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At This Hour

FBI & Police at Brian Laundrie's Home After Body Found in Wyoming; Pfizer: Low Dose COVID Vaccine Safe for Children Ages 5 to 11; U.S. to Relax EU & UK Travel Restrictions for Vaccinated Passengers; President Biden Faces Growing Number of Crises. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 11:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I don't know about the role modeling there. Thanks for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.


AT THIS HOUR with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We do begin with breaking news. The FBI and police are back at the Florida home of Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie, who has not been seen in nearly a week after returning from a cross-country road trip without her. The FBI says that it is executing a court-authorized search warrant at the home as we speak. Laundrie's parents told police last Friday they had not seen him for several days.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, authorities are working to identify a body they recovered yesterday at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. That is where they have been searching for the missing 22- year-old Gabby Petito.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live outside the home in North Port, Florida, where everything has been happening this morning.

Leyla, what is happening there now?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this hour, Kate, FBI agents are inside this home executing a search warrant. We were here when sort of a caravan of black vehicles pulled up, surrounded the house, yelled out "search warrant" and then went in. So they have been in there for about an hour now.

And this came after North Port police told us that they were calling off the search at this 25,000-acre reserve where they had been all weekend after the family here told them that they had not seen Brian Laundrie since Tuesday, reported that Friday, three days after the fact. You know, that was this weekend. Then late Sunday, we heard from the FBI in Wyoming, telling us about the result of a search that had been ongoing there at the Grand Teton National Park.

Listen to what they had to say.


CHARLES JONES, SUPERVISORY SENIOR RESIDENT AGENT, FBI DENVER: Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery. The cause of death has not been determined at this time.


SANTIAGO: So we're expecting an autopsy tomorrow, Tuesday. We could get some more information there that could finalize the details on what they found in the Grand Teton National Park. In the meantime, the search according to North Port police continues for Brian Laundrie as FBI agents execute that search warrant. We did see them go in there with containers and multiple agents inside. How long they'll be there, we're not sure. But we're hoping that we'll get more information on the investigation as a result.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Leyla, thanks for being there. Appreciate it.

Joining me for more on this, Joey Jackson, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, and Anthony Barksdale, CNN law enforcement analyst and former acting Baltimore police commissioner.

Anthony, FBI and police at the home with a search warrant, what do you think they could be doing?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They're looking for evidence. The family obviously had some contact with them and so maybe something's on a cell phone, maybe something's on a computer. And I think this is entirely appropriate for the FBI and local law enforcement to do. This is -- I think it is a positive step in the right direction for this investigation.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this home is now considered a crime scene? I mean, how would we know if this house is now considered in some way a crime scene?

BARKSDALE: It's possibly a crime scene. Maybe there's something there that we don't know about. And it's entirely possible. So I'm open to it being a crime scene and they have to do a thorough search of the location, of the dwelling, and that's an important piece of the investigation.

BOLDUAN: Joey, do you think -- I mean, of course we're all working with a major blind spot, right, and what we can just see from outside this home and what we're hearing from the FBI, which is limited, understandably so. Do you think that this search would be more about locating Brian Laundrie or is it more likely to have something to do with Gabby Petito since they now have a body that they do believe is Petito's? JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. It's a great question. Good

morning to you and Anthony. The answer to that question is both. This is an active investigation and they have many obligations, right.


The obligation first and foremost to Ms. Petito and her family is to get justice. How do you do that? You do that by determining cause of death. You do that by determining who was responsible for that death, and obviously a lot points to Mr. Laundrie, who was traveling with her throughout the country.

The last person to see her, the Instagram posts day by day cataloging where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, what they were eating, a number of those things. Then that goes cold. Remember what they're doing. They're back, of course, at that particular scene where her body was found, processing that information, looking at her really and there will be a lot of information gleaned from the body, hate to be graphic, and of course the surrounding area.

And then they have to really fan that out to come to the home. Because now he has gone from a suspect and a person of interest to a potentially defendant, he's now a suspect and a defendant in a case, before a person of interest, where are you? Why did you leave? When did you leave? Are you responsible?

And all the evidence that they're gathering there is meant to, A, find him, of course, but also to connect him to this case. As Anthony mentioned, computer, forensic information as it relates to cell phones, computers in that home, where could he be, physical evidence, what he was wearing, boots, shoes, clothing, et cetera, documentary evidence. Everything is fair game.

One thing for sure, they're focused on him, looking for him, and when they do find him, I expect, Kate, he'll be before a judge in short order.

BOLDUAN: Anthony, one thing that has been most strange about how this has all unfolded is how -- is the family of Brian Laundrie, quite honestly. They have refused to talk to police even before Brian Laundrie himself seemed to disappear.

What do you think of that? Just from a law enforcement perspective. We've heard the spokesman from the police department say clearly when asked why do you think they haven't talked, he simply said that's a great question.

BARKSDALE: It's their child. It's their baby. He may be a grown man now, but that's love, and many parents are hesitant to see their child face the music for their actions.

And I know it can be tough for others to understand, but I saw it over and over again during my career. When a mother knows or a father knows that his or her child did something wrong, they just don't want to see their child incarcerated. So I get it. Law enforcement can't care about that. They have to

follow the evidence, make a solid case, and bring Petito's family some type of justice. I still in the back of my mind is hoping he is alive to face justice.

BOLDUAN: There's a lot between where we are now and justice in any form for anything with regard to what we believe has happened to Gabby Petito. All questions now, and more today as reporters including our Leyla Santiago, stand outside this home in North Port to see what comes from this now FBI search. It is unfolding as we speak.

We'll keep everyone updated. Joey, Anthony, stick close. We'll bring more updates as we learn them.

We also have some very important breaking news to get to this morning. Pfizer announcing this morning the results of its vaccine trial for children ages 5 to 11. Pfizer tested a lower dose on the kids in this trial, about a third of what is right now approved in the shots for adults. The company reports that it proved the data that they are releasing proved to be safe and produced a robust immune response. Pfizer says it plans to submit for emergency use authorization with the FDA as soon as possible.

And the timing couldn't be more critical. Pediatric cases of coronavirus in the United States have risen by nearly 240 percent since July. It also comes as CNN has learned that the Biden administration plans to ease travel restrictions for some vaccinated passengers from overseas.

We're going to have more on that in just a moment.

But joining me now on this important news this morning, a step, an important step I guess we could say, is Dr. Paul Offit, member of the FDA vaccine advisory, the director of the vaccine education center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Offit, just your reaction to this information released by Pfizer today on the trials in younger kids. I mean, do you see this as good news?



I mean, this is sort of the top-line press release from the company. Right now, we're in the press release phase of science these days. They will submit all the data. We'll be able to look at all the data from the advisory committee to get a much better idea of exactly how this -- but certainly looking at it, instead of 30 microgram dose which was given to older adolescents and adults, this is a 10 microgram per dose, again a two-dose trial. But certainly the immune response looks brisk and the kind of response you would expect to be associated with protection against disease. We certainly need a vaccine for children as you mentioned. BOLDUAN: Yeah. But you say it perfectly once again, which is you

cannot lead an approval process by press releases. It must be led by science. That is the data that you want to and must see. Talk to me about what more you want to see, need to see before you would be ready to support an authorization for this.

OFFIT: Right. You want to see the details of every possible side effect that those children had, especially with the second dose. In other words, did they have sort of a more vigorous kind of response associated with fever, headache, muscle ache, joint ache.

I mean, did they -- did they have lymphadenopathy, meaning swelling of the lymph node under their arm? I mean, how -- how -- what did that safety profile look like? How consistent were those immune responses? Did 100 percent of those children have immune responses or were there 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent that didn't have as high a response. You're looking at the individual top-line sentences which doesn't give you all the information you need.

BOLDUAN: To that point, information released doesn't say anything about data -- the data to show how effective the vaccine is at preventing infection.

Do you read anything into that?

OFFIT: Well, so, again, you know that high levels of virus specific neutralizing antibody in the bloodstream generally correlate with protection against symptomatic disease. So, but again, it's not an effectiveness study, at least from the data we've seen in that one- page press release. You know, when you look at 15-year-old data, that was roughly a 2,300-child study where half were given vaccine, half were given placebo and there were 18 cases of COVID in that trial, all in the placebo group.

So, that clearly was an effectiveness study. I mean, it's unclear whether this was an effectiveness study from the press release. We'll have to see looking more carefully at the data.

BOLDUAN: So, as it sits this morning, Dr. Offit, and there are so many questions on so many vaccines, what is your advice? What do you think parents of this age group of kids, what should they take from this today? How soon do you think kids under 12 will start being vaccinated?

OFFIT: I think they should be hopeful and know there's a process that's in place to make sure this vaccine is safe, safe, safe and effective. Hopefully, the company will submit formally for emergency use authorization by the end of this month, presumably no later than the beginning of next month. Then the FDA will review the data and the CDC will review those data.

So, you would think it's possible by mid-October there could be a vaccine for children in that age group.

BOLDUAN: I want to turn real quickly to boosters. A senior vaccine -- kind of official I guess with Pfizer was on NBC this morning and he said from his view, he viewed the recommendation coming from the advise panel you're a member of, he sees the recommendation as very broad. Let me play this.


DR. BILL GRUBER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, PFIZER VACCINE CLINICAL RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT: They've made a very broad recommendation for individuals over 65 years of age and individuals that are at high risk of severe disease. That was the panel. The FDA needs to take that under consideration and decide what will work best, but in the end, I think this is going to be broadly applied and I think we'll meet an important public health need and I'm looking forward to that.


BOLDUAN: Doctor, was your intention to offer a very broad recommendation? A lot of folks didn't see it that way when the panel voted.

OFFIT: So, the FDA is a regulatory body, not a body that makes recommendations. So, what we do is we say the company can essentially distribute this as a pre-dose product for those over 65, for those who are high-risk medical conditions.

Then that goes to the CDC. They're a recommending body. Everyone should wait to see what they say. They may choose to accept or not accept. Although still we're waiting for the FDA to accept or not accept what the advisory committee has said. There are two more parts of this process before we have a recommendation.

BOLDUAN: If you're saying anything has been sidestepped or short- circuited, listen to what Paul Offit just said and you will see the steps, it is not a sure process to get any of these approvals, or authorizations.

It's good to see you, Dr. Offit. Thank you.

OFFIT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, we have some more breaking news to get to. CNN has learned the U.S. will be easing travel restrictions for vaccinated passengers hoping to travel into the U.S. from the European Union and the U.K. This is coming out just this morning.


CNN's Pete Muntean is live in Washington with the details.

Pete, what are you learning?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a big shift. It could jump-start international travel that has been lagging so badly during the pandemic. The White House is telling foreign nationals coming into the United States that they can travel from the U.K. and European Union, 33 countries, going into effect in early November.

What is important is they have to show they are vaccinated and have to prove they do not have coronavirus with a negative coronavirus test.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients says it's a strict protocol but it follows the science. The goal is to protect Americans, because remember, travel has been a vector of this virus since the early days of the pandemic. Airlines are going to be celebrating this in a big way.

They cannot wait for international travel to come back because it's domestic travel that's been going up but international travel has been way down. Just one example for you, travel between the United States and the United Kingdom down 86 percent in August compared to August of 2019, back before the pandemic. The holidays are just around the corner and in some cases families have been separated by these travel bans that have been in place for months -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's a great point. Thank you, Pete, for that reporting. We'll stay on top of that.

Coming up for us, from booster shots to diplomatic disputes, the border, fallout from the deadly botched drone strike in Afghanistan, President Biden is facing major challenges this week, the growing crises engulfing the White House, next.


BOLDUAN: This morning, the Biden administration is grappling with a series of challenges, multiple crises from the setback of the FDA's COVID booster plan to a major diplomatic rift with France. Also the fallout from the drone strike that killed multiple civilians in Afghanistan. That's just some.

Another growing crisis unfolding at the border with Mexico. Thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians, are trying desperately to get into the United States. CNN drone footage shows this. This mass of humanity in a makeshift camp now under the Del Rio international bridge.

The Biden administration is defending its deportation efforts with more than 300 Haitian nationals flown back to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, so far and more flights are expected to be coming.

CNN's Josh Campbell, he is live in Del Rio, Texas, with the latest from there.

Josh, what are you learning today?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, we've seen that dramatic drone video. I want to show you what it's like on the ground as I step aside.

You know, this is one of the checkpoints at the U.S.-Mexico border. We've seen this infusion of resources from law enforcement, these wave after waves of state troopers coming in, federal agents, law enforcement as well, again, because just not far from where we're standing here, there is the Del Rio International Bridge, under which is this makeshift camp where thousands of migrants remain, living in these squaw lid conditions, sleeping on the dirt next to piles of garbage in the elements. It's hot here at the border.

Now, the secretary of homeland security spoke to CNN this weekend and said they are working with the Red Cross and other aid agencies to provide food to help improve sanitary conditions as they try to process all of these migrants that have come, these thousands of them. The secretary also pointed out specifically that if these migrants don't have a lawful purpose for entering the U.S., such as claiming asylum, they will be sent back to where they came from. You know, there's repatriation flights already under way.

Finally, the DHS secretary himself is scheduled to land here shortly for an operational assessment. We'll get further details about what the federal government is doing to try to mitigate this humanitarian crisis, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That remains the question. Exactly. Thank you, josh.

So, while that is playing out at the border, in Washington, the president and Democrats were just hit -- were just hit with a major setback to their overall immigration reform efforts. The Senate parliamentarian, the Senate's arbiter of the chamber's rules telling Democrats overnight they cannot include a pathway to legalization for millions of immigrants as part of the way they want to go about passing the $3.5 trillion budget bill.

CNN's Lauren Fox has joined me now live on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, Democrats need to regroup here, but what can they do about this now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, their options really are limited at this point. And that is because Democrats and Republicans had tried to find some kind of consensus on comprehensive immigration reform, not just this year but in multiple years past. And they've gone nowhere.

And so, Democrats were hoping to include a provision in their bill that would have allowed a path to legalization for 8 million immigrants. That's by their own estimates. That group would have included DACA recipients, TPS recipients, as well as individuals in this country who are doing farm work and other essential jobs that Democrats argued were crucial to getting the country through the pandemic.

Now, under the Senate budget's rules, there are limited provisions for any bill that would get passed with 51 Democratic votes. That's what that $3.5 trillion bill actually is. It's going to be passed with just Democratic votes.

So the parliamentarian ruling over the weekend that they cannot include it, now Democrats are saying that they do want to make sure that they are going to try again.


But their options are really limited. And this all comes as Democrats are pushing forward to that September 27th deadline in the House where we expect they would vote on that bipartisan infrastructure package. They're also trying to finish up any remaining sticking points on that $3.5 trillion bill. So a lot of move thing parts here, Kate.

And this ruling by the parliamentarian only complicating efforts for Democrats to get things finished up by that deadline.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, don't take a bet if you want to bet on meeting that deadline right now, especially with this latest glitch this their plans. Lauren, thank you as always for your reporting in this.

So, President Biden is heading to New York this afternoon for his first U.N. General Assembly as president. Biden is hoping at the same time as he's in New York to have a phone call with the French president in the coming days in an effort to ease the very serious tensions that have been created over the security deal that the U.S. reached with the U.K. and Australia that undercut a lucrative deal that France had already made or thought it had made with the Aussies.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live with the very latest on this for us this hour.

Arlette, a phone call seems a simple thing to schedule if they really want to get on the line. What's happening with this?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, President Biden is hoping to soon schedule that call with French President Macron. I'm told that that call is not expected to happen today but the scheduling process is in the works as the U.S. is really trying to smooth over the tension that's arisen after that security agreement they announced with the U.K. and Australia.

The French have been rankled by this disagreement because it's causing them to lose a multibillion-dollar contract for submarines they thought they had negotiated and confirmed with the Australians.

And France is one of the United States' longest allies. It was just in June that the president was in Cornwall at the G-7 Summit with French President Macron. The two were acting chummy. And Macron said he felt America was back now under President Trump. We are seeing this first public rift between the current president of the U.S., Joe Biden, and France's president Emmanuel Macron.

But this all comes as the president is really dealing with a high- stakes week when it comes to his diplomatic agenda. He will be at the United Nations general assembly tomorrow delivering his first speech, also meeting with various leaders including the leaders of the U.K. and Australia as the president is trying to affirm the U.S. role around the world.

BOLDUAN: Much more to come on this. Arlette, thank you very much.

Coming up for us, their bombshell book is causing a stir in Washington and beyond. Now, for the first time, we hear from the journalists themselves about the back story to those final chaotic days of the Trump White House as described in the book "Peril." That's next.