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FBI: Apparent Human Remains Found In Search For Brian Laundrie, Along With His Backpack & Notebook; House To Vote Tomorrow On Steve Bannon Contempt Charges; White House Rolls Out Vaccine Plan For Children Ages 5 To 11. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 20, 2021 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hope you join us, for tomorrow night's Town Hall, with President Biden, 8 P.M. Eastern. I'll be the moderator.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: It really is a great moment, to have this conversation, with people, and the President. It's great to have you there, Coop.

I'll be watching. I'll tell you that right now, not just because I have to come on after it. I'll be watching.

All right, it is Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Now, we may have a couple more answers, in the Gabby Petito case. One comes from an exclusive interview with the Laundrie family attorney, in just a moment. The other comes from the FBI, about what was found today, and whom, may have been found today.


MICHAEL MCPHERSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, TAMPA FIELD OFFICE: Investigators found what appears to be human remains along with personal items, such as a backpack and notebook, belonging to Brian Laundrie.


CUOMO: Now, identification could take a while. Why? Remains is suggestive of a degree of decomposition. And authorities have said it seems that what was found, and who may have been found, have been there a while.

Now, the probabilities are the human remains found near Brian Laundrie's belongings will be Brian Laundrie. But we're going to have to wait and see. In terms of what we know, the remains were found in the Carlton Reserve, Western Florida. Investigators have been searching there for more than a month.

The FBI says the area, where they were found was underwater, until recently. Is that true? And if so, is that why the discovery wasn't found sooner? Were they even searching in this place before?

Clouding the discovery is the fact that Brian Laundrie's parents were there, today, when the discoveries were made. Is that a coincidence? Well, they were with authorities, when the discoveries were made, and the parents didn't discover the actual remains. So, there were authorities there with them the whole time.

But after all the weeks and teams, and dogs, the day the parents show up, the remains are found. It is fair to be suspicious, given the disposition of the Laundrie family, from the beginning of this saga.

So, how did the events, of today, come to pass? We have someone who can explain. Laundrie family attorney, Counselor Steven Bertolino, joins us by phone, to discuss.

Sir, can you hear me?

STEVEN BERTOLINO, LAUNDRIE FAMILY ATTORNEY (on the phone): Yes. Good evening, Chris. How are you?

CUOMO: Appreciate you taking the opportunity.

Let's deal with the timing here. Why today? Why did the parents choose today to go to the preserve?

BERTOLINO: Well, it is my understanding that the preserve was only open to the public, as of yesterday.

So, my clients reached out to me, and informed me that they wanted to go, into the preserve, this morning. And I thought it would be wise to notify law enforcement, of their intentions.

I did so, by text, to my contact in the North Port Police Department. And they responded with "Thank you for the heads-up." And then they met my clients there, this morning.

CUOMO: Why did they meet your clients there?

BERTOLINO: Well, I presume they thought it would be a good idea, just to accompany them in. They knew the press had been following my clients, for weeks and weeks on end.

And you'd have to ask them why they chose to come. They did not indicate to me last night that they would be there. They just again, thanked me for the heads-up.

CUOMO: One quick question sideways, and then I want you to take me through what you understand, of how the discovery was made. Why didn't the parents ask to go sooner, during all these agonizing weeks? BERTOLINO: Well the parents had assumed that the experts, the FBI, and all the tracking teams that they had, would be able to locate Brian, based upon the information that we had provided them, to the specific areas and trails, in the park that Brian liked to visit.

The Park had been closed to the public. It was really no other reason for the Laundries to go search anywhere else.

CUOMO: Now, let's deal with the specifics of today. Is the area that they were searching, when these discoveries were made, is this a new area that the parents hadn't informed authorities about before?

BERTOLINO: No, not at all. Indeed, this is the very area of the park that we initially informed law enforcement on, I believe, it was September 17, that Brian would be most likely in the preserve in this particular area, as I know, it, near the bridge.

I think it's the bridge that might connect the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park with the Carlton Reserve.

CUOMO: Was this a very deep way or distance into the preserve?


BERTOLINO: No. Mr. Laundrie informed me that it was quite near the entrance. He didn't put an exact distance on it. He put a timeframe of about 30 minutes in. But I would guess it could be a mile or two, into the preserve.

CUOMO: So, can you help us understand, how an area that the authorities were told about, you say, by the parents that isn't even that deep into the preserve, wasn't located, all these weeks, with all the dogs, and the teams, and everything else, until the parents showed up?

BERTOLINO: Well, listen, the explanation that the FBI gave today certainly makes sense. If that area was underwater, one can certainly understand why you might not have been able to find the items that were located today.

If that water had cleared, two weeks ago, perhaps could have circled back and looked again. Perhaps they meant to, perhaps they were further deeper into the park, and never got back to this park.

Because it is so near the entrance, Chris and Roberta went to this area first. And as happenstance was, they stumbled upon these items

CUOMO: All right, now the key understanding. What do you know, from your clients, about how the discovery was made? What was going on? What did they tell you about how it happened?

BERTOLINO: So fortunately, one of your rival news people, were there, with a camera. And I say, "Fortunately," because, some people don't believe how the events laid out today.

But Chris and Roberta walked into the preserve. It is my understanding that they were followed closely, by the two law enforcement personnel, and when I say "Closely," certainly within eyeshot.

And as they went further in, Chris ventured off the trail, into the woods. He was zigzagging in different areas. Law enforcement was doing the same thing. And Roberta Laundrie was walking down the trail. And I believe that is on some video through some other news outlet.

At some point, Chris locates what's called a dry bag. The dry bag is a white bag, laying in the woods, I'll say, 20 feet or so, off the trail. According to Chris, it was in some brambles.

Chris didn't want to pick the bag up, because he wanted the law enforcement to see it. This was caught on camera. Chris couldn't find the law enforcement, because they were then out of sight, because Chris had been in the woods.

So, he didn't want to leave the bag there, with a news reporter standing nearby. So, he picked it up. He did meet up shortly with law enforcement. They looked at the contents of the bag.

At that time, law enforcement officers showed him a picture on the phone, of a backpack that law enforcement had located, also nearby, and also some distance off the trail.

At that point, the Laundries were notified that there's also remains near the backpack. And they were asked to leave the preserve.

CUOMO: What do you make of this suggestion that Mr. Laundrie planted the bag and the backpack?

BERTOLINO: In nice terms, it's hogwash.

CUOMO: Would the authorities have known what they walked onto the trail with?

BERTOLINO: Absolutely. They met them at the gate, or somewhere nearby. They walked in with them.

And more importantly, Chris, this is what I said. Fortunately, for the Laundries, the press was following them in the whole time.

CUOMO: Why wouldn't the dogs have found these remains?

BERTOLINO: You would have to ask the experts on that. That's not my expertise. If it was underwater, maybe the dogs couldn't detect the remains underwater. Maybe the dogs were never brought back to that area. I don't know. You'd have to ask someone else that question.

CUOMO: What were, your, clients' reaction to what happened, while they were there?

BERTOLINO: That also was caught on video. And it's quite sad. You can imagine, as a parent, finding your son's belongings, alongside some of remains. And that's got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken.

CUOMO: Do they believe it is their son? BERTOLINO: Chris, it's not about belief. I mean, as you said, at the onset, the probability is strong that it is Brian's remains. But we're going to wait until the forensic results come in, and verify that.

CUOMO: Now obviously, the family's under a veil of suspicion, because of their lack of cooperation, from the beginning, optically, in terms of contacting the Petitos, et cetera, and dealing with authorities.

The police gave the impression that the family delayed notifying them about Brian Laundrie's disappearance.

BERTOLINO: Well, you say that they gave the impression. They've come out right, and said it. And certain members of the North Port Police Department have said it more than once.


And, as I've discussed with you, once before, let the record be clear. The Laundries reported Brian did not come home, the night he went out for the hike. I actually reported that to the FBI, personally.

On Friday, the 17th, the FBI called me. We didn't call them. They called me, and said "We have a tip that Brian was seen in Tampa. And we want to see if he's in the house."

After some back-and-forth, we agreed on a time. At 6:15, Friday, the 17th, the FBI was going to come to the house.

During that conversation, with agreeing on the time, I said to them, "If you got a tip, where did this come from?" Because a member of the North Port PD gave a press conference, the night before, and said "We know where Brian is."

He was asked again, "Do you know where Brian is?" He said "We know exactly where Brian is."

I immediately called my clients, and said, "Hey? Was Brian picked up? Do you know where he is? Because I don't know where he is. How did they know where he is, if we don't?" And that was on Thursday.

On Friday, when the FBI came to the Laundrie residence, we then said, "Yes, we will fill out a missing persons report." And that got twisted, as though the family waited, until Friday, to report him missing, which is not how it happened.

CUOMO: It's unfair--

BERTOLINO: We let it go--

CUOMO: It's unfair in the micro, but it's understandable in the macro.

Because it just doesn't look right, that the parents haven't wanted to cooperate, that Brian didn't want to cooperate that they wouldn't want to talk to the other family. So, you can understand why, people would be suspicious, about their actions.

BERTOLINO: Absolutely. And now is not the right time to talk about the situation with Gabby. But the family was following my directions.

I told them not to talk to anybody, not to say a word. I was the intermediary between the family and law enforcement. And that's why we're confident that law enforcement, specifically the FBI was informed, Brian did not come home that night.

And whatever played out, in those three days after that, that's on the police and the FBI. That's not on the family, as I heard you say once before.

CUOMO: No, I get the issue about, you telling the FBI, and what they did, or didn't, tell the local police. That explains that part. That's fine.

But look, you know you don't have to be a lawyer, to be suspicious, when somebody won't cooperate, with looking for someone they supposedly care about. What is the good reason that they wouldn't want to speak to authorities, or to their son's fiancee's family?

BERTOLINO: You can label it "Good reason." But I can tell you, "The reason." I told them not to.

CUOMO: And the question becomes, who doesn't talk, unless they have something to hide?

BERTOLINO: And you know what? You hear a lot of talk these days about individual rights. Some people want First Amendment rights. Some people want Second Amendment rights.

Conveniently, the public seems to forget about the Fourth, the Fifth and the Sixth Amendment rights. And you know what? Defense attorneys and, I would say, every attorney, including yourself, should push those rights.

Some of the experts that have been on these programs, they all espouse, "Oh, this, this and this," but they don't step up and say, "Hey, you know what? Everybody has the right to remain silent." And that's what I told my clients. And that's what they did.

CUOMO: There's no question they have the right. I've never suggested anything else. But having a right, and something being the right thing to do, are often different.

Now, it has been mentioned that if, and when, Brian Laundrie is found, then the parents will explain the situation. If this is Brian Laundrie, and he has gone, will the parents tell what they knew?

BERTOLINO: Well, now's not the time, to discuss that, Chris. It may come out in the future. It may not right now. We're just going to wait for the forensic results, as I said earlier. And we may come back, on that subject, sometime in the future.

CUOMO: You've known the family a long time, yes?

BERTOLINO: Well over 20 years.

CUOMO: Is it hard for them to follow your advice?

BERTOLINO: Hard? No. I've never had clients follow my advice so intently.

CUOMO: But you know what I'm saying. This is hard advice to follow. Not to talk to the Petitos, not to talk to anybody about what happened, this is not easy to do, I'm sure.

BERTOLINO: No, it's not.

CUOMO: Because they know the weight of expectation.

BERTOLINO: It's not easy.

CUOMO: And they know how it makes them look.

BERTOLINO: Absolutely, absolutely. They know the weight. They know it's been hard. But ultimately, this is the advice I gave them. This is the advice they're taking. And that's on me.


And I took that heat, September 14, when I had to give a little speech, in front of a camera. Somebody in front of my office got me. And I said to them, "I'm the one, who told them not to talk." That's been on me from day one. That's not on the family.

And if it turns out that my legal advice is wrong in that perspective, so be it. But that's on me, not on the family.

CUOMO: Well, giving the advice is on you. Taking it is on them. They are aware that they may be the only people, who are able to tell the story, of what happened to Gabby.

BERTOLINO: At some point in time, Chris. As I said earlier, now's not the time to discuss that. Right now, we're going to wait, for the forensic results, to come in. And we may revisit this in the future.

CUOMO: All right, Counselor, look, I appreciate, especially last second, like this, you coming on, to explain, how they came to be there today, and the correction on what they told authorities, and when, about the disappearance.

And we'll take you at your word, that there's a chance that once this is cleared up, that it's Brian, the family want to make - will want to make a proffer of what they knew, because obviously, the curiosity is immense, especially for the Petito family.

Appreciate you taking the opportunity.

BERTOLINO: Well, Chris, I appreciate you having me on tonight. Be well.

CUOMO: All right, you too.

All right, so look, again, what are the chances that it's not him? Very small. But they're going to do everything the right way.

Decomposition makes identification - this is not "Law & Order." DNA isn't done in 15 minutes. But, in all likelihood, it is Brian Laundrie. Will that be the end of the story? Or will there be a chapter, of learning what happened, from the parents?

Now, I'm going to bring in Joey Jackson and Bobby Chacon. And I'm going to give you one reason that they may want to talk, OK? Here's why.

"It looks terrible not to speak," Joey Jackson and Bobby Chacon. "But it is not illegal to know that somebody killed somebody else and not say anything," Joey.

What do you think the chance is that to relieve their guilt, to reestablish themselves, in their own community, that once it is his son, and he is out of harm's way, the lawyer relents, so they just stop taking his advice, and they say "We'll tell you what he told us."

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Very little. You have to ask yourself the question of what you have to gain. From a human perspective, you're absolutely right. From a humane perspective, you should tell what you know.

There's an interest in this story. Obviously, the family, beyond heartbroken, and wants answers that only he potentially, right, the deceased, could provide, and perhaps the family, right? And we don't know that it's Brian Laundrie, but stronger the indications are that it is, right?

But the family would have to know an awful lot. And you want to gather that information. You want to know that information. And the family has it.

I don't think that there's any upside, beyond perhaps the humane factor, to them telling it. The legal morass that would be caused by any inconsistencies, by any inaccuracies, by any misrepresentations, would be very problematic.

Last point, Chris, and that's this. There's one thing for counsel to indicate that you told your client not to say a word. There's quite another, for, you to be helpful, through counsel, to facilitate an investigation.

How? You protect your client, to the extent that they're not talking to anyone. And any information coming out is not from the client. And so, there's no misrepresentation. There's no hindering prosecution. There's no obstruction of justice. That's one thing.

But to not even, through counsel, give any indication of where anyone is, or Gabby is, or could be, or Brian would be, that, to me is highly problematic. I'll leave it there.

CUOMO: But we also don't know, the absolute specifics, of what counsel told authorities, and not other than, his admission, tonight, that, he told the FBI, that night, or, the morning after that, Brian Laundrie hadn't come home. But you're right. That is an important part of the story.

Now, Bobby, on the forensic side, I know some people are going to speculate that "Oh, the parents showed up, and then they found him. They must have known where he was all along."

I don't know. I mean, you had the authorities right there. The parents aren't the ones, who found the remains. Do you think this is about the parents, making this happen, or the authorities just missing what's going to look a little embarrassing?

BOBBY CHACON, RETIRED FBI AGENT, FORMER FBI DIVE TEAM LEADER: Well, I think it could be a little both, Chris. I don't think those are mutually exclusive.

I think that, you know, I've been involved in searches for 20 years. I was a leader of a forensic search team. Underwater forensic search team was my specialty.

So, I know that sometimes these things get missed. And we search, and we re-search, and we go back and search over areas, again, particularly where, there's been significant weather events, or there's been significant water movement.

And so, it's not uncommon, to go back and search an area again, underwater that you searched already. And sometimes, the body of water moves things, and water changes things. So, I don't see that as mutually exclusive.


I have - it's a complete hypothetical, on my part. But if the parents didn't know, and they were waiting for the police, to find him, on their own, they didn't. The father went out there, a couple of weeks ago, to kind of maybe guide them in the right area, if they knew.

And then, last night, when they found out the public was going to be trampling all through there, starting today, and they didn't want some random stranger, finding their son, and maybe taking pictures, and posting it, or whatever, they wanted law enforcement to find it.

They went out one more time, and went with law enforcement. And now, they went right to the place. So hypothetically, you can see, how someone might think that this is what the parents did. There's no proof for that. And it's probably immaterial, at this point.

We have a murder. We have the person we think committed that murder. Now, they're dead. And now so, the D.A. has to kind of mop this up. And, in legal sense, what are you going to do? Are you going to close the case, you know? And how are you going to do that?

How are you going to provide Gabby's family, with what they need, as far as opening up the investigation, now? The investigative file can be kind of open now, and shared with them, because they deserve that.

CUOMO: Well there's no question about that. But the question, is, how does this end? And the people with the most information have said the least.

Joey Jackson, Bobby Chacon, thank you very much. An important night, good to have you both.

JACKSON: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Now, another big legal issue. Merrick Garland is the Attorney General. He's going to have a big decision to make.

It may be a slam-dunk, for the Democrats, in Congress, to say that Bannon should be prosecuted for contempt. But what will the Attorney General do? Is it a different decision for him, than it is for the politicians, on the January 6 committee? And did President Biden make things tougher for Garland? How? We'll explain.

And then, we'll take up the question, with a former Attorney General, under a Republican president. What would he do? Next.









CUOMO: The next step for Steve Bannon is a vote on contempt of Congress, in a full House vote. That'll likely be tomorrow. The Democrats should have the numbers, to have it passed.

It will be interesting to see how many Republicans will ignore what is obviously not a strong legal argument, and is a highly unethical situation, for Bannon, and frankly, the former president. Will any, do the right thing?

Then, it gets tricky, because that vote gets certified. And it gets sent by the Speaker of the House, to the A.G.

And now, it's all about what Merrick Garland wants to do, at the Department of Justice. Prosecute or not? Grand jury or not? Indict or not? This hasn't happened since the Reagan administration. And the DOJ doesn't have the best record with convictions.

Let's discuss. Got a great guest for tonight. Alberto Gonzales knows the questions, from all sides, as former White House Counsel, and Attorney General, under President George W. Bush.


CUOMO: What is your assessment, of the likelihood, of a prosecution, against Steve Bannon?

GONZALES: Well, it's - Chris, you're not going to be surprised. You hear me say it, "Well it just depends." I suspect there's information, in the hands of the Attorney General that we're not privy to that may influence his decision.

One of the factors will be whether or not, is there any other way for Congress to get this testimony, from Steve Bannon, for example, sending out the Sergeant at Arms, or perhaps pursuing this thing civilly. So, that'd be one consideration.

The other consideration, I would think would be the likelihood of a successful assertion of executive privilege. That would be something, I suspect, he's got an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, at the Department of Justice, informing him of their view, as to the likelihood that an assertion of privilege would be upheld and recognized in the court.

So, there are a number of factors. I think public comments that have been made, by President - President Biden, are unfortunate. As a general matter, you wanted to try to keep the White House, out of commenting publicly, on ongoing - certainly ongoing criminal, possible criminal prosecutions.

And so, I think that's unfortunate. I think the White House already--

CUOMO: Explain what you think is unfortunate. Sorry to interrupt.

GONZALES: Well because - not a problem. Because, again, the hope, in the American people, and I think, the hope in Congress, is that you have an attorney general, that's not going to be swayed by any kind of political pressure, but will make decisions, in terms of criminal investigations and prosecutions, based on the law.

And irrespective of what the White House says, the job of the attorney general is to identify wrongdoing, and prosecute wrongdoing. And I think having the public comments, from the President were unfortunate, but also unnecessary, in that I think the White House has already signaled - already signaled by--

CUOMO: Right.

GONZALES: --the public statement that they weren't going to assert executive privilege, which I think sends a pretty strong signal, to the Department of Justice, about what the White House would desire.

And I think that would have been - that would have been sufficient to, and certainly all that would, I think, would have been appropriate, to signal to the Department of Justice.

CUOMO: What would you have done, when you were A.G.?

GONZALES: Well, again, it's hard - it's hard to say, Chris, because there may be additional information that Merrick Garland has that I'm not privy to, and that might make a difference.

CUOMO: What?

GONZALES: And I - I don't - well, if I knew that information, I think I could probably answer your question.

I would be very interested in how strong, for example, my lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel feel about the privilege claim.

Because if the lawyers are telling me, "We think that there is a possibility, for the former president, to successfully assert a claim of executive privilege," then I might say, "Well, maybe I don't want to take this on."


CUOMO: But there's no precedent for that. Is there, sir?


GONZALES: Well, there really isn't. But it's, I think the notion that there is no right, of a former president, to assert executive privilege, yes, I think there are some - while the Supreme Court has never, I think, directly said that a former president has, or does not have, the right to assert privilege, certainly, even as recently, as an Obama executive order, that executive order included a process, by which a former president could assert privilege.

And so, there was a recognition by, as late as the Obama administration, that there was some right, for a former president, to assert executive privilege.

So yes, I think there's - there are some legitimate questions here as to whether or not what an assertion of executive privilege, once litigated in the courts, would that be successful or not?

CUOMO: Hey, can Steve Bannon once - let's say Merrick Garland says, "All right, we're going to take this up." How late is too late for Steve Bannon, to say, "OK, I'll go."

GONZALES: Oh, at any time. I mean, Steve Bannon could - once the Department of Justice makes clear what they intend to do, it's Steve Bannon to get that--

CUOMO: Then he could say "I'll do it."

GONZALES: Of course, at any time that could happen.

CUOMO: That's--

GONZALES: No question about it.

CUOMO: That's going to be something to watch for.

Alberto Gonzales, thank you very much. It's not as simple as it seems. And I appreciate you walking us through it.

GONZALES: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Here is a simple decision. You got to watch CNN, tomorrow night. It is a great time, to have the President of the United States, deal directly, with people, about his agenda, during very important times.

Anderson Cooper is going to be moderating a CNN Special Presidential Town Hall. Begins at 8 P.M. Eastern. I'll be here with PRIME TIME right after. I'll certainly be watching. I really think everybody should.

Now, to the White House, on another level, they just unveiled plans, to roll out vaccines, to 28 million kids, who have been ineligible, for them, so far. Good idea? How is this playing with parents? What does it mean overall?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, next.









CUOMO: 135,000 kids have been diagnosed with COVID, in just the last week. The White House today, playing up their plans, to get kids 5 to 11, vaccinated. FDA authorization could come within a few weeks.

But there's a bigger hurdle. Parents. Messaging has been squishy. People are nervous. This has been politicized and weaponized. Only about a third of you say you want your younger kids getting the shot right now. I got one. I got an 11-year-old. She's going to be 12, in February. So, I'm there with you.

We're talking about some 28 million kids, in between the ages of 5 and 11. Let's discuss the challenges with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Doc, it's good to have you.


CUOMO: Let's do it a little differently. You know me. You know I have Cha - Cristina and I have Cha Cha. Carolina, she's 11.

I say to you, "Ah, I'm nervous. It's me. I'll take anything. I had COVID. I'll do anything not to get it again. You tell me to take the vaccine? I'll take it."

She is small, fragile. I worry about her. Why should I have confidence that this is the right thing to do?

FAUCI: Well, the reason is, Chris, is that the vaccine is highly effective. We know that, from a lot of experience. And it's safe.

The idea that children cannot be negatively impacted by COVID-19 is just false. It is true, that children, when they get infected, generally, statistically, have less of a likelihood of having a severe outcome than adults, particularly the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.

But children are not completely exempt, from the difficulties of getting infected. In fact, if you go to pediatric hospitals, throughout the country, you see that many of the beds are filled with children, who have serious illness. So, it's important to protect the children.

And also, children do get long COVID, namely, something that you have, obviously very difficult experience, with yourself, when you were infected. Children can get that lingering symptomatology after getting infected.

So, it just makes sense, Chris, for the children to get vaccinated. And that's the reason why we reach out to the parents, to explain to them, why it's important, not only for the safety of the children, but for also the safety of the entire family, because children can spread infection, in the family unit.

CUOMO: Yes, we've seen it.

So, here's where it gets sticky, for the parent, that the number of, definitely not parents, in terms of will they give their kid the vaccine, hasn't moved, even during the Delta variant surge.

And my best sense of why is a little bit lack of confidence, because things change too much, on the government level.

And then, the hard stop is, "We just don't know what this thing. It hasn't been tested. It's brand-new. They don't know how it is on kids. They barely know how it is on adults. They're learning in real-time. I don't want them to go to school on my kid."

FAUCI: Well, Chris, the issue is, if you look at the data, itself, you look at the data, there have been literally billions of doses that have been given worldwide. There have been about 400 million doses, given in the United States. It's very, very clear that the experience with these vaccines is rather intensive. So, the idea of saying "We don't know a lot about the vaccine" is just not true, Chris. And that's one of the things we have to reach out to the parents to.

Answer their questions. Parents have valid questions that need to be answered. And it's up to us, to be very transparent with them, and to give them the correct answers, to the questions they ask. And I think if we do that, I hope that the vast majority of parents will realize the real benefit for the children to get vaccinated.


CUOMO: What do you make of the sense of people, all, having a sense of give and get with vaccine? "Fine. If my kid gets vaccinated, can I stop having to deal with masks in school?" What's the answer?

FAUCI: Well, the answer is right now with the degree of virus that is circulating in the population, where we have about 80,000 new infections per day, even if you are vaccinated, you've got to really be careful about transmission.

There will come a time, I promise you, Chris, when we will be putting the masks aside. But that time is not now. Now you need vaccination.

And under certain circumstances, particularly in situations, in which you are indoors, with people that you don't know their vaccine status, masks are appropriate and should be worn.

CUOMO: So, why don't I just have the kid keep wearing the mask, and not take the risk with the vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, for the simple reason that masks, as we know, are not the ultimate protection. They do help.

CUOMO: Neither is the vaccine.

FAUCI: They are effective. Well, but it is much, much more so than any other.

Vaccine is the standard, gold standard, of prevention of viral infections. And we just know that, from so much experience, we have, not only with COVID-19, Chris, but with many other childhood and adult vaccines.

CUOMO: I appreciate you doing it, Doc.

Look, obviously I know your answers to these questions. You've been coaching me on this for a long time. But I'm telling you, I'm having this conversation, all the time, with people. And that's where they're coming from.

It's one thing if you want to have an adult get it. It's another thing if it's a teenager. And then it's a third thing, when it's a kid. People are so protective, and they're so worried about making a mistake. So, thank you for going through the dialog. I appreciate you, and I hope you well.

FAUCI: Thank you very much, Chris. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, always a pleasure.

All right, so another big aspect of this is mandates. Now, look, I have never gotten what the controversy is here. I'll be honest. I don't see the rights issue, because we've already passed the threshold.

We've been doing this with kids, getting them vaccinated, so they can go to school. "Well, this is different. There's no polio." Go look how effective the polio vaccine is. Look at how many breakthrough cases there have been on the basis of that.

We don't completely cure things. This is not a new situation. But I'll tell you what, the mandate fight is real. And once it's real, it doesn't matter, whether or not it's warranted. Even in Hollywood, which is supposedly so lefty, right, some people are doing it, some people aren't. There is no mandate.

Sean Penn, star among stars, and I say that because of nothing to do with his acting. This man has been in the trenches, testing vaccines. He knows the deal, Hollywood, but also everywhere.

Let's talk to him about the realities, next.









CUOMO: Everybody knows Sean Penn. But do you know his work with his organization, CORE? How much of the testing, they did in Los Angeles? I think, at one point, it was like $15,000 - 15,000 tests a day.

Do you know how much work he's been doing, with vaccines, in and around Los Angeles, and now around the world, Brazil, India? He knows what he's talking about. And he also knows how it's playing out in Hollywood.

Now, to me, what he's learned about the difference between us and everywhere else matters the most. But we'll talk about the industry as well. But first, we welcome our guest.

Sean Penn, good to have you.

SEAN PENN, ACTOR, ACTIVIST, CO-FOUNDER, CORE RESPONSE: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: Applaud your work, and for good reason, very impressive.

Now, insight, you've seen what it's like, in our politics, and people opting out, and how it is here. How do you contrast that with what you've seen in Brazil, and in India?

PENN: Yes. Well, there's just not the same cultural conflict with it. And we've had extraordinary response, in both Brazil and India, a lot of demand.

And what's complicated there, of course, is getting - the work that we do, is getting to the more marginalized, the sex workers, the street- dwellers, people that aren't even, have a place in a slum. But there's an enormous amount of hunger for it and gratitude there.

Here, of course, we had the original surge of people that were anxious to be vaccinated, for themselves, and for the health of others. And then, we ran into this, between some of it being political, some of it being a certain kind of entrenchment, and this idea of freedom, some of it being lack of information.

One of the information gaps, I think, still isn't emphasized enough, is the length of time that the mRNA technology has been - being worked on. A lot of people think that this came as a result of Warp Speed.

And this has been decades, and this is - and it's an adjustable format. So, it's really such a dependable thing. It's very sad to see that we're holding ourselves, in this stranglehold, like this.

CUOMO: The politics extend to your profession as well. Even the lefties in Hollywood don't want vaccine mandates. How can they be right for anywhere? What's your sense on that?

Now, just so people know? Sean's not about that. He just was wrapping up a movie called "Gaslit." He wanted people vaccinated on it, not just the actors and principals. He wanted the crew. He offered the shots to them for free, to do it, because of his access and his inclination.

But how do you explain why Hollywood won't mandate it?


PENN: Well, it's funny. Full disclosure, I'm not some - I kind of see through the word "Mandate," into basics, as citizenship, here, and rationality. And it's a shame that these information siloes have been able to be dominated by so much misinformation.

As for Hollywood, like, in a lot of these situations, we're hearing about, via Police unions, Teachers' unions, et cetera, et cetera, the unions do often bow to their fringes.

And there has been that fringes that occupy both the left and the right, politically, who are not seeing through, to their responsibility here, as Americans, and as human beings.

CUOMO: Do you think that - so you believe that what's happening in Hollywood is mirrored everywhere else. People are people. And unions have their fringes.

What is your biggest concern going forward?

PENN: Well, my biggest concern, and obviously, I'm not a scientist, or a doctor, but my concern is, is that it seems, from everything that the research that comes my way, and the news that I pursue that, as long as people voluntarily remain vessels, for this virus, we can have further mutations.

Clearly, we have economic problems here, for so many people. And also psychosocially, to put this virus to an end, I think, would really positively impact, not only all of us, and the parents of those children, who are hesitant, or entrenched, but the children, being able to move on in a life that isn't dominated by pandemic. We got enough problems.

CUOMO: Well, listen, we got enough problems, and we don't have enough solutions. But I got to tell you, you're part of it.

I love you as an actor. But I couldn't respect more what you're doing, on the ground, to help people, motivate the vaccine, and testing, before that, and I'm sure you'll be a part of whatever comes next.

Brother, good luck with the work you're doing. And I appreciate you for it.

I'll take silence as a thank you. I'll talk to you next time.

PENN: Oh, that's what I said. I said (inaudible) so thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. Take care, Sean Penn.

All right, it's almost Election Day again. And the race to watch is in Virginia. Why? Don't ask me. It's the Wizard of Odds, who says it. His answer, next.









CUOMO: As goes Virginia, so goes the country, for Democrats? We'll see. Big governor's race, latest poll shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Republican Glenn Youngkin, dead-heat, 46 percent-46 percent, among registered voters.

The Wiz, Harry Enten, here to dig into the numbers.

I thought McAuliffe was supposed to walk away with this. What happened, Wiz?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER, CNN HOST, "MARGINS OF ERROR" PODCAST: Well, I mean, the polls have been closing. And it's not just that one individual poll, right? You know, I like looking at averages of polls.

Look at Terry McAuliffe's advantage in this race, going back to August. What do we see? It was 5 points on August 20. Then it's 3 points on September 20. Then on October 20, look at that, it's just 2 points in the average. And although it's a little squeeze there, that is well within any margin of error.

At this particular point, I would not be surprised if either candidate won.

CUOMO: Boy, that's a very gutsy call on your part.

ENTEN: I know. It's late hour.

CUOMO: Now, help me. Interesting, I'm not from Virginia, though. I don't care. Why should I?

ENTEN: I mean, look, if we flip-forward to slide four, I think this can give you a pretty good understanding, of why we should care, even if you're not in Virginia. And if you look at slide four, look back at all the Virginia gubernatorial races, since 1977, what happens?

The party who wins the governor's race there, do they gain House seats, in the next midterm? Yes. Eight out of 11 times that has worked out to be the case. So, Virginia has been a pretty good bellwether.

But I think it's more than that. If we go to slide three, I think there's some interesting dynamics that are going on, in Virginia, that I think gives you an understanding of the nation.

Look at this, the voter sentiment here, Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. Normally, an ex-president, you wouldn't give a flying hoot, what the voters' perception of them was.

But look at this. Very motivating to your vote, feelings about Trump, 51 percent, of voters in that state say "Yes, he's a very motivating factor to their vote," versus just 48 percent for Biden.

And if you look at the net popularity rating, what you see is Trump is more unpopular than Biden, even though Biden himself isn't that popular.

So, if Terry McAuliffe wins, it may provide a roadmap, for Democrats, to say, "You know what? Joe Biden may not be that popular. But you really don't like Donald Trump." And it may motivate their own voters to get out there and vote.

CUOMO: It's weird that in a race for governor, who was the former president, and who's the president now matters that much.

One more, why? What does it tell us about what matters to voters, in that election?

ENTEN: Yes, look, Coronavirus was the top issue, for the last two years basically. But look here, what do we see in slide two?

We see that, the Coronavirus, is it the most important issue to your vote? Look at that. In September, it was 18 percent. Now it's down to just 11 percent.

The jobs and the economy, look at that, up 6 points, overwhelmingly the top issue now, with 27 percent.

And education and schools, school choice, something that Youngkin's been pushing, look at that. That's also up.

So, we're seeing the issue start moving more in the Republicans' direction, here in Virginia. And that could make a big thing, going forward, not just in Virginia, but the nation.

And I should also point out that look, everything's nationalized, Chris. That's the thing about our politics, these days. So few, things are local. And that's why feelings toward Trump and Biden could make a big impact in this race.

CUOMO: It's interesting, McAuliffe has been talking a lot about the death of democracy, and what that needs. That's not even on the top three.

But I'll tell you what, Harry? I'll still say, and I may be wrong, but on the list of grievances, if the Democrats get whooped in the midterms, not making federalized voting rights, and those protections, the hill to die on, for them, I think may come back to haunt them.

Harry Enten, thank you very much. Appreciate you. The Wizard of Odds!