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The Lead with Jake Tapper

CNN On Scene As Migrants Try To Cross Rivers Into U.S.; Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) Is Interviewed About The Border Crisis; Now: CDC Advisers Voting On Pfizer Vaccine Booster Shots; Police: 12 Injured, One Killed In Tennessee Grocery Store Shooting; Democratic Leaders Project Optimism As Key Deadlines Approach; Crews Search For Petito's Fiance At Nature Reserve. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Will you qualify for a booster shot?

THE LEAD starts right now.

At any moment, a key CDC vote to determine who will be officially eligible to get the third dose of the COVID, though, willingness to get first doses remains a problem. The number of Americans getting vaccinated now the lowest in months.

The U.S. special envoy for Haiti quits. He calls the Biden administration's decision to deport thousands of Haitian migrants from a Texas border town inhumane.

Coming up, we'll talk to the lawmaker who represents the largest Haitian American population in the U.S.

Plus, the urgent search for Gabby Petito's missing fiance and now a new investigation into how Utah police officers handled their encounter with the couple back when Gabby was still alive.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with the breaking news in our world lead. A desperate situation at the southern border growing even more dire today.

Right now, thousands of Haitian migrants are left in limbo both in Texas and in Mexico, as the Biden administration struggles to get a hand on the crisis. CNN on the scene this afternoon as migrants waded across the Rio Grande, their minimal belongings piled upon their heads, obviously hoping for a better life in the United States.

At one point today, law enforcement in Mexico forming a human chain of sorts trying to stop migrants from making the trip across the river. Not all the migrants who make the trek will be allowed to remain in the U.S. More than a thousand Haitians have been deported from the U.S./Mexico border, 3,600 remain under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas.

We're covering the crisis from both sides of the Rio Grande. CNN's Rosa Flores is in Del Rio, Texas.

But I'm going to start with CNN's Matt Rivers who's in Acuna, Mexico.

And, Matt, you just saw a great number of Haitians making their way to the U.S. Tell us more.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, basically, Jake, in the last two hours or so, things have really changed here on the Mexico side. When we spoke to you yesterday, you saw there was lots of people going back and forth between here on the Mexico side and the U.S. side. There was even a rope strung between both sides with people coming from the U.S., here to Mexico, actually because they wanted to get supplies, food, water, things like that, easier to get than on the U.S. side.

I can show you the scene now if we show you the other side of the river there you can see some Haitian migrants that just made it across and there are some border patrol people still allowing those people to cross but there's a lot less Haitian migrants coming here now. The reason is because of a stepped up Mexican enforcement.

So if I turn around here, these trucks here were not here before. The soldiers were not here before. If you turn here you can see these guys. They just showed up here very recently.

And what ended up happening, Jake, was at first there was six or seven people that showed up here, just immigration officials standing like this clearly trying to prevent some Haitians from going across. What happened is word spread very quickly through the camp that something was happening here that hadn't happened before. As a result, several dozen migrants made their way here very quickly and kind of rushed the officers and the officers really couldn't stop them.

There was a mad dash across the border. People have been coming to Mexico maybe to stay for a night, get a hot meal, escape the madness essentially happening on the other side of the border. When they found out they were stuck here in Mexico or might be stuck, many tried to be sure they could back to the U.S. because they want to go through the immigration process over there.

As a result it was a rush toward the border. Clearly the immigration officials in Mexico were overwhelmed at first. The initial wave went. Reinforcements have come. These guys much more heavily outfitted than the first people here that came.

As of now, Jake, safe to say at least in this section there are no more migrants allowed to cross from Mexico to the U.S. and vice versa. If you are a Haitian migrant and in Mexico at this point you're going to go through either the immigration process or the deportation process from this side of the border.

TAPPER: And, Matt, you just saw some boat patrols arriving.

RIVERS: Yeah. And so, we have seen also a stepped up presence from the U.S. side. For the first time in the last couple days we saw U.S. border patrol, patrolling on boats on that side of the river. As of this point still every now and then a Haitian migrant manages to go through another part of this river and they make their way across and border patrol is allowing those people to go to that encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio.

So, they are still letting people on, not forcing them back to Mexico, but there is stepped up activity on that side of the border as well.

TAPPER: All right. Matt Rivers, thank you so much. Let's hop across the Rio Grande now.

The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily stopping the use of horse patrols in the Del Rio, Texas sector.


This comes after days of outrage from both Republicans and Democrats after these images spread of Border Patrol agents on horseback aggressively confronting Haitian migrants.

As CNN's Rosa Flores reports for us now, the investigation into the incident is ongoing.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Biden administration strategy on the Del Rio migrant crisis drawing criticism. As to what the administration says --

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In order to ensure migrants are swiftly taken into custody, processed, and removed from the United States consistent with our laws and policies.

FLORES: But it doesn't tell the whole story on the ground. The Department of Homeland Security says about 1,400 Haitians have been sent back to Haiti since September 19th. The move creating chaos on the tarmac in Port-au-Prince.

The U.S.'s special envoy to Haiti submitted his resignation citing the inhumane decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees calling U.S. policy deeply flawed.

This after Border Patrol agents on horseback used aggressive tactics against migrants. DHS now announcing temporary suspension of horse patrol in Del Rio. Thirty-two hundred migrants were transported out of Del Rio and are in Customs and Border Protection custody, DHS says. And since Monday, more than 1,300 migrants have been released by Border Patrol in Del Rio alone, according to a local nonprofit.

So, you're six days under the bridge.

That's where we met Nerlaine Plaisance, a Haitian woman who said that migrants are given a number on a ticket under the bridge. She had a yellow ticket. Did they tell you why it was yellow?

When her number was called she says she was processed and allowed to stay in the United States.

She is thankful that she is allowed to stay she says because in Haiti she wouldn't have a place to live. But CNN has learned up to 30,000 Haitians in Colombia could be heading to the U.S. southern border. CNN cameras capturing migrants flowing into Texas near the Del Rio international bridge. From the air, the camp clearly shrinking.

From the ground -- you'll see behind me the law enforcement presence is still very heavy. Take a close look under the bridge and you'll see the number of migrants has dwindled but if you look around you'll see the number of resources has increased.

CNN getting an exclusive look inside a field hospital that just went up. This is the emergency care center.

The chief medical officer says 70 patients were treated in the first 24 hours.

DR. DAVID TARANTINO, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Some environmental injuries, some heat injuries, occasional nausea, diarrhea, some respiratory illness from the dust and the environment.

FLORES: Months before this camp went up, the local border patrol union says agents asked the federal government for additional resources because of an increase in border crossings. But the resources didn't arrive until recent days.


FLORES: Now to a dramatic change here in Del Rio. I want to go straight to live drone images because the camp that was right next to the bridge, you can take a look at it yourself. It is getting bulldozed. This is in line with what we've heard from officials that the numbers are dwindling. At last check about 3,600.

Now, this as the U.N. refugee chief says the conditions under this bridge are deplorable and, Jake, that mass expulsions of people to Haiti if not properly processed is just not consistent with international norms -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Rosa Flores in Del Rio, Texas.

We've gone to Texas and we've gone to Mexico. Coming up, we'll take you to Haiti.

But in the meantime, let's discuss all this with Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida who represents Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

So, today, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti quit over the Biden administration's handling of this influx of Haitian migrants. He called the Biden approach, quote, inhumane, counterproductive, and deeply flawed, unquote. Do you agree? REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D-FL): He was such a great envoy, and I am so

disappointed that he left. We begged him not to leave, to try to work through all of the difficulties. But we could not convince him.

There are some issues and there are so many things that I feel so disappointed in the administration about. In fact, I'm pissed. That's the word I have been using, because it's a humanitarian crisis. And we have to deal with it.

TAPPER: So, using your language, so you'll forgive, me what are you pissed about, Congresswoman?

WILSON: Well, I'm pissed about the deportations back to a country that cannot accept them. That has -- does not have the capacity to absorb them. When you get off the plane in Haiti, and you have been in Chile for 15 years, you look around and you say, what am I going to eat?


Where am I going to stay? What am I going to drink? Where am I going to work? Who will accept me?

And we have no answers. So, this is a crisis. Haiti is not capable of handling any repatriation at this time. And they should stop today. Today.

TAPPER: The response from the Biden White House and Biden State Department to the resignation of the special envoy -- with whom you obviously had a strong relationship -- was that he never voiced these criticisms in private. But it sounds like you knew of his frustrations.

WILSON: Well, he was voicing his frustrations. He tried. No one was really listening.

And this is just deplorable. I do believe that there are solutions. We have to work on solutions. And the first thing we have to do is stabilize Haiti.

Haiti is not a country that is in the condition of receiving deportees. That is number one. And we have to face that reality.

There are cottage industries that have grown around the border where we have people, smugglers who are passing information to Haitian refugees, Haitian immigrants, that come, the border is open. So they have saved their money. They have paid.

Some of them just speak Spanish. They're coming from Chile. They're coming from Brazil. They have worked there.

So this is all something that the federal government as a whole must work through. And so now that we have no envoy, we need to find another one.

TAPPER: Do you want to start seeing some resignations from the Biden administration for this? Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, for example?

WILSON: Ho. He has worked very closely with us. Oh, no. I consider him as a partner. I have calls with him. And when I speak with him, he's working real hard.

We have done a lot under the bridge now. There is a lot that has happened. The Central Kitchen is there. I mean, the Red Cross is working.

We've attended -- we've separated the children. They're now under HHS. We are taking care of some of the health needs.

So, no, I would not, never. Uh-huh.

TAPPER: So, lastly, as you note, a great number of these Haitian migrants if not almost all of them are not fleeing Haiti because of what happened this year with the political violence and the earthquake and more. Many of them have been living in South America as you note in Chile and Brazil for a decade or more since the 2010 earthquake.

Do you think as a principle that until Haiti is up and running as a functioning government and society the U.S. has an obligation to take in any Haitian migrant who comes here?

WILSON: I agree. I agree. I'm calling out to the international community and to the faith community that if you want to sponsor a Haitian migrant, please call my office, because they need help.

And there is no need to deport Haitians to Haiti. That's inhumane. They cannot accept that.

They have no functioning government. No Senate. No parliament. No president. And the prime minister is being investigated for murdering the president.


WILSON: So the government is in tatters. Why would you deport people back to a country that is just trying as hard as they can to stay afloat and take care of the people that are there? They just experienced an earthquake and a major hurricane.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

WILSON: Let's be humane. The United States knows what to do. These are black immigrants. Treat them the same way you treat other immigrants.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Democrat of Florida, thank you so much for your time today. Good to see you.

WILSON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Breaking news: a key vote moments ago approving COVID booster shots, a third shot for some Americans. We'll tell you who.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Big breaking news in our health lead right now. The CDC Vaccine Advisory Committee voting right now to recommend booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for higher risk individuals. This comes less than 24 hours after the FDA said yes, that that group would grant emergency use authorization for these boosters.

CNN's Nick Watt joins me live.

Nick, what have they voted on so far?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CRORRESPONDENT: All right, Jake. There are four votes. They just finished on the third. So, so far, this CDC committee is recommending booster shots for people age 65 and up. And people would live in long term care facilities. It was unanimous.

They voted 13-2 in favor of booster shots for anyone age 50 through 64 with underlying health conditions. They just voted right this second 9-6 in favor of giving booster shots to people age 18 through 49 with underlying health conditions but also based on an individual's risk benefit analysis. If you watch what else is going on with COVID, on the flip side I might have a result from the fourth vote.


WATT (voice-over): Meantime, the rate of first doses going into arms lowest it's been in a couple months.


One effort to boost that number, a truck drove around Charlotte Sunday advertising the fictional Wilmore funeral home with the slogan "don't get vaccinated". Visit their site and you are told to do the opposite.

Now, while that key metric falls, another one rises. COVID cases in kids. But in Florida, the governor has a new mini me surgeon general.

DR. JOSEPH LADAPO, FLORIDA STATE SURGEON GENERAL: Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health.

WATT: They just tweaked their guidelines now after close contact with a COVID case, asymptomatic kids can stay in school. Half of the people infected with COVID are asymptomatic and just as infectious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've modified our policy to meet the new surgeon general's decision tree. So, if parents don't want their children to go home, that are otherwise healthy, we keep them at school.

WATT: Nationwide, the average daily COVID-19 case count is falling now that delta has done its worst in the south. But --

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER, PFIZER BOARD MEMBER: You'll see the delta variant course its way through different parts of the country. Now, that said, this is probably the last major wave of infection to sweep the nation barring something really unexpected happening where you get a variant that pierces the immunity we have from vaccination and from prior infection.

WATT: Maybe this is the last major wave but we're still in it.


WATT (on camera): And those advisers are still discussing the number 4 vote which is whether to recommend booster doses for people age 18 through 64 who have a risk of catching COVID in their place of work. There's been quite a bit of disagreement on that.

Now, of course, these are recommendations from the committee once they have finalized their voting, Jake, the director of the CDC has to sign off. When she does, those boosters can begin rolling out -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt, thanks so much for the update from Los Angeles. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to discuss Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC.

So, Dr. Besser, we just got a yes vote from the CDC Advisory Committee recommending boosters for everyone over age 65, for people with underlying conditions. What is your reaction so far to the voting?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACING CDC DIRECTOR: Yes, the other group, Jake, is people in long-term care facilities. So, yeah, I've been watching the hearings all day. The committee saw a lot of the data the FDA saw and also additional data. This situation where there is so much information coming in so quickly, there's a lot for the experts to digest.

I think it was a good call to recommend that people who got their Pfizer vaccines at least six months ago and are over 65 in long-term care facilities that that group gets vaccinated because they did see information to show that there is over time an increasing risk of hospitalization and death. That is what we care about the most here.

The really challenging thing is that this only applies to people who got the Pfizer vaccine. FDA has not made any authorizations or approval for the Moderna or J&J vaccine. For a lot of people who got those they'll say what about us? It is really they have to wait until the science is in and a judgment can be made.

TAPPER: So, right now, I think they're discussing whether or not they should recommend boosters for people who work in high risk professions in other words an example might be front line health care worker, nurse, physician who comes in contact with a lot of people in the public.

Why do you think that's taking so long?

BESSER: Well, you know, they're just diving into that. The reason it is challenging is, you know, if the goal is to reduce any infection, that is one thing. If the goal is really to focus on reducing hospitalizations and deaths, that is another.

There, there is a clear difference by age. There aren't good studies to show differences by underlying medical condition, by occupation, by race or ethnicity.

So, there's a lot of things they're trying to infer from other studies but nothing clear. When it comes to occupation, do you limit it to people who are in the health care setting or do you say first line responders or do you look across the pandemic and say, you know, black and Latino workers who are working as essential workers in transportation, in food manufacturing, in a wide range of industries where they were getting infected at very high rates do you include them here?

What I think is, you know, this committee will make a recommendation and it'll come down to the CDC then to say, well what medical conditions are we concerned about? We want to include what occupations do we want to include and are we concerned about? This isn't the end of it by far.


I think the CDC will have some work to do.

TAPPER: Take us inside the room here and explain the pressure around the decision making process like this. It will ultimately be up to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director. This is just a CDC advisory committee. I'm sure unanimous decision such as boosters for people in long-term care facilities and people who are 65 and older, that's easy. But then the other votes are, you know, I'm just making up the numbers but 9-6 and 7-8 or whatever. Does that make it more difficult?

BESSER: Well, you know, the whole thing is a little bit challenged by how the announcement about boosters first came forward. And it was with an administration announcement there was planning for boosters and they'd be ready to roll with boosters on September 20th. In that announcement they did say pending approval of the FDA and CDC.

But I think there was an assumption that the CDC and FDA were going to say, yes. Everyone after six months should go ahead and get a booster. And the data just aren't there for these scientific bodies to be willing to go that far. There is pressure on the head of an agency given that they know where the administration is on this.

But I've seen Dr. Walensky hold very tight to the science and I think here, the committee was 15-2 on the second vote which was recommending vaccine for people who are 50 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions that put them at increased risk.

So, I would expect that will be included as well. I think it is anyone's guess what they do with the occupation but I would think health care workers will end up being included in the group just because of the incredible pressure our health care system is under right now because of rampant transmission of the delta variant.

TAPPER: So if you are someone who qualifies for the booster and right now, let's assume that's people 55 to 64 with underlying conditions, people 65 and older, and people in long-term care facilities. How soon will they be able to go to the pharmacy and get their third shot?

BESSER: Well, you know, there are real questions here of equity. Once the CDC makes a recommendation, then there is a go ahead and people can go because there is enough vaccine.

But what we're seeing right now is a situation in which people who know somebody are asking for boosters and getting them. So we're seeing a two-tiered health care system, people with connections are getting them. There are over 2 million people who already had a third dose according to CDC. And so it will be important this is rolled out as soon as the agency has all the pieces in place, all the information sheets that have to be produced.

You know, all of the due diligence around that work. It will be important that these are -- the outreach takes place in every community given how disparate the pandemic has been on communities of color in particular.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Richard Besser, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, some breaking news. A mass shooting this afternoon at a grocery store in the U.S. What did police just say about the scene? That's next.



TAPPER: We have breaking news. Police say at least 12 people were seriously injured and at least one killed after a mass shooting at a Tennessee grocery store. This happened about 30 miles east of Memphis, in the town of Collierville.

Let's get right to CNN's Brynn Gingras.

Brynn, what do we know?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we are just getting updated from the police chief there in Collierville who said the calls started coming in about the active shooting situation about two hours ago at 1:30 central time there in Collierville. And when officers arrived on the scene within minutes, they encountered multiple people shot inside the Kroger grocery store.

We're also told that they also found the suspected shooter who was apparently found with a probable self-inflicted gunshot wound. Of course, this is all still under investigation.

As you said, though, 12 people were transported to the hospital and the police chief there saying they were transported and very serious condition. We also know, Jake, at this point there is one known fatality. Again, an active situation on the scene. All the police officers there

not only from Collierville but also Memphis PD. We know the ATF is also on the scene.

We've learned from the police chief that officers are going through the process of even talking to many of the store employees who were found hiding in freezers inside the grocery store or behind locked doors of offices. They've taken them out safely, starting to interview them, starting to also learn about what unfolded there inside the grocery store.

Also learning that the suspect's vehicle is still in the parking lot of the grocery store and they're waiting for more resources to arrive on the scene so they can properly process that vehicle and try to get more information.

But, of course, this is very active, Jake, and we'll continue to stay on top of it. We know about 12 victims brought to the hospital, one fatality in this grocery store outside of -- in Memphis suburb -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brynn Gingras, thanks so much. I know you'll update us later when we get more information.

Turning to our politics lead now, Democratic leadership trying to project optimism with nearly the entire Biden agenda on the line.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We take it one day at a time. I am confident we will pass both bills.


TAPPER: Nancy Pelosi does admit, though, there is still no agreement on a final price tag for the Democrats' massive budget bill and progressives in the party are standing firm, promising to tank the other major legislative priority, the bipartisan infrastructure bill without the budget bill the so-called Build Back Better Act passing first.


CNN's Ryan Nobles is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, there is new agreement between the House and the Senate and the Biden White House, but rank and file Democrats don't know the details?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is just a narrow portion of all of the things that need to be negotiated. This is a framework basically what they're describing as a menu of options to pay for this big reconciliation package when they ultimately decide how much it is going to be. This is an agreement between the leaders, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi, and, also, the leaders of the tax writing committees in both the Senate and the House. They've not necessarily conveyed that information to the rest of the

members but they feel confident once they get to a plan where they know how much they're going to pay, how much they're going to spend, that they're going to be able to use this menu to pay for it. It is one hurdle they have to cross, Jake. Of course, they have many more that they need to get over before this gets over the finish line.

TAPPER: Progressives keep saying that the vote does not need to be Monday. That is an arbitrary deadline. But the moderate Democrats, they say the vote is still on for Monday for the infrastructure bill.

Is that the plan, to vote both on Monday?

NOBLES: Yes. I mean, that's the big impasse right now. Moderates are insistent that vote has to take place on Monday. This is what Josh Gottheimer, he's the lead moderate in the House who is negotiating this process told me about the schedule a few minutes ago.


REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Definitely. And optimistic we'll get there by Monday. I think it will be a hectic few days. We are making good progress and everyone is working around the clock and we'll get there.

We have to. We can't have anyone block the president's agenda on Monday or stop an historic infrastructure vote. This is once in a century.


NOBLES: There is a plan for work to be done even through the weekend to try to get this to a position where there can be a vote on Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi keeps saying the same thing over and over again, Jake. She keeps saying they are on schedule. She hasn't really told us what the schedule is but the only thing we know they have plans for is the vote on Monday.

TAPPER: And, Ryan, President Biden met with dozens of these Democrats, progressives and moderates. What are you hearing from the Democrats about how the meetings went?

NOBLES: At times, Jake, they got emotional. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who's the lead progressive negotiator, you know, imploring the president to include immigration reform in this package, particularly a path to citizenship for Dreamers and those with temporary protected status.

I am told she actually broke down in tears while telling her own personal story of immigrating to the United States when 16. She had to be on a series of visas over a long period before she actually finally gained citizenship. Now, she is only one of a dozen members of Congress who are immigrants to this country.

This just shows how important this negotiation is to all the parties and part of why it has been so difficult to come up with an agreement because so many people feel so passionately about the various issues they're dealing with right now.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Also in the politics lead tomorrow, finally, the shady conspiracy theorists behind the sham election audit in Arizona finally will present their, quote-unquote, findings. The company called Cyber Ninjas started the charade back in April. With backing from MAGA groups obsessed with proving Trump's election lie which is, of course, is trying to undermine democracy not just in 2020 but in the future elections.

Cyber Ninja is based in Florida and has no experience in election audits, yet they hired a team to examine ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona. Some with ultra violet light looking for bamboo in fake ballots they pretended had possibly been shipped in from China.

CNN's Kyung Lah has been following all this nonsense from the beginning.

Kyung, is anyone of any substance taking any of this seriously?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not of substance. Conspiracy theorists will probably be paying attention. The blindly faithful to Donald Trump will probably take note of this. But election workers and election experts both Republicans and Democrats are widely saying this is going to be a giant joke.

Let's bring you up to speed. How did we get here? Remember it was Trump enablers, it was Trump himself and all of his supporters and the Republican electeds here who allowed this to happen. It was funded by conspiracy theorists, millions of dollars funded into this exercise.

And then you mentioned the Cyber Ninjas the ones who actually conducted this beyond just having no experience. The CEO also tweeted and retweeted baseless election theories, election fraud theories. So, what you will see will look real. It is going to be in the Senate, in a hearing room.

There are going to be people at a long table who are going to testify about big air quotes here a report.


But I want you to listen to Maricopa County supervisor and a Republican Bill Gates about how he anticipates it is all going to be misinformation.


BILL GATES (R), MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: I call it a show trial. I mean, that is what all of these have been up to this point. It is a Soviet show trial. Democracy is not the word I would use but a theater show of an attempt to steal an election or at the very least sow significant doubts in our election system.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAH: And we've been here before, Jake. There have been previous Senate hearings. There was one I was actually sitting in and there was misinformation spread, errors by the Cyber Ninjas that very rapidly was repeated by Donald Trump as, at one of his rallies, as truth.

TAPPER: Yeah, insanity.

Kyung Lah, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

As crews continue to search for Gabby Petito's missing fiance, there is a brand new investigation linked to this tragic mystery. Details, next.



TAPPER: In our national lead right now, police, investigators, drones, K-9s all combing a swampy 25,000 acre nature reserve in Florida south of Tampa, the clock ticking as they attempt to track down Bryan Laundrie, the fiance of homicide victim Gabby Petito.

CNN's Leyla Santiago joins us now outside Laundrie's home.

And, Leyla, we're hearing new accounts of the couple publicly fighting before she was killed.


Investigators tell me that a lot of witness accounts are coming in. They're having to sort through that. One in particular caught our attention coming from August 27th out of Jackson, Wyoming.

I want you to listen to one witness's account.


NINA ANGELO, SAYS SHE WITNESSED INCIDENT INVOLVING LAUNDRIE AND PETITO: He walked back in the restaurant and he is fighting with the hostess and I didn't know what happened. I don't even know if they got kicked out but they left abruptly and she was standing on the sidewalk crying and he walked back in and was screaming at the hostess and then walked back out and then he walked back in like four more times to talk to the manager and tell the hostess off.


SANTIAGO: And so that just kind of paints the picture of some of the sightings they've seen as the couple took this cross country sort of road trip.

In the meantime, the investigation and the search continues here as you mentioned, Jake, in North Port. Police are looking for Bryan Laundrie in a 25,000-acre reserve. Just in the last ten minutes, we have been here where the couple lived and the parents of Brian Laundrie came home. I also want to point out that in the driveway is a silver Mustang. That Mustang was towed away on Monday when FBI came here, surrounded the home, and went in to question the parents.

So we're seeing a little movement here at the home. Clearly evidence or what was in the custody of FBI is now being at least the car being returned to the home of the Laundrie family.

TAPPER: And, Leyla, we're also learning that the Moab, Utah police department is investigating themselves over the interaction they had with the couple before Petito went missing. Tell us more about that.

Could officers face punishment?

SANTIAGO: So that stems from an August 12th call in which two witnesses told police that they saw the couple fighting. The police eventually did catch up with them again and eventually ended up separating the couple for the night. But no charges were filed. Nobody was arrested after several witnesses said they were fighting.

You know, now the city of Moab says it is looking into the procedures that were followed saying they will take any action necessary if that is the next step that needs to be done. But important to note that the investigation could be something that they're looking into just to see if there is anything they can learn from this for the future.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Leyla Santiago, thank you so much.

As investigators piece together what happened to Gabby Petito, we're getting disturbing data from the FBI about a rise in crime during the pandemic. 2020 saw a nearly 30 percent jump in murder in the United States. That is the biggest increase since the FBI started collecting such data in 1960. This from a "New York Times" analysis of FBI data on crime numbers.

Let's get right to crime data analyst Jeff Asher and former Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland.

Jeff, let me start with you. 2020 obviously a year like no other. Mass shootings dipped, violent crimes rose only 3 percent but murders 30 percent. Why do you think murder saw such a massive increase?

JEFF ASHER, CRIME DATA ANALYST: It is a really tough question, because we barely have the data to be able to describe the increase much less really understand with a lot of confidence what drove it. Looking deep in the sort of timeline of when things increased gives a little bit of a hint.

We know from the first half of the year the first four months murder was elevated a little bit. The FBI reported about a 6 percent increase from the first quarter of 2020 versus the first quarter of 2019.

So, you can kind of guess that some of the pandemic stresses, increased domestic violence, just the general stresses of everybody being basically locked in at home during quarantine, might have had some impact in the increase in gun violence.


But then things really took off in the May, June, July time frame and stayed there for the rest of the year.

And so, that suggests other factors beyond the pandemic has an excuse were really contributing factors and really ties to the timeline of everything that happened after the murder of George Floyd. Some of the suggestions that have been thrown about are basically called a police legitimacy crisis where you have a decrease in policing activity, and this is seen in arrests and stop and service data in a lot of different cities from a lot of different agencies.

So, you have this sort of pullback that happens and at the same time less trust in the police. You have less, perhaps a less willingness to participate in the criminal justice system. And that might lead to retribution killings, might lead to basically the cycle of violence we saw throughout the year. It is hard to say which was a causal factor but it is very possible either one of these could have been a factor that contributed.

Then we have lots of data that shows there was an increase in firearm carrying starting early in the pandemic and lasting throughout the summer and fall. You can see this in arrests and search data in about a dozen cities that have data. The share of stops and arrests that were firearm related picked up dramatically starting really in the April/May time frame and continuing on throughout the year.

So you kind of put all that together. You have the pandemic at first, those stresses. Then you had everything that happened around George Floyd. Then you had this historic increase in firearm carrying that was sort of not necessarily a cause but was an accelerant to the fire.

You put all that together and you've got a sort of working explanation of this historic confluence of multiple factors that likely led to this complex historic increase.

TAPPER: And, Chief, about 77 percent of the murders in 2020 were committed with a gun, which is a 10 percent increase from a decade ago according to the "New York Times."

What do you think law enforcement needs to do to get illegal guns off the streets?


I can tell you, the men and women in law enforcement here in Houston, Harris County, they're working hard. They're doing their job. But we've got to look at the entire criminal justice system. We have to look at our prosecutors, we have to look at our courts, and our corrections.

Now, it is true there is a proliferation of guns here in Houston, Harris County. And many of the folks that possess them do not qualify to own or possess a firearm. But during COVID, our court systems here were basically shut down. There were no criminal trials so you have many individuals who are habitual offenders convicted felons with additional charges that are out on bail and some are out on bonds. Just two days ago, Jake, Monday morning, two Houston police officers

were shot. One was killed, Officer Bill Jeffries, by a habitual, violent felon with a firearm.

He shouldn't have had the gun. He shouldn't have been out. He should be in jail with a no bond.

So our judges, prosecutors have to be held accountable just like men and women in law enforcement, police officers on the street.

TAPPER: Chief Charles McClelland, and Jeff Asher, thanks so much to both of you. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, it could set off a major legal fight. The move the Biden administration is considering when it comes to Donald Trump and the insurrection.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, a pending White House decision with potentially major implications. We could find out the details about what then President Trump and his staff were actually doing during the January 6th insurrection. That is if Trump does not win a big legal battle to block the American people from finding out.

Plus, President Biden's own U.S. envoy to Haiti quits over what he calls the Biden administration's inhumane policy of deporting Haitians. We're going to go live at the U.S./Mexico border, and to Haiti.

And leading this hour, Joe Biden's presidency on the line. Today, Democratic leaders say they have agreed upon a broad framework to pay for Biden's budget package that covers top priorities from child care to combating the climate crisis. But there are still so many missing details, including a major sticking point the final price tag.

And this all comes after Biden met yesterday for more than four hours with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers to try to save his own agenda.

As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, the White House does seem a bit more confident today that a compromise is still possible, though there is a looming deadline just days away.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Every president is elected to weather storm and navigate crises. And they come to every presidency.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Biden the challenges are piling up. None more urgent than trying to bridge a Democratic divide threatening to derail his sweeping economic agenda.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good morning, everyone.

ZELENY: The party's congressional leaders joined by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen say they've found a way to pay for the party's $3.5 trillion budget package.