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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Top Generals Contradict Biden In Contentious Hearing, Admit They Wanted 2,500 Troops To Remain In Afghanistan; Pelosi Reverses Course, Plans To Hold Infrastructure Vote Thursday Even If Massive Budget Bill Is Not Done; Pfizer Gives FDA Initial Data On COVID Vaccine For Kids Ages 5-11; Gabby Petito's Family Calls On Her Fiancee To Turn Himself In; Grisham Book Explains Trump's Secretive Walter Reed Trip In 2019. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 28, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: She says that President Trump stayed silent because he did not want then Vice President Mike Pence to be in power while he was sedated for the procedure.

That's all from me and "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Did President Biden lie to the public about the advice he had been given on Afghanistan from military leaders?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Top U.S. military officials today telling quite a different story than the one President Biden shared with the American people about the advice they had given him before all hell broke loose in Kabul.

Plus, progressives P.O.'d. Senator Bernie Sanders joining a chorus of liberals angry with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as President Biden huddles with moderate Democrats in a last-ditch effort to save his agenda on Capitol Hill.

And Pfizer now one step closer to asking the FDA to authorize its vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

We're going to talk to the U.S. surgeon general and with a former FDA official who is now sitting on the Pfizer board.


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

And we begin today in our politics lead and the shocking revelation from top generals on Capitol Hill that President Biden apparently ignored their advice just weeks before the chaotic and deadly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Today, CentCom Commander Kenneth McKenzie and Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Mark Milley confirmed reports that they had wanted 2,500 service members to remain in Afghanistan to prevent the imminent collapse of Afghan military forces and ultimately, the Afghan government.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: I won't share my personal recommendation with the president but I will give you my honest opinion and my honest opinion or view shaped by recommendation. I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-OK): General Milley, I assume you agreed with that in terms of the recommendation of 2,500.



TAPPER: President Biden, of course, had every right to overrule what his advisers and generals recommended to end America's longest war, but that's not the issue here. The issue is that this testimony today directly contradicts President Joe Biden's claim to ABC news back in August. Take a listen.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn't tell you they wanted troops to stay?

BIDEN: No, not at -- not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a time frame all troops.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your military advisers did not tell you, no, we should keep 2500 troops. It's been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that?

BIDEN: No, no one said that to me that I can recall.


TAPPER: No one said that to me that I can recall. When asked about this contradiction today, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki leaned on the one sentence in that exchange where Biden says that his military advisers were, quote, split on the issue, as if that was all President Biden had said on the matter.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said, no, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true. It was split. I think that's a pretty key part of that phrasing there. There was a range of viewpoints, as was evidenced by their testimony

today, that were presented to the president, that were presented to his national security team.


TAPPER: When asked by reporters which generals had proposed a complete withdrawal, Jen Psaki demurred and said she was not going to get into private conversations.

So, now, as CNN's Oren Liebermann reports, the Biden administration is facing more criticism over its handling of Afghanistan.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans seized on the contradiction between those views and what President Joe Biden said in August about the advice he was given by military leaders.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.

BIDEN: No, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true.

LIEBERMANN: Republican Senator Tom Cotton went after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on this point.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): It's a simple question, Secretary Austin. He said no senior military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence behind. Is that true or not? Did she's officer and General Miller's recommendations get to the president personally?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Their input was received by the president and considered by the president for sure.

LIEBERMANN: Lawmakers grilled top military leaders on the rapid collapse of the Afghan military and the failure of the U.S. to see it coming after pulling U.S. advisers three years ago.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: When you pulled the advisers out of the units you can never -- you no longer can assess leadership and will. We can count all the planes, trucks, and automobiles, and cars and machine guns and everything else, we can count those from space and all the kind of intel assets, but you can't measure the human heart with a machine. You've got to be there.

LIEBERMANN: Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley, said it was an open question whether an evacuation to move 124,000 people should have begun earlier, but ultimately, it was a State Department call.


SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): You and I have discussed this. Would you use the term extraordinary success for the -- for what took place in August in Afghanistan? MILLEY: That's the noncombatant evacuation. And I think one of the

other senators said it very well. It was a logistical success but a strategic failure.

LIEBERMANN: The Pentagon knew the Afghan government and armed forces critically relied on U.S. military and financial support. What surprised everyone was the speed at which it all fell apart in a matter of days. Not months.

AUSTIN: We certainly did not plan against the collapse of a government in 11 days.

LIEBERMANN: The Biden administration defended the president's decision, not to heed the advice of his generals.

PSAKI: But the American people should know the president is going to welcome a range of advice. He asked for candor, he asked for directness, and in any scenario, he's not looking for a bunch of yes men and women. And what that means is ultimately, he's going to have to make the decision about what's in the best interest of the United States.

LIEBERMANN: Senator Cotton responding to learning President Biden didn't follow the military's advice.

COTTON: If all this is true, General Milley, why haven't you resigned?

MILLEY: This country does want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. That's not our job. The principle of civilian control of the military is absolute -- it's critical to this republic.

LIEBERMANN: Milley did use part of his time answering questions about two calls with his Chinese counterpart during the Trump administration, last October and January 8th, right after the Capitol insurrection.

MILLEY: I know, I am certain that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. And it is my directed responsibility and it was my direct responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese. My task at that time was to de-escalate.

My message again was consistent. Stay calm, steady and de-escalate. We are not going to attack you.

LIEBERMANN: Milley defended the calls saying they were coordinated with Trump administration officials, including then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Both of whom Milley says he personally informed about the calls.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): Some Republican senators called on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as well as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley to resign after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. While it's clear that that's going to happen, there's an open question about what amount of accountability, if any, there will be here. As an example, the Dutch foreign minister resigned. The British foreign secretary was demoted after Afghanistan, and yet there's been nothing of that level seen in the Biden administration -- Jake.

TAPPER: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

LIEBERMANN: We have our panel here with us.

Let's start with CNN's Clarissa Ward who is live for us in Kabul.

And, Clarissa, how does what you heard from American military leaders today square with what you witnessed during the withdrawal on the ground in Afghanistan?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there was a lot of candor that we heard today, Jake. I was struck by General Milley's description of it as a logistical success, but a strategic failure. We saw the success on the ground. We saw the enormity, the scale of this airlift. The largest in U.S. history. We saw the fact the U.S. went from fighting the Taliban to cooperating with them in a matter of hours. It wasn't a perfect agreement, but the Taliban were there kind of holding the front line, the perimeter of the airport trying to keep the crowds back.

We also heard a concession that at certain stages, they were overwhelmed by the scale, particularly in some other basis outside of Afghanistan. We saw the knock-on effect of that firsthand. Planes stopped for more than eight hours carrying evacuees out on U.S. planes. And that, of course, meant there was a backlog. There were chaotic scenes, there were desperate scenes as people tried to push into the airport and to get out safely.

So it did seem like there was a level of candor about the successes and the biggest failure which Oren touched upon which is how is it possible the Afghan army collapsed in such a short period of time and that no one predicted that. And while I think there was some finger pointing at the intelligence agencies on that front, there was also some candor about the fact that, listen, we haven't had advisers embedded with the Afghan army for three years and while you may know all the statistics about which bases are open and how many soldiers are here and what weapons they have, you don't know what's going on in the hearts and minds of these Afghan soldiers. You don't know whether they have that fight still in them.

So, it definitely seemed like they touched on a lot of the important points. I thought also was very interesting to hear General Milley talk about the credibility issue, talking about the idea that U.S. credibility is now under, I believe it was intense review with foes and allies, making a nod to the fact that this isn't just about what America thinks of what happened, but what the whole world thinks about what happened and how that impacts people's impressions of America across the globe.


TAPPER: Interesting.

General Wesley Clark, you said that you thought today was a very important moment, the testimony from General McKenzie and General Milley. Tell us why.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think for the United States' armed forces, the role of the chairman and commanders, how they give advice is really important. And they were acting fully in concert with the law and their instructions both in the call, General Milley in his calls to his Chinese counterpart both before and after the election and providing advice to the president.

Now when he provides that advice to the president, of course, then -- the president is under no obligation to take that advice. The president has a much broader perspective on this. He has to look at diplomacy, the domestic -- the budget. A lot of other things weighing on the president -- so I think we cracked open an issue that's going to require further -- possibly some further -- about exactly what President Biden meant --


TAPPER: General Clark, you're breaking up a little bit, so I want to give my staff an opportunity to fix the signal there.

And, Gloria, you did a whole documentary about President Biden. You talked with him about his thoughts on the war. Why do you think President Biden would ignore his military advisers, and then honestly, why would he not just be up front with the public about that? I don't know what it would have cost him for a president -- for President Biden to just have said, look, generals, like always, wanted to keep more troops in theater but I'm the commander in chief and we're going out. I don't know why he didn't just say that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. The only thing I could think of is that maybe he didn't think they were going to be as forthcoming as they were today because they actually stood up there and were quite candid and said, yeah, I'm not going to tell you exactly what I told him, but this is what I think. And that's -- you can imply that that's what I told the president which is we should leave 2,500 troops there.

Joe Biden has had a problematic relationship with generals for decades. And if you'll recall, Jake, and I know you, do he was against the surge in Afghanistan, for example. And when he was vice president, he, you know, Obama and Biden used to play good cop/bad cop in the room with the generals and Obama would kind of sit back and Biden would ask a million questions, peppering them, angering them, and in the end, you know, he would -- or largely, come to the conclusion that he disagreed with them.

And he lost those fights, many of those fights. Largely we all know about the surge. And so when he became president, it wasn't any surprise to me that he said, okay, we're getting out and we're going to get out clean. What was a surprise is the way they did it and the fact that he seemed to say, as you pointed out earlier in this conversation, that, you know, you can -- that he wasn't going to listen to them at all and then, you know, tell the American public they didn't tell them what they told them.

TAPPER: Yeah, no, it's just strange to me.

BORGER: Strange.

TAPPER: Clarissa, there's still about 100 Americans is the and legal permanent residents of the U.S. ready to leave but remain stuck in Afghanistan. That's according to a senior State Department official. Did you hear anything today that gives you any confidence that they will be able to get out?

WARD: Well, have we heard from the defense secretary that I believe 21 were evacuated today alone. And we believe that there were dozens of green card holders also on that evacuation flight. And several SIV holders or special immigration visa holders.

So I gather from what I am learning, mostly from our colleagues at the state department, that it's tricky for a number of reasons because some people haven't yet decided categorically that they do want to leave. And then there's a whole host of logistical challenges because the U.S. is not on the ground anymore. I'll give you an example. I'm hearing from SIV holders almost every day who are desperate to get out of the country, who have approval but they have issues like their passport expired or their passport was at the U.S. embassy which is shut down and inaccessible.

And so it does become challenging to try to create mechanisms for not only paperwork to be approved but also documentation potentially to be sort of retrieved or renewed and -- which does slow things down.


So, yes, it seems a lot of headway on Americans getting out, allies of the Americans. That seems to be a slower process.

TAPPER: All right. Clarissa Ward, General Wesley Clark, Gloria Borger, thanks to one and all of you. Appreciate it.

Progressives are angry and President Biden today met with two key moderate Democrats at the White House. Is there any progress on passing his agenda? We'll tell you.

Plus, the families of both Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie speaking out today. What they're saying. That's ahead.


TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

And a change of strategy on Capitol Hill with President Biden's agenda hanging in the balance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now says there will be a vote on Thursday on the bipartisan infrastructure package, even if the larger bill expanding social safety net programs is not ready to go. Speaker's reversal is already upsetting many conservatives who feel they may now be hung out to dry.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Biden hosted two key Senate moderates trying to find a middle ground between their demands and the progressives.


Our reporters are covering every development in this Democratic battle starting with CNN's Ryan Nobles who has brand-new reaction from one of the most high profile progressive Democrats.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Time is running out on Capitol Hill to stop America from an economic disaster.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Morning, everyone. This is a big week for the American people.

NOBLES: Lawmakers are furiously negotiating, hoping to make progress on four major issues central to the Biden agenda and the nation's economy.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will pass both bills.

NOBLES: On the docket, passing a continuing resolution that will continue to fund the government before it runs out of cash as soon as Friday, lifting the debt ceiling before the government reaches that threshold by the middle of October, striking a compromise on a massive expansion of the social safety net that both moderates and progressives can agree on, and passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will offer up more than $1 trillion to fix roads and bridges across America.

The problem is Democrats have tied several of these items together. And now they are trying to untangle them. When it comes to the debt ceiling and keeping the government open, House leaders say they have a plan.

PELOSI: So we have a number of things on the -- lift the debt ceiling. Keep government open. We have to do those imminently.

NOBLES: The intraparty fight over infrastructure and reconciliation are the bigger problem. Speaker Pelosi wants a vote as soon as Thursday on the infrastructure plan, but progressives continue to say they won't vote yes without a guarantee about the bigger package.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Our caucus is strongest when it's unified and decoupling these bills, it starts to pit priorities against one another, and that's why I don't -- I disagree with separating them.

NOBLES: Part of the problem is that moderates still won't say what they are willing to agree to spend on expanding the social safety net. Progressives want the package to be as big as $3.5 trillion. And expand programs like Medicaid, pre-K and the child tax credit. Moderates like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin don't want to spend that much but they're also not ready to say publicly how high they're willing to go.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There's a lot of work that needs to be done. We're going to work and work and work in a good faith method.

NOBLES: As a result, Democrats remain in a staring contest with the clock ticking and that big vote still scheduled for Thursday with no guarantee it will pass.


NOBLES (on camera): And it's becoming increasingly clear that that vote on Thursday is going to be about whether or not the progressive caucus can hold firm in their demands that the bipartisan infrastructure bill not be passed until the broader reconciliation piece is passed at the same time. And there's every indication they are ready to do so.

In fact, one of the most powerful progressive voices, Senator Bernie Sanders who founded the progressive caucus in the House before moving to the Senate put out this statement a few minutes ago. Quote, if the bipartisan infrastructure bill is passed on its own on Thursday, this will be in violation of an agreement that was reached with the Democratic Caucus in Congress. More importantly, it will end all the leverage that we will have to pass a major reconciliation bill. I strongly urge my House colleagues to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill until Congress passes a strong reconciliation bill.

The problem right now, Jake is that will not happen before.

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

Let's get right to CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.

Phil, did President Biden make any progress after his meetings with the moderate Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, White House officials say the president's meetings were constructive. They say they moved the ball forward but what they haven't said is what tangibly came out of those meetings to actually move the entire process forward.

Here's the reality right now, Ryan laid out the key elements here. The president needs Senators Manchin and Sinema to make commitments or at least lay out where they stand. I've heard from a number of Democrats on Capitol Hill, on the House side of things who said this is the moment for the president to put -- to draw a firm line and get firm commitments. To this point, that hasn't happened. Since those meetings ended there's been no word that is coming. Although Senator Sinema, Jake, met with President Biden this morning,

ended up coming back to the White House a few hours later to talk to staff, follow up on a series of issues, that she and the president were discussing. So, clearly, the process is moving along. If it's fast enough, though, remains a very open question.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Phil Mattingly live from the White House for us, thanks so much.

Coming up -- one step closer to a vaccine for young kids. Next, we're going to talk to a former FDA official who now advises Pfizer. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, Pfizer executives say that they sent initial data to the FDA on their COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. They're not yet seeking an emergency use authorization. This as children's cases are falling in the U.S., but still account for more than a quarter of all COVID cases in the U.S. that's a substantial spike when children only make up 16 percent of cases since the onset of the pandemic, though very few of those cases we should note resulted in the death of a child.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports, public health officials are more eager than ever to get more shots into arms.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pfizer just submitted key data to the FDA from trials of its vaccine in kids, 5 to 11. So when might we expect a green light?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I would hope that by the end of October, we'll be there. I can't guarantee it, but I'm hopeful that that will be the case.

WATT: Around 70 million already eligible Americans still haven't had a vaccine shot. Average daily first doses in arms never been lower since the CDC started tracking that number way back in mid-January.

LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: I know that I was very skepticism about it all but after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but for my family and for my friends, and, you know, that's why I decided to do it.

WATT: Unvaccinated medical workers in New York state could face penalties, including termination today. Midnight was their deadline to get a shot. Teachers in New York City now have until Friday 5:00 p.m. to get a shot. Some legal ping-pong has been moving that deadline around.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Average vaccinations per day have gone up 45 percent, 45 percent since the mandates were put in place.

WATT: Mandates that cover more than teachers and note it doesn't always equal effect. Meantime, a county judge in Arizona just ruled the ban on mask mandates in public schools violates the state's constitution.

Down in Tennessee --

MAYOR GLENN JACOBS (R), KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE: Everybody is frustrated no matter where you are with this issue.

WATT: The federal judge ruled one of the state's biggest school districts must mandate masks. Parents and others protested.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just -- we just want to be heard.

WATT: Okay. Now hear the science.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We have numerous studies from last school year that repeatedly demonstrate that school outbreaks are prevented when we have masking in schools.


WATT (on camera): Now briefly back to LeBron James' decision to get vaccinated. He made it clear he's not now promoting anything. He's not getting involved in anyone else's business. And that's fair enough. He's a basketball player. Not an epidemiologist.

But, still, his personal decision could influence others to do the same. And maybe get us a little bit closer to that still vague goal of herd immunity -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Watt, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now, the former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He currently serves on the author of the Pfizer and he's the author of the brand new book, "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic."

Dr. Gottlieb, good to see you again.

So, Pfizer says it's submitted vaccine data on children 5 to 11 to the FDA for initial review, but Pfizer is not seeking emergency use authorization yet. Why not submit that request now, too?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, PFIZER BOARD MEMBER, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Well, look, it will be coming. You know, this is sort of typical of a rolling submission where you submit the data that's available. The C&M portion, the portion on the chemistry controls and manufacturing, the sort of manufacturing portion of the application may be submitted a little bit later. And at that point, you'd seek the emergency use authorization.

So, this is going to be submitted on a rolling basis to give the FDA ample time to review the data and try to stick to a time frame that's been articulated by Dr. Fauci in your lead in.

I think subject to the FDA's review, this data could potentially have an authorization by the end of the month. Maybe if it slips a little into November, the agency is going to obviously conduct a thorough review of the information that gets submitted.

TAPPER: Do you have an idea of when the emergency use authorization request will be made by Pfizer?

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I think imminently. Again, this is going to be submitted in portions, different pieces so that the agency gets the information as quickly as possible. The clinical data was available. So it was submitted to the agency so they can start the review of that data.

TAPPER: Children's COVID cases account for 27 percent of all cases in the country, exceptionally high. Kids only represent 16 percent of total cases suns the beginning of the pandemic. So it's surging a bit with kids right now.

What is your message to parents of kids under 11 who are exasperated and tired of waiting for the vaccine when the company got a lot of people's hopes up when they said last week that the vaccine is safe?

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, hopefully, it's going to be available soon. The agency needs to conduct a thorough and independent review of that data but hopefully this will be available by the end of the month after the agency goes through the clinical package that's submitted to the FDA. I think a lot of the residual anxiety that adults feel who have been vaccinated isn't about their own safety. Many people who have been vaccinated rightly feel they're protected from COVID, even if they have a breakthrough infection. They are unlikely to have breakthrough infection.


Their residual concern is they can develop an asymptomatic infection and bring it back into the home. So I think it's very important to have a vaccine available for young kids to get back to some semblance of normalcy. I think that's going to put a lot of confidence in people to go back to work go back to offices and go about their lives.

TAPPER: Today, the Biden administration is boasting of a strong start to the booster vaccine program. More than 400,000 people got their third shots over the weekend. Should people expect side effects similar to any side effects they experienced in the first or second doses?

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, CDC was out today saying the side effect profile, the booster looks similar to the second dose. Some of the data suggests maybe even a better profile with a third dose relative to the second dose. People should expect something on par with what they had with the second dose.

But the profile does look tolerable and safe based on the data we have in the U.S. so far and the data coming out of Israel where a broader swath of the population has received boosters at this point.

TAPPER: You've been stressing that the view that the delta variant we might be in the final bad wave of it and that might be the final bad wave of COVID. You also say COVID is likely here to stay, ultimately becoming a seasonal virus, not unlike the flu. So what might that look like for regular Americans? Annual boosters? Masks every winter? Schools and day cares shutting down regularly? What do you anticipate the future might look like in 2024, 2025, when it comes to COVID?

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, look, hopefully nothing like it looks right now. I think this is hopefully the last major surge of infections barring something unexpected with the delta variant that it mutates in a way that evades the immunity. And on the back end of this last major surge of infection, prevalence levels will decline. Maybe we're down to 20 cases per hundred thousand per day, which is where New York was when they had their mini delta surge in the summertime. But this is going to be a persistent infection. We're going to have to learn to live life against the backdrop of this coronavirus and it's probably going to be an infection on par with the flu.

The challenges that we already have a flu and I think the twin threats of this pathogen and the flu circulating every winter, as coronavirus is settling to a more seasonal pattern is going to be too much for society to bear and I think we're going to have to readjust how we live our lives. We're going to have to improve air filtration and quality indoors. People will be wearing masks, I think, optionally.

We're going to probably try to de-densify offices in the winter time to try to reduce the risk. Probably move conferences that may be held in the winter time to the fall and the spring. I think we're going to do things differently. And it's just not going to be from this coronavirus. It's going to be from the twin threat of this virus circulating alongside flu every winter.

TAPPER: The flu as you know places an enormous burden on our health care system up to 61,000 deaths and 810,000 hospitalizations every year from the seasonal flu up to 45 million cases. I have to imagine a lot of folks out there may not feel comforted by the idea of both COVID and the flu circulating.

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, that's why I think we're going to have to do things differently. We're oddly complacent about the flu each year. We allow it to infect far too many people. I don't think we're going to be complacent about respiratory pathogens. Certain things are going to have to do differently in society. The idea of coming to work if you don't feel well, that's going to be discouraged.

People probably will be compensated to stay home if someone in your family is sick until you can make sure you don't have COVID. Home testing for flu and COVID will become much more common place. People will turn over these infections before they leave their home. We're going to have to do things differently. We've been too complacent about the spread of respiratory diseases in the wintertime with a twin threat of flu and COVID circulating, we'll not be able to enjoy that complacency anymore. And we're going to be in store for a whopper of a flu season at some point in the future. We have virtually no flu season last year.

The early indication are we may have another mild flu season this year, because of precautions were taken to prevent COVID are preventing flu from circulating. We haven't put flu immunity in the population for two years. We'll have a bad flu season and especially if there's a mismatch between the vaccines and whatever flu strain this year or next year, it could be a particularly bad flu season. So, we're going to have to do things -- be more careful with how we manage our lives in the wintertime to reduce these kinds of risks.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Gottlieb, thank you so much. His new book is called "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic." Thanks again. Good to see you again.

The family of Gabby Petito calling on Brian Laundrie to turn himself in and the family attorney had strong words for Laundrie's parents. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead today. This afternoon, Gabby Petito's family spoke out for the first time calling on her former fiance Brian Laundrie to turn himself in. The couple had been traveling out west when she vanished at the end of August. Laundrie returned home by himself.

But as CNN's Leyla Santiago reports for us, Laundrie has not been seen for two weeks as the FBI is stepping up efforts to find him.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gabby Petito's family speaking out, sharing with the world their grieve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got behind a car yesterday and there was a Wyoming sticker and the letters were GBZ. She's with us.

SANTIAGO: The parents and stepparents using tattoos, Gabby's own designs to honor their daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to have her with me all the time.

SANTIAGO: The family is still struggling to make sense of all of this, still struggling for answers and justice for Gabby.


RICHARD STAFFORD, PETITO FAMILY LAWYER: The Laundries did not help us find Gabby, they sure as not are going to help us find Brian. For Brian, we're asking you to turn yourself in to the FBI or the nearest law enforcement agency.

SANTIAGO: Petito's fiance Brian Laundrie was reportedly last seen two weeks ago today. Police say his parents claim he left the House with a backpack to go to a nearby nature reserve. They reported him missing three days later.

The Laundries releasing a statement through their attorney Monday night denying they helped their son get away saying in part, Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.

The search for Laundrie intensified, the mystery deepening. After more than a week of the authorities focusing their search on the 25,000- acre nature reserve near the Laundrie's home, law enforcement officials say the FBI operation is being scaled back and targeted based on intelligence.

A federal warrant has been issued for his arrest for using another person's debit card and PIN number without permission between August 30th and September 1st. The date Laundrie returned home without his fiance.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And, Jake, today the Petito family wouldn't go into details about their relationship with the Laundrie family, but 11 days after Brian Laundrie was reported missing, they are calling on him to turn himself in.

TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago in North Port, Florida, thank you.

Coming up next, we now know why then-President Trump took a mysterious trip to Walter Reed Hospital. And we'll tell you.

Stay with us.




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: President Trump today made an unexpected and unannounced trip to the doctor's office. Reporters covering the White House were asked to keep quiet about the president's visit to Walter Reed Medical Center until he arrived there.


TAPPER: That was November 2019. Now today, nearly two years after former President Trump made that mysterious trip to Walter Reed, we finally have an explanation, according to a new tell-all book from the former Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

And CNN's Kate Bennett joins us now live.

So, Kate, it turns out he went to Walter Reed for a colonoscopy which is a common procedure for individuals over 45, but there's more to the story.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, it's interesting that he did not want to go fully under as most people do -- opt to during a colonoscopy. They're put out because it's an uncomfortable procedure, instead was sedated but did not want to sign over power to Mike Pence, which has to be done per, I think, the 25th amendment, that if the president is not capable of being conscious, you know it would go to the vice president.

But, apparently, he didn't want the sign of weakness. He didn't want people knowing. You know, a lot of presidents have made a colonoscopy or any sort of routine medical procedure that all Americans are advised to go through by their doctor a public event so that, you know, have a good example of what we're supposed to do with our health.

TAPPER: Yeah, sure.

BENNETT: This was not that. For Trump, he's a germophobe. He's someone who considers weakness to be the worst sin in the world. He didn't want it exposed.

TAPPER: Interesting. And also, Grisham was at the time an enthusiastic defender of President Trump but in this book, she describes a rather hostile work environment, sexist work environment.

BENNETT: Absolutely. She -- I have a copy of the book. She discusses, you know, president Trump having conversations with her about her sex life with her ex-boyfriend who was also a White House employee. She also describes a passage where a young press aide was continually asked to go into the president's private cabin on Air Force One. At one point when Grisham wasn't present, she did hear that the president was telling others to check out the back side of this young female press wrangler.

Certainly, you know, hostilities, eruptions of anger, volatility. These are all things that Grisham experienced and writes about in her book, a very hostile work environment, as you say.

TAPPER: Yeah, doesn't sound pleasant.

Kate Bennett, thanks so much. Good to see you as always.

Today, General Mark Milley addressed some of the major revelations from the new book "Peril." Author Bob Woodward will join us right after this.



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

This hour, are you waiting to vaccinate your child? Well, Pfizer just took a major step with its vaccine for kids 5 to 11. We'll talk to the U.S. surgeon general ahead. Plus, 30 years after her testimony, Anita Hill joins me live to

discuss what has changed and what has sadly stayed the same in American workplaces.

And leading, one of the most anticipated congressional hearing involving top military brass on the deadly and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan brought a stunning revelation today. CentCom Commander Kenneth McKenzie testified that he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley recommended leaving 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. That testimony contradicts what President Biden said in August telling ABC news, quote, no, they didn't tell him to keep troops in the country.

General Milley also addressed stunning reporting from the new book "Peril." The co-author Bob Woodward will join me in a moment to react.

But, first, CNN's Alex Marquardt starts us off this hour.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDEN (voice- over): The U.S. military's most senior leadership in charge of the war in Afghanistan today facing tough questions from a Senate committee.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We certainly did not plan against a collapse of a government in 11 days.

MARQUARDT: Questions about the chaotic evacuation, the decision to withdraw. Troop levels and how the Afghan army and government imploded so quickly.