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Coroner: Gabby Petito Died By "Manual" Strangulation; Texas Governor Bans COVID Vaccine Mandates By Any Employer; Kyrie Irving "Will Not Play Or Practice" With Brooklyn Nets Due To Vaccination Status. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: But today, Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say they will continue implementing a federally-directed vaccine mandate for their employers, since they fall under a White House directive for businesses that do federal government contracting.

The news continues. Let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Appreciate it, Coop.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

The coroner's verdict is in, in the Gabby Petito case. We now know Gabby was strangled. And we can tell you what detail will matter most to investigators.

We also learned something else from the corner. Here it is.


DR. BRENT BLUE, TETON COUNTY, WY CORONER: As far as the time of death, we are estimating three to four weeks from the time that the body was found.


CUOMO: Now, this is an approximation, right? The coroner went on to say, "Give or take a week." The finding, however, is significant in terms of timing. We're going to take you into the timeline and show you why.

Now, here's what we know. Gabby was found September 19, Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest, thanks to other campers. That's how the cops found out where she was.

Dr. Blue, the coroner, says they estimate she was killed three to four weeks before she was discovered. Now they're always going to give a range. It's hard to know precisely. So, where does that put the death? Approximately, between, August 22 which, it can't be, I'll explain why, in a second, and the 29th, OK? We know we can narrow that window. Well, the last reported sighting of Gabby Petito, by witnesses, was on August 27, Merry Piglets restaurant, Jackson, Wyoming.

So, if the coroner's timeframe is right, and the date of the last sighting is right, which we know it is, Gabby may have been killed, sometime between August 27 and August 29.

We know her fiancee, Brian Laundrie, was still in the area, during August 27 to August 29. How? Because two drivers, who picked him up hitchhiking, say they both gave him rides, without Gabby, without Gabby, on August 29, in the Grand Teton National Park.

You'll remember he was described as seeming a little off. He got in a car. Then he got out. He offered them money. Behavior was erratic, said the other person, who picked him up.

It wasn't until September 1 that Brian Laundrie showed up, back at home, across the country, in Florida, in Petito's van. They shared it.

So, the timeline could be off plus or minus a week, but it potentially excludes the idea that this could not have been the fiancee. By looking at the timeline, "I wasn't there, I was home, I had come back, to deal with the storage unit," those explanations won't seem to cover what is now in the world of probability.

However, investigators are working with more. First, we know that Gabby was found, near a campsite. No reports that she was hidden or buried.

What does that mean to investigators? It is suggestive of a spontaneous event, a lack of planning, pointing to a crime of passion. Who commits crimes of passion? Most often, someone familiar to the victim.

We also learned today, as expected, DNA was collected from Gabby's body. Now, what will be interesting is if there is any finding of any DNA that was not the fiancee's.

Why? Because if there is nobody else, except him, in terms of evidence of contact, with the body, with Gabby, the idea that this was a random attack, by a stranger, becomes more suspect.

However, the big takeaway for investigators is going to be this part of the autopsy. You see it on the screen? Cause is "Death by manual strangulation/throttling."

Throttling is a little bit of a term of art within the forensic field, that is, strangled by human force, meaning there's no evidence that this was a rope, or a garrote, or something like that, something, some implement or tool.

Now, what does that indicate? Again, lack of planning, suggestive of a crime of passion. That makes finding Gabby Petito's fiancee, Brian Laundrie, more important than ever. Now, where, he is concerned, two things very damaging, on top of everything that was learned today.

The only person I've ever heard of, in all my years, doing this job, who's loved one goes missing, and they not only refuse to help look for the person, but won't communicate with her family. Now, that is a matter of fact, since Gabby Petito disappeared.


Then, he went missing, since September 13th, which could easily be construed by investigators, as evidence of his own negative feelings, about his role, in this situation.

His parents and investigators have been searching, with no luck, at the Carlton Nature Reserve, in Venice, Florida, for weeks. That's where the parents say he went. There is no other indication that he went there, except that they say that's where he went.

Now, interestingly, the attorney, for the Laundrie family, reiterated after this ruling was announced that Brian is only considered a person of interest, in relation to Gabby's death, and that he's only charged, at this point, with the unauthorized use of a debit card that the lawyer volunteered was Gabby's. The indictment did not say that.

Now, what was the point of such a statement? It's interesting. But it's a side issue. The big question is, with what investigators, now know, do they have enough for an arrest? And if so, what would the charge be?

That's where we turn to the better minds now. We have CNN Legal Analyst, and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson, forensic pathologist, former medical examiner, Dr. Michelle DuPre.

It's good to have you both.

Doc, let me start with you. Let's deal with what we know, and then I'll go to Joey, about what that could show, all right?

On the know side, were you surprised by this?

DR. MICHELLE DUPRE, FORMER MEDICAL EXAMINER, RETIRED FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST & POLICE OFFICER: No, not really. I do think that it is a crime of passion. And strangulation is very common in those.

CUOMO: Now, what else do you think that you can tell, about circumstances, based on what you know, from the forensics, the location of the body, the timing, and what they said in the autopsy?

DUPRE: This all tells me that again, it was probably not planned. It was probably a spontaneous act. It was most likely domestic violence- related.

It also tells me that he didn't try to cover it up. If she was killed there, and I'm not sure that we know that she was, if she was not dumped there, then again, this was very random, or not random, but spontaneous.

CUOMO: Now, if she had been dumped there, left there, wouldn't that be somewhat inconsistent with her being found out in the open, as opposed to, if somebody was going to leave a body somewhere, wouldn't they want to hide it?

DUPRE: Yes, and no. Again, they may just dump it there, and want to get away quickly, thinking that because they've moved to a secondary location, there would be less evidence, and less likely to be found. It's still a forensic countermeasure.

CUOMO: What does that mean?

DUPRE: It means that it's still a method of trying to cover up what they did, if that person was moved from the original crime scene.

CUOMO: How often is strangulation, specifically throttling, which means with human hands, as opposed to using an instrument, or any kind of device, how common is it that that is someone familiar to the deceased?

DUPRE: It's very common. That is one of the most common ways that a partner would strangle, would kill, another person, is by strangulation.

CUOMO: How do you die by strangulation?

DUPRE: It's asphyxia, which is cutting off the oxygen to the brain. And it's typically by the hands wrapped around the throat, or the neck, in order to cut off that circulation.

CUOMO: How long?

DUPRE: And therefore the oxygen.

CUOMO: How long does it take?

DUPRE: Well it depends like, on how hard it's done. It can take minutes. It can take a few minutes, really.

CUOMO: OK. Thank you, Doc.

Now, Joey, in terms of what this will mean to investigators, the headline question is, do you believe on what they see in this autopsy, they have enough to arrest Brian Laundrie, if they can find him?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's no question about it, Chris. Good evening, to you and to Dr. DuPre.

The reality is, is that you just conducted a prosecutor's direct examination of a witness who's going to give you information, critical to the conviction.

Why? Dr. DuPre spoke to the issue of how it would be a crime, right? That would be passionate. That would be intimate. She spoke to the issue of strangulation. She spoke to the issue of the nature of the cause of death, et cetera.

And then you ask yourself the question. "Well, who would that individual be?" And then you have other information. You specified, and spelled it out, very well, Chris, in the outset, with respect to the timeline.

But I would suggest the prosecutor has more. Like what? There are these prior bad acts. And if you want to talk about a rosy relationship, where everything was great and fun, and that he would never do such a thing, I say, "Just wait one minute."

You look at the Moab interaction, with respect to the non-arrest, right, but the domestic violence issue. That's one. You look at witness statements, with regard to how they behaved, in an interaction, in a restaurant. That's two. Why is that important? Because prior bad acts give you an indication of a pattern of behavior.


So, who would this person be, who did this, who was traveling around with her? The very person, who engaged in those other negative interactions. I think it's powerful, significant. What's that? The autopsy report with respect to the cause of death.

CUOMO: Him leaving/disappearing means what?

JACKSON: It means consciousness of guilt.

In the event that you did nothing, in the event that you have clean hands, in the event that oh my goodness, you want to find her, you want to know what happened to her, you'd be the first to call the police, wouldn't you sir? You'd be the first to go and help the family, wouldn't you, sir?

You'd be the first to find out and determine what happened to the one you loved, and wanted to spend the rest of your life with, the fiancee, you were traveling, across the country, dictating every single thing you were doing, on Instagram.

But what happens? You're in the camera, smiling on Instagram, showing what you're eating, cooking, everything else. And then, all of a sudden, you disappear? Is that indicative of conduct, which is suggestive of innocence? I say not.

CUOMO: DNA presupposes, Doctor, that of course you'll find the fiancee's DNA, on Gabby. That shouldn't be damning.

Is there any specificity of where DNA is found, in terms of how she died that could be instructive, even if it is the fiancee's?

DUPRE: Well, certainly. If you found DNA, say, under her fingernails, for example, that could be a sign of a defensive one that there was a struggle. DNA found other places, again, depends on where that is. They were a fiancee. They were a couple.

The interesting thing would be if you found other DNA, or foreign DNA.

CUOMO: Right. Then now you - I mean, that would be Brian Laundrie, if this winds up being him that is targeted. His defense counsel's dream is to raise some doubt.

Let me just ask you something, not from a forensic perspective, but just from your experience in so many cases. Have you ever heard of a loved one not participating, in the search, for someone who's missing?

DUPRE: Only on very rare occasions.

CUOMO: And why?

DUPRE: That was because they were the cause of death.

CUOMO: Dr. DuPre, thank you very much, Joey Jackson.

Look, just because it happened before, doesn't mean it's true here. Prosecutors have to make the case, every time out, beyond a reasonable doubt. This isn't about canceling somebody. This is about convicting them for a major felony.

Thank you both very much. As we get more information, I'll bring you back. Appreciate it.

All right, now, politics. If you are a GOP governor, why would you pick a fight with your own base and big business? That's the question, circling around the Texas governor. How strong is the pull of being like Trump? He's going after vaccine mandates that now big businesses, in his state, are ignoring.

And now, a fellow prominent conservative, in Texas, is not happy with him. He's here to tell us why, next.









CUOMO: All right, let's start with the good news. 78.4 percent of adults, in the United States, are fully vaccinated. You've heard the experts. We can potentially end the pandemic, in a matter of months, in part, by getting more adults and children vaccinated.

But you know what's not going to help? What we now call politics, which is really something much uglier, than this service of people, which is what politics, is.

Messages like this, from one congressman, Jim Jordan today, urging the State of Ohio, to end all vaccine mandates. That's what Governor Abbott just did, in Texas, with that executive order, barring companies from requiring employees to get the shot.

Why are politicians doing their damnedest to keep us from reaching it?

Let's bring in conservative radio host, Mark Davis, from 660 AM, The Answer, in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Good to have you on the show, brother.


CUOMO: It's interesting, when I was reading in on this. I'm very happy you took the opportunity, to come on.

Government telling people what to do? Conservatives, not going to like it, really, nobody likes it. Nobody likes to be told what to do.

But you don't like hearing a governor, let alone, a supposedly conservative governor, telling companies that they can't do something that you believe they are allowed to. How so?

DAVIS: Well, it calls to mind a certain consistency, in the conservative mindset, of what government's role should be, in business decision-making, and, to my mind that role is as little as possible.

That means that Joe Biden is wrong to tell companies that you must have a vaccine mandate. And governors, from Abbott to DeSantis, whom I also love, are wrong to tell companies that they cannot.

I am a business and economic liberty guy, as much as I am an individual liberty guy. People have the right to get the shot or not. And businesses have the right to have whatever vaccine policies they please.

CUOMO: So, two days ago, Abbott just tweeted, "In Texas, it is businesses not government."

Why the change?

DAVIS: Well, I can't read minds. But there are - there are two theories, and I'll bet it's a combination of both.

The easy one that a lot of people pay attention to is A, there's a right word, pivot, perceived from Governor Abbott, as a result of two campaigns, one by Allen West, the other by former state senator Don Huffines, running to the right of him.

And they view, as their goal, to convince millions of Texas voters, who gladly voted for Abbott, four years ago that he is now suddenly insufficiently conservative. That's a high mountain to climb, but they're coming at him every day. So, politics, and pivoting, that's, one theory. The other one though, is that in the coverage that you guys have done, and everybody else has done, the Southwest work stoppage, the occasional hospital that's having a shutdown, because 10 percent, 20 percent of their health care workers are protesting the vax mandate.


There's serious concern that the mandates themselves, well-meaning though they may be, and there's debate over that, may be causing this backlash, and this serious, full-on revolt that may bring portions of an already-fragile economy to its knees, creating, I believe, a valid debate, over whether the mandates are, in some way, counterintuitive, if our goal is to get more people vaccinated.

CUOMO: Well it depends on how people's perspective on the mandate is shaped.

Why do you think, Mark that no other established democracy in the world is having the struggle that we are, with getting vaccinated?

DAVIS: Well, it's a similar cousin to the "Why are we the only country with X amount of gun proliferation?"

America's different. America's special. America is unique. There's a Liberty mindset that rolls through our veins. And I have it. Even though I am proudly vaccinated, my freedom involved my ability to make that choice.

The whole COVID nightmare has presented us with wildly unprecedented things. And there's a portion of America, and a portion of Southwest Airlines, and a portion of some hospital emergency rooms that just don't want to be told to put something in their body that they don't want.

And I really do believe that if the mandates went away, there'll be people who would grudgingly, over time, say, "OK, I'll do it, because I'm not being told that I have to."

CUOMO: What are you hearing, from your listeners, when it comes to this issue?

DAVIS: It's a delicious mixture. I do a conservative show. But I'm proud to welcome everybody, from every perspective.

There are people who think that I am somehow problematic, because I have not glommed on completely, with Abbott and DeSantis, and saying, "Yes, tell those businesses, they can't do this!"

And it is a sobering thing to hear, from someone who says, "I've worked at XYZ Corporation for 20 years. It's my livelihood. And now they're going to fire me, because I won't get the shot?" And my first answer is, "Well, guess what? Get the shot."

But then I'm telling them what to do. They do have that latitude. They do have that freedom. But XYZ Corporation also has the right to have its rules. So, it's a collision of liberties, and it just creates a fascinating debate every day.

And it's hard to know exactly where it's all going to go, because, in looking at what's going on at Southwest, I'm wondering if that's not inspiring workers, in other workplaces, who are saying, "You know what? If we can get enough people, to bring a company to its knees, then maybe we can get them to lose the mandates, too."

But even if a company wanted to lose the mandate, Chris, there's the White House lording over them, saying "You can't, because we tell you, you have to have the mandate."

CUOMO: If they do work with the federal government. If they do work with the federal government.

DAVIS: Well, the Biden mandate involves, you don't have to work with the federal government, to feel the sting of the Biden mandate. You have to have 100 employees.

CUOMO: Right.

DAVIS: But the Biden mandate says, "You got to - you got to be vaxxed." And there are people, who just say, "That's wrong." They just say - they "Just don't tell me what I have to do, on this personal health decisions."

CUOMO: Here's the part I don't get, and then I'll let you go, and I appreciate you being on, very much. Hope to see you again.

DAVIS: No problem.

CUOMO: Conservatives, grew up all around them, married into, conservative family. It's not just about what you have the right to do. It was always about what is right. And it seems like half of that equation has been abandoned by conservatives.

"It's my freedom." OK. You have the right not to take the vaccine. But what tells you that it is right, when it seems to check every traditional conservative notion?

Is there science behind it? Yes. Does it help you, keep yourself, and those you care about, safe? Yes. Is it part of your responsibility, to doing the right thing, ethically, by others? Yes.

What happened to those values, within the conservative movement, as opposed to just this resistance, by Right?

DAVIS: The question suggests that conservatism compels the vaccine, which it does not. I am a decided conservative, a proud conservative, and I am proudly vaccinated.

Conservatism involves viewing liberty as something that, by its definition, means that there are some people, who may say things, and do things that we disagree with.

I'm having it out every day with people who give me reasons why they're not getting the shot. And I find some of those reasons, shall we say, informationally-challenged. But I'm not going to come into their lives, and tell them what to do. And I don't want government doing it either.

CUOMO: I'm not saying government. Don't need the government to tell you to do it if it's right. Remember? Character counts.

DAVIS: Right.

CUOMO: Didn't I hear that in a campaign once? Character counts!

DAVIS: Well by all means.

CUOMO: Where is good character in the assessment that "I'm not going to do this just because nobody can tell me to do it?"

DAVIS: Right

CUOMO: "Even though I may make me sick, may make people I care about sick, or others."

That's what I don't get about the Allen West position, by the way. Thank god he's going to be OK.

DAVIS: Well?

CUOMO: We hope.


CUOMO: But "All we need is antibodies. All we need is the pill." The pill and antibodies don't keep you from getting sick. Why is that being ignored here? It just seems like--

DAVIS: But here's the thing. But I don't go - Allen's a friend of mine. I don't go to him for medical advice. He can do whatever he wants to do.


And a lot of people called me, and they said "Mark, you know Allen. Now that he's got a big honking case of the COVID, what's he going to do now?" And I said he's going to double-down, not just on being anti- mandate, but on his own vaccine hesitancy. That's what he's doing. His base loves it.

He's being Allen. I'm being me. You're being you. That's what conservatism really, really means. It's respecting those differences.

Had a lot of people, I hear from them every day, who aren't getting the shot, I wish they would, but I'm not going to make them.

CUOMO: Mark Davis, I appreciate you coming on this show.

DAVIS: Thank you, man.

CUOMO: I didn't make you. But I'm glad you took the opportunity. DAVIS: Exactly. Thoroughly voluntary!

CUOMO: Be well. Be well.

A star NBA player says, "I'm exercising my right. I'm not going to take the vaccine." And the basketball league, the NBA says, "OK." But now, his team, the Brooklyn Nets says, "But you can't play."

Regular season opener, just a week away, arguably, one of the two or three best point guards, in the league, not going to be on the court.

Is this the right call by the Nets? Is this the right call by him? A sports world insider with his take on the situation.









CUOMO: We just can't get enough of making our own trouble, when it comes to COVID.

Now, one of the biggest stars, in the NBA, is off the court, because he won't get the vaccine. The Brooklyn Nets say point guard Kyrie Irving "Will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant."

The NBA doesn't have a league-wide mandate, for the players, but it does follow local vaccine rules. And yes, players in the NBA are well more vaccinated than the rest of us. It's like 96 percent of them. The removal of a key All-Star could have ripple effects.

Let's bring in sports journalist, Host of "The Right Time with Bomani Jones," Bomani Jones.

Good to see you.


CUOMO: So, let's look at Kyrie, first. You think he's making the right decision?

B. JONES: I mean, right, as the individual sort of notion. I could not see a circumstance, under which I would take the path that he's taken. And we just got a report, from Shams Charania, at "The Athletic," that Kyrie believes that he is taking on a much larger cause for more people. He believes that he is standing up as a voice for the voiceless, is the way that this report put it, and that he's standing up for the people, who lost their jobs, because of vaccine mandates.

And that's just a little bit weird, because it's interesting that the voice for the voiceless isn't actually using his voice. We find this out via anonymous sources.

CUOMO: Right.

B. JONES: Like Kyrie is a one of one sort of situation. And I can't purport to understand fully what his logic is on this, but it couldn't be me.

CUOMO: Well, he's gotten some things twisted before. But I think the most central concern is you want to speak for people? Speak for your teammates.

B. JONES: Well - well--

CUOMO: I mean, what do you think this says to them?

B. JONES: Well, or if you're going to speak for people, actually speak for the people, because one thing that's happened with a lot of guys, in the NBA, or really, just across sports, is the idea that this is a personal decision.

And I think that this goes beyond sports that this somehow became something very sacred, that people do not disclose to people, without even really giving much of a rationale for it.

But with his teammates, it seems pretty clear that they got sick of this, like, I think that a lot of guys--

CUOMO: No pun intended.

B. JONES: --and this is fairly a floor (ph) for people, I talk to, where they just figured, in the end, "Of course, he's going to show up," because I mean, why wouldn't he show up?

And then, he doesn't show up. And I don't think that they were ready for that. And I don't think that anybody really likes the premise of the idea that somebody thinks he's just going to show up for half the games.

CUOMO: The league does not have a player mandate. Should it?

B. JONES: No, I don't think so. Or, at the very least, I understand why that's something that the Players Association would fight vehemently. And their members do not want a mandate. The owners are not in a position to impose that.

I am uncomfortable, particularly in sports, with the idea that you have to make somebody take anything, just because these are people who trade on their bodies. It's a little bit different.

And there's more nuance, I think, in terms of the decision there. But without a mandate, in this particular world, they've gotten spectacularly high vaccination rates, which, tells me that a mandate probably wasn't necessary.

CUOMO: LeBron James had been caught up in a little bit of controversy, about the vaccine. Do you think it is fair, for NBA stars, to be looked to, for saying the right things, and doing the right things, where the vaccine is involved?

B. JONES: I think it depends on who we're talking about.

I do think that there's a measure of responsibility that comes from the platform that you have. But I also think that if you're somebody, who has leaned in on the idea that you have a platform, then now is not the time to back off of it.

So, LeBron is a person I look to, when I make that statement, because he's leaned in on this idea that he is a leader, he's about something larger, who has shown up to playoff games, with Leader II Society T- shirts. This, to me, would be a time, where you would think that that leader would be necessary, you need to step up.

Going then, and just saying, "Well, I respect everyone's decisions," you can respect their decisions, while also vehemently saying that you disagree with them, if you so choose.

So, if you have decided that you're going to be a front-facing person, and you have decided that you are going to come to the front of the room, and be the one to lead people, then now is the time to lead.

There is a larger question about how much should we truly value the opinions of famous people. But hey, you can make the argument, the horse has left the barn, like now that you're here, that comes with a measure of responsibility.

CUOMO: Bomani Jones, thank you very much. Appreciate the conversation.

B. JONES: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

President Biden was elected, to help end this pandemic, to do better, to bring people together. And everything has been very hard. He's got a long list of items, on his agenda, and he's not checking a lot of boxes.

And you know what happens in politics? What goes up, must come down, just like his approval rating, sinking, while the amount of issues he has to tackle grows. What does this mean for him and for you?

We're going to talk big picture with the OAO, Van Jones, next.









CUOMO: You think the Democratic Party realizes that Biden's numbers going down and, them fighting, over price tag politics, may have something to do, with each other?

The House just kicked the debt ceiling trouble to December. But that's not even really checking a box. I don't even know how many of you really care about that debt ceiling situation.

The same time, we're all likely to be searching for what ship, our kids' holiday presence are stuck on. We got huge supply chain issues.

You got teachers quitting in Florida. You got other - all kinds of workers quitting all over the place. Some of it, it's about the vaccine. Some we don't understand. Some never came back after COVID.

Gas prices are going up. Inflation is going to be a concern soon. You'll start hearing people talk about it.

Americans, again, look at this graph. This is what I was talking about earlier. Why are they quitting their jobs?


CUOMO: Biden is expected to talk about the economy, tomorrow, especially these - specifically these issues. But what does he have to do, to get the needle, moving in a positive direction, for himself? And is his own party working against him?


Lots to discuss, the OAO, the One And Only, Van Jones.

So, it's good to have you. Well, it's I've never met another one. So, you are the One And Only.


CUOMO: The numbers are down. The party is fighting with itself, over what should be easy wins. Are they connected?

V. JONES: Well, yes, I think that right now, the honeymoon is over. There was a moment where it's like Trump's - "Goodbye, Trump! Hello, vaccines! We're so glad to see you, Joe Biden." That's kind of how this year started.

And then, he actually got stuff done. Don't forget, you got 200 million Americans, who are vaccinated, right now. You got a trillion dollars that he was able to move out into the economy with the Rescue plan. He's dealing with the coup attempt well. His Department of Justice is going after voter suppression.

He's doing a lot of good stuff. The problem is that he put himself in a position, where he made big, bold claims, about the rest of the agenda.

"You think this great stuff that we did is good. It's nothing! Wait until this summer, when you're going to get all this other stuff!" And then he steps on a rake, and then he slipped on a banana peel, and he falls down the stairs, with some marbles. And now, people are looking at him in a negative light.

Now, can they recover? Yes, they can recover. If at this time, next year, if gas prices have come down, if cases are going down, jobs going up, you're going to be in a different situation.

But right now, the Democratic Party is looking over the edge of a cliff. And there's a lot of fear and concern. And we're - you're not seeing that strong Joe Biden leadership that I think people were expecting to get stuff done, to get the next round of stuff done.

CUOMO: So, I would say it is unfair, for you, to say "They," or that "He stepped on the rake, he failed," because if I were him, I'd be blaming my people, in Congress, for these fights, and not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. I'd be mad at all of them for making me look bad.

However, the last point that you made, where is the Joe Biden, who knows the game who likes straight talk, who likes to get in people's faces, who likes to talk? Period! Why don't we see him all the time, addressing these things, in press conferences, TV shows? Where is he?

V. JONES: Well, I mean, when he does that stuff, sometimes people get mad at him, for what he is saying.

I think a couple things. Number one, the next round of wins that he needs, which has to do with getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill done, and then giving the progressives something more than that. That's basically the formula.

He's sitting on - he's sitting on top of the biggest win, any president, could have, a massive trillion-dollar bipartisan bill that even his opponent, Mitch McConnell supports.

He can't get that across the finish line, though, until he gives the progressives something more. They wanted $3.5 trillion more. Maybe they should get $2 trillion more.

But once that comes across the finish line, something more for the progressives, and it's not just progressives. You're talking about helping grandmas, who need hearing aids. You're talking about helping kids in need, pre-K. You're talking about real stuff for real people. Then, it's going to look very differently.

He needs another big legislative win. That has to happen. Again, the gas prices, this time, next year, have to be going back down. Jobs have to be going back up. He can get there.

But, right now, you got a major problem, because the victory that he promised us this summer has been held up, and it's his own party, holding it up, because, of our internal divisions.

CUOMO: Where are you on the Worry-o-Meter about the midterms?

V. JONES: Look, I'm worried right now, because, like I said, he's not getting credit for the great stuff that he's done, because he promised more and hadn't delivered yet. And so, I'm worried.

At the same time, I do fundamentally think that we're going to be a better place with regard to COVID, this time next year. You had the number earlier, almost 80 percent. We're getting close to herd immunity.

If you'd stop with Delta, if you don't wind up with an Omega variant, I think this time, next year, cases are down, gas prices are down, jobs are up, and he's got some real legislative wins.

But if you don't - if any of those four, go the wrong way, if cases are up, gas prices are up, you still can't pull a legislative win, we're in very deep trouble.

CUOMO: Well, I think that you're in very deep trouble anyway, because you are going up and against an opponent that will lie about anything, to beat you, that seems to have made a decision that it is better to bring the house down than to not lead it.

And I don't really hear Democrats kind of expressing that like in a existential fashion that like--

V. JONES: Well I don't--

CUOMO: --these people that you're up against? They are willing to take down the democracy. I mean, we've never seen anything like what we just lived through.

V. JONES: Well I--

CUOMO: And you guys are fighting over price tags!


V. JONES: Well, I think that we're trying to show that if you let us govern, you're going to get more than just not fascism.

If you let us govern, you're going to get more than just not the worst situation ever. If you'll let us govern, you're going to get help for your kids. You're going to get help for your grandma. You're going to get help.

And so, I think it's a fight worth having internal to the party. I just think, at a certain point, you've got to be able to cut a deal. And we've not been able to figure out how to cut that deal.

Listen, I don't know what Democrats, you're talking to. Every Democrat I'm talking to is miserable, upset, depressed, and terrified, of what we're seeing, from the Republican Party, in terms of their willingness to burn the house down, in terms of their willingness to lie about a coup, in terms of their willingness to - I mean, every Democrat I know is very, very frustrated and upset.

I will say, guys, it is October. We still have 12 more months plus, before the midterms. There is time to turn this around.

CUOMO: There's no question. I'm just saying, when you're up against an existential threat, any win is a win. And I've just - I think that would be the urgency.

And I'll tell you what? I want to - obviously, I'll have you back on. You know what we have to discuss? I still think that if you guys get whooped in the midterms, the legacy is going to be "The only agenda item that mattered was securing the democracy. And you didn't do it."

And you should have gone to Joe Manchin, or whoever it was, and said, "We've got to pass something to stop these states, from disenfranchising a huge group of Americans." And it's not going to get done before the midterms.

Van Jones, respect you. You fought for it. I had you here. You were right. Take care.

V. JONES: Thank you.

CUOMO: And look, again, is there hype? Yes, there's hype in all things.

But if you don't think this democracy is being strained in a way that certainly I've never seen in my lifetime, I'm 51, I've been doing this over 20 years, I've never seen anything like where we are right now. You have half the political system invested in saying our elections are illegitimate.

A prominent Democrat, on the January 6 committee, is now calling out some of his fellow lawmakers, as "Insurrectionists." Adam Schiff. Is that a fair point? Next.








CUOMO: Democrats on the January 6 committee are talking about moving quickly to enforce subpoenas. You see it all over the media.

Now, I say it's hype, because they don't even have that much muscle, when it comes to enforcing subpoenas. I'm going to talk to one of the foremost experts about that, in just a moment.

But that talk is getting tough, from the Democrats, sharp, especially if they were going to say it on the floor of the House. If they did, if they said, what they're saying, outside that floor, on the floor, they'd get in trouble.

Listen to this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What angered me the most, I think, about that day, were these insurrectionists, in suits and ties, who were still, even after the bloody insurrection, even after all the shattered glass, and the death, of that day, were back on the House floor, trying to overturn the election.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is Kevin McCarthy an insurrectionist in a suit and tie?

SCHIFF: Absolutely. Absolutely.


CUOMO: Now, why can't he say that on the floor? Because House members aren't allowed to insult one another, on the floor. It's a decorum rule. Calling someone an "Insurrectionist" is basically calling them a felon.

Now, can they enforce subpoenas? What will that look like? And throwing around the word "Insurrectionist," is that OK? Let's bring in a legal mind, who knows the players, and the stakes, Norm Eisen.

Always a pleasure, Counselor.


CUOMO: So Professor, am I right that Congress does not have the muscle, one might expect, in terms of enforcing subpoenas?

EISEN: Chris, they have the muscle. It just takes too long to exercise it. When I was counsel, on the first impeachment of Trump, we saw how slow the courts were, in getting the testimony of Don McGahn approved, the ex-President Trump's former White House Counsel, and getting the documents about Trump's finances, in the Mazars case.

It's not the fault of the House, Chris. The courts move too slowly. But, but, there's some differences, this time. The committee is moving very quickly. They're not dithering around with negotiations. All of these deadlines are coming due, this month, for over a dozen subpoenas.

And then, we heard from Chairman Adam Schiff, today, on CNN. They're ready to do criminal contempt. Chris? That can move quickly. And we have some lessons from history on just how fast it can be.

CUOMO: Calling Kevin McCarthy, or any member of Congress, an "Insurrectionist," you think that is a legitimate claim?

EISEN: I do. You nailed it with my former Obama White House colleague, Van Jones, in the last segment.

This is not your father's Republican Party. That - what has happened is that the Trumpist "Big lie" has taken over the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Last week, we saw. I brought it back with me. We talked about it on the air, last week. I carry it with me.

We saw the esteemed Senate Judiciary Committee Minority senators saying that Trump did not exercise improper influence on DOJ, or his concerns centered on legitimate complaints, Chris.

They turned reality upside-down. He exercised improper influence, nine times, the Majority found.


So - and Kevin McCarthy is among the worst. I welcomed him, when I was an Ambassador of the United States. He came to Prague. That's not the Kevin McCarthy that we know. He is embracing this insurrectionist dogma of ex-President Trump. It is so dangerous for America, if these individuals get power.

CUOMO: Norm Eisen, thank you very much, for your take, both political and legal. Appreciate you.

We'll take a break. We'll come back with the handoff.


CUOMO: I'm telling you, we are all living, you know, the trite statement is "You're living in interesting times." We're living in historic times. They're going to be talking about this period, in American history, for a long time. And I don't think it's going to be in a good way. And I really do believe it's a question for each of us, and for all of us. How do you want to be remembered? Where did you make a stand? What were you about? What were you not about? What did you live in defiance of? What did you embrace?

Thank you for watching. "DON LEMON TONIGHT," with its big star, D. Lemon, right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I think you're right on that.