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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Donald Trump Asserts Executive Privilege over White House Documents; Biden Waives it Setting up Constitutional Showdown; Brian Laundrie Missing Nearly Four Weeks as Search by Law Enforcement Continues; Laundrie Family Attorney: Parents Have No Current Plans To Work With Law Enforcement To Locate Brian Laundrie; Idaho's Lt. Governor Goes Rogue While Governor Is Away on Trip; Inside Instagram's Negative Impact On Teen Girls; "This Is Life With Lisa Ling" Airs Sunday At 10P ET/PT. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us. It's time now for Anderson.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Our Democratic lawmakers investigating the first coup attempt this country has ever seen taking a butter knife to a gunfight, or will they, as they are signaling tonight, to really get tough on those who stand between them and the truth. Also did, President Biden just will a howitzer into the battle?

John Berman here, in for Anderson.

A string of new developments to bring you from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. They all touch on this: Whether those who tried to undermine democracy itself will be held accountable, because as one political observer tweeted today, "An unpunished coup is a training exercise" Those are the stakes as the committee tries to enforce subpoenas on four ex-Trump aides and allies.

As of tonight, only two, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon official Kash Patel are even engaging at all in the process, after a midnight deadline for producing documents came and went. And that's the committee's word by the way, "engaging," which could mean anything and is a far cry from cooperating.

Dan Scavino, it is not clear whether he has responded at all or has even been served. However, he is not even mentioned in the joint statement from Committee Chair Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney.

As for Steve Bannon, he is flat out defying the committee. His lawyer citing the former President's executive privilege, which is a pretty brazen claim to make given that Bannon hasn't worked in the White House since 2017. And for the record, January 6, 2021 wasn't in 2017. Bannon is acting on the former President's orders, a Trump lawyer last night telling all four not to comply. As you know, the former President has made it clear, he no longer even sees January 6 as a thing, saying this week, the real insurrection was on Election Day.

And last night on FOX, he made his contempt plain for those who have tried and failed to hold him accountable.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They had fake impeachments, two fake impeachments, where the Republicans were great, I have to say, they stuck with us.

The whole thing was fake, and I had to survive. And to survive, you had to be tough and you had to be out there. You didn't have time to be necessarily dainty and nice.


BERMAN: "Dainty and nice," or as it used to be called, following the rules, obeying the law, that sort of thing. Faced with that kind of attitude, the Biden White House today broke the tradition saying the President would not invoke executive privilege over Trump documents sought from the National Archives by the select committee. In other words, Biden would allow the release.

So there is now a conflict because we learned late today that the former President has sent a letter to the archives asserting privilege and threatening to, quote, "Take all necessary and appropriate steps to protect the Office of the Presidency." And President Biden, listen to how his Press Secretary framed it.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The administration takes the events of January 6th incredibly seriously as the President said on its six-month anniversary, that day posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive.


BERMAN: "Whether our democracy could survive." That's really something to hear from anyone, let alone someone speaking for the President. It's also where we are tonight.

Joining us now, CNN's Ryan Nobles at the Capitol. Ryan. So, what's President Biden's reasoning for waiving executive privilege, for basically allowing the release of the documents? And what more do we know about former President Trump's argument?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we should first point out that this is a pretty extraordinary step by President Biden, especially someone who considers himself an institutionalist to be willing to allow executive privilege to lapse when it comes to a former President, but his White House Counsel, Dana Remus wrote in a letter to the National Archives describing this as a unique and extraordinary circumstance, that the investigation that is being undertaken by the January 6th Commission is looking into, and as a result that she believes this first tranche of documents that the committee is looking for should be handed over.

But it's not that simple. As you mentioned, the former President, Donald Trump has already written a letter to the National Archives saying that he wants to challenge this legally in court. And the problem for the Archives is that there isn't a lot of precedent for this particular issue, where you have a current administration in opposition to a former administration when it comes to the release of information.

So this is likely something that is going to have to be hashed out in a court of law. Of course, that is to the former President's advantage, John, because it just extends the timeline where the information can be handed over to the January 6th Committee. They likely don't have that much time because they are up against the clock and that clock is the midterm elections and if Democrats are unable to control the majority, the direction of this committee would change a lot after November of 2022.


BERMAN: If they don't control Congress, I imagine the committee goes away.

Ryan, in regards to those who have been subpoenaed by the Select Committee, particularly someone like Steve Bannon who is defying the subpoena, what does the committee plan to do about it?

NOBLES: Well, first of all, we should say that the response by these four individuals has been pretty different. They are not all just falling in line behind the former President in doing his bidding, at least not that we can tell. Of course, Steve Bannon certainly is. He released a letter to the press that he sent to the Select Committee saying that he is going to do what the former President has asked him to do.

But both Mark Meadows and Kash Patel are engaging on some level. Now, we don't know what level that is, but it seems to be enough that the committee is somewhat satisfied. The Committee though made it very clear that they are going to do everything they can to make sure they get this information out of these individuals, and that includes the use of a criminal contempt of Congress. That would be an extraordinary step.

It is something that many Democrats and even some Republicans believe is necessary. That, too, John, is not easy. It would require a vote of the entire House of Representatives and then a referral to the Department of Justice to execute.

Again, all of this stuff takes a lot of time, energy, and is somewhat complicated; part of the reason that this investigation is so difficult.

BERMAN: Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for that. Let's get some additional legal and political perspective now. We're joined by CNN contributor, and former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean; also CNN senior political commentator, and former top Obama adviser, David Axelrod.

And John, what we have here is we have a conflict between two Presidents, but only one is the current President. And remember, the issue here is documents pertaining to an insurrection. So, how do you see this playing out?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's going to eventually rule against Trump, but I think he is in a position to make a lot of trouble, probably litigate this. He has got 30 days from today under an executive order that guides all this. It was actually issued by Obama. It has never been changed since the early days of his presidency, that's guiding and it says, 30 days from now, he has to either put his money where his mouth is or the documents are going to be turned over.

They are in the possession of the archives, so they have some control over that. I don't -- the resolution is not in doubt in my mind that Trump is going to lose this. It's just a question of how long you can litigate it.

BERMAN: Why do you think there's no question that he would lose it, John?

DEAN: One thing that is clear that executive privilege does not protect and that is criminal type behavior. An insurrection is very much criminal type behavior. I think that's why Mr. Biden made the decision that he is -- on this first tranche of documents, he is not going to come anywhere close to considering executive privilege. Apparently, his counsel thought a couple of documents might qualify. But the President said no, no, nothing is going to qualify, at least in this initial look.

BERMAN: So David, obviously, executive privilege is important. And I say that to someone who has advised a President behind closed doors, but to John's point, there are limits to executive privilege. There is no privilege to cover up wrongdoing or illegality, correct?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One hundred percent, and it's -- you know, I mean, it's laughable to think that the President -- that President Trump is presenting this as, you know, a shield against intrusions on legitimate executive authority that is there to protect the decision-making process around legitimate issues.

It is not there to protect plotting and scheming against the Constitution of the United States. It's not there to shield him from revelations about what his role in it was, so -- and he knows that, too. Look, he is doing what he has done his whole life. He's going to litigate, litigate and litigate, and try and kick the can down the field and hope, as Ryan Nobles said that the clock will run out and a new Congress will take office and this Committee will be disbanded before these revelations are made.

So, there is no mystery to what he is doing. He also wants to, as much as possible, and this has been the strategy from the beginning, cast this as a partisan exercise. You know, he instructed House Republicans not to participate, and today, when President Biden made the decision he made, he was accused by President Trump of trying to use the authorities of the President to punish a political opponent, which is also laughable given the nature of the Trump presidency. But here we are.

BERMAN: And David, just -- executive privilege is meant to cover what -- generally speaking? And I say that because this is an inherently political event we are talking about, potentially criminal event when you're talking about the insurrection, but it is electioneering at this point, correct? I mean, what is executive privilege supposed to be, David?


AXELROD: Well, John was the White House Counsel and can answer this more properly than I can, but my understanding was, it was to cover legitimate consultation between the President and his aides. It is meant to allow free and full discussion around issues of policy and legitimate decisions that Presidents have to make.

As I said earlier, it's not there to shield discussions about potential criminal activity. It's not there to shield discussions about aiding and abetting an insurrection.

BERMAN: And John, as far as I know, it doesn't cover people who don't work for the President in any capacity, certainly not in the government. So Steve Bannon hasn't been in government since 2017, so what claim do executive privilege would possibly exist there?

DEAN: It is a qualified privilege to put it in a larger context, and it's always balanced and weighed when a President is in office as apparently that's the period they are really focusing on. The fact that Bannon spoke to him in office, he is arguing that he would be embraced by the privilege. Theoretically, that's possible. But it's the question of what the area they were talking about.

And if they were talking about the insurrection, it's not going to hold up. If they were talking about how to build a better fleet in the South China Sea, that might be, but that is not what we think is the issue here at all.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, what does your gut tell you right now, in terms of how much the January 6th Committee is going to get out of all this?

AXELROD: You know, I think that, as I said earlier, I think Trump and his associates are going to litigate this as aggressively as they can to try and kick the can down the field, but it is pretty clear that they are going to get quite a bit of information.

You know, the question is, John, given the incredibly polarized nature of our country, and of information dissemination or disinformation dissemination, how will the rest -- how will the country receive this information? I don't actually think -- we may learn more, but you know, we know a lot about what happened now. You know, there's been so much reporting done on this and you put the puzzle pieces together, and it's very, very clear the President of the United States was trying to overturn a free and fair election in order to retain power and used his office to pressure people in the Justice Department and elsewhere in states to do his bidding on this. That is the story and it is a horrifying story.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, John Dean, thanks to you both.

Next, a former Republican Congresswoman's take on what her party and her party's leader are doing to the idea of accountability, and a former top Justice Department official on how Congress can and should proceed from here.

Later, new developments in the search for Brian Laundrie and whether his parents will help police find him.



BERMAN: We're talking tonight about a former President's apparent scorched earth campaign to keep us from learning the truth about a threat to democracy that did not come and go on the 6th of January. That's the scary fact hanging over the House Select Committee investigating it. This isn't just about the past.

So the pressure is on the committee not to get stiff armed here, and it seems that Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney want to dispel that notion. Quoting now from their statement today: "Though the Select Committee welcomes good faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to defy a legal subpoena or attempt to run out the clock and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral."

For a closer look at what that might mean in concrete terms, we are joined by former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General. A criminal contempt referral, Elliot, how exactly does that work? And presumably right now, we're talking about Steve Bannon here who has flat out refused to comply with anything.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So, what they would do is go straight to the Full House of Representatives, and get Congress to vote on a criminal referral to the Justice Department to essentially punish someone for violating or not complying with a subpoena.

You know, what's left out in that bit of the quote there, John, is that they can also file a civil suit in court in the District of Columbia to essentially assert the legitimacy of the subpoena, and they can do both of those things at the same time. One of them is coercive, for lack of a better term; one of them is punitive and both of them would seek to get someone to comply and behave.

BRENBERG: The criminal referral, Elliot, though, after the House would vote, it would require Merrick Garland would have to sign on to it. Merrick Garland would then have a decision to make about whether or not he would try to enforce it, correct?

WILLIAMS: Yes, he would number one; and then number two, when it went to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., they'd have to convene a grand jury. So that would take a little bit of time, too. That's partly why I'm sort of making the case for doing both at the same time, because you'd have two different legal avenues going on at the same time for two different purposes.

But yes, it's not just in Congress's hands, you've got to get the Justice Department to weigh in.

BRENBERG: All right, Congresswoman, what do you think the committee should do here? Given the complicating factors we just heard from Elliot there, how much is this worth pursuing?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Oh, it's very much worth pursuing, and I was glad to hear the Chairman and the Vice Chair talk about that they were ready to do that. I hope they are already writing the contempt report. They actually -- the way -- I was a Chief Counsel on Capitol Hill during the Clinton years, what we did is we vote on contempt in the committee, then it goes to the floor, then you would send it over for a referral.

In our case, the documents as their contempt port was heading to the floor, the documents came forward, but if they don't, then take it to the Justice Department and ask them to expedite it because it's important that this be done swiftly because you really have obstruction going on here, I think from the top on down -- you know, from Donald Trump on down.


COMSTOCK: So I think it's important to set that standard early on, and it is also important to understand that this is going to be very expensive lawyer fees for those who aren't cooperating, because you're going to have to hire a lawyer just to deal with this. And then if it goes to trial, you can get up to a year in prison, and up to $100,000.00 fine on top of what would be very expensive legal fees.

And you've seen lawyers in D.C. who are handling these January 6th cases. I mean, actually judges in in D.C. who are not happy with some of these people getting off very easy. So, I think the judges in D.C. would be very tough on them as would a jury.

BERMAN: But Barbara, if they started today, if the criminal referral was today, or they voted tomorrow, which they're not going to do, how long would it be from that point to the point where there were actual charges or a conviction for Steve Bannon?

COMSTOCK: Listen, they should be getting that report and the committee vote very swiftly, and then get it to the floor. They could do it in several weeks if they put their mind to it and made it a priority, I think, and then get it over there. Look, you have the Justice Department very swiftly acted on the abortion case in Texas, right? So, there are, you know, cases where National Security is at issue here because as you mentioned, this is ongoing.

What Donald Trump is doing and the threat and sort of the whole cover up is still ongoing, and we need -- I'm frustrated that the Committee hasn't subpoenaed more people because I think every lawyer who touched this in the White House should be telling the American people, hey, we warned him that this was unconstitutional, that it was illegal, that he couldn't do it.

Remember, Bill Barr said that no good attorney would go anywhere near this and that the attorneys who were telling him he could do this, it was a clown show. So, we need to get that testimony in front of Congress. We need to get the contemporaneous documents.

There are a lot of ways you can go after say, Steve Bannon. You can get -- when I had hearings where we had all these people who wouldn't cooperate, we went after their bank records, we went after their phone records. They can't stonewall on those. And we got people indicted based on their phone records and their bank records and business records and the documents we got from other people.

So you just have to have a sweeping assault on this from all fronts to get to the truth because this is still an ongoing threat.

BERMAN: Elliot, we've got about 30 seconds left here. If other witnesses take this same route, though, the Bannon route here, how much will the Committee be able to get done?

WILLIAMS: The Committee can still get plenty done. What's not -- you know, look, these are four very consequential witnesses, which as you noted, they're not all behaving exactly the same way. Some of them are cooperating somewhat.

There are still as of today, 14 other subpoenas issued and more are coming in. Just about every five days, they have got documents or testimony coming in. They are still working on an investigation, and just as the Congresswoman had said, they are still looking at documents and phone records and all kinds of other things.

I don't mean to pooh-pooh Steve Bannon's testimony, but he is not the only witness here and other ones are going to provide information, he may end up in jail, but there are still plenty of other information to be gotten, and I just don't think this stuff will completely derail the investigation, John.

BERMAN: Elliot Williams, Barbara Comstock, thanks to both of you.

Next, the manhunt for Brian Laundrie and how far, if at all, his parents will go to help. New developments including the question of a polygraph when we come back.



BERMAN: Conditions are improving at a Florida nature reserve where the search continues for Brian Laundrie whose fiancee Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming last month.

The Laundrie family attorney says the water in the reserve is receding and certain areas are more accessible to search, but is Brian Laundrie even there? And will his father return to help with the search there?

360's Randi Kaye has new information and joins us now from North Port, Florida. So, Randi, what are they able to find out? Is there anyone other than the Laundrie family directing authorities to that reserve?

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I asked the North Port Police that question, John, and I confirmed that it is the Laundrie family, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian Laundrie's parents, they are the only source of information that is driving authorities to that Carlton Reserve. There is nobody else that has said that they have seen Brian Laundrie heading to that reserve, in that reserve, near that reserve. Nobody else, the family is the only source.

We do have some new drone video of the search area, not too many people searching today that we were able to see because the F.B.I. has said this is now a very targeted search based on Intelligence, but I was also able to confirm with the North Port Police that they have not found a single piece of evidence connecting Ryan Laundrie to the Carlton Reserve, not a sneaker, not a shoe, not a piece of clothing. Nothing.

So right now, they will continue to search this area. We do know that he has been known to frequent there from his family saying that he hikes there and camped there and they will continue to search the area, but all these weeks later, John, still no sign of him.

BERMAN: Not a single piece of physical evidence. So much controversy surrounding Brian Laundrie's parents. To what extent are they cooperating? For instance, have they taken a polygraph test?

KAYE: The family lawyer for the Laundrie family told CNN tonight, they confirmed that they have not taken a polygraph test. They were asked if they would take one in the future, and the lawyer said, "No comment." We also were able to confirm with that lawyer that Chris Laundrie, Brian Laundrie's father has no plans to return to the reserve to search again with law enforcement.

BERMAN: How about tips at this point? We're a month or so in. Are authorities still getting information from the public?

KAYE: Yes, the North Port Police -- the spokesman told me they are getting tips and they are grateful that people are engaged and trying to help, but some of them are really wacky, John, and they're taking away the resources and the time.

In fact, just this week, police told me that they got a tip that somebody had been watching the Laundrie parents gardening and they saw a hand come up through the soil and hand them a note and then they tipped off the police that they believe Brian Laundrie was living under the house, and in the ground there, so that is obviously not true.

They are getting tips from psychics and people who say they're clairvoyant, but none of this has panned out -- John.


BERMAN: All right Randi Kaye, thank you as always for your reporting. Appreciate it.

Joining us now for perspective is criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara. Mark, you just heard from Randi that according to the Laundrie family attorney, Brian Laundrie's parents, they haven't taken a polygraph test yet, and it's unclear if they plan to do so in the future. What do you make of that?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one, they're in a very untenable position. We know if some anonymous survey was done that most parents would help most children no matter what happened. But having said that, you know, I use polygraphs a lot in my practice one to get to the bottom of it with a client potentially and or use it as a good tool with the prosecution.

So, if I was to be asked as their attorney to have a polygraph done, I would have done one quietly and confidentially first. So you might sort of infer from that, that maybe one was done, they weren't happy with the results of it, or that there's certain information that they do not want to have to disclose concerning whatever it may be, including maybe some potential health that they gave Brian.

BERMAN: So that's interesting. As a defense attorney, you won't let your client take a polygraph from police unless you would already administer one first.

O'MARA: That's criminal law 101. You never expose your client to a polygraph unless he or she has passed with flying colors, because it's devastating information, even though it's not admissible in a courtroom, it is one of the relevant facts they consider an investigation and in filing charges.

BERMAN: So, what is the fact that this even came up in any shape or form? What does it tell you about what investigators are thinking?

O'MARA: Well, they are focused on the family as to what assistance may have been given. Because we know again, most families will offer some assistance. So what they -- what the FBI did I'm certain ever without knowing protect, you know, certainly but and that is that they went and said look, we want to know what you know what you don't know and we use this tool to help us with witnesses, so please take his polygraph on the issue of do you know where he is? Did he do --

BERMAN: All right, we apparently lost Mark O'Mara there, Mark was talking about a polygraph test in the FBI and how they would approach witnesses and say, we want to use the polygraph if we can to help us understand as many facts as possible. But Mark also pointing out as a defense attorney, and he's had a lot of clients before, he would never let his clients sit for a polygraph unless he had administered one first and felt they were capable of passing such a thing.

Our Randi Kaye reporting moments ago that the America -- that the family the Laundrie family has not taken a polygraph test as of now, and no comment about whether they would do so in the future. The cooperation the Laundrie family had been giving the FBI, the father had helped them tore the nature reserve no longer in accordance with that, he's not going to do that anymore. That was the last time at least for now he will be helping the FBI.

Coming up, an extraordinary power grab in Idaho. The governor leaves the state for a day and lieutenant governor goes rogue. Wait until you hear what she tried to do to -- what she tried to get away with. Next.



BERMAN: In Idaho, an extraordinary public feud between the state's two top leaders took a bizarre turn this week. When Governor Brad Little briefly left the state on Tuesday, the Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin went rogue and issued an executive order involving COVID vaccines. But that's not all, she also attempted to activate the National Guard and send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Dan Simon is in Boise with the story.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest stop between Idaho's Republican Governor Brad Little and its Republican Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin happened this week when Little went to Texas.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): And it's time for the Biden administration to wake up.

SIMON (voice-over): To stand with Governor Greg Abbott and others to blast the Biden administration's handling of the southern border.

GOV. BRAD LITTLE (R-ID): My fellow Idahoans --

SIMON (voice-over): While Little is considered a strong conservative but more mainstream, McGeachin elected separately is aligned with the far right wing of the party. Scene last year holding a gun and a Bible in a video that criticized coronavirus restrictions.

LT. GOV. JANICE MCGEACHIN (R-ID): We recognize that all of us are my nature free and equal.

SIMON (voice-over): She's running for the top job next year presumably against Little. And in a bold move, citing a clause in the state constitution used his absence to seize temporary control of the state and issue a controversial executive order banning schools from mandating COVID-19 vaccines. She made a similar move months earlier, banning masks and public buildings while Little attended a Republican Conference in Tennessee.

McGeachin also inquired about mobilizing the Idaho National Guard and sending troops to the Mexican border. All these actions later rescinded by Governor Little.

MCGEACHIN: Our Constitution states that when the governor leaves the state, all duties that that apply to the office of the governor then fall to the Lieutenant Governor.

SIMON (voice-over): Little has never mandated masks but has allowed counties and schools to make their own decisions. On vaccines, he's banned state officials from requiring proof of COVID vaccinations, but he didn't specifically call out schools. McGeachin tweeting that her executive order fix that. We caught up with McGeachin outside her office.

(on-camera): But you know what you're doing you're running for governor and when he leaves town you're issuing these orders. You're undermining what he's doing when you're doing this.

MCGEACHIN: You know, you -- you're I'm not going to talk anymore to an activist. I'm -- if you're asking me fair questions as a reporter, then that's fine. But if you're going to be an activist, I'm --

SIMON (on-camera): I'm not being an activist. But what do you say to your critics who say that this is absurd.

MCGEACHIN: But again, you're being an activist. I am not anti-vaxx. I am not anti-casting of COVID. We know a lot of people that are suffering from this right now. But I am very much against having it be a mandate in our state. And that's what this is all about. People should not be forced to decide --


SIMON (on-camera): But he never mandated anything. The governor never mandated anything.

MCGEACHIN: Interview is over.

SIMON (voice-over): For his part, Governor Little has been very quiet on the matter with one of his aides saying he's trying to rise above the political noise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, any reactions to the actions by your lieutenant governor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to -- we got to go.


LITTLE: We'll take care of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's political?

LITTLE: It could be political. JIM JONES, FMR CHIEF JUSTICE OF ID SUPREME COURT: We've had Republican governors and democrat lieutenant governors. They work it out.

SIMON (voice-over): Jim Jones is the former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. His assessment, blunt.

JONES: This is the only lieutenant governor that I can recall that has acted like an idiot.


SIMON: Governor Little has made the argument that it's a mischaracterization of the Idaho constitution to say that anytime he leaves the state that the lieutenant governor would automatically take over, and he got a supporting opinion from the Idaho Attorney General's office. Nonetheless, the AG said it was a close legal question. Ultimately, it would need to be resolved at the courts. John.

BERMAN: All right, Dan Simon quite a story. Thank you so much.

Up next, we've heard the testimony and seeing the research, tonight we'll hear from two young women on opposite sides of the world about the devastating effect Instagram had on their teenage years and how they almost didn't live to tell their stories.



BERMAN: Facebook in the spotlight this week when whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee, about internal research showing the company was aware of various problems caused by its apps, including Instagram's potential toxic effect on teenage girls.

Two young women on opposite sides of the world know that toxic effect all too well. They say content on Instagram led them down a path of extreme eating, dieting, depression and eating disorders when they were teenagers.

Sara Sidner has their stories.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Ashlee Thomas at 14 years old. Having a complete meltdown because her parents are demanding she eat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on Ash, just open your mouth and swallow it.

SIDNER (voice-over): Thomas was in the grip of anorexia starving herself.



ASHLEE THOMAS, EATING DISORDER SURVIVOR: I got to the stage where I remember sitting down and my dad holding my jaw open and my mom's syringing food into my mouth because I just refuse to eat.

SIDNER (on-camera): How bad this good for you and your family?

THOMAS: When I was admitted into hospital the doctor said to me we don't understand why you're here. You should be dead. And actually in hospital I -- my heart failed twice.

SIDNER (voice-over): Thomas says her journey with anorexia as a teen began with consuming content on Instagram about clean eating and what she thought were perfect bodies.

THOMAS: When I saw these influences that had all the likes and had all the followers. I want to get a taste of that, I wanted to be liked and loved.

SIDNER (on-camera): Would you say you were addicted to Instagram?

THOMAS: Yes. I was very addicted.

SIDNER (voice-over): Thousand of miles from Thomas's home in Australia --

ANASTASIA VLASOVA, EATING DISORDER SURVIVOR: I was most definitely addicted to Instagram.

SIDNER (voice-over): -- Anastasia Vlasova was also spiraling out of control in the United States, clean eating captured her attention too.

VLASOVA: I was just bombarded with all of these messages of you have to exercise every single day or you have to do these types of exercises or you have to go on this type of diet.

SIDNER (voice-over): The more she saw, the more anxiety and depression she felt, but she couldn't stop. She says that led to her cycles of binge eating.

FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Facebook likes to present things as false choices.

SIDNER (voice-over): Their stories illustrate what former Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress.

HAUGEN: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.

SIDNER (voice-over): Haugen also submitted complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission citing Facebook's own internal research, which found Facebook's platforms which include Instagram make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls. Thirteen point five percent of teen girls on Instagram say the platform makes thoughts of suicide and self injury worse, and 17% of teenage girls say Instagram makes eating issues such as anorexia and bulimia worse.

In a statement to CNN, Facebook disputed the interpretation of the study and said the percentages are actually much lower.

HAUGEN: The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: Remove content that could lead to imminent real world harm.

SIDNER (voice-over): Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to Haugen's testimony in a post to his employees posting in part, we care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health. Many of the claims don't make any sense. If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place?

Facebook has also said it welcomes regulation. But those who know the inner workings of the tech world say that won't save teens.

TRISTAN HARRIS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR HUMANE TECHNOLOGY: Because their business model is putting kids into these kinds of loops of engagement. And that's what I'm really worried about is that if -- there isn't some quick fix to this thing, it's the intrinsic nature of the product.

SIDNER (voice-over): These two young women say simply put Instagram endangered their very lives as teenagers.

THOMAS: We shouldn't have to end up in hospital beds or we shouldn't have to be fed by the nasal gastric tube or our parents have to say goodbye to also hand over their parental rights because your platform is encouraging us to starve ourselves.


BERMAN: And Sara Sidner joins me now. Sara, such searing images and stories there. Have either of these women that you spoke with if they returned to using Instagram?


SIDNER: Anastasia Vlasova told us that she eventually deleted the app, certainly as she was going through treatment, and has continued to stay off it. And she says she feels better. She's less anxious, less depressed, and living a good life. But Ashlee Thomas, who, by the way is now 20 years old is back on Instagram, the young lady you saw they're having such trouble battling the demon of anorexia. And she says she is using the platform now to warn others and to have conversations and to try to help other teens deal with eating disorders and mental health issues.

And one of the things that really struck me is how strong these two women were. Both of them were athletes, and they both went down this rabbit hole that nearly killed them. John.

BERMAN: Sara Sidner, as I said, a remarkable, remarkable. Look, thank you so much for that.

And if you or a loved one are looking for help, you can find resources at You can also call or text the eating disorders helpline at 800-931-2237.

Coming up, Lisa Ling on her new season of "THIS IS LIFE." An important look at the legacy of anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. Lisa joins us with a preview, next.



BERMAN: This Sunday on CNN, don't miss the start of a new season of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING." This season, Lisa will be tackling some of the most challenging issues that are defined the past tumultuous year by taking a deep dive into our collective past to uncover some hard truths. The first episode looks at the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes around the country and how is rooted in a long history of discrimination against Asian-Americans.

Joining us now for more is the host of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LANG." Lisa, thank you so much for being with us. I am so looking forward to this season. And I want to show people a clip of this first episode, which I know is very personal for you. So watch this.

LISA LING, CNN HOST: Thanks, John.


LING (on-camera): So, Mr. Chang, this is where your car was parked here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So my car here, burner here flashes here. You can see black.

LING (on-camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see that burn all the way to black and dirty. See.

LING (on-camera): So when you come out of your house, and you see this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, what happened my car? Who do my car? And fire department coming but too late.

LING (on-camera): Makes you sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I said, I know.

LING (on-camera): So, the only cars that burned that night was your car and another Asian man's car? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LING (on-camera): Do you think it may have to do with the fact that you are Asian?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, 100%, I don't know who did fire the car, I don't know.


BERMAN: So hard Lisa. What was it like to put this season together for you this episode, I should say?

LING: Well, John, we decided to do something a little different for our eighth season, we had to pivot a little bit because of COVID. You know, our show is usually very immersive, and experiential. And we decided to take a deep dive into moments in American history that didn't make it into the books but still impact us today. And so, our first episode, we actually look into the murder of Vincent Chin that happened in the '80s. And it was a time in Detroit, which was the automobile capital of the world at that time, when we were experiencing an economic downturn, particularly in that industry. And Japanese manufacturers were being blamed because they were producing more fuel efficient cars and gas prices and oil prices were skyrocketing at the time.

And so, Vincent Chin was in a bar celebrating his bachelor party and two out of work auto workers got into an altercation with him. He left the bar, the men chased him out and beat him to death with a baseball bat. And those two men never served a day of jail, or prison, paid a $3,000 fine and spent some months on probation.

But, you know, when we think about what's been happening over the last year and a half, and John, I've spoken to you on multiple shows, here on CNN about this, this scapegoating of Asian people because of the COVID virus, the virus was really weaponized against our community. And it's part of this long pattern of discrimination and scapegoating that has been happening in this country for more than a century.

BERMAN: And turning a blind eye to it or erasing it or not acknowledging it. And I say that because I don't recall ever hearing about Vincent Chin until you brought him to my attention when we were talking last March and the string of anti-Asian hate crimes. And I realized this is a part of American history, our history that many people don't even know about, that tells you something.

LING: Well, here so right, John. I mean, growing up in California, right, very progressive state. I don't remember reading anything about Asian-American history. I mean, I learned about the internment of 120,000 Japanese -- people of Japanese descent, when I was out of school, and I was horrified by that, and this happened during World War II. And you know, when you don't have any frame of reference for one's inclusion in one's history books, it's so easy to overlook and even dehumanize an entire population.

BERMAN: As I said, Lisa, I've been looking at this looking forward to this season for a long time. This first episode looks fantastic. We certainly appreciate all the work you've done. And I know this season was a hard one to put together because of COVID. So thank you very much for that.

LING: Thank you, John.

LING: And be sure to tune into the all new season of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING." It premieres Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. only on CNN.

All right, that is all for us tonight. I'm John Berman. The news continues. So let's head over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."


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

It is time to get after it. It's time to put on your lawyer hat.