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"Peril" Authors Reject GOP's Treason Claims Against Gen. Milley; U.S Begins Mass Deportation Of Haitian Migrants From Texas; Investigators Questioning Parents Of Brian Laundrie Right Now. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are learning more about that explosive new book, Peril, detailing the final days of the Trump White House. The authors, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, are speaking about it for the first time. They were asked on Good Morning America today if they thought they were reporting on treasonous behavior in detailing the phone calls Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley held with his Chinese counterpart in the final months of The trump presidency.

Here is what they said about that.



There's nothing hidden about this. It is a top-secret back channel.

ROBERT COSTA, CO-AUTHOR, PERIL: He was not going rogue. He was reading people in throughout the national security and military community trying to contain a situation.


BOLDUAN: CNN's John Harwood is joining me now for more on this. Hearing from Woodward and Costa themselves was really interesting this morning, John. I mean, they clearly do not think these calls from Milley were even getting close to treasonous. What does that do, though, to the, I don't know, backlash, really, that Milley has been facing over the details of this book as they were coming out in the last week?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple kinds of backlash, Kate. The treason talk, which is, I think, most people consider nonsensical, comes from Donald Trump and people close to Donald Trump. There's a separate discussion among people who are concerned about how the United States civilian leadership relates to the U.S. military who are concerned that Milley was overstepping his bounds.

But, clearly, Woodward and Bob Costa both took the view that I think is a widely held view that, no, what General Milley was trying to do was to resolve a danger to the country that was posed by this wounded, defeated president who was trying to overturn the election and do whatever he could to distract attention from his defeat.

BOLDUAN: And, John, there's another part of this that I think is really interesting. We heard more about a conversation between Mike Pence and President Trump in the days before Congress was set to certify the election.


And we've known from this reporting of how Pence was kind of trying to straddle two things, right, his constitutional responsibilities and also staying in good graces of Trump. And you could hear in this conversation that struggle. Let me play this.


COSTA: He talked to former Vice President Dan Quayle of all people along with his lawyers and his advisers trying to find a way about what to do. We show the agony, the uncertainty Vice President Pence had. There's this one scene in the book, it still stays with me in our reporting. He's with President Trump on January 5th hours before the insurrection and president has this temptation of power. Wouldn't it be cool, he says to Vice President Pence, to have the power to decertify an election?


BOLDUAN: Wouldn't it be cool to be able to overturn the results of an election is I guess one way to put it. I mean, what do you think of that, John?

HARWOOD: Wouldn't it be cool, that sort of sums up Donald Trump's approach to how he handled norms and boundaries and guidelines of the presidency. What we saw from Mike Pence was he bent but he didn't break under stress.

We know that he also consulted former Vice President Dan Quayle, for example, to get advice on how to handle the situation. Dan Quayle said, you have no authority, you have no flexibility, don't do it. That's ultimately what Mike Pence did, he defied Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not going to be his friend anymore, as Donald Trump said to Mike Pence. But that's something that the country can be thankful for.

BOLDUAN: John, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, as thousands of Haitian migrants camp out at the U.S./Mexico border, the Biden administration is ramping up deportation flights back to Haiti. What is going to happen here and what is the Biden administration going to do about what's becoming a humanitarian crisis?


[11:40:00] BOLDUAN: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is traveling to the U.S./Mexico border today and this is what he is going to see, a sea of migrants, thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians in makeshift camps under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, all hoping to stay in America.

But the administration has already started flying them out. More than 300 Haitian nationals have already been flown back to Port-au-Prince and more flights are expected to follow.

Joining me right now on this crisis unfolding is Nicole Phillips, the legal director for Haitian Bridge Alliance, an advocacy group for Haitian migrants. Thanks for being here.

You have called this a humanitarian crisis, as we were looking at these pictures. The administration is not using those words, at least not yet. What would you like to see them doing differently right now as they face this crisis?

NICOLE PHILLIPS, LEGAL DIRECTOR, HAITIAN BRIDGE ALLIANCE: Thank you so much for having me. The Biden administration needs to not deport these thousands of Haitians to Haiti. And instead they need to be processing them for asylum. Their plan is to deport them without even screening them for asylum and sending them back to Haiti which, is an extremely dangerous country right now.

Already, Haiti was designated for temporary protected status by the Biden administration due to spiraling political violence and instability and turmoil. Since that time, we've had the assassination -- excuse me, the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, and we've had a 7.2 earthquake that has destroyed much of the south of the country. People still have yet to get drinking water and medical care.

So, what needs to happen is to stop the deportation flights to Haiti effective immediately and instead welcome Haitians to screen them for asylum, put them into processing so that they can -- so that they don't have to return to where they fled. Where they have fled is not able to receive them.

BOLDUAN: One thing that we do know is that there is obviously a long distance between Haiti and the Mexico border of the United States. Many of these migrants fled Haiti, as we're learning, years and years ago. What are you hearing from them about why they are trying to cross the border into the United States just now?

PHILLIPS: Sure. Many of these migrants fled after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed 200,000 people, as well as after instilling political violence in the sort of 2016, '17, '18 and even to the current day. They were able to get visas in Brazil or Chile, so they migrated there. And when unemployment dried up, when immigration systems tightened up against them and when there was xenophobia and anti-black racism hate crimes against them, they fled those countries.

They couldn't go back to Haiti, so they went to join family in the United States and they, like you say, had the long trek to get to the U.S./Mexico border. And so they are seeking protection, they're seeking refuge, they want what you and I both want.


They want to send their children to school. They want security and they want stability, and they want to join their families in the United States.

BOLDUAN: Nicole, thank you for your time.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, saving the oceans, how one woman's mission is empowering all of us to make small choices that will have a huge impact on the health of marine life across the world.



BOLDUAN: And we have more breaking news. Florida police have just confirmed to CNN the parents of Brian Laundrie were escorted from their home before the FBI executed a search warrant there this morning. They are now being questioned inside that home.

Their son has not been seen in nearly a week after returning from the road trip without Gabby Petito, who has been missing for several weeks. In Wyoming, we know, that authorities are working to identify a body recovered yesterday at Grand Teton National Park believed to be Gabby Petito.

We'll have more breaking news on that story. We'll bring it to you throughout the day.

I want to turn to this though. All this week in a special series called Champions for Change, we're spotlighting innovative thinkers and doers and making lasting change in many areas. I want to introduce you with Jenn Dianto Kemmerly with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Jenn's passion and mission, to educate and empower all of us, from the little consumer to big chefs and big business, to make sustainable seafood choices.

The program she spearheads is called Seafood Watch, a global leader in our effort to save the oceans.


BOLDUAN: Captain, how are you? May we board?

GUY BUONO, FISHING GUIDE: Yes, permission to board.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, sir.

BUONO: Dogfish and stuff (ph), four of these. That's what we're going to try to catch up.

BOLDUAN: I grew up fishing with my family and my dad and my mom all throughout my childhood. I love seafood. I love fish. And I did not understand how close to extinction some of my favorite fish were.

BUONO: And it's a target species.


How has the season been? Like has it been a good one?

BUONO: The regulations that they have put in place definitely has paid off. Now, if you catch a 40-pounder, it has to be released.

BOLDUAN: That's stronger than I expected it to be.

Holy smoke show, this is lunch.

How big is the problem of overfishing?

JENN DIANTO KEMMERLY, VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL OCEAN INITIATIVES, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM: It's big. There are 3 billion, with a B, people on this planet who rely on fish as their main source of protein and for their livelihoods.

BOLDUAN: What is the main reason that overfishing is a problem?

KEMMERLY: We're catching too many fish. It's not well-regulated all over the world. We start looking at the impacts on things, like kelp forests.


KEMMERLY: Sea grass beds, coastal mangroves. These are all ecosystems that fish, marine life and people need to survive.

BOLDUAN (voice over): Jenn Dianto Kemmerly has been fighting for fish for decades, not just to save them but to conserve the oceans so there's enough for all of us to share.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The real question here is how do we say the blue fin?

BOLDUAN: Seafood Watch, in general, has opened my eyes to better alternatives.

KEMMERLY: The idea for Seafood Watch actually came out of an exhibit at Monterrey Bay Aquarium. When we put this program together, we thought a lot about what is our ultimate goal here, to make consumers aware that there's a problem, that individuals should change their purchasing habits in support of more ocean-friendly seafood.

So we created a little pocket guide and put it in our cafe and they started disappearing. And we thought we're on to something.

BOLDUAN: That's what I love about Seafood Watch, it's not -- it's not a, you shouldn't, it's a, let's empower you to make a great choice.

KEMMERLY: We really wanted to get businesses, like retailers and food service companies, individual restaurants to make a commitment that they would source only from responsible fisheries.

BOLDUAN: Wow. That's really good, and you can taste the sea. It's so yummy.

And big-name chefs, like Kerry Heffernan, have joined this fight against overfishing, from catch to table. He uses Seafood Watch every day.

KERRY HEFFERNAN, EXECUTIVE CHEF, GRAND BANKS AND PILOT: As chefs, we have an opportunity to spread that awareness, people have a great deal of confidence in us. And once we can deliver them something like this in this format, there is going to be a lot more buy-in.

Oh, that is a beauty.

BOLDUAN: Why I care about this is I want the seafood that I know, love and eat today to be around for my kids. And without Seafood Watch and without conservation efforts like this, that's not guaranteed anymore.

Seafood Watch is the most recognized seafood rating program. It's an innovative and extremely effective solution to a worldwide problem.

I not only love Jenn's passion for this, she grew up around the water.


She's a diver. I'm a diver. And when you are under the water and you are in this magical, aquatic world, you realize really how small we are in their enormous world but also the outsized impact that human activity has had on really what are defenseless creatures.


BOLDUAN (on camera): And the need for Jenn's work couldn't more urgent than it is right now. The percentage of fish stocks considered to be at healthy levels has declined dramatically from 90 percent seen as sustainable in 1947 to 65 percent in 2017.

All this week, my colleagues and I will be bringing you more of these inspirational stories, just like Jenn's, and you can tune in Saturday night at 8:00 Eastern for the Champions for Change special.

Inside Politics with John King begins after this break. Thanks all.