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The Lead with Jake Tapper

DHS Whistleblower: Trump Appointees Ordered Me To Manipulate Intelligence On Russian Interference, White Supremacy To Help Trump; Biden: Meeting With Lawmakers Tonight Ahead Of Crucial Votes; Thousands Of New York Health Care Workers Could Be Fired Today As The Vaccine Goes Into Effect; Thousands Of New York Health Care Workers Could Be Fired Today As The Vaccine Goes Into Effect; Police: FBI Targeting Search For Gabby Petito's Fiancee In A Florida Reserve Based On Intelligence; Dems Look To Virginia Governor's Race For Early Signs Of Trouble In 2022. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 27, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Biden could use a booster on Capitol too.

THE LEAD starts right now.

One Democratic lawmaker is calling this the week from hell as the Democratic Party struggles to find a way forward to prevent the president's plans from going up in flames and to stop the government from shutting down.

And then -- democracy under attack. Former President Trump pushes more of his big lie. As a whistleblower reveals he was told to lie about threats to the country because they might make Trump look bad.

Plus, President Biden gets his third dose of the Pfizer vaccine but the problem in the U.S. remains those still refusing to get their first shots.


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

The politics lead. New concerns about the state of American democracy. Today on CNN, a Homeland Security Department whistleblower who once analyzed intelligence for the Trump administration, a self-described conservative Republican, who had voted for Trump, admitted that he had been ordered to lie, specifically to manipulate intelligence, to downplay the threat of Russian election interference and the white supremacist threat in the U.S. and why? Because Homeland Security Department leaders and White House officials thought those facts would make then-president Trump look bad.


BRIAN MURPHY, FORMER ACTING UNDER SECRETARY, DHS OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE AND ANALYSIS: They were topics that the president, I presumed, did not want to be addressed, did not want to hear about and didn't want anyone else to hear about.


TAPPER: Trump blocking facts then and pushing lies now. This past weekend at a rally in Georgia, Mr. Trump not only continuing to push that state to start yet another recount of the 2020 election results, despite every previous recount in Georgia showing the same thing that Joe Biden won. President Trump, former president Trump also admitted to the crowd that he had privately pushed the Republican governor, Brian Kemp, to hold a special election. Presumably a redo since Trump lost the first one.

It's quite a claim to make in public considering Trump is already under investigation in Georgia for attempting to subvert democracy by having the Georgia secretary of state, quote, find votes for him.

And once again, the response from Republican leaders in Washington and across the country? Crickets. Nothing. So, Trump continues his campaign of subverting American democracy unabated.

Paula Reid starts us off.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The House Select Committee's quest to get information about former President Trump as part of its investigation into the January 6th insurrection may soon be coming to a head. Trump faces a looming deadline for asserting executive privilege from four of his closest allies and other requests for documents.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: A bias hit job that is wasting everybody's time.

REID: Committee member Zoe Lofgren threatened serious consequences for Trump allies if they do not cooperate.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): If they don't, I think we're prepared to take all the steps available us to, which include civil action and criminal action.

REID: Lawmakers are also soliciting testimony from defendants who have been charged in the January 6th riot to provide an account of why they traveled to Washington that day to join the mob. This comes as former President Trump continues his baseless attacks on the American electoral system.

TRUMP: They attacked and cheated on our elections.

REID: He lashed out at Republican leaders in Georgia for not helping him undermine confidence in the election.

TRUMP: Now the people of Georgia must replace the RINOs and weak Republicans who made it all possible.

REID: And even seemed to confess to pressuring Georgia's governor to help him overturn the state's results.

TRUMP: I said, Brian, listen. You have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election.

REID: Then outright lie about the recent sham review in Arizona. Claiming he won.

TRUMP: We won on the Arizona forensic audit yesterday at a level that you wouldn't believe.

REID: When, in fact, the partisan exercise conducted by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company with no experience in auditing, found 99 more votes for Joe Biden and 261 fewer votes for Trump. Maricopa County supervisor, Republican Bill Gates, hopes validating Biden's victory will help the party move on from 2020.

BILL GATES (R), MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: It is my hope that this is the beginning of the end of the big lie.

REID: But for Trump, it's not. On Thursday, the former president sent a letter to the Republican governor of Texas demanding an election audit, even though he won the state by five points.


Hours later, the secretary of state's office announced that Texas would carry out audits in four of its largest counties.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I want to take a minute --

REID: In an interview with "60 Minutes", Liz Cheney said Trump had succeeded in sowing doubt about the election and shows no signs of stopping.

CHENEY: Those who think that by ignoring Trump, we -- he will go away have been proven wrong.


REID (on camera): In its first round of subpoenas, the committee intentionally targeted four of Trump's closest advisers who lawmakers believe may try to resist cooperating. Now the committee gave those four advisers until October 7th to comply with requests for documents, but if they refuse to comply or if the former president tries to assert executive privilege, that could set off a lengthy court battle -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thank you.

Let's bring in a few more voices on this and talk about it.

Kasie Hunt, let me start with you. The subpoenas ordered these four Trump officials to respond to the first deadline for documents by next Thursday. We saw members of the Trump administration stonewall Congress on past requests and past subpoenas. Is there anything that makes this different?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the fact that he's not president anymore, which means that perhaps his powers are more limited. I think there's been some reporting and questions about what the Biden administration might do, might they be able or willing to waive some of these executive privilege questions or support legislation that might impact this for this very reason, which would be remarkable because most of the time presidents protect their prerogatives so carefully.

But the reality is, they never -- the Trump officials never gave in on these subpoenas. Over and over again on Capitol Hill, they sent these subpoenas. We would think, oh, maybe this time they'll actually figure out how to do it. But the reality is they could drag it out so long it either became moot or they simply just never showed up and it was yet another way in which the former president showed she was willing to break all of the norms. So, I don't know what would be different this time.


And, Nia-Malika, Trump continuing to push this big lie. But it's not just -- we should make sure. This is not just about 2020.


TAPPER: This is now about 2024. I don't want to replay any more of what he said except this part struck me as very significant. Let's run that clip.


TRUMP: Now the people of Georgia must replace the RINOs and weak Republicans who made it all possible.


TAPPER: He is referring to the governor and the secretary of state and other election officials who did their jobs and abided by the law and the Constitution. He wants them replaced with Trump loyalists.

HENDERSON: That's right. He's going to do everything he can in these upcoming elections to make sure that happens. To make sure people who are loyal to him, people who tout the big lie and believe the big lie get elected and we'll see if that happens in some place like Georgia where Brian Kemp is the governor. There are other candidates on the ballot there who did the right thing in 2020 who have drawn the president's ire and also the ire of voters in those states as well who also believe the big lie.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Tim Naftali, who's a presidential historian.

Tim, you've studied the ebb and flow of U.S. elections and how society reacts to it. Do you think we're at an inflection point? Do you get the sense that Trump has actually set a dangerous precedent by pushing this lie of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the election and by continuing to do so in a way that has people like Liz Cheney concerned that next time he might actually succeed?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Jake, we are in a pivotal moment. We have not had, with one exception, any defeated candidate run a campaign to discredit the entire electoral process. The one exception was Andrew Jackson and it happened a long time ago.

With the exception of Andrew Jackson, our defeated presidential candidates have accepted their loss and moved on. We have a former president who is using all of his persuasive abilities, all of his allies, and using terror, the terror of primarying people, to force a -- an entire party now under his control to undermine our constitutional system. This is unprecedented in our history and that's why I believe Robert Kagan wrote the persuasive warning in "The Washington Post" just recently.

TAPPER: Not just the terror of primarying people. Actual death threats of people like Congressman Gonzalez and Liz Cheney and others are getting.

Kasie, as was mentioned, Liz Cheney is one of only two Republicans on this January 6th committee. On "60 Minutes", she called the silence in her party about a big lie and other conspiracy a toxin. Take a listen.


CHENEY: When we allow that to continue to go on in the face of rulings of the courts, in the face of recounts, in the face of everything that's gone on to demonstrate that there was not fraud, that would have changed the outcome, then we all -- if we do that, we are contributing to the undermining of our system.



TAPPER: You know, it's the American experiment, right? This isn't guaranteed to work for in perpetuity. Why are so many Republicans cowardly about this?

HUNT: Jake, they're afraid and they've been afraid the entire time. And this is why in the beginning, they said, it will pass. It will pass.

You know as well as I do and, Nia, I'm sure you've heard this as well. In the very beginning, they would tell you what they really thought in private because they were embarrassed almost but then in public, they would say nothing.

And I think they thought to the point that Liz Cheney is making there, the silence created an environment where it was only Donald Trump's voice that was being heard. There were not people willing to step up and each person who did as an individual was immediately batted down. Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, they're gone. They left. Paul Ryan left Washington.

And I don't think many of them -- I think a lot of them thought the system would hold. Then they watched what happened at the Capitol on January 6th. That's, of course, when it changed for Cheney in particular. She'd been relatively supportive of the president and makes a distinction between saying, I voted for him in November but after I saw what happened at the Capitol, under no circumstances could I support him.

And the thing is, and what Kagan was warning in that column and what we've been talking about here, there are no signs any of those dynamics are changing and yet, still, most Republicans are silent in the face of it.

TAPPER: Not only there are no signs that's changing, you don't hear Kevin McCarthy say, oh, no, I would never -- I would never overturn a presidential election. He doesn't say anything like that.

And, Nia-Malika, we heard about this former department of homeland security official who was told that Trump's allies at DHS and at the White House told him to cover up, manipulate his intelligence on Russian election interference and white supremacy so as to make sure that Trump didn't look bad. Take a listen.


MURPHY: It was to manipulate the intelligence to fit that political narrative so, yes, they also did not want things to come out, but they wanted to shape it in a way that would support the president's objectives. And the words they used were, I'm ordering you to change the outcome of these products, these intelligence products we would do.


TAPPER: I mean, but I haven't heard one Republican on Capitol Hill say a word about this.

HENDERSON: No, we sort of say, oh, well maybe privately they feel, you know, this was wrong and they don't agree with Trump. But it's not called private service. It's public service.

TAPPER: Right.

HENDERSON: And also, I think there is a very large element within the Republican Party, not only voters but also elected leaders that are themselves Trumpist. And they've become stronger Trumpists over these last many months. Everyone looked at January 6th and thought maybe people would be more like Liz Cheney. Republicans break with the president, but his hold on party leaders and the party rank and file has only become stronger.

TAPPER: And, Tim, quickly if you could. Since the election, Republicans in at least 16 states have tried to change the election laws so as to give the legislation -- I'm sorry, the legislative majority the authority on final election results as opposed to an election board official, whether it's secretary of state. What do you think the impact of that could be?

NAFTALI: History will not be kind to these cynics. They're using their power cynically, creating a sense that there's an existential crisis. They're using their power cynically to ensure the Republicans, Trumpists, are elected in 2022 and 2024. It's terrible attack on our Constitution.

TAPPER: History won't be kind to them perhaps. History is written by the winners, right?

Thanks, Tim. I hope you're right.

Tim, Kasie and Nia-Malika, appreciate it.

Coming up, an update from Pfizer's CEO on when it will ask the FDA to authorize its COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. That's soon.

Plus, the FBI pays another visit to the home of Brian Laundrie. What are they looking for now other than Brian Laundrie? Coming up.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the White House attempting to project cautious optimism. Optimism that House Democrats can actually come together and pass these two massive Biden priorities this week.

But Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan, she offered a more blunt assessment on CNN.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): You want me to be honest? I'll tell you, it's going to be the week from hell. But effectively, failure is not an option.


TAPPER: So, while Democrats battle it out among each other, President Biden is turning his attention to fighting another crisis. Vaccine disinformation.

And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports now, that includes the president getting his own COVID booster shot on live television today.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden getting one boost today while hoping to inject a different kind into his domestic agenda.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Victory is what's at stake.

COLLINS: The president's proposals on the line as Democrats race to solve feuds within their own party over the path forward for his multi-trillion-dollar plan.

BIDEN: You have three things to do -- the debt ceiling, continuing resolution and the two pieces of legislation. If we do that, the country will be in great shape.

COLLINS: Biden noting the monumental challenge ahead of him and warning the timeline could slide even further.

BIDEN: Well, it may not be by the end of the week. I hope it's by the end of the week.

COLLINS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was already forced to delay a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill until Thursday because she needs more time to ensure progressive Democrats won't sink it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know, I'll never bring a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes.

COLLINS: Progressive House members want firm commitments from their moderate counterparts in the Senate on the much larger spending bill that would expand the social safety net and address the climate crisis.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): The speaker is an incredibly good vote counter, and she knows exactly where her caucus stands.


The votes aren't there.

COLLINS: The White House declining to say if Senator Joe Manchin or Senator Kyrsten Sinema have made clear their specific demands to the president.

Without saying what they are, you can't just say if they've actually told the president, here's what --

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We'll let them speak for what conversations they've had privately. We're not going to provide more detail from here.

COLLINS: With almost no room for error, lawmakers must also vote on funding the government before money runs out on Friday and raise the country's borrowing limit or risk a potentially catastrophic default. So far, neither party is budging.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): They want us to come along and authorize the borrowing to help pay for it. When we are totally opposed to what they're doing.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Now, if Republicans follow through with their plans to vote no, they will be on record deliberately sabotaging our country's ability to pay the bills.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: And, Jake, right now our understanding is that Republicans in the Senate are going to block that measure that would fund the government and suspend the debt limit. That's going to create another challenge for Democrats as they are facing several of them clearly this week. This comes as President Biden says he is essentially speaking on an ongoing basis with all of these Democratic lawmakers as they try to solve those challenges.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's turn now to CNN's Ryan Nobles live on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, we were supposed to see the House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill today. But as the chair of the progressive caucus, Congresswoman Jayapal told us yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION," the votes were not there, so Speaker Pelosi was forced to delay the vote until Thursday.

Where do things now? Do they have the votes for it for Thursday?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this point, it doesn't seem like they do. What you see happening right now is intense negotiations between both Speaker Pelosi and the progressive members, as well as those two key members in the United States Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to try and come up with at least a framework for the reconciliation package that everyone can agree to that would allow those progressives to vote for the infrastructure bill as soon as Thursday.

But that's not going to be easy because you see this group behind me. This is the Sunrise Movement. This is a group of progressive activists that care deeply about climate change. They're among the progressive activists that are imploring upon the members of Congress that are sympathetic to their movement to not back down, to not give an inch in these negotiations and not vote yes or vote at all about the bipartisan infrastructure plan until they know definitively that that much broader $3.5 trillion reconciliation package is a done deal.

So that is the careful negotiation process that the House speaker is working with right now and the big question, Jake, can she get a breakthrough here in just the next couple of days? It seems like a tall order but the speaker insists she can get it done -- Jake.

TAPPER: We'll see. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

While President Biden gets his third COVID vaccine, there's still a struggle to get first doses into millions of arms in the United States. And resistance to some major new state mandates. That's next.

Stay with us.


[16:27:44] TAPPER: In our health lead, tens of thousands of New York health care workers could lose their jobs by the end of today if they do not meet the state's vaccine mandate of at least one dose. Teachers in New York City also had the deadline today to get vaccinated but a federal judge blocked it, stopping enforcement of that mandate for now.

As for the kids in those classrooms, well, there's some good news there. As CNN's Nick Watt reports, kids under 12 could have their first dose okayed by the FDA just in time for trick-or-treating.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): COVID-19 vaccines for kids could be coming very, very soon.

ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: I think we are going to submit this data. It's a question of days, not weeks.

WATT: Last year when Pfizer submitted the data for adults, applied for authorization, the green light from the FDA came just three weeks later.

BOURLA: If they approve it, we would be ready with our manufacturing to provide this new formulation of the vaccine because the vaccine the kids will receive, which is 5 to 11, it is a different formulation. It is almost -- it's one-third of the dose we're giving to the rest of the population.

WATT: In New York state, deadline day for medical workers, thousands still haven't gotten the shot. The staff shortage looms.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: I will be signing an executive order to give me the emergency powers necessary to address the shortages where they occur. That's going to allow me to deploy the National Guard who are medically trained.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're wearing a mask, you're blocking your oxygen supply.

WATT: In New York City today, an anti-vaccine mandate protest and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did she survive? With the divine power of prayer.

WATT: While conspiracy theory fest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a vaccine. It's injectable fraud.

WATT: This was to be first shot deadline day for school employees n the city, but a court issued a temporary injunction. There's now a hearing set for Wednesday.

Meantime, around 38 percent of the NYPD remain unvaccinated.

DERMOT SHEA, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: Right now, we have eight members of the NYPD in the hospital. All eight unvaccinated. WATT: Is there a connection between vaccination and hospitalization

rates? Well, take West Virginia, lowest vaccination rate in the nation right now, and the highest hospitalization rate.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R), WEST VIRGINIA: We are going through the peak, and it looks like we're starting to turn down.

WATT: The delta-driven surge is still rolling around the country. But --

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: So, I think by Thanksgiving, it's probably going to have run its course across the country. Prevalence should decline and hopefully we get back to more semblance of normalcy when vaccines hopefully will be available for children as well and people will feel more comforted by the fact they can protect their kids also.


WATT (on camera): So just how bad could this staff shortage be in New York over the mandate for health workers? In New York City, there are 11 publicly run hospitals, 43,000 employees in all. And as of this morning, 5,000 of them have not gotten the shot -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN's Nick Watt, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Dr. Paul Offit. He's a member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee. He's also author of the brand new book, "You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusion, to Mass Vaccination, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation", unquote.

Dr. Offit, congrats on the new book.

Let me ask you -- we saw 78-year-old President Biden get his booster shot live on TV this afternoon. Is it important for the American public to see the president get his third dose?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: In a more rational world, yes. People would see him getting the vaccine and realize that he's of an age where he clearly would benefit because as you get older your immune system becomes less vigorous. So, it's really in the same category as those who are immune compromised for whom there's already a recommendation. Sure, it's remarkable to me that we have -- that you have that story about having to mandate vaccines for New York City health workers.

These are people who work around a vulnerable population. Do you really need to mandate the vaccine? Do they not care about the people who are under their care? It's just hard to watch.

TAPPER: As a member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, I'm wondering what your view is, the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, she expanded -- she ordered that boosters should be expanded to vulnerable groups and also people who work in high-risk professions. That went beyond what the CDC Advisory Committee recommended, but it's squared with what the FDA advisory committee believed, I think. So, do you think she did the right thing?

OFFIT: So, the easy recommendation was to give a third dose for people over 65. I think it's also an easy recommendation to give people who have high-risk medical conditions and they're over 50 years of age. It got trickier when you went to the next two groups, which is the 18 to 4 49 who has high-risk medical condition or anybody over 18 who works in an area where the transmission is likely to be high either because of the institution or their profession. That's where it got tricky and the reason it got tricky because the 18 to 29-year-old is at the highest risk of myocarditis which, although rare is clearly immunologically mediated and we know that that third dose induces a greater immune response than the second dose.

And so, somebody who's otherwise healthy, and between 18 and 29, are we clear that the benefits outweigh the risks when we know that two doses are protective? Right now, we know that two doses of mRNA are highly effective against serious illness and the CDC made that statement. If you've gotten two doses of mRNA vaccine and you're a member of the general population and aren't in these other high-risk groups, consider yourself fully vaccinated because I think the message inadvertently sent by President Biden when he said basically three doses for all was that you aren't protected at two doses which isn't true.

TAPPER: What would you tell anybody out there in one of the vulnerable groups that Walensky said should get the shot, including frontline health care workers or whatever and they're still kind of confused or weary of getting the booster because there was this competing guidance when it came to their group?

OFFIT: Right. I think what we're going to say is, for example, in our hospitals is that you can get a third dose if you like. I don't think certainly we're going to make it part of any sort of mandate, and that was a good thing about the CDC statement when they said two doses good enough for the general population because for places with mandates, what does it mean to be fully vaccinated, two doses or three doses. I think that CDC statement really made it much clearer and we're certainly not -- I can't imagine we're going to require that vaccine for our hospital. I think we'll just say people can get it if they want.

TAPPER: You're a pediatrician. I want to ask you about vaccines for children 5 to 11. It's not authorized yet but Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization. I think it's a smaller does like one- third of what adults get. If kids get their first dose by Halloween, how safe should parents feel after they've had their second shot, the kids, in terms of their children and having protection from this virus?


OFFIT: Right. So I think, you know, this is always the issue. I mean, when you look at data and, so, for example, for the 12 to 15-year-old, we looked at 2,300 cases. Half got the vaccine. Half got placebo. There were 18 cases of COVID in that study, all in the placebo group.

After that was approved I got a lot of pretty angry email from people that said, 2,300 people , that's all you're going to look at, 2,300 children between 12 and 15, whereas with the adults you had trials of 30,000, 40,000 and you're only going to do 2,300.

So, to which my response was, we can do 23,000, in which case there would be 18 cases of COVID, there'd be 180 cases of COVID, pretty much most if not all in the placebo group.

You know, what price knowledge? What human price do we pay for knowledge? That's the tricky part. Obviously, when you're testing something in thousands or even tens of thousands. That's not tens of millions and sometimes you find out things later that are much rarer. Myocarditis, being one example. That was a 1 in 20,000-person phenomenon which you'll not pick up preapproval.

So, you're right. Your heart is always in your throat at some level but there are no risk-free choices. They're just choices to take different risk. The choice to not take a vaccine is not a risk-free choice.

You got 250,000 children a week that are getting infected. The children account for 27 percent of cases. Now, there's 2,000 hospitalizations every week. We certainly are seeing it in our hospital. So there are no risk-free choices.

TAPPER: Dr. Paul Offit, thank you so much. Appreciate it. His brand new book, "You Bet Your Life" is out now. Thank you so much again.

Coming up, a new update from the FBI on the search for Gabby Petito's missing fiancee. How the focus has shifted. That's next.



TAPPER: In the national lead, today, a change in strategy in the search for Gabby Petito's missing fiance. The FBI will now take a more targeted approach based on intelligence, we're told. And the focus of the search may be moving away from that 25,000-acre Florida reserve south of Tampa. Brian Laundrie's disappearance last week came right as authorities discovered Petito's remains in Wyoming and ruled her death a homicide.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live for us in North Port, Florida, near the home of Laundrie's parents.

New audio recordings seem to offer more clues into what might have been going on between the couple before she was killed.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. What was happening between the couple on August 12th when a call came in to 911, reporting a gentleman reporting that a man had hit a woman. That audio recording from the 911 call we have. What is new now, Jake, is a recording that indicates what dispatch

told officers. What police officers knew before they ever made contact with the couple in Moab, Utah.


DISPATCH: The female who got hit, they both -- the male and female both got into the van and headed north.


SANTIAGO: OK. So that's one clip from dispatch reporting to police officers. What came in to 911. You hear them say the female was hit. That was relayed.

But that happened more than once. Listen.


DISPATCH: RP states seeing a male hit a female, domestic. He got into a white ford transit van. Has a black ladder on the back.


SANTIAGO: So that gives some insight as to the state of mind or what police officers knew when they approached the couple in -- as they were driving away from the scene where this was reported. Now ultimately after talking to both Brian Laundrie as well as Gabby Petito, police ended putting in their report that they didn't believe that this was a domestic assault situation, rather a mental crisis.

Now we do know -- I did talk to Moab police today, Jake, and they tell me that there is an investigation to look into how police handled this. Not because necessarily right now there was some policy that they think was broken but because they want to look into this to see if they can learn anything for the future.

TAPPER: When I look at that video, I see a terrified young woman.

A family lawyer is telling local Florida news outlets the FBI showed up at the family's house looking for items with Brian Laundrie's DNA on them. What might that signal about the direction their search is going?

SANTIAGO: Right. CNN was here when the two FBI agents came to the home and took some things with them. And really this is another indication of FBI leading this investigation. All along local police have said this is an FBI-led criminal investigation, but we're also really seeing a bit of a shift as you mentioned, shake, on the search.

I was here all last week and there was a massive search in the 25,000- acre reserve where police say the Laundrie family said Brian was headed when he was last seen. No such indication of that now, Jake. Police say that this is FBI-led and that it will be focused based on intelligence.

TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago in North Port, Florida. Thank you so much.

Also today, also a major decision for the man who tried to kill then- President Ronald Reagan.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: John Hinckley Jr. was rushed, as we saw in that videotape, to district of police headquarters. And will be charged with attempting to assassinate the president of the United States.


TAPPER: More than 40 years since CNN's Bernard Shaw reported the assassination attempt in 1981, the Justice Department today reached a deal to grant John Hinckley Jr. unconditional release, freeing him of restrictions on his movements and internet activity that he's been live with for several years.


Hinckley was found not guilty for the failed assassination attempt by reason of insanity after spending nearly 30 years in a psychiatric facility. Hinckley was released in 2016. He's lived with his mother under certain restrictions. This release would take effect in June.

Coming up -- why one Democrat is facing tougher than expected headwinds in his race to reclaim his seat as governor.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, anyone here in the D.C. area watching Sunday's NFL games on TV was treated to a slew of commercials for November's election for Virginia governor. The ads for both Democrat and Republican essentially sent the same message that the other guy is soft on crime and if you vote for him you might get killed. This race went negative pretty early.

Beyond that, as Jeff Zeleny reports, the polls are tight, and this race could be an early warning sign for Democrats who are already worrying about next year's midterms.


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm tired of people in Congress sitting around doing chitty chat. Let's pass these bills and let's lift up our families.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terry McAuliffe is sounding the alarm. Fearful that the messy stalemate in Washington could spell trouble for him and his fellow Democrats. MCAULIFFE: You know what the stakes are.

ZELENY: He's running for a second act as Virginia's governor but he's facing stronger than expected headwinds and potential fallout from a deep Democratic divide, threatening to derail President Biden's sweeping economic agenda.

MCAULIFFE: We control the House, the Senate and the White House. We need this infrastructure. I can tell you as a former governor. It's absolutely critical for our bridges and roads. So, let's get it done. Quit talking.

ZELENY: His November race could offer clues for the Democratic Party's prospects of keeping control of Congress in next year's midterm elections. With early voting already under way, he's locked in a tight contest with this Republican businessman.

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: All right. Who is ready for a new governor!

ZELENY: Glenn Youngkin is a former private equity executive trying to appeal to voters as an outsider.

YOUNGKIN: It's no longer Republicans against Democrats. This is about Virginians standing up and saying, no! This left liberal progressive agenda which is trying to turn us into California east, Virginians are saying, no more!

ZELENY: As Youngkin tries to turn the race into a referendum on Biden's Democratic agenda, McAuliffe is working to make it all about the man who still fires up Democrats like few others can.

MCAULIFFE: Donald Trump wants to use this election to begin his comeback in this country. He said it. He's endorsed by opponent four times.

ZELENY: For the next five weeks, the Virginia contest offers a window into the lingering power of Trump who believes Youngkin should embrace him more.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The only guys that win are the guys that embrace the MAGA movement. Does that make sense to you?


ZELENY: But also serves a test of Biden's standing after a summer of setbacks.

Is he making your race more complicated?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, you always hope the president of your party is 20 points up, of course, you would. But this is my race. It's not President Biden's race. This is my race.

ZELENY: Yet McAuliffe is a Biden Democrat.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's great to be with my friend and your once and future Governor Terry McAuliffe.

ZELENY: And he's embracing Biden's vaccination mandates which Youngkin opposes.

YOUNGKIN: But the vaccine is something that I believe people should be able to make their own decision on, not imposed on.

ZELENY: A year after Biden carried the state by ten points, McAuliffe is warning Democrats against complacency.

MCAULIFFE: This is a big race for the country. I think this race sends a signal that the Democrats going into '22, there's some wind behind their back, I think.


ZELENY (voice-over): Now Virginia always elects its governors in the year following a presidential race. Since 1970, the candidate here has been the opposite of the party in power in the White House, which does give Republicans here some hope. Every year except one, Jake, in 2013 when Terry McAuliffe won after President Obama's re-election. That also gives Governor McAuliffe some hope here. We should point out the Virginia presidential race is largely blue but still very close here, surprisingly close.

Virginia is the only state in the country where governors can serve one term. Mr. McAuliffe is trying to do it again -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much for that report.

Coming up, guilty. Singer R. Kelly just convicted by a federal jury. Details including how much time R. Kelly could serve. That's ahead.



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

This hour, thousands of health care workers in New York could soon be fired as they defy the state's new vaccine mandate. Plus, the massive camp of migrants was cleared out from under that one Texas bridge, but the problems at the U.S. southern border, well, they persist.

And leading this hour, House Democratic caucus set to meet in minutes with President Biden's massive agenda hanging in the balance. At issue, the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the larger $3.5 trillion spending package containing social programs and other programs to combat climate change.

Meantime, the Senate will vote this hour to avoid a government shutdown. And that is likely to fail.

But, first, the CNN's Manu Raju reports for us. Getting a deal on the Democrats $3.5 trillion spending bill is looking increasingly tenuous.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): You want me to be honest? It's going to be the week from hell.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden's domestic agenda hanging in the balance.

BIDEN: You know me, I'm born optimist.

RAJU: Progressives have threatened to sink a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan unless moderates agree to back a massive expansion of the social safety net.