLAND: Truth is stranger than fiction, in this case, Chris.

CUOMO: Amen!

BLAND: Right, brother.

CUOMO: All right. OK, I want to go to break. I want to bring in two very important people.

As you may have heard, this young woman, Gabby Petito, she's been missing for weeks, after a cross-country road trip, with her Florida boyfriend. He's home. He's not talking about where she might be, and she never came back.

Her family needs help. I want you to listen to her father, and her stepfather, and let's see where we can get answers, next.









CUOMO: You've probably seen this picture. If not, please look at this video.


CUOMO: Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. If you've seen her, the police need to hear from you. I'm not going to take down her picture, for the rest of this segment. It'll stay up, OK? She's been missing for two weeks.

The 22-year-old is originally from Blue Point, New York. She was on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. They were documenting the whole thing on social media.

The boyfriend is back, home, in Florida. But he's not talking to police, which is unusual.

Tonight, we're learning a lot about a fight the two got into, in Utah, last month. A police report was filed but no charges. However, an officer noted, quote, "Brian said Gabrielle, thinking he was going to leave her in Moab without a ride," and "went to slap him."

Joe Petito, and Jim Schmidt, Gabby's father and stepfather, join me now.

Gentlemen, welcome. And I know there's a lot of intrigue going on here. There's another couple that was found dead, in the same kind of area. And they had been putting out notes about some weird guy. And there's all this intrigue.

But to you, all there is, as the matter of fact, is that a young woman, who you love, and you miss, and there are unknown circumstances.

Joe, let me start with you. And just tell me what you want people to know, and why you need their help. And then I want to talk to you again, on Friday, and we'll go through everything we know then, with more time.

But I wanted to give you a chance to ask for help.

JOSEPH PETITO, GABBY PETITO'S FATHER: I mean, just look at the picture, if you can. Memorize it. Look at the facial features, you know? And memorize that phone number that you're seeing there, too, because we need everyone's help.

We don't have a lot of information. So, we got a really big area, from Wyoming, all the way down to Florida, and 2,500 miles to - and that's just the road, forget everything that's on the other side, right?

So, I - we need you guys to memorize her face. And if you see something, call that tip line. If you see someone, while you're hiking, and that looks like Gabby, give her your phone, call your folks, you know, something.

CUOMO: Got it.

PETITO: We need - and we need everybody to know. CUOMO: Jim, knowing Gabby, what is the chance that she would just have decided, "Look, I got to go my own way for a while. I'm not going to talk at home, and I'm not going to be on media. So I won't let anybody know where I am."

JIM SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S STEPFATHER: That wouldn't be a chance. She communicated regularly with her mom and her family. I'm kind of getting an education out here, at Western Wyoming, one of the reasons why we came out here.

The very big transit area is desolate, most areas. So, she would go off the grid, while she was out there, doing her van life stuff, exploring these different areas. So, it wasn't uncommon for her to go off, for a few days, at a time.

But she'd always make her way back, to someplace, where she could get on, to a WiFi connection, upload her - to her Instagram, make phone calls, FaceTime, to come home. So, it's just if there was something wrong, she would have contacted us.

CUOMO: One last thing Joe, without getting into the intrigue too deeply? We'll do it - we'll do it on Friday.


But the idea that the love of your life goes missing, and the boyfriend, or fiance, is not out front, looking for her, and talking about it, and trying to help, what do you make of that, Joe?

PETITO: Listen. See, what - see, the mistake you made there was you're using logic, right? It's just not something that the average person is going to do.

That what I make of that? Listen, I'm not going to speculate. It doesn't. At the moment, it doesn't matter. What matters is looking at that picture, and helping us find her.

I'm just asking everyone here. I'm asking you guys there. Keep it up as much as you can, as big as you can, as long as you can, until we get her home. And everyone, just keep looking at that photo, keep looking for her, keep doing what you're doing, because we need everyone's help, you know?

CUOMO: I see--

PETITO: And when I think - when I think of him, I just, I - it'd be bad if I said it on the TV. So, let's just focus on Gabby right now.

CUOMO: Joe Petito, Jim Schmidt, we're here. You'll have my number. I'll talk to you, Friday. Good luck. God bless.

PETITO: Thank you, Sir.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: The tip line, 1-800-CALL-FBI. We'll be right back with the handoff.