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At This Hour

Biden Addresses World Leaders at U.N. General Assembly; Pelosi: "Next 48 Hours" Critical to Deal on Economic Package; Police Resume Search for Brian Laundrie in Florida Nature Reserve. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 11:00   ET


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

Here is what we are watching AT THIS HOUR:


On the world stage. President Biden delivers his first speech before the United Nations general assembly as he faces a major diplomatic rift with an ally.

Congressional showdown. Biden's economic agenda is on the line and now the threat of a government shutdown has entered the picture.

And, horrified. The Biden administration condemning these images of border agents confronting migrants as the U.S. plans to fly more migrants back to Haiti.

Thank you for being here. We do begin with President Biden's first major address to the United Nations General Assembly. The president just wrapped up his first speech before global leaders gathered in New York just a short time ago.

He outlined his world view and called for a united approach with a big focus on the fight against the pandemic as well as the climate crisis. Biden also defended the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and hailed the beginning of a new era, of, quote, relentless diplomacy as opposed to relentless war.

Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've end 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, and as we close this period of relentless war, we're opening a new era of the United States is not the same country we were when we were attacked on 9/11 20 years ago. Today, we're better equipped to detect and prevent terrorist threats and we are more resilient in our ability to repel them and to respond.


BOLDUAN: And while the president touted his efforts to rebuild alliances on the world stage, his remarks at the U.N. come in a moment he's caught in a major diplomatic fight, a rift with France over the recent submarine deal with Australia.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is joining us live in the United Nations headquarters in New York with more on all of this.

A big moment, Jeff, but else stuck out to you about Biden's focus today?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a big moment for President Biden as he was delivering his first address to a scaled-back version of the United Nations General Assembly. Many leaders not here in New York because of the pandemic. But certainly the tone of President Biden's message was significant, a significant change of course from the last four years of the Trump administration's America-first policy.

But perhaps not as significant of a difference as some European allies would like. President Biden made clear at the very end of his remarks, talking about he said the end of America's longest war, the war in Afghanistan, and Iraq before that, making clear that using force will be the tool of a last resort. He really tried to use that as a pivot point for the threats of the future.

But, Kate, perhaps most significantly, he did not mention China directly by name, but he said the U.S. is not seeking a new cold war or dividing the world into regions. But that of course is the underlying question here. Given the dispute with France, it's all over submarines to Australia which are related to the U.S.', you know, rising concern with China. So certainly that was a subtext to all of these remarks.

Kate, also striking at the very end of these remarks, President Biden mentioning the insurrection that happened here on U.S. soil on January 6th, using that as a quick example of how democracies are not perfect, but that, he said, is the best chance of the world.

So, certainly a big array of topics there. But, you know, perhaps not the audience he would have expected for his first speech to the U.N. so much skepticism of his administration's policies.

BOLDUAN: I thought the mention of the insurrection was really interesting and important as well, Jeff.

Stay with me, Jeff. Joining us in the conversation is CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker," Susan Glasser.

Susan, one notable difference, maybe the least surprising, is of a very different tone, very different speech, very different message compared to Biden' predecessor. A big turn away from Trump's America first.

What did you think of the speech? Was it a call to arms? Was it a victory lap? Was it both?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It was certainly a rebuttal to Trump and Trumpism and the idea of an America going it alone, which in some ways is both a rebuttal of Trump but also a rebuttal of the previous Republican President George W. Bush, right. So in both cases you have president Biden saying not only our allies and alliances and multilateral institutions at the core of American foreign policy as he sees it but also this idea of closing the book on war as a tool, as the default tool of American diplomacy, something that would be associated really more with George W. Bush even than with Donald Trump, who in many ways was more about looking inward and bringing true atonement.

So I think you see a very forceful, Democratic, capital "D," as well as Democratic small "D" speech from Joe Biden today.


The questions all revolve around, what is he going to do about it? He has sketched this vivid idea of a world in which democracies are actively contesting the field with autocracies like China and Russia. But so far, it's still not entirely clear what exactly that means in practice.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and, Jeff, Biden campaigned on this notion of America is back, which he reiterated in his speech today.

What does that tag line mean now eight months into his presidency? Is it something different than he hoped it meant when taking office?

ZELENY: It certainly has been unpacked and it certainly now is being tested. I mean, for all of the, you know, very dramatic and different changes from one administration to another, and as Susan pointed out, certainly through the Bush administration through Obama to Trump to Biden, now President Biden, of course, will be judged against President Biden. This is his administration, his leadership time around the world.

Saying America is back certainly talking about the rebuilding, the strengthening of alliances, but there are several countries, if there had been rebuttal time, there certainly would have been many questions shouted or asked of President Biden there.

I was also struck by when he talked about it is incumbent on all leaders to have, you know, real conversations and real relationships, and he said that competition cannot bleed into conflict. So, perhaps not so subtle a reminder there to France.

But we don't know what America is back necessarily is. We certainly know that President Biden is not espousing America first anymore, but a lot of the policies have not changed all that much or as much as allies would have hoped.

So, it's a very difficult question to answer specifically what America is back actually means. That of course is one of the challenges for this president.

BOLDUAN: I think you point out really well, Susan, a speech is important. Words do matter. We have learned that in the last four years for sure. But actions when it comes to what allies are looking for, action is also what they are looking for, not just a grand speech.

Susan, Jeff mentioned the message to China, and I want to reiterate that point that what Biden's message to China seemed to be without saying China in the speech when he said we are not seeking a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocks. What did you think of that?

GLASSER: Yeah, I think it was very explicit. Remember that Biden in recent weeks has reached out to Xi Jinping. There's been almost a complete rebuffing of U.S. overtures to work together on issues of mutual concern like climate change. In fact, the U.N. secretary- general actually began this session of U.N. General Assembly with an interview that was a stark warning and saying both China and the U.S. have failed and that right now that means that the world is potentially going to fail on things like climate change.

John Kerry, the climate envoy, former secretary of state, was recently embarrassed, humiliated by the Chinese. He refused to anyone of a commensurate level to meet with him even though they just greeted a Taliban delegation with full diplomatic fanfare.

So, I think that's part of what you're hearing from Biden today. We have no choice, we have to work together, at the same time, I did notice he did make a mention of Xinxiang, he didn't dwell on it. But what he's talking about there are the human rights abuses by the Chinese government and creating camps up to a million ethnic Uighurs are imprisoned. And I think that is a sore spot for the Chinese that the president of the United States has continually said I'm going to be talking more about human rights than my predecessor. So, again, unclear what that overture will mean.

I thought that climate change in general was probably the most substantive part of Biden's speech as seeking to reassure the rest of the world that the U.S. is going to have more than words but will actually be delivering more when it comes to climate finance aids to poor countries as well.

BOLDUAN: Also mentioning he'll have announcements on more contributions from the United States when it comes to the global effort to fight against the pandemic, and much more to come on that actually.

It's good to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much.

Susan, thank you as well.

We're also going to turn now because we are watching Capitol Hill very closely. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning that the next 48 hours are critical to passing much of President Biden's economic agenda.

There are multiple fighting factions and opposing forces at play here.

One fight is Democrats versus Republicans. A pretty political fight, pretty blatantly political fight over raising the debt ceiling, paying the nation's credit card bill, and avoiding a government shutdown. That is a real threat now. The other fight is within the Democratic Party itself, progressives

versus moderate, all standing firm over how far to go, how much to spend when it comes to this massive bill and inter -- budget bill and intertwined with it the bipartisan infrastructure bill.


This is incredibly important stuff. It is also a total mystery right now, how this is going to end up.

But it is really all on the line for President Biden in all of this.

CNN's Manu Raju is joining me now from Capitol Hill with more on this.

Manu, the Democratic and Republican leaders have been kind of laying out the lay of the land, the latest lay of the land today. What are you hearing from them?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, behind closed doors, each side has made the case to their members to stay united. That is what they're saying, the Democrats on the other side saying they need to stick together to pass roughly $5 trillion of Joe Biden's agenda in the next week or so. The problem for them is they do not have unity. In fact, they have party infighting. Divisions over that larger package, liberals want to spend $3.5 trillion to expand the social safety net.

There are divisions because moderates want to pare that back. Pelosi is signaling she wants something they can agree on in terms of overall price tag. There's a separate package, the infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion, passed by a bipartisan Senate majority last month. That is expected to get a vote on September 27th. That is on next Monday. But the liberals in the house are threatening to sink that infrastructure bill if that larger economic package is not approved by both chambers of congress.

Here's the problem -- there's no chance that both chambers will pass that larger bill by next Monday. So the question is, what will happen?

One key Democratic voice, Elizabeth Warren, told me moments ago she encourages her liberals in the House to stand firm and try to pass all of the agenda at once.


RAJU: Progressives in the House are trying to sink the infrastructure bill if the reconciliation is not passed by both chambers next Monday. Is that the right approach?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We had an agreement from the beginning, that there would be one package, it might take multiple votes, but that one package would move forward. I know a lot of people say let's try to break this thing apart, take it in smaller bites, but the reality is in the world of the filibuster, we have one bite at passing a lot of this through. And we cannot fail the American people.


RAJU: But the real concern by Democrats whether all of it will collapse under its own weight because liberals are saying there could be two, three dozen house progressives voting against that smaller infrastructure bill on Monday if the larger package is not passed yet. But on the Senate side, there's no agreement on what that larger package will look like.

One big reason why, the key voice, Joe Manchin from West Virginia is still in negotiations, wants to pare that back along with some of the other fellow Democratic moderates in the senate, Kate. So, so much riding on the line, just on the Democratic side, to get the agreement, matchup less the financial issues that you laid out before. No agreement on that either.


BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about that. Yeah, I want to ask you about that, because to everyone knows, Manu is not kidding or holding anything back. It is a mystery what is going to be happening in the next couple days because there is so much on the line. This is incredibly important stuff and also incredibly mind numbing if we have to be honest with everyone. Is a government shutdown next week potential default next month, is it -- is that a realistic possibility right now?

RAJU: Anything's possible. People here -- the two sides are at opposite sides how to resolve this.

September 30th is that first deadline. They need to have an agreement to fund the government, all federal agencies by then. There's no agreement for that.

Mid-October, the second major deadline to avoid a potential debt default, if there is not an agreement to raise the nation's borrowing limit. The country has never defaulted on its obligations. House Democrats are planning today to put both issues together, fund the government past September 30th but also raise the debt ceiling.

But they need an agreement from 60 senators to do that. It's 50 Democrats along with ten Republicans. Republicans say they'll not support that. They say it is on the Democrats to raise the debt limit because of all the spending that Joe Biden's presidency has incurs do far and in the future. Democrats say Republicans should do this because of past obligations as well, anything accrued during the Trump administration.

As you can see here, both sides are staring at each other, playing a game of chicken, a rather dangerous game of chicken, particularly if there's a default for a shutdown. It's unclear at the moment how this ultimately gets resolved, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And when it comes to the debt ceiling, so everyone knows, Manu and I unfortunately slept often on Capitol Hill when it came to debt ceiling fights -- Republicans have passed the debt ceiling and raised the debt ceiling. [11:15:08]

They have done this many times before. They did during the Trump administration with no fanfare or fight. This when it comes to the debt ceiling is all about political messaging but it can become a real problem when it's linked up now with the government funding fight.

It's good to see you, Manu. We'll see what happens.

Coming up for us, police and FBI are now back at a Florida nature reserve in the hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance. The very latest and a live report, coming up next.



BOLDUAN: New developments in the Gabby Petito investigation. An autopsy being conducted today should confirm if human remains found in Wyoming are the missing 22-year-old girl.

And police and FBI are back at a local nature reserve in Florida, still searching for her fiance, Brian Laundrie. He has not been seen now in a week.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Venice, Florida, with the vey latest.

Leyla, what is the latest there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we are at the Carlton Reserve, 25,000 acres of very lush, large area where search teams are looking for Bryan Laundrie. We have seen ATVs coming and going. We have seen choppers sort of circling above.

So, they are back here and I say back here because this is where we were this weekend where investigators came after they say the parents of Bryan Laundrie told them that this is where he was headed. Now, let's go over parents and go in to question the parents.

We have also learned from a team that's inside right now this were requested for assistance here yesterday morning. This could indicate that they were following through on some evidence that they are continuing to gather in this investigation.

But, of course, there are still very critical questions here. What exactly happened? Where is Brian Laundrie? We're hoping that the autopsy that you mentioned off the top there, Kate, that we could get some information on the body that was found in the Grand Teton National Park that investigators have said is consistent with the characteristics of Gabby Petito.

BOLDUAN: Leyla, thank you so much for that. We'll get back to you as there seems to be a lot of fast-moving developments on this story every day.

Joining me for more is Mary Ellen O'Toole, former senior FBI profiler and special agent, and attorney Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst.

Areva, two main things as Leyla is laying, two main things are happening today, the always and the search for Laundrie, returning to that same reserve they were searching over the weekend. What do you think this means by the end of the day?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN ELGAL ANALYST: Well, hopefully, Kate, it means there's more clues, more evidence that the law enforcement in this case has that perhaps, you know, leads them to more information about what happened to gabby.

Right now, we know her boyfriend, Brian, is a person of interest, he has not been specifically identified as a suspect, although in several jurisdictions those terms are used interchangeably.

But clearly the police want to talk to Bryan. He was with her on this cross-country trip. He returned home. He did not report her missing. Ten days went by before her parents reported her missing.

He apparently has information about what happened to her, but he, rather than come forward and give that information, he went home and lawyered up and refused to answer questions, refused to talk to her parents, refused to cooperate with law enforcement. And now he's missing.

So there are lots of informations that need to be gleaned in this case and hopefully at the end of today, we'll have more information that will lead to some resolution in terms of what happened to this young lady.

BOLDUAN: Mary Ellen, the FBI searched Bryan Laundrie's parents' home yesterday all day long, and they questioned the parents as well. What do you think as Areva was laying out, what do you think of his behavior, their behavior throughout this ordeal? What does an FBI profiler glean from this?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: The behavior for both Brian and his parents is interesting from this perspective -- if Brian has nothing to do with this case, got scared, came home, spoke with his parents, told them I didn't do this, but, you know, I'm sure they're going to look at me, that's one thing. And at this point, we still don't know that that's not the case.

But a person's behavior can begin to create a lot of red flags. And so if that is the case, Bryan is not doing himself any favors at all. If he's still alive and continuing on this path of evading law enforcement, the other thing I think that's really critical is hopefully the parents are cooperating with law enforcement to the extent that they're allowed to.


I know they have an attorney.

But at this point we're trying to locate Bryan. We're trying to get him in a position where we can talk to him and find out what happened. And so when a family doesn't cooperate, there certainly could be very legitimate reasons to not do so, but the flipside of that is that behavior looks suspicious. And I think from a profiler's standpoint, that's the way I would look at it.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Areva, you said it's a matter of time before the FBI locates Bryan Laundrie. But where is the line between the moral and the legal here when it comes to Laundrie's parents? What is the difference between what they should have done or people think common sense would lend them to do and whether there's any crime that was committed?

MARTIN: Look, Kate, I'm a parent of three and so I can imagine as any parent you want to protect your child. But if a crime has been committed, you have an obligation to participate and cooperate with law enforcement. If a crime has been committed and you are knowingly concealing that crime, you are committing in a crime yourself, engaging in obstruction of justice.

So just because your child may be involved in criminal activity, you don't have the right or pleasure to not participate with law enforcement. And imagine your child goes on a trip with their boyfriend or girlfriend and goes missing. That person returns home without providing any information about what happened.

I think the moral line has already been crossed. I think Bryan's parents have an obligation to talk to gabby's parents, give them as much information as they have about their daughter's death to the extent that they have that information. And hopefully they are not concealing information. But if they are concealing information about a crime, then they deserve to be prosecuted for, you know, their conduct.

Everyone here has an obligation to come forward and provide law enforcement with information about this young girl, what now appears to be her death and possibly her murder.

BOLDUAN: Areva Martin, thank you. Mary Ellen O'Toole, thank you so much.

Still to come, border agents confronting Haitian migrants on horseback. The White House calls these images horrific. But what are they planning to do as more migrants are making their way north towards that same border crossing? More next.