Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Autopsy Confirms Remains Found In Wyoming Are Gabby Petito's; Book Reveals Memo Shows Trump Lawyer's Six-Step Plan For Pence To Overturn The Election; Key Vote Happening Now On Capitol Hill; Biden To Meet With Pelosi & Schumer, And Other Dems Tomorrow, At Critical Moment For Agenda; Thousands Of Migrants Held In Squalor Under Texas Bridge; Pediatrician On North Dakota School Board Facing Recall Fight After Recommending Kids Wear Masks. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And we're going to continue to share these inspirational stories all week with you.

Be sure to tune in on Saturday at eight o'clock Eastern because you'll get to see all of our Champions for Change in a one-hour special.

Thanks for joining us. It is time for "AC 360".


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The remains of a woman found over the weekend in a Wyoming National Park are those of Gabby Petito. The manner of the death is homicide.

John Berman here in for Anderson. Those are the two grim central facts of the initial autopsy results. Now, the F.B.I. is asking for your help in finding her missing fiance, Brian Laundrie, who is a person of interest in her killing.

He and she, as you know, had been traveling out west and posting frequently on social media. That stopped late last month and early this month, Laundrie returned home to Florida without her.

In a moment we'll be joined by crime fighter, John Walsh whose efforts with viewers have led to the capture of so many suspects over the years.

First though, our Randi Kaye in Moose, Wyoming with the very latest -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And John, so many tips and so many amateur internet sleuths posting about this case online including one woman here in Wyoming who says that she believes she picked up Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie while he was hitchhiking.

So today, we retraced her steps and figured out where the two of them first connected and where they separated, and here is what we found.


MIRANDA BAKER: Hi, my name is Miranda Baker, and on August 29, my boyfriend and I picked up Brian at Grand Teton National Park at 5:30 at night at Colter Bay. I'm hoping this can help someone identify him.

KAYE (voice over): That's Miranda Baker sharing her story on TikTok on social media about how she believes she and her boyfriend picked up Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie when he was hitchhiking.

BAKER: We picked him up at Colter Bay, like I said at 5:30. He approached us asking us for a ride because he needed to go to Jackson, which we were going to Jackson that night. So, I said you know, hop in. He hops in the back of my jeep. We then, you know, proceeded to make small talk.

KAYE (voice over): She says the chance encounter happened on August 29th five days after Gabby last FaceTimed her family. Miranda says before he got in her Jeep, the man offered to pay her $200.00 for the ride. She says he offered this explanation for what he was doing out there on his own.

BAKER: He then told us he has been camping for multiple days without his fiancee. He did say he had a fiancee and that she was working on their social media page back at their van.

KAYE (on camera): This is Colter Bay where Miranda Baker says she picked up Brian Laundrie. It's about 17 miles from the entrance of this Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest where human remains were found on Sunday.

Miranda says Brian Laundrie was carrying a backpack, wearing long sleeves and hiking boots. She also made a few other observations.

BAKER: He had told us that him and Gabby were not camping on a regulated campsite through the National Park, that they were camping basically out in the middle of nowhere along Snake River. This is key information.

He says that he had hiked for days along Snake River, but when like looking at his backpack, it wasn't full, and he said, all he had was a tarp to sleep on.

KAYE (voice over): She said he asked to go south to Jackson, Wyoming. And when she told him she was heading to Jackson Hole nearby, this happened.

BAKER: He freaked out. He's like, nope, I need to get out right now. You know, like pull over. So we pulled over at the Jackson Dam, which I don't know if you're -- if you know, like Teton Park, but it's not very far from Colter Bay. He kind of like hurried out of the car. And then he's like, hey, I'm going to go find someone else to you know hitchhike and we're like, okay. It was a weird situation.

KAYE (on camera): This is Jackson Lake Dam where Miranda Baker says she dropped Brian Laundrie off. It's less than 10 miles from where she picked him up, so he wasn't in the car very long. She said that he told her he was going to walk across the street to that parking lot and look for another ride to keep on hitchhiking.

Where he went from here is still a mystery.

KAYE (voice over): In another video, she provides evidence of her encounter.

BAKER: Okay, this is a text I sent my mom when we dropped him off. This just had like the date in it and the timestamp, so we dropped them off at 6:09. But as you can see, we picked him up at 5:54. This is off my mom, she goes, my texts don't go back this far.


BERMAN: Randi Kaye is back with us. Randi, what more did this woman say about her chance meeting with this person she believes was Brian Laundrie.

KAYE: Yes, first John, let me just be very clear. Police have not said for sure that the man that Miranda Baker picked up is Brian Laundrie, but they do say it is plausible. But in terms of how she described her encounter with him, she said he was talking, he was calm. He wasn't frantic. She actually described him as polite in one of her videos.

But here is an interesting point she also made, John. She said that the man that she picked up said that he had been camping with his fiancee in a dispersed camping area. We know that Gabby Petito's remains were found in a Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area not far from where Miranda Baker picked up this man.

So of course we don't know the connection, but that is certainly an interesting note that she made in her TikTok video -- John.


BERMAN: Randi Kaye for us on the scene in one half of this story, Randi Kaye, thank you very much.

Let's now go to CNN's Leyla Santiago in Venice, Florida, not far from where police have been conducting a search for Brian Laundrie. Leyla, what's the latest? Are authorities -- do they think they're any closer to finding him?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the teams have ended the search for today, but here is what we noticed for sure.

We saw much of what we saw over the weekend, right? The ATVs, the choppers, but just more of them, more K9 units, more resources being poured in here. The F.B.I. clearly taking a lead.

As for, are they any closer to finding them? This is a process of elimination for them. They didn't have anything of note today, but at least they are ruling out where he is not. And remember, this is a vast area. Lots of wildlife here, very swampy area.

So every time you see crews coming out of that gate from searching inside this reserve that is 25,000 acres, you can tell the tough terrain that they are dealing with in having to search this area for Brian Laundrie.

BERMAN: Leyla, do we know why the authorities are continuing to search this nature reserve? Because they previously said yesterday they have exhausted all the searching avenues there.

SANTIAGO: Right, so John, let's take two things into consideration when we think about why they are here. Remember, it was a week ago today that Laundrie's parents say he was last seen. That's what they told police last week on Friday. So that tells you why they started here in this area anyway.

And then also take into consideration the timing of this. They are here today after they were requesting assistance for search teams to come out here. They requested assistance yesterday afternoon. What else was happening yesterday afternoon? Well, the F.B.I. was questioning the parents and pulling evidence from Laundrie's home including paper bags that were packed into a van, as well as a Mustang being towed away.

So clearly, they are sorting through the evidence that they have and clearly, they are still here hoping to make some sort of connection between the two.

BERMAN: Leyla Santiago, thank you very much for us in Florida tonight.

So in light of both the manhunt and the initial autopsy results, we're grateful our next two guests could join us, forensic scientist, Lawrence Kobilinsky of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and John Walsh, host of "In Pursuit with John Walsh." It airs Wednesdays 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central Time on Investigation Discovery and streams on Discovery+.

John, look, this manhunt that is going on inside this nature reserve. Again, the fact that the F.B.I. went back today after they said yesterday they had exhausted the search area there. What does that tell you?

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "IN PURSUIT WITH JOHN WALSH": Well, it doesn't tell me much and I'm of a different persuasion and a different philosophy on going back to the swamp. I think he was never there.

If you look back at the records, on Tuesday, he supposedly went there to meditate. He should have gone down to the Police Department and meditate and tell them where was Gabby the last time he saw her, but then his parents say that they went out and found his car in a 60,000- acre preserve, they just found his car, and they put a note in there, "Brian, if you're hurting or if you're thinking about hurting yourself or whatever, come home, come to us," et cetera et cetera.

Then the parents through the lawyer, Bertolino, this lawyer say that they went and got the car. Now, there are many people, there are timestamps that the Mustang didn't leave the driveway on the times they said it did. And then on Friday, the lawyer calls and said, well, the parents want

to do the right thing -- pretty late to do the right thing -- and tell you that Brian is gone.

So my philosophy is, he never went to the swamp, his parents and the lawyer on the phone, bought him five days, four days to get out in front of this.

And you know, John, I want to ask all the -- I got into this late. I thought, well, he's in the house. They're going to find her body. I did a few interviews, not normal jump on the case and saddle up and said, well, if she is not found by Wednesday, we'll focus her in on the show on Wednesday.

So I got into this late, but I've been asking all kinds of reporters -- CNN reporters, FOX reporters, "New York Times," "Wall Street Journal," has anybody seen any confirmation that he was in that house? What if he came back with the van? He was there for 10 days. Great amount of time to prepare for an escape, could have scrubbed the van. I'm surprised if the F.B.I. finds anything in that van or anything in the house.


WALSH: So 10 days he is there. Did anybody see him? Did any neighbors ever actually see Brian? And now when he lawyered up, and then making this deal, and I understand all about the Fifth Amendment rights, and I understand about Rights of Privacy, and he's only a person of interest, then some F.B.I. agent came up with that terminology, it's a suspect. He was the only suspect, he still is the only suspect.

But has anybody seen Brian actually? You know, in cases I've done in "America's Most Wanted," John, we ask for proof of life. We understand that he doesn't want to talk to cops, but cops will get a newspaper. I mean, his parents could have got a newspaper with a date, the "Northport Journal" or whatever the paper is there, take a picture of him and say he is in this house.

Because all this time, the F.B.I. and the North Port Police have been going on the word of the lawyer, of Bertolino that he is in the house, and wasn't everybody surprised when they called up Friday and said he has been gone since Tuesday.

BERMAN: So again, just so people know, the F.B.I. does call him as you point out, not a suspect, but a person of interest. And as far as the parents go, they've given no public indication, at least that they suspect anything untoward from him anyway yet. Obviously, there are questions, as you say, as John Walsh says about exactly the timeline here and when the parents decided to come forward with the information they had.

Professor Kobilinsky, what do you make of the fact that this was ruled a homicide? What exactly does that tell us and not tell us, Lawrence?

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST, NEW YORK'S JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, a homicide indicates that there was death at the hands of a person. The coroner, Brent Blue has to make a determination as to whether it's an accident or suicide, a homicide, natural caused death, or indeterminate. And the fact that this death was called a homicide would tell me that they must have a cause of death.

They are not declaring it at this point because the autopsy is not completed. You need toxicology reports, microscopic investigation. There are a lot -- there is a lot of information that has to be put together to finalize the autopsy report. But it indicates to me that there is clear evidence of not only the fact that it is a homicide, they know the cause of death.

BERMAN: Well, okay, so what kinds of things would they have to see? I know, we don't know, I know, we don't know specifics, but generally speaking, what kinds of things would you have to see in order to say, it's a homicide?

KOBILINSKY: Well, remember, this is a body in rugged terrain in the summer with a burning heat. That speeds up decomposition. So, we're talking about a body that is in some stage of decomposition.

There are five stages, and at the very end, there is complete skeletonization. We really don't know what the state of the body is, and therefore, it makes it much more difficult to do a complete autopsy.

I think the critical piece here is that we have to know when she died, not just what caused the death, but when did she die? The time of death. Because clearly if you want to make this case, and Brian Laundrie is a critical part of this case, clearly, you need to know the time of death.

Now, if the body has died longer than three days, it gets difficult. Initially, you'll look at things such as the body temperature coming to ambient temperature, liver mortise, rigor mortis, and you can even monitor the potassium levels in the vitreous, the jelly part of the eye.

But after three days, you've got to do entomology. So, I have -- entomology meaning study of insect colonization and succession, the changeover take hold and move on and develop, entomologist could give you a good estimate of the time of death.

Now, we know she was on the phone with her mother, Nicole on August 24th and the body was found only this past Sunday. So, it could be close to three weeks of decomposition. So this is not a simple case.

But again, my suspicion is that the death was due to blunt force trauma to the head or strangulation as you can see by x-ray.

BERMAN: So that is what we are waiting to hear more from. John, you mentioned the family attorney of Brian Laundrie. There had been this press conference scheduled for today, but then it was cancelled after some kind of a conversation with the F.B.I. What does that tell you? Because the F.B.I. hasn't really given us a lot of detail here.


WALSH: Well, when they found the body, everything changed. And I know the CNN lawyers are telling you to reiterate that it's a person of interest and stuff. It's just a matter of semantics. He was always the suspect.

So everything changed when the parents called the police through their lawyer, this Bertolino guy, I don't know how he sleeps at night, he could have done the right thing. And you know, this girl lived in their house, and she was a fiancee and she knows Gabby's parents, but the dirty Laundrie family just won't do the right thing.

But what it tells me is that they got to that lawyer and said, look, you've been stringing us along all this time. Have you seen this guy? Did you actually confirm it? And did you lie to us? Did the parents and you lied to us last Friday when you put us on this red herring that he is in this swamp? Then this ruse.

So he is putting the pressure on them to do the right thing. And I still want to ask every reporter who has been to every press conference and the PIO for the police up there, the North Port Police, has anybody confirmed that the guy was in the house all this time? And I've got to ask this question, John, it would have been so simple not to violate any Fifth Amendment rights and I've been involved in many of these missing person cases over these 30 some plus years I've been doing this -- if they put a black and white car across the street on public property in front of the house and one in the back, and anytime the father left the house with the truck, and maybe Brian on the floor in the backseat being surveilled by an unmarked car. There's no violation of the Fifth Amendment.

How the hell did this boy get out of the house? I think the F.B.I. and the North Port Police have gotten a lot of questions to ask. How did this guy who is supposedly in the house, his parents and the lawyer telling are them and everybody is believing it, how did he get out of that house and get away?

BERMAN: Yes. It is one of the key open questions at this point. John Walsh, appreciate it. Professor Kobilinsky, thank you so much as well.

Next, more breaking news. New reporting that even the Trump campaign knew the President's lawyers were lying about the election. That and the stunning details from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's new book, including the actual detailed scheme another presidential lawyer had for overturning the election.

And later, with the vote scheduled tonight in another item critical to the Biden presidency and the entire economy, we will bring you the outcome and look closer at the battle among Democratic lawmakers that could be taking Joe Biden's presidency to the brink.



BERMAN: Add more evidence tonight to the mountain of evidence that Donald Trump's big lie about the election is in fact, a big lie. "The New York Times" headline reads "Trump campaign new lawyers voting machine claims were baseless, memo shows," and they knew it before Trump lawyers floated that bizarre conspiracy theory involving Dominion Voting Systems, Venezuela financier George Soros and others stealing the election.

Now as crazy as that sounds, and frankly, is, we got to remind her as well that another piece of the big lie might have been just plausible enough to do far more serious damage to democracy than we've already seen, a serious plan of action that hadn't been carried out even unsuccessfully, might still have set off an inferno to make the Capitol insurrection look mild by comparison.

Its existence was revealed in the pages of Bob Woodward and Robert Costas's new book "Peril," a memo from Trump lawyer, John Eastman, laying out the steps by which Mike Pence on January 6th would have launched a chain of events aimed at overturning the Electoral College vote.

Now, the former Vice President did not take those steps, but the country was that close as the insurrection show. Donald Trump's vanity pushed us there, Republican lawmakers enabled him, some still won't repudiate him, they purged otherwise loyal members who have and soon, these lawmakers could be in the majority.

With us to talk about it, CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward's old partner in journalism, and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

So Gloria, I want to start with this news in "The New York Times." What does it say that according to this reporting, Trump campaign officials knew and they knew early on that these claims that were being made were baseless, yet they sat silent as these lawyers were going out and spouting them in public.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they were part of the scam. That's what it says. They didn't want to take that up to the boss, probably, we don't know whether Trump knew or didn't know about this, but they knew what he wanted.

He wanted to get re-elected, whether he had to steal the election or not. And so you had Rudy Giuliani out there at Four Seasons landscaping and everything else, and they sat there. There was somebody in the Communications Department who said, you need to tell me guys, is this true or is this not true?

And then a memo came back saying no, this stuff is a load of garbage, and instead of going out and saying, well, you know, we've got to temper this or we can't say that or you can't let Giuliani out there saying this, it didn't matter. The President believed it. He wanted to believe it. He believed he didn't -- you know, he didn't lose if that's what he's telling the American public.

And their silence was, as it's -- you know, was a part of the scam and that's what we've saw.

BERMAN: Carl, it was bunk and they knew it was bunk. Your take?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, this book gives a picture of a deranged demagogue and the threat to democracy, as well as a threat to the stability of the world, such as we have never seen in our era.

And so the rabid nature of Trump's character combined with his power and willingness to do anything to stay in office, including to destabilize the world through saying I have to be the President of the United States and throwing real fear into both our allies and our enemies that the country itself was out of control under Trump as he entered the final days of his office. And we've never seen such a destabilizing moment in our history in this country led by a President of the United States, a madman, and this is a picture of a madman. And the people, including the Republican Party, who enabled this madness.


BORGER: Well, you know, we know all about Donald Trump's pathology. The question that I have after seeing these stories is, what about the people who worked for him who knew that they were perpetrating a lie? I mean, we know about Trump himself, but presumably, the people who worked for him didn't have the same kind of malignant narcissism that he has. So what's their story?

Why not one person come out and say, you can't say that. This isn't true. This isn't democratic. This is going to overturn -- we are trying to overturn a valid election. That's the -- that's the question I think that remains through all of these books that we're seeing.

BERMAN: And, you know, this six-point memo that was drafted by John Eastman, Carl, you know, you talked about unprecedented, I've never seen anything like this. I mean, this is a blueprint to overthrow an election, written down on paper, handed to Mike Pence saying this is the way that you can overthrow the election on January 6th. Now, we didn't do it.

Another aspect of this, though, is that senators Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham, both were given this type of information to, they take due diligence on it and I don't know how to take that. They decided to go investigate for themselves. Now, they ultimately also believe this was bunk.

Mike Lee was saying, you might as well make your case to, you know, Queen Elizabeth II and Congress can't do this. You're wasting your time. So he determined that it couldn't be done. But they took it sort of seriously serious enough to do research. So, your take?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first, let's back up a little. Let's look at Mike Pence for a minute. He was ambiguous when Trump asked him to do these terrible things to undermine democracy. In the end, it was impossible for him to deny the process of election has called for in the Electoral College, but he thought about it long and hard. And we see, he did not sit there and say to Donald Trump, I'm the Vice President of the United States, this cannot stand. He did not go to the American people and say that we have a leader who is absolutely out of control. There is a responsibility for those serving a President, especially a

mad President to come forward. And what's extraordinary in this book is, as the previous book, we also see General Milley, the one person, the head of the American military, who has come forth in a public way, compared Trump and his movement to brown shirts, to Hitlerism. He is a real hero in our country.

And I think we need to look at those who also served in the administration from Pence, to General Kelly, another Chief of Staff, to Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, none of whom came forward even after they had left the office to say we are in the throes of a madman who is undermining our democracy, endangering our country, endangering the world. And now we have a whole political party that is still unwilling to do it.

BERMAN: Well, Gloria, and we've got a little bit less than a minute left.


BERMAN: I mean, the thing is, this wasn't just a then thing, this is a now thing, because the former President is still saying this stuff and he is still being enabled by Republican leadership.

BORGER: Well, they are still afraid of him, because he is still popular within the Republican Party. And you know, they have a real problem here because they feel that they need him to win, in many cases, their elections. And so they are very wary of crossing him.

At a certain point, Republicans are going to have to decide whether Donald Trump is going to be the Pied Piper again. And those decisions, some conservatives have already made them and others are saying not so fast.

You see what Liz Cheney has done. You see what Adam Kinzinger has done, and said, look, we can't let the Republican Party be led in this direction. But right now, right now, Donald Trump is -- you would have to say -- the favored person to win the Republican nomination should he decide to run again. At that point, Republican leaders have to decide whether he is going to freeze them for another few years, or they're going to go in their own direction.

BERMAN: And the implications of all of this, if and when the Republicans take back control of Congress --

BORGER: That's right.

BERMAN: That's a whole other issue and a discussion for another time.

BORGER: It is.

BERMAN: Carl Bernstein and Gloria Borgia, thank you both for being with us tonight.

BORGER: Sure. BERMAN: Up next, we are waiting for House Democrats to finish voting

on just the latest of several items crucial to the Biden agenda. We will bring you the results if available and talk about the trouble Democrats are having on so much more that the Biden administration is riding on.


BERMAN: Breaking news, the House of Representatives is voting on legislation that could help prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month and suspend the nation's borrowing limit. But even if it does pass, it's not over. The bill will then go to the Senate, where Republicans have vowed to oppose it. This vote is happening as CNN has learned that President Biden will meet at the White House tomorrow with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. He's also reportedly scheduled to hold meetings with Democrats representing several of the parties critical caucuses. These meetings come as Democrats are engaged in increasingly heated intra party war over their positions on the President's budget and infrastructure plans.

CNN political director David Chalian joins me now with much more on this.

David, I want you to break down and explain what each of these sort of buckets is. But first, you know, we're talking about government shutdown, debt ceiling, infrastructure, the President's entire spending program, how much is riding for the Biden administration on all this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, I think how his term in office is there's one term in office if he's not reelected, or even if he is, you'll look at this Biden term by what happens here, John. I mean, it's nothing shorter than that.


We don't usually see a president's entire economic agenda, all in one moment in time on Capitol Hill. But with these two bills that the Democrats you described sort of infighting among themselves, but with this bipartisan infrastructure package, and with the White House calls the build back better agenda. You're talking about everything from college, pre kindergarten and free community college, healthcare expansion, home health care aides, you're talking about climate change initiatives. I mean, this is -- think about all those promises Joe Biden made on the campaign trail. This is it coming to fruition in a moment like we don't usually see.

BERMAN: Yes, what's riding on this everything for the Biden White House in his presidency, this point. So there are two battles going on right now. One Democrats versus Republican on the shutdown in the debt limit. We'll get to that in a second. But Democrat v. Democrat, on the issue of the $3.5 trillion spending planning infrastructure, and today, progressive Pramila Jayapal and others made clear that they're not budging. Joe Manchin, on the other side has made clear, he's not budging. How does this get resolved? CHALIAN: It's an excellent question. Nobody has the answer to that yet. Though, every Democratic Leader today from Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, President Biden, as you mentioned, Pramila Jayapal, Josh Gottheimer, everyone is sort of putting on the face of, hey, we're going to get there, nothing to see here. This is just the legislative process, but we're going to get all these things done. And yet, nobody actually has the roadmap yet of how that's going to get done. They are -- these wings of the Democratic Party are diametrically opposed right now, as you said, progressives have said enough of them anyway. Remember, we're dealing with the closest margins you've seen in Congress in our lifetime, John.

So progressives have said, we are not voting on the bipartisan infrastructure package, you will get no votes from us. We will sink that bill unless we have an agreement on this larger spending plan, because you promised us Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, that this dual track was going to go together. And then you have the moderates saying, no, no, no, we must pass this bipartisan infrastructure deal that passed the Senate, President Biden, you promised America you were going to show the country of the two parties can work together, we want to get all these jobs created. We must now vote on that. And we will work out that bigger spending plan. It's just two totally different universe.

BERMAN: Steny Hoyer said he's counting on the President slash special sauce to help solve this. Right now, they're counting on seasoning. And we don't know what else in order to get this true. And look and there's also the debt ceiling of government shutdown the deadline a week away, Republicans say they won't budge. It's unclear how anyone gets through that. If this all goes south, what happens to Joe Biden, David? Quickly.

CHALIAN: It's a good question. I mean, this is the argument Joe Biden has to make to Democrats, right, that they've got to stick together because their success is his success. And if this whole thing sort of falls on the weight of itself, John, that's going to put Democrats in a really, really tough position in what is already going to be a tough midterm election for them next year.

BERMAN: David Chalian, great to see you as always, thank you --

CHALIAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- very much.

Up next, why are there thousands of migrants gathered under a bridge in a Texas border town and what the White House the Secretary of Homeland Security had to say about border agents on horseback confronting some of the migrants.



BERMAN: According to the governor of Texas, nearly 9,000 migrants are living in a huge camp in the border town of Del Rio, Texas tonight and tens of thousands more could arrive in the coming days. Most of them are Haitian refugees who fled poverty, political violence and earthquake destruction there years ago and moved to South America. Now they're heading north in hopes of starting a new life in the United States. But for most that dream is being squelched.

Some are being chased down by U.S. border agents on horseback. The White House and Secretary of Homeland Security say they're horrified by these images. And if they make it to this huge encampment, they likely won't get much farther.

CNN's Rosa Flores reports from the border for us tonight.



ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Horrible she says.

(voice-over): New video from under the Del Rio International Bridge showing the overcrowded conditions and thousands living in squalor. These images were taken by a Cuban couple who say they waited there for four days before being processed by U.S. immigration authorities and released at a nearby gas station.


FLORES (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) Darrius (ph) breaks down saying it was his mother's dream for him to get to America. The American Dreams of thousands of migrants still under the bridge, mostly Haitian say officials are expected to be cut short as U.S. immigration authorities increase the number of removal flights.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: So we expect for flights to depart today. We are working very closely with Haiti and other countries to which the migrants are being repatriated.

FLORES (voice-over): This as DHS launches an investigation into this video showing Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against migrants.

KAMALA HARRIS (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Human being should never be treated that way. And I'm deeply troubled about it.


FLORES (voice-over): Aliuska Carballo Romero says she crossed 14 countries and risked her own life to get here.


FLORES (on-camera): Assaults, rapes.

(voice-over): She shows us cell phone video of the sharp cliff and the steep mountain she climbed in the thick jungles of Colombia. When you say that there's a lot of dead people, what do you mean?


FLORES (on-camera): She says, you find people along the path who are dead.

(voice-over): Darrius says he counted 17 dead.

(on-camera): He said that he saw dead women, dead children that were already decomposing. The bodies were on the side of the river.


FLORES (on-camera): Did you have to drink that water?

(voice-over): And inside this tent they say was a pregnant woman who was left behind. Romero says she started crying and Darrius says he left her his food.

Despite the dangers, CNN has learned that up to 30,000 Haitians could be headed to the U.S. southern border.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): And that's exactly why we are here because we want anybody who's thinking about coming to Texas, whether it be from Colombia or any other country that Texas is going to be responding.

FLORES (voice-over): As for Darrius, yes, he was allowed to stay in the U.S. for now.


FLORES (on-camera): He says that he lost his mother 15 days ago --

(voice-over): But his mom didn't live to see her son make it to America. He says she died unexpectedly in Cuba.


BERMAN: And Rosa Flores joins us now from Del Rio, Texas. Rosa right now you're near the bridge where many migrants are taking shelter? What are you seeing there tonight?

FLORES: You know, John, I am just yards from where there are thousands of stories, just like the one that you saw. My photo journalist, Joelle de la Rosa (ph) is going to show you here because we're very close, we're just yards away. The bus that you're looking at. Those are the buses that are used to transport these migrants to processing facilities. Now we also have a drone in the air, which can give you and show you the magnitude of this camp. If you look closely, you'll see that there's a lot of makeshift tents. These were made by hand by a lot of the migrants. I've talked to migrants who've been here, you know, for a week for several days, they say that a lot of the times they sleep on the floor.

Now beyond this bridge, the other thing that you'll be able to see is the show of force of both the federal government and the state government, CBP vehicles and also Texas Department of Public Safety. That is how they're trying to stop the flow of migrants coming into the United States.

And John, I just have to share this with you, because if you look at the bus that's behind me, it's one bus at a time that these thousands of people are being transported out of here. So if you think and just do the math, that's why it's taking a while for all of these migrants to be taken out of this area and process -- take into processing facilities here in Texas. John.

BERMAN: All this is happening live at this very moment. Rosa Flores, thank you very much.

Up next, angry parents trying to kick a pediatrician off their local school board after she recommended kids wear masks to schools. The doctor at the center of the school mask showdown joins us, next.



BERMAN: A new twist tonight in the school mask wars this time in North Dakota where parents are trying to get a pediatrician kicked off a school board. Dr. Tracie Newman, who was also a mother of three says people were eager for her to join Fargo School Board last year, But that all changed when she recommended children wear masks to school. On August 10th, the school board voted six to three to adopt Dr. Newman's recommendations. But now she and three other board members are the subject of a major recall effort. The parents behind the recall say the school mask requirement oversteps their rights as parents to determine what is best for their kids health.

And Dr. Newman joins us now from Fargo tonight.

Dr. Newman, you know when people were encouraging you to run for the school board last year, calling on you to run because you're a pediatrician. Did you ever think this is how it would turn out?

TRACIE NEWMAN, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER & PEDIATRICIAN: Thank you. Thank you for having me. No, we certainly have experienced an energy shift here in our community. And I believe it's similar ones are playing out all over our country, unfortunately. And you know, it saddens me, it saddens me that well intentioned people in their communities are trying to take roles of leadership and trying to serve in elected positions, and facing, you know, unfortunately backlash and vitriol in some instances.

BERMAN: So why exactly is this happening to us at all? Because of you saying that you thought the kid should wear masks in schools?

NEWMAN: I guess I don't know if I'm able to answer that. There's certainly as you said, was quite a lot of excitement. You know, when I was first campaigning for this role in our community. And as physicians, you know, we always will follow the guidance of evidence based recommendations and data in science and not emotion. And I think as this pandemic has worn on for all of us, we're all tired. We've been doing this for 18 months. And people are starting to change their opinions about some of these recommendations. They're viewed as, as unpopular, or as you stated, overstepping.

But I just encourage communities to please continue to trust their local health care providers and their local public health agencies. You know, they truly have your best intentions in mind.

BERMAN: You say one of the problems is there's actually a pandemic of misinformation now. What exactly do you mean by that? And how did that manifest or is that manifesting itself in Fargo?

NEWMAN: Yes, I mean, I think so. I think it's just again, this has been a long, 18 months and people are looking for information. And I just caution people to where and how they're finding their information. Again, we encourage you to listen to trusted healthcare experts, to listen to people on the ground and your communities who are following this information.

I mean, we certainly here in North Dakota are seeing exponential rise of pediatric COVID cases week to week, and we're doing our best to be proactive and to keep our schools open and our businesses open and our communities healthy.

BERMAN: You're doing this to keep the schools open. I was reading you actually argued for school mask requirements in order to make sure the stool schools can be open and stay open, right?

NEWMAN: Yes, that was the dialogue. You know, last fall, I was a big advocate for bringing children back to school. As a pediatrician and a mother, I witnessed firsthand the fallout of children not being in school. I think we all did, we are all reminded of the services that our schools thankfully provide for students. Whether that be access to physical activity, nutrition, or, you know, adults checking in with them and other resources like the internet and library books, when that all went away, we really saw marked effects on our kids. We've seen really rapidly increasing rates of obesity, anxiety, depression, things like this.


So I am really interested in preventing that again. And masks are one way of a layered approach, you know, to help us keep kids in school and even if it's unpopular, I'm always going to try to advocate what's best for children.

BERMAN: When you look down to the south and see what the Delta variant did there. What are your concerns about getting to North Dakota?

NEWMAN: Yes, thank you. I mean, I don't know why we would think North Dakota children are any different than sheltered in Florida or Texas. And I would hope we could look to that as a learning experience. We have a moment here to again, be preventative. It's expected that the Delta variant surge will peak in our area in the next two to three weeks.

I love my state, I want people to be healthy. I want us all to be happy. Unfortunately, right now, our vaccine rate in North Dakota is very low. We are about 47, 46 out of the country. We just crossed 50% of our citizens being fully vaccinated. And it's even lower in our adolescence. Our 12 to 18 year olds are at about 28, 29%. So not nearly the, you know, population level immunity we need.

BERMAN: Dr. Newman, thank you for what you're doing. And thank you for your work. Really appreciate your time.

NEWMAN: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Next, we're going to update you on a bill to avert a government shutdown which just passed the House.



BERMAN: Breaking news at a Capitol Hill moments ago, the House voted to pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month and suspend the nation's borrowing limit. The bill now goes to the Senate where Republicans have vowed to block it. This is not over. Neither is the news.

So let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."