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Manchin Rejects Pelosi's Call For Deal On Economic Package Ahead Of Key Vote Tomorrow; Laundrie Family Attorney: Brian Bought A New Phone September 4, Left It Behind At His Parents' House Before He Vanished; Judge Suspends Britney Spears' Father As Conservator. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 29, 2021 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: There's some bad information in circulation. We have it right. And we'll get it to you.

But first, high anxiety in our Capitol, will the Democrats hold a vote tomorrow, even if there's a chance they can't get their own members, in line, to pass their bill? We're going to know in 24 hours. This is the biggest Capitol cliffhanger of the Biden presidency. So let's go through it.

The latest, Speaker Pelosi says tonight, she does still plan to hold the vote, tomorrow, on Biden's massive infrastructure bill. Remember, you got that, and then the spending bill. We're going to talk about both of them.

Remember the timing. Pelosi said Monday was the day. Everybody said it's not going to get done, Monday. That was true. Then she said, "OK, Thursday." That's tomorrow. Now, she's saying, "OK. It's tomorrow, but I have the right to move it again." Why? Because she doesn't have the votes.

However, I argue to you the timing on this, secondary. The main concerns are about the, who and the what, OK? The key fight centers around the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, right? That's the one that passed in the Senate, in August.

But a lot of House members don't like it. Why? A lot of reasons. They believe that it doesn't go far enough on a bunch of things. But the big thing is climate concerns. It's too light. So, you'll have tension that's twofold.

The needed climate fixes, according to them, are in the spending bill, as well as what the spending bill is really about, the big ticket items that Biden promised, in the "Build Back Better" bill, right? They are insisting therefore, that both bills go, at the same time, or they won't vote for infrastructure. How real is that?

However, it's not their only position. They say, "Or, we want assurances that if infrastructure is passed, tomorrow, there will be a framework, for a deal, in place, to complete the trillions in spending."

So, now it's the question, "Who?" Who is holding it up? Got to be the progressives, right? They keep saying they won't vote on the bill tomorrow. I argue to you, no.

The progressives are actually in line with President Biden. These numbers are his numbers. These wants are his wants. And they're all wildly popular, with you, on both bills.

And another reason, I don't think you can put this on them. They keep asking the moderates, in the House, and the two keys senators, Manchin and Sinema, to negotiate.

"Tell us what you like. Tell us what you don't like. Give us a number. Or, even if you can't do that, give us assurances that you're with us, on the bones, so that we can finish a deal in good faith."

They have gotten none of those, from the senators, or in the House, as far as we know, certainly with the senators, so much so that some are now referring to the two senators, Manchin and Sinema, as "Manchinema." I say, they may soon be known as "Manchenema" (ph) because they are really sticking it to their party.

So, what do they want, the "Why" here? As of tonight, Senator Manchin will only say he's negotiating, not changing his mind, before tomorrow. But on what bases? He says he can't and won't support spending trillions in spending, or in an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality, our nation faces.

OK, but that's like boilerplate. What are the specifics? What is too much? What do you want? He won't give a number, nothing that he'll agree to. Does that sound right?

That led the leader of the House Progressive Caucus to say "No, it isn't right." Congresswoman Jayapal says that Manchin's kind of nebulous negotiating is creating more votes against the infrastructure bill.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): If we do have a vote, then we'll vote it down. And we'll continue the negotiations, so that we can actually deliver the entirety of the President's agenda.


CUOMO: Now, that said, Manchin is like an open book, compared to Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

Nobody seems to know what she wants. Manchin is at least laying out on the table, what he likes, and what he doesn't like. With Sinema, they literally don't know, and she won't answer any questions about it.

They say, "We believe, she does want the "Build Back Better" plan, to happen this year." And she's gotten tons of attention. She met with Biden yesterday, his aides, two other times. White House officials went to her, today, to negotiate on the Hill. Four times, in 48 hours, and yet all they can say is "Our sense is" she's in favor of the bill, at some point. Really?

Listen to her dodge questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say that progressives - progressives that are frustrated that they don't know where you are?

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): I'm in the Senate.


CUOMO: "I'm in the Senate." That's the answer? Since when did Democrats act like that? I thought you guys were all about transparency, and being out there, and giving it.


What do you want, Senator? Kind of weird to duck the question!

The "Build Back Better" Act, OK, let's remember, why this is dicey for her, OK?

Expand the child tax credit? Big, Arizona. Medicare coverage? Big, Arizona. Housing, Community college, more affordable? Everywhere, everywhere. All of these things, they're very popular everywhere, especially in Arizona.

The issue is the price tag, $3.5 trillion. OK. It always is. So Sinema and Manchin say that they won't support the price tag as is. OK. So, give another number.

I think there is another question, though, that the Senator is going to have to answer at some point.

Is this just about the price, or who would be paying it? Is Senator Sinema more concerned about her Big Pharma friends, and corporate lobbyists that fill her coffers, than her regular constituents? I think that's a real question.

Now, the biggest question, of course is, what does this all mean, for tomorrow?

Let's turn to one of the most outspoken, or straight-talking, progressives, in the fight, Congressman Ro Khanna, Deputy Whip, of the House Progressive Caucus.

Thank you, for agreeing to come back, and actually making good, on the agreement. Appreciate you.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Chris, that was a great opening summary. I agree with it.

Senator Sinema is being treated like a head of state. I've never requested or met with the President, in the Oval Office. I meet with his staff. She meets with him, like every other day, and then she has a whole presidential delegation, Ricchetti and Susan Rice, all go to her office.

And all we want to know is what does she want? I mean, she's a first- term senator, and she hasn't put out a framework yet.

CUOMO: All right, see, so, and that's like, really kind of what I want to talk about. But I got to cover the basis.

What do you think happens tomorrow?

KHANNA: I don't think there is a vote. I mean, this is not the Progressive Caucus whipping. This is organic. People want to make sure that we have an agreement, to get people, expansion of Medicare, their dental benefits, vision benefits, to make sure people get paid for childcare.

Conor Lamb, who's been campaigning, in Western Pennsylvania, says this is very popular, the President's agenda. It's about making sure folks can go to community college, it's good for seniors. And many House Democrats want to make sure we deliver on that.

CUOMO: All right one step sideways, on that, just for a second, to talk politics.

Did Pelosi make a mistake, saying "We're doing this on Monday. We're doing this on Thursday." Did she not read the room right?

KHANNA: No, she had no choice. I mean, because of Sinema, and some of the folks, in the caucus, they were pressuring her to create this artificial deadline.

And there is no deadline. I mean, Senator Manchin has said, let's continue negotiations in good faith. He wants to see common ground? Fine, let's do that.

Why do we have to do this tomorrow? We can get to a good place in two weeks and three weeks. We can sit down and negotiate. And I don't understand why is tomorrow some magical date that it doesn't trigger anything.

CUOMO: Here's what I don't understand. You're intra-party here, OK? This isn't what McConnell, or what Ted Cruz, will give you an assurance on, where, it's going to be a heavy dose of verify that goes along with a modicum of trust.

These are your people. And why do you think it is that you can't get any read, from one of your own, in Senator Sinema, about what will make this happen?

KHANNA: I don't know. I mean, we have 99 percent consensus in the party. There's one senator, we can't get a read on. And I can't speculate about what her motives is.

What I do know is usually when you have the President of the United States, ask, in your own party, for a plan, you oblige. I mean, as a freshman congressman, or a freshman senator, you should have some deference, to the broader goals, of the party and the country.

Obviously, everyone represents their state, their constituency, as an individual. But politics is a team sport. And it's frustrating. But I have faith that the President, the Speaker, Majority Leader, eventually will prevail.

CUOMO: I wouldn't ask you to speculate, except right now. You have to give me an idea of what you're hearing about what's going on with Sinema.

Do you believe that there's some teeth to this?

"She gets a lot of money from Big Pharma. They don't like what you're doing with prescription drugs. She gets a lot of money from Big Money. They don't like that you want to raise the corporate taxes. So, she doesn't like the funding mechanisms. Therefore, she can't go for the bill."

KHANNA: Chris, as tough as I've been, on Senator Sinema, I never question a person's integrity, without actual facts and evidence.

I'll say two things. One, I don't know why she's doing these fundraisers, in the midst of the negotiation.


KHANNA: From an optics perspective, at a time, where there's such cynicism, it's a terrible look.

Second, if she has philosophical disagreements, maybe she actually believes the pharmaceutical arguments, at least put it forward. Put a plan forward.


So far, what we're hearing is she doesn't want to raise any taxes, on Amazon, or big corporations, even though they're not paying tax. She doesn't want to raise taxes, on people, in my district, who are worth $40 million, $50 million. So, she doesn't want to negotiate with Medicare.

So, what is her plan for revenue? Because she says she's for climate change provisions. What does she want? How is she going to raise it? And then, we can have a conversation. There's nothing there.

CUOMO: So now, what does this delay, this optic of disunity, do, on the Right, because there is a move there, to blow up the bipartisan agreement that they have on that side.

And my understanding, tell me, if yours matches it, is, "Look, they're weak. Let's not give them the infrastructure bill. I know some of you guys like it. But it's better for us, if they get nothing. Pull back your support."

Do you believe that this process might be increasing the chance that you lose the Senate bill?

KHANNA: I think it makes it harder, to get bipartisan support, in the House.

I was talking to a Republican friend of mine. I don't want to mention his name. He said, initially, there were about 50 Republicans, who were willing to vote, for the infrastructure bill, and that has fallen to four or five.

So, it is hurting, because you've gotten McCarthy, whipping against any Republican voting, on this. And that's unfortunate.

But all of this can be solved in 24 hours, if we just come to a general agreement, on the principles of the President's plan, to help seniors, to help working-class Americans, to deal with climate change.

And it's not going to be what Ro Khanna wants, and it's not going to be what Pramila Jayapal wants, and it's not going to be what the Progressive Caucus wants. It's going to be what President Biden wants. And that seems to me, eminently fair.

CUOMO: Still unfair to put this on Biden, and say so much, for him being the great lawmaker that everybody wants to do deals with, who knows how to deal with Congress, people in his own party?

KHANNA: Well, look, the President is trying to do something remarkable. He's trying to have transformative legislation, for the working-class and middle-class, something that has been ignored for probably 30 years, with the slimmest of majorities.

When FDR did it, he had huge majorities. When LBJ did it, he had huge majorities. Even Obama had huge majority.

So, I give the president a lot of credit, and he's at the one yard line. And there's this one senator, from Arizona, who's stopping us, from really making a difference. So, that's why I'm mad. It's not personal.

It's we can finally do something, in this country, for people, who don't have childcare, for people, who can't afford college, for seniors, who can't get - go to a dentist, we can finally do something.

This is why we run for Congress. This is why we come here. And we're one senator away, literally, from doing that. And that's why I hope we'll be able to get this done.

CUOMO: Well, remember, you don't need me to tell you this, but this is the state of play, in the country right now. If you guys don't get this done, with the numbers that you have, and the buy-in, from the American people, you're going to have problems in the midterms. You know that.

Congressman Ro Khanna, we're watching it, every step of the way. You will keep having this platform, to let us know, what's happening and why.

KHANNA: Always appreciate it.

CUOMO: Good luck doing the work of the people.

KHANNA: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, another developing story. We have to now really focus on Gabby Petito's fiance, because it's all about figuring out who killed her. And he has to have valuable information. He spent the most time, with her, in and around, when she died, OK?

Now, what do we know about him? He's disappeared. When? He came home without her. He then went camping with his family.

Now, let's stop for a second. Did he tell them what happened? Does he know what happened, and told them what happened, and they still went camping? That really says something, on a moral level, if, if that's true. But what about, the legalities, here, and, what about, the, fact analysis, here?

All right, there's been talk about the phone. "He didn't have a phone. He left his phone. No, he bought a phone right before he left."

What's the truth? And the truth matters, on this point. And I have it, next.









CUOMO: Now, facts matter in everything. But, in a criminal investigation, when you're trying to figure out, what happened, and you're looking at circumstantial evidence, and you're trying to figure out the right questions, and what reasonable doubt looks like, it really matters.

And we're getting a clearer picture of Brian Laundrie's movements, in the days, after he returned, without his fiancee, Gabby Petito, up until the time he went missing.

Now remember, why does this matter? Why should there be any sensation of damning of him, at all, when we don't really know? Because I have been doing this, over 20 years, and I have never had a case, where somebody's loved one goes missing, and they refuse to assist in the search. There is something off about that that needs to be explained.

If you heard that Brian bought a new phone, after his return, you're right. But when did he buy it matters, OK?

And it is floating around out there that he bought it "Right before he disappeared. And maybe his mom bought it for him, right before he disappeared. So maybe they helped him disappear."

No! Here's what we hear, from the Laundrie family attorney, and we have not heard anything, from the FBI, to contradict, OK? September 4, three days after Brian comes home, comes home on the 1st, without Gaby, 2, 3, 4, that's when he buys the phone.

It's a new phone. And it is the phone that the family says he left behind, along with his wallet, at their house, when he vanished, September 14, OK? So, that matters materially, all right? This isn't just a little detail.


Why? Well, because if he got the phone, on the 14th, I already spelled out for you, how that smells bad, right? If he got it, on the 4th, well now it doesn't really seem like it was front-loaded to help with a move.

The FBI has possession of that phone. And I'll tell you another reason that the date matters. Because if he got a phone, on the 14th, left it at home, and then left, what does the FBI do with that phone? Nothing, right, because who did he use it with?

But if he got it on the 4th, which he did, now, they've had two weeks of use, with that phone. And the FBI may be able to access numbers, and other information that could be helpful to them, those two weeks, OK?

Now, however, we still don't know where he is. Where does that leave the search, and the answers? Because, for him, to be, gone, weeks, is not easy. Remember, this is a guy, who when nobody had any reason to be looking for him, he was spotted all over the place, with Gabby, and without, but nothing since.

Perfect guest, Bobby Chacon, a retired FBI agent, attorney, forensic investigator, you couldn't check any more boxes that we need here.

It's good to see you again, Bobby.


CUOMO: First of all, the analysis there of why the date matters, beyond accuracy, do you agree? CHACON: I absolutely agree. I think it could be very much the case, where the lawyer that they had hired, initially told him that the phone that he had, while he was traveling with Gabby, the one we saw, on that Utah, the Moab police body cam, that was it - they told - the lawyer probably told him "That phone is going to be taken from you. If you want a new phone?"

And we all need phones, right? We can't live without our phones. He probably went out and got a new phone, because he knew the one that he was traveling with, when he was in Wyoming and Utah, was going to be taken from him.

CUOMO: He said to the cops, in Utah, "I don't have a phone." I don't know if you remember that, on the video. Who knows what's true, what isn't?

But he gets it on the 4th. He disappears on the 14th. That's 10 days of data that they have on that phone. Valuable, why?

CHACON: Well, look, I have MapQuest on my phone. I have some other mapping, Google Maps and things. If I'm going to take a trip, oftentimes, I go to see how long it's going to take me, and what route, it's going to send me on. And I can choose what route I want to take.

If he was doing any kind of research, on that phone, as far as where he was going to go, routing, and times, and places are going to be in those mapping applications.

CUOMO: And also, it wasn't a burner phone. They say out there, it's a burner phone.


CUOMO: And, as we know, those are very limited devices. This was a real phone, smartphone.

Now, how does he avoid any detection, for two weeks? People saw him all over the place. Everybody's looking for him. His picture's everywhere. He's got the best in the business trying to find him.

CHACON: Well, he had a huge head start. And that's the number one thing. I mean, he had a number of days, to plan his kind of getaway, before anybody knew what was happening right?

Gabby's body wasn't found yet. There was no charges lodged against him. He had probably some serious conversations with his lawyer - his criminal lawyer, and his parents, about what to do, about this situation.

And so, he had that head start. So, when he decided, to actually take action, on whatever plan, they had come up with? That was it. He had - he had the - he probably put the means into place, if he got enough cash.

I would be looking to see, if his parents liquidated any assets, those first two weeks, of September, to provide him with cash. So, he probably had a plan put in place. When he was ready to execute that plan, that was what was going to happen. He was going to go under the radar.

CUOMO: It was a big move, though, if that's what it was, and he didn't just go, what the parents say, which is "He didn't come back. He was going hiking. And he's in there, in alligator land."

Because the best thing, investigators have, going for them, right now, other than Gabby Petito being killed, and it being a homicide, and their understanding of what the cause of death was, is this knowledge of guilt of running. So, running created a lot of what they're going to use, to build a case. So, we'll see how it turns out.


CUOMO: Bobby Chacon, I appreciate you very much. I hope to speak to you again, and soon, because I hope we have more information to go on.

CHACON: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well.

All right, let's turn to a big decision, in what is really a human rights battle, for one of the world's biggest stars.

#FreeBritney, to me, has never been a celebrity story, all right? We don't cover entertainment, on this show. It's about why somebody's rights were treated so perversely. A conservatorship is a very specific device, for very specific things. And it never seemed right here.

Now, today, big development, the father suspended as conservator? Why only suspended? He says he wants out. Why only suspended? Does this give her the freedom that so many fans and legal watchers have wanted?

Her former attorney takes us through the ruling, and where it stands now, next.











CUOMO: All right, now these are not people, who are like lead legal advocates, all right? Britney Spears has a huge fan base, the Britney Army, right? #FreeBritney is a big part of the energy around this situation.

But, for us, and really, I would suggest for you, it should be about the law and equity here, and what's fair, because somebody, who's young, really just had their life taken from them, their money taken from them, for a long time. And if it could happen to a famous person, could happen to any of us, right?

So, today, big day, a Los Angeles judge suspended Jamie Spears, that's Britney's father, as conservator, of her estimated $60 million estate. I can't believe it's not more than that, by the way. All the success? All the touring? All the Vegas? All the years?

13 years, the pop star, has lived, under the arrangement. But we've only learned, in recent months, the extent to which her father controlled every aspect of her life, which she's described to the court as, effing cruelty.


The legal battle however, isn't over yet. Why? Well, because her court-appointed conservator is still in place. The conservatorship, the device, the vehicle is still there. There's a temporary replacement.

And new accusations, that her father placed secret recording devices, in his daughter's, bedroom.

Let's bring in Adam Streisand. Now, he was Britney Spears' former attorney.

It's good to have you, sir.


CUOMO: What's your reaction today?

STREISAND: Well, let's start with what the judge said, which is that the current situation is untenable.

What's sad and ironic is that Britney had the foresight and the capacity to understand that that situation would be untenable, 13 years ago, when she asked, me, to go to court, and argue, "Don't put my father in control of me. If anything, put in a private professional."

But what Britney and I didn't know, at the time, when I walked into court, is that the court had already put her under a conservatorship, without any notice to her.

So, she had no legal right, to engage any lawyer, of her own choosing, and got a lawyer, appointed by the court, she didn't choose, who never advocated for her, and instead, kept saying "Yes, Your Honor. Jamie is doing a wonderful job."

And for that, yes, he earned nearly $3 million, while Jamie was earning million dollars, and saying, "Well, Mr. Ingham, her court- appointed lawyer, is doing a wonderful job for Britney." And that's the perversity here.

CUOMO: Why didn't the judge just remove him, and remove the whole thing?

STREISAND: Well, the judge could have done that.

What was really interesting is you had Jamie's lawyers, arguing, "Your Honor, terminate the conservatorship right now," which is very unusual, right?

Very strange that all of a sudden, Jamie is saying, "Well, now I've heard Britney, and she says she doesn't want this, and so, let's terminate the conservatorship, and let's do it right now."

And we had Britney's lawyer, saying, "No, Your Honor, don't terminate the conservatorship yet. Just suspend him. And let us pursue our investigation of Jamie."

CUOMO: Ah, OK, that's the key point.


CUOMO: You know what? Thank you. You just reminded me. That's why I want to play some of the documentary, because they don't want him to just walk away.


CUOMO: They want a pound of flesh for what was done to her.


CUOMO: Let's play some sound.


ALEX VLASOV, FORMER SECURITY FIRM EMPLOYEE: It really reminded me of somebody that was in prison. And security was put in a position to be the prison guards, essentially.

Their reason for the monitoring was, you know, looking for bad influence, looking for potential, you know, illegal activity that might happen. But they would also monitor conversations with her friends, with her mom, with her lawyer, Sam Ingham.

Her own phone, her own private conversations were used so often to control her. I know for a fact that Jamie would confront Britney, and say, "Hey, why did you text this person?"


CUOMO: If true, trouble!

But I got to read a couple of full screens on this.

Jamie Spears' attorney, on this report, "All of his actions were well within the parameters of the authority conferred upon him by the court. His actions were done with the knowledge and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney, and/or the court. Jamie's record as conservator and the court's approval of his action speak for themselves."

The security firm, hired by Jamie Spears, on these - on this report, "Mr. Yemini and Black Box have always conducted themselves within professional, ethical and legal bounds, and they are particularly proud of their work in keeping Ms. Spears safe for many years."

All right, let's leave the security firm to the side.

Jamie Spears saying, "Hey, I have to be clean here, Streisand, because the court-appointed attorney, and/or the court, and Britney, all say I did well."

STREISAND: Well, let me just say one thing. I don't believe for a second that the court knew this was going on. The conservator actually has very limited powers.

But what was happening here is that the conservator with the sort of wink and nod of her court-appointed lawyer were abusing those powers, manipulating her to believe that they had far greater powers, than they really did.

There's no way. You can't have - put somebody on house arrest. You can't spy on them. And there's no way a court would agree to that.

CUOMO: So, it's interesting. So now that she was on the other foot, it's Jamie Spears, who wants this, to end, as quickly as possible, and Britney, and her lawyer, who want to keep it going, so that they can fully litigate what was done to her.

Adam Streisand, to be continued, hopefully, with you. Be well.

All right. You know, what is a huge influence, in this society, growing? Brand identity on politics, what do corporations endorse, and not endorse, in society, by where they will put their money, and what rules they'll make?


So, an airline just carried out the industry's biggest test of vaccine mandates. The results are dramatic. What will it mean for their business? What will it mean for their rivals?

United, what did they see with their ultimatum? We have the CEO of United. Why did they do it? How far are they willing to take it, and why? Next.








CUOMO: We are the only developed country, in the world, who has access, to the vaccine, and is intentionally refusing to take it, to the degree that we are. Think about that.

And here's what we know. Most of you are in favor of vaccine mandates at work. Even setting the politics of COVID aside, we've seen that for other diseases, they just work.

But United Airlines is now case in point that it's even more true, when it comes to this pandemic. They're looking at a 99 percent vaccination rate among employees. Why did they do it? Is it a win? What does it mean going forward?

Scott Kirby, CEO of United, it's good to have you, sir.


Now, this was controversial, because we're hearing about staffing shortages, all over, in all these different industries, even in health care, entire states, because people don't like the mandate.


CUOMO: You decided to do it anyway. Why?

KIRBY: Well, we decided, at United, to do it because it was the right thing for safety.

I've written letters, to the families, of every employee that's lost their life to COVID, during - from the time that this crisis began. And once the Delta variant picked up, and started having to write letters again, I spent time and just realized I can do something to put an end to this.

It's tragic. It's so unnecessary. Because, as you said, these vaccines work. And so, we made the decision to do it, because it was just the right thing to do. Instead of worrying about the complications, we decided we're going to do this.

And once we'd made that decision, then the team figured out how to make it work, and how to make it effective, and how to get us to 99 percent. But it was really about just doing the right thing to save lives. And that's the number one priority.

CUOMO: 99 percent is great. However, if 99 percent becomes a coefficient of losing a lot of staff, then that's bad for business.

You say it's a win. But you got 500 employees, who are going to have to go, 2,000 going on unpaid leave. Why is that acceptable as a win?

KIRBY: Well, again, it comes down to the trade-off of saving lives. So, no matter how big those numbers were, saving lives would have been worth it.

But those numbers, at less than 1 percent of our workforce that are going to leave, and I wish it had been 0 percent, but less than 1 percent, it's still a very small number, very manageable, in our ability to hire.

And ironically, we actually now have hundreds of employees, or potential employees, showing up at job fairs. And it's not - it wasn't intentional, but it's become a recruiting advantage, where we have people showing up, and saying, "I want to work for a company that puts employee safety first, that stands for something, that stands for doing the right thing." And it's actually made recruiting easier at United Airlines.

CUOMO: Now, we have not heard that.

KIRBY: So, that was a good decision.

CUOMO: We've only heard the opposite, that, these mandates are making people sweat workforce, because there's choosing this perverse sense of personal freedom, and they're not going to do it.

You're saying that you have seen a recruiting bump, after this policy?

KIRBY: Yes, we have. And I understand the concern that other businesses have. We had the same issue. We had over, you know, less than 70 percent of our workforce vaccinated, when we put the requirement in, just seven short weeks ago. And we're at now at 99 percent.

And I think this is the point. If you put, you said it earlier, required - vaccine mandates work. If you put the mandate in, if you're not wishy-washy, if you say, "Here's the date," and you stick to it, the vast majority of people, go out, and get the vaccine. And then, we can just all move forward, and put COVID in the rearview mirror.

CUOMO: Now, you can, except we're leaving out a big piece, right? Have you considered mandates, for people, who are going to fly, on United?

KIRBY: No, we really think - I think that that is - if it ever is going to happen, and it already has happened, for international travel, by the way, but for domestic travel, I think that really is in the purview of the government. They've got a lot more data, science experts.

And really, this is about getting the whole population vaccinated. And if every company will go out, and do the same kind of requirements that United has done, and get to 99 percent, of their workforce, look, we're going to be there.

Instead of creating friction, every time you get on a subway, or an airplane, and I think this is what the administration has said. The much more efficient way is to do it, through employer mandates. And that's why the government is coming out with rules, to require, across the economy.

And I hope those rules are strict, and go into place, and don't have a lot of wiggle room, an out. Because if we do that, that really will just get us over the hump, get us well past herd immunity, and people won't be dying over this anymore.

CUOMO: You're having too many brawls over masks, let alone vaccine mandates, among the passengers. So, I understand the concern there.

Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, thank you very much for talking about this--

KIRBY: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: --but also helping us understand the implications. Good luck going forward.

KIRBY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

Now, remember, which business led the way with its COVID response, early on? The NBA. So, why does it suddenly find itself so divided over vaccines? Star players, we seem to see an increase in them wanting to be involved in our social dialog, but not on vaccines. Mixed messaging, so is the League.

Let's bring in the man, Bob Costas, to help us understand how the sport that came up with the "Bubble," is now getting blindsided, next.









CUOMO: So today, a guy from the right-wing camp that brought us "Shut Up and Dribble" decided he's going to support Black athletes, well, those who have expressed skepticism, of the COVID vaccine, or haven't gotten the shot.

Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, "I stand with Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal, Jonathan Isaac. #NBA. #YourBodyYourChoice."

He's vaccinated, by the way, Cruz, just so you know.

The senator's comments come in the wake of LeBron James confirming he received the COVID vaccine, despite being initially skeptical. Important comments, from a key player, while the NBA, and other leagues, grapple with vaccine hesitancy, among athletes, and what to do about it.

ESPN says about 90 percent of NBA players are vaccinated. What could the 10 percent of holdouts mean for the upcoming season?

Let's bring in the best, Bob Costas.

Good to see you, brother.



By the way, when Senator Cruz, says, "Hats off, I stand with," that's further proof that when the crowd that says "Stick to sports" makes that statement, all it's ever meant is "Stick to sports, when you're saying something, I don't want to hear, or I don't agree with. But if you're saying something, I agree with, the microphone is yours, the platform is yours. You can be a regular on Fox News, if you're saying what we want to hear."

CUOMO: Exactly. So, LeBron James, big voice, big presence, says, "I was skeptical."


CUOMO: "But I did the research. I asked the right people. It's the right choice for me and for my family. So, I did it. But I'm not going to use my platform"--


CUOMO: --"to tell other people to do with their body."

What do you think?

COSTAS: It's good that he got vaccinated. He's had, I think, some missteps. But, by and large, I think he's an admirable person, both personally, and in his public intentions.

But he could do so much more good, in this case, than just a perfunctory "I am vaccinated, and it's not my place to tell anybody else anything."

If he did the research, then that research also includes that virtually everybody, who is hospitalized, seriously ill, and virtually everybody, who dies, is among the unvaccinated, at this point.

And even though you can get COVID, if you're vaccinated, it mitigates the possibility of that happening. It mitigates the possibility of passing it on. And it mitigates the possibility that you'll become seriously ill.

All those things are beyond dispute unless you're in the dark recesses of the internet, or someplace else, other than CNN, and a few other places, on the cable dial. So that's - it's beyond dispute, if we're dealing in objective fact.

And if somebody is influential, and popular, as LeBron James, and other NBA players, and athletes, in other sports, would come out and make PSAs, and state, not just "I've been vaccinated. But hey, do this. It's the right thing to do," it could have a practical effect, a positive practical effect.

CUOMO: Yes, they mean a lot.


CUOMO: In our culture. And they've spoken about things that are every bit as controversial, or more so--


CUOMO: --than this. So, what do you think it is about this?

COSTAS: It may be that some people, and I'm only speculating here, some people, in LeBron's circle, may have their own doubts about it. So, perhaps he doesn't want to alienate some of those people, I don't know, including the 10 percent of NBA players, who are not vaccinated.

Now, it's worth saying that 90 percent not only exceeds the general population, it's well past the point, where President Biden, and everybody else, the CDC, would be thrilled. We'd have herd immunity at that point.

So, 90 percent is a good number. The NFL is at roughly 93 percent. But you still have situations, where even if someone does become seriously ill, if they're in close contact, the protocols, at present, are you have to be quarantined. You go on a short injured list. Some of these teams can't practice at full strength.

And in the case of New York, and San Francisco, there are city ordinances that say that you cannot play, in an indoor situation, not outdoor, but indoor, like basketball--

CUOMO: If you're not vaccinated.

COSTAS: --you cannot play if you're not vaccinated.


COSTAS: That means Kyrie Irving. That means Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors. So, that puts them at a competitive disadvantage. CUOMO: Should the NBA say, "You get vaccinated or you don't play?"

COSTAS: Well, Michele Roberts, who's the head of the NBA Players Association, and DeMaurice Smith, had both of them, on my HBO show, last week. He heads the NFL Players Association. They both strongly advocate vaccines.

But they say it's their duty, until something is collectively bargained, to protect the rights, of those, who for whatever misguided reasons, decide not to be vaccinated.

But then, when I asked what if, in a new collective bargaining agreement, or in an effort, to open the present one, the League cited extenuating circumstances, this is in effect, something like a force majeure clause that we're putting in here, unexpected calamity, and everybody should be vaccinated?

They both expressed a willingness to consider that. They didn't object to that again.

CUOMO: All the employees have to be.

COSTAS: All the employees have to be.

CUOMO: And the employers are different.

COSTAS: Right.

CUOMO: But if you work with the players, you have to be.

COSTAS: Right.

CUOMO: But the players don't.

COSTAS: All the referees, all the coaches.

CUOMO: That's not a consistency.

COSTAS: The therapists, everything.

CUOMO: So, while I have you?


CUOMO: I have to ask you something.


CUOMO: Yes or no?


CUOMO: Eli and--


CUOMO: Eli and Peyton, the biggest gift to football watchers, since John Madden, as a color personality.

COSTAS: Yes, Tony Romo made a ripple recently. Cris Collinsworth is excellent. But it's different. It's sustained excellence over a period of time. It wasn't a big splash like Tony, like John Madden, and now this.

And, as the technology evolves, I think what's going to happen, in sports, is you're going to get more and more alternatives.

There are already little niches, where if you want to watch a game, and in effect, be your own director, you want to watch it only from the end zone, you want to watch it only from a high camera, you want the audio, or you don't want the audio, I think it's only a matter of time, in a situation, like a World Series, where fans always say, "I want my local announcer."

CUOMO: Right.

COSTAS: Where the network will say "OK, we paid all this money, for the rights. As long as you carry our commercials, and we can include your rating, with our rating?"

CUOMO: Can be whoever you want.

COSTAS: Yes. "You can watch and listen to any whoever you want."



COSTAS: And this is really an alternative. But it may be, even though this is a business of imitation, as you know, and there will be imitators, there's only one Peyton Manning, and only one combination of Manning brothers.

CUOMO: I know. And the brothers' vibe?

COSTAS: Oh, it's great!

CUOMO: It is - there's some magic there. Now look? I hate it.


CUOMO: Because it's up against me, on Monday, and it's killing me.

But, you with the Olympics, you had a lot of things, but the way you bring people into sport, the way John Madden did it, the way the TNT guys do basketball?


CUOMO: I think this is the next iteration of that. We'll see. But I just wanted your take.

COSTAS: You got it.

CUOMO: Because you're the best.

COSTAS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Bob Costas?

COSTAS: Thank you, Chris. Good to see you.

CUOMO: Always, always a plus.

COSTAS: Thanks.

CUOMO: Thank you for being a gift to the audience.

We'll be right back with the handoff.

I think that they are going to be--








CUOMO: These are interesting conversations, we're having. Because whether or not, you're aware of it, this country is in the middle of figuring out its why, who we are, what we're about, and what it'll mean, for all of us, going forward. So, let's keep the conversation going.

Thanks for watching me. It is now time for the big show, "DON LEMON TONIGHT," and its big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So much on the line, in Washington.