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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Pelosi Warns Dems: "Difficult Decisions Must Be Made Very Soon"; Poll: Trust In Biden Falls For Americans Who Thought Pandemic Would Be Over; Raiders Coach Quits After Homophobic, Racist, Misogynistic E-mails; Task Force Proposes Adults 60 Plus Should Not Take Daily Aspirin To Prevent Heart Disease Or Stroke; Texas Governor Bans All COVID Vaccine Mandate In State; CNN: Autopsy Reveals Gabby Petito Died By "Manual" Strangulation; Last Vital Clue To COVID Origins May Sit In Wuhan Hospital; NOAA: Unprecedented Eighteen $1 Billion Disasters So Far This Year. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 17:00   ET



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Mostly we would be cutting back on years and something like that.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think would you ever drop one of those programs?

PELOSI: Well, we hope not. We hope not.


RAJU: So the key line there cutting back on the number of years. But the question, though, Jake, is that enough to win over, say, Joe Manchin? Is that enough to win over Kyrsten Sinema, the moderates, particularly in the Senate, even some in the House, in order to get this big bill through? Remember, they want to get this done by the end of the month.

It's still uncertain whether they can do that. Pelosi has made clear here that she's going to move as quickly as possible, but uncertain if she would have to push back that timeframe, Jake. So questions remain about whether they can get it all together, and how quickly they can do it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's discuss with my august panel.

Paul Begala, let me ask you, were you surprised by Pelosi's letter? I mean, she seemed to be saying we're going to have to do what the moderates want to do in order for this to become law.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, she has a grasp of the obvious. She's grounded in reality, which I think some of my friends in the party opposite or not. And she's just stating the facts. She wanted the much bigger package, they're going to have to compromise.

Now, I committed mathematics before the show. Let's say they get a $2 trillion deal, add that to the American rescue package, which already passed, which 1.8 trillion, add that to $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which I think will pass, you get five, count them, $5 trillion, the size of the entire American economy under Ronald Reagan.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: This is not a small deal. This is a huge deal.

AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's seems like for $5 trillion Democrats could clearly explain what people are getting.

BEGALA: Exactly.

CARPENTER: Because I understand that we have already spent trillions of dollars, people are already getting money in their checking accounts, and they don't seem to be giving Joe Biden any credit --


CARPENTER: -- because these polls are tanking. And I understand --

BEGALA: Because of the infighting. You're exactly right.

CARPENTER: Because Nancy Pelosi is upset that the media isn't covering the bill. She doesn't even know what's in the bill.

TAPPER: Right.

CARPENTER: How could anybody cover it if we don't know what's in it? And then the story is the fight.

TAPPER: Ryan, how does this end? I mean, it does seem like Democrats are saying that this -- they're confident this actually will be resolved, that there will be a package that can pass the Senate? Do you agree?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, there's going to be some universe of policies that Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin can agree on that somewhere between the numbers they're dealing with right now at 1.8 and $2.3 trillion.

There's some university of policies that Democrats can agree on that fit in that bucket. What I think Pelosi has been doing with these letters and she's, you know, she -- there's a dear colleague letter every few days, if you watch this carefully, is she's been gradually lowering expectations. You know, it started out with this number that has been imprinted on the minds of most progressive, 3.5 trillion, and she's been trying with these letters to say, it's going to go down, it's going to go down, it's going to go down.

That was last week's action, everyone agreed up there that it's going to be around 2 trillion. Even if you know Bernie Sanders has said that out loud.

Now the next part is policy wise, what goes in and what goes out. And this is turning into another moderate progressive debate. The progressive argument for, whatever reason, I'm not sure why this is the progressive view is, we want everything in there, but sunset it to keep the price at 2 trillion.


LIZZA: The mods are a little bit more in the no, let's be more refined about the policies, get them right and do them at the typical 10-year window so there's no -- we don't create these fiscal cliffs.

TAPPER: Do you think this all can happen by October 31, which is the Democrats self-imposed deadlines? They have a knack for the self- imposed deadlines that they then miss. But here's the latest one, October 31, will they make it?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTM, MCCLATCHY: Well, you're always putting on the spot to make this pretty (INAUDIBLE), Jake, about whether or not they're going to make it.

TAPPER: Always bet against combats (ph).

CARPENTER: Yes, the seatbelt is always well.

TAPPER: That's my story, too.

CHAMBERS: Here's what I would say, what Bernie Sanders is saying out loud today is that he still wants to 3.5 trillion, he's still feels like he is already compromised enough. He said today that it's -- the time is long overdue for Senators Manchin and Sinema to say what they want. Really putting the onus back on them to say, listen, what would you like to see corrupt from this? You want this number you tell us what you would be willing to vote for within this price range.

And so, there is a sense, though, from progressives, if they set the tone today, that they are accepting it is going to have to be scaled back, as you said, most likely in a reduction of years, really outlining the fact that they do see themselves in line with House Speaker Pelosi.

TAPPER: And the entire Biden, it's not just legislation, right? We're also talking about who's going to control Congress, who's going to troll the control of the Senate. There was a striking quote in "The Washington Post," the founder of the Black Male Voter Project said to "The Washington Post," "I think the frustration is at an all-time high, and Biden can't go to Georgia or any other black state in the South and say, "This is what we delivered in 2021." So they need to deliver something in 2021 if they want to be able to go to Democratic voters and say, please turn out at the poll.

CARPENTER: Yes, and I don't think the infrastructure reconciliation bill is the answer, but it's part of the answer. I mean, when people look around right now, I think people mostly expected for things to be feeling better by now. Things haven't really changed. We're still dealing with COVID, inflation seems to be taking hold with higher gas prices. You go to the stores, the shelves aren't stocked like normal.



CARPENTER: You know, I think people are beginning to wonder, we went through this last Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are we going into another tough holiday season? I mean, that's hard to deal with.

TAPPER: Although I do think, I mean, things are improving on the COVID front. But I think -- but not necessarily for Joe Biden.

Francesca, there's this new Axios-Ipsos poll showing a trend between declining trust in President Biden and the drawn out timeline for a return to normal after the pandemic. For people who felt like the pandemic had already ended back in June, 72 percent didn't trust Biden, now that numbers jumped to 86 percent. So the longer this goes on without people being able to go out without masks or even more, even more strict measures, they do hold it against Biden.

CHAMBERS: And the White House knows that that's a problem. Why as for Secretary Jen Psaki actually comment on this the other day, and she acknowledged that the President's numbers on COVID aren't great. But she seemed to attribute that more to Americans taking it out on the President, right, all of these things that are slightly out of his control. He's pushing the vaccine mandates, you know, in their view, he's trying to do all of these things. But it doesn't change the fact that in poll after poll, it's not just one poll that Americans are frustrated with COVID-19 right now, and certainly Joe Biden is having trouble with independence.

LIZZA: Independence and Republicans, those have been the big decline in Biden's approval rating. He's down to 45 percent. Not so great. And COVID isn't where the administration predicted it would be at this point.

The economy has been much more -- the recovery has been bumpier than people thought earlier this year. And his legislative agenda is completely stuck right now. So, he's going through the worst of it in his first year.

You could -- and look, I don't know which way all these things will go, but you could easily see all of those things, unsticking and improving next year. The economy getting better, COVID fight with some of the vaccine mandates finally --


LIZZA: -- being in the rearview mirror. And I wouldn't bet against them getting some package, right? They've already got the infrastructure bill in the can. And they're going to come up with some --

TAPPER: Are they?

LIZZA: They're going to come up with something. You said, there'll be a lot of can (ph) before you know.

BEGALA: I would never ever bet against Nancy Pelosi. I think she's the finest --


TAPPER: -- you'll predict.

BEGALA: Right. But I mean that's --

TAPPER: I always put Francesca on the spot on.

CARPENTER: But even if they do pass, I think giving how much anger the progressives have already had in trashing the bill, if it's not going to be 3.5 billion --

BEGALA: Right.

CARPENTER: -- I think they've already stepped on their way.

TAPPER: That's a good point, because if this does pass, and let's say it's $2 trillion, and you just did all that math, it's actually 5 trillion that you're putting out there in the American economy, and yet you have people on the left having heard now from progressives --

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: -- this is crap, this is awful. This is not what we want.

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: This passes. Does the left get excited? The voters --

BEGALA: They're going to have to. Their leaders, right, their leaders are going to have to come and make the case that we fought for as much as, which is I think true, as much as we could get. But there's a thread missing in the Democratic messaging that's really important.

TAPPER: Just one thread?

BEGALA: There's a tapestry. It's messing, Jake. It's the carpet.


BEGALA: The thread of the threat. When Biden was vice president and was running with Barack Obama for reelection, remember he say, don't compare us to the almighty just to the alternative.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: Right. There's a real threat. I mean, the former president, not just Jimmy Carter, building houses for the poor. OK, he's inciting an insurrection. I've got a piece coming out tonight or tomorrow on, shameless plug, and I really don't think this is hysterical. I'm a pretty moderate guy. If the Democrats fail, it might be the end of American democracy.

It's not just Mitt Romney comes in instead of Barack Obama or John Kerry comes in instead of George W. Bush, OK? This is the insurrectionist mob coming back if the Democrats can't get their act together, this may be the last act.

TAPPER: Well, because you're saying because when you talk about Biden's approval ratings in the 40s, right?


TAPPER: In some of the battleground states, if you talk to politicians out there --


TAPPER: -- it's in the 30s, right?


TAPPER: I mean --


TAPPER: -- if California, New York are pumping up those -- the populations are pumping up those numbers --


TAPPER: -- and they are very afraid, Democrats in those states. Take a look at Virginia, right? Terry McAuliffe on the ballot. Former President Barack Obama going to stump for McAuliffe 10 days before the election. Democrats are worried that he might lose to Glenn Youngkin, the Republican?

CHAMBERS: Oh, absolutely. And the fact that the former president is going -- should tell you what you need to know, it's not like Barack Obama is out there all the time campaigning anymore. He's kind of stepped back from some of that. And we don't know if Joe Biden is going back to Virginia. The White House has just said today --

TAPPER: We don't know if it would help. We don't know if it would help.

CHAMBERS: Yes. We also -- I mean, we've heard Terry McAuliffe's comments, you know, about how the president is not very popular. So we also don't know if it would help, Jake.

But the White House is not nearly sweating this bill as much as Paul. Paul might be sweating it over here.


CHAMBERS: They still think that this is going to get done. And as for the progressives, they're sort of backing off of what some of the things that you said, Jake. They're again recognizing that they're not going to get 10 years for all the things that they would like. And they're going to have to probably scale some of those back.

They do think that climate, though, they say the climate is one thing where they don't see how you could settle for less than 10 years in most of what they want to do.

TAPPER: All right. Well, goodluck.


BEGALA: I want Obama to bring Trump in to Virginia.


BEGALA: I'm a close friend of Terry's, my son works for the polling firm, that's polling for Terry, so I'm all in. He's my friend 34 years.

I want President Obama. He loves doing this. He did a terrific job for Biden on this 2020. Troll Trump. Bait Trump to come in to Virginia.

Why isn't Trump coming into Virginia to campaign? He's endorsed Glenn Youngkin for five times.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: I want Trump come in to Virginia. I think Obama should come in.

TAPPER: You're mischief my friend. I see what you're doing. I see your mischief.

Thank you all. Appreciate it.

Some football players are saying, this is the Jon Gruden they knew all along after racist and misogynistic and homophobic e-mails from the ex-Raiders coach has surfed (ph). One of those players will join me next.

Plus, sad new details this afternoon with a coroner revealing how Gabby Petito was killed. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our sports lead today, a used car salesman, that's Keyshawn Johnson, a former NFL greats who played under Jon Gruden described the now ex Las Vegas Raiders head coach today. Take a listen.


KEYSHAWN JOHNSON, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: He just always been a fraud to me. He just always been a fraud to me. Never from day one he's been a used car salesman and people bought it.


TAPPER: Gruden resigned suddenly last night about an hour after "The New York Times" reported on e-mails he sent years ago using racist, misogynistic and homophobic language.

CNN Sports Correspondent Coy Wire joins me now.

And Coy, these e-mails were discovered as part of an investigation, but the investigation had nothing to do with Gruden.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, that's right. This is all coming out of the NFL's investigation into the workplace culture of the Washington football team where the league reviewed 650,000 e- mails, some of which were between teams then President Bruce Allen and Gruden who was working for ESPN at the time.

"The New York Times" says that they are from a seven-year period ending in early 2018 and say that Gruden used racially insensitive language to describe NFL players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, denounced women being employed as on field officials, denounce tolerance for players protesting during the national anthem, criticized a team drafting an openly gay player, and used homophobic language to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Jake, it has now resulted, of course, in Gruden resigning less than four full years into his 10-year $100 million contract that he signed in 2018 to be the head coach of the Raiders.

TAPPER: Now Gruden said, in response, that he never meant to hurt anyone, but he didn't specifically apologize to any of the people he was smearing in those e-mails.

WIRE: Yes. Gruden has said that he reached out to DeMaurice Smith, the head of the players union. Smith says that he would connect with him soon.

And as for the current Raiders players, Jake, we have not heard from any of them yet. NFL teams usually have Tuesday's off spending time with family or giving back to the community.

The team is scheduled to play in Denver this Sunday. Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia, a longtime assistant under Gruden has been named as the team's interim head coach.

The reported details of Gruden's racist, misogynistic, anti-gay emails are hurtful to many, Jake, one of the players he coach, currently on the Raiders Roster, Carl Nassib, the NFL's first active openly gay player. Gruden's son, Deuce, as an assistant strength and conditioning coach still with the organization. So Jake, there's going to be a lot of heart to heart difficult conversations within that locker room, within those walls as the players and staff look to continue with their season.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Coy Wire, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Joining us now to discuss, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver under Gruden, Michael Clayton. He's the author of the book "Chasing My Rookie Year, The Michael Clayton Story."

Michael, thanks so much for joining us.

So you've talked openly about the dark moments you experienced under Coach Gruden. After reading what he wrote in those e-mails, were you surprised?

MICHAEL CLAYTON, AUTHOR, "CHASING MY ROOKIE YEAR": I was not surprised simply because I've had a history with Jon Gruden. And it's unfortunate that everything has -- the people have been hurt. The good thing is that everything has come full circle. And now that his character has been revealed, people fully understand the turmoil that has been caused and that players have gone through.

You know, I look at former players like Antonio Brown who had a situation in Oakland, I look at guys like Khalil Mack who had a situation with the Raiders. And what I know, based upon my experience, what I had to go through personally, I could fully understand, but sometimes your story isn't always told. So now we get to fully see what Jon Gruden was all about.

It's unfortunate for his family. It's unfortunate for the coaches who have had to remain silent under his leadership, and especially for the players who have had to hold in their emotions under his leadership because we live in a culture where when you have a good job like playing in the National Football League, you can't always speak out. So now that those guys -- I'm excited to see that they have now a relief, if they were in fact harmed emotionally, by Jon Gruden.

TAPPER: Well let's talk about these larger cultural issues within the NFL. First, let's go to the homophobia. It's worth noting until last night Gruden coach the only openly gay NFL player, Carl Nassib, as Coy just mentioned, who by the way has not made a public comments about this yet. Take us into a typical NFL locker room, is that kind of language normal?

CLAYTON: You know, honestly, it varies. It depends on where you are, who's the leader on that team, and what's really tolerated by your captains on that team.

Honestly speaking, growing up playing a game of football, it was, you know, naturally frowned upon growing up, but we've grown, we've matured in our time and we've learned to accept things and accept people for who they are. So as times have changed, the expectation is for you to get better, especially when you're fortunate enough to wear the tag of the NFL brand. Whether you're a player or coach, there's a certain standard that you have to uphold.


And look, these e-mails were sent to somebody. So that speaks to the culture that is not only from Jon Gruden or from head coach, but it speaks to the larger culture at hand that it is present. And hopefully after this situation kind of fully unfolds that people understand what players go through, what people in other organizations go through when a leader like that is at the helm at an elevated position.

TAPPER: And then there's the sexist misogynistic comments he made about female refs or five full time female refs in the league right now. And even though they don't say it publicly, do you get the sense that other players, other coaches might agree with Gruden's sexist remarks about female referees?

CLAYTON: I can't honestly speak to that. I definitely don't know. I know that we have a tremendous culture here in Tampa Bay, with Bruce Arians at the helm, who kind of showed the NFL world how it's done, bringing in women to work for our organization who have done a tremendous job.

And I think, you know, you just have to lead by example. We have some great examples of, you know, the majority of coaches.

I coached -- played under Coach Rich Bisaccia. I know that those players are going to absolutely love him, adore him. And I know that players because coaches like that that I've had an experience with are not like that. And I haven't met -- I haven't honestly met anybody who says the same sentiment as Jon Gruden. But who knows what happens goes behind what people say behind closed doors.

You know, obviously, you act a certain way at work, but when you go, you know, when you go home, you're talking a certain way. I just believe that Jon Gruden was at such an elevated high position based upon my experience that he deemed himself as an untouchable. And now that things have all come full circle, he has to bear the price of the things that he did. And hopefully he comes out well on the other side.

I'm still fortunate for the things that he did for me and my family. It's so easy to kick a person when they're down. And I even say to the world, even though we go through things like this and we see people who go through things like this, a believer like myself, if you feel like you are a believer in God, you don't have the luxury to be a part of a canceled culture because you have to love those who do wrong by you.

So, I choose to, hey, I can talk my truth, but at the same time, Jon Gruden is a person who needs support too at this moment, especially his family and his kids. And I just say, man, anybody who's been blessed by Jon Gruden has had a joyous time.

You know, have a heart for someone who's going through this situation as well. I understand that the chaos that has caused, but listen, we all have to come together and he needs support as well. So it's a bittersweet situation for me.

TAPPER: Right. Yes, I mean, I take your point, I mean, redemption and forgiveness. But there has to be contrition, right, there has to be an apology which we haven't really heard yet.

I do want to ask about racism, though, because in your book you tell experience you had with the box where a white assistant coach use the N word and you write quote, "I would think to myself how comfortable he must be around me to say this to my face. He grabbed my shoulder and said it with conviction. I did not say a word. I forced a grin and shook my head."

Now to be clear, that's not Gruden who used the N word, but it was a coach who worked for Gruden. How does this speak to an overall acceptance of racism in either on the Gruden team or the NFL at large?

CLAYTON: Well, Jake, I have to be honest with you, in my book, I do not detail what that coach's title was. I said that his name will be unnamed. And for me to come on national television and say that an assistant coach said that, I think that it would speak to some people specifically. So, I just would like to say, hey, a coach told me that.

And for someone to say that so openly, I was 23 years old. And it damaged me tremendously emotionally to the point to where 15 years later I've been dealing with the repercussions of holding that emotion in. My family has suffered simply because when I'm reminded of those dark moments, something that is still in me, I've grown as a person, I've been able to be healed. I tell the world, listen, hurt people, hurt people, and healed people, healed people.

And I just want to make sure that the message is out clearly. I'm a healed person. And I take a different perspective. I don't hold blame for anything that happened in my career. I'm part to blame for some of the things that went on that. But no player should be subject to that type of language and in that type of situation, and hopefully the NFL does it -- does their diligence in eradicating those type of leaders who fall into that category.


TAPPER: All right, Michael's book is "Chasing My Rookie Year." Former NFL wide receiver, Michael Clayton, thank you so much for your candor and for your insight. We really appreciate it.

CLAYTON: Thank you.

TAPPER: It could be a sea change and the effort to prevent heart attacks. Why one group is now proposing older adults avoid taking daily Aspirin. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our health lead, a proposal for a dramatic and surprising change in the guidance that we've heard for years about taking low dose Aspirin every day to help prevent heart disease and stroke if you're over age 60. Let's go to Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen now.

Elizabeth, what are the changes?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, when the recommendations came out decades ago that some people should consider taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke, it may have gone a little bit too far. It's good for many people, but it's not good for everyone because a daily aspirin can put you at risk for more bleeding. The aspirin can make you or can contribute to bleeding, it's especially a problem with older people, and you don't want to have that happen.

So let's take a look at what the U.S. Preventive Task Force is proposing in its most recent proposal to change these guidelines. So what they said is that if you have had a heart attack or a stroke, and your doctor has been telling you to take a daily aspirin, keep taking it. That's so important. We want people to hear that. If you've had a heart attack or stroke, and your doctor wants you want a low-dose aspirin, keep doing that.

But if you have not had a heart attack or stroke, and you're age 60 or over, you should not be taking a daily aspirin, according to a draft of these recommendations. Again, that's because of the risk of bleeding. If you have not had a heart attack or stroke, and you don't have a history of that, and you're ages 40 to 59, you should talk to your doctor. A daily aspirin might be helpful for you if you're at risk for having a heart attack or stroke, but it might not be a good idea. This is an individual decision you would have to make with your doctor. Jake?

TAPPER: Why are these proposed changes happening now?

COHEN: I think what these experts were figuring out was that people were taking this too far. There were people who were taking a daily aspirin who perhaps didn't need to be. And more and more evidence was coming in that this was a problem, especially for older people because of the bleeding risk. So as more evidence came in, as more studies were done, they said, hey, we need to take a look at this again.

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

Let's get a doctor's opinion now from the Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha. Dr. Jha, good to see you. So what do you think of these proposed changes in who should be taking an aspirin every day as a preventive measure? Basically, they're saying, if you're over 60, if you have had a history of a stroke or heart attack, take the aspirin but don't just take it preventively if you haven't.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. Jake, first of all, thanks for having me back. You know, I think back to medical school, when I first learned about prevention of heart attacks and strokes with aspirin, it was, in some ways, it became dogma. But I think over the last 20 years, the evidence is accumulated that for a lot of people, the risks clearly outweigh the benefits.

And so, I think, Elizabeth's report really got it right, right? That, basically, if you've had a heart attack or stroke, you need to continue it, obviously, work with your doctor. If you've not, the evidence at this point for most people is, that it's probably not worth it. If the cost probably outweigh the benefits, again, consult with your doctor, but don't just automatically start an aspirin.

TAPPER: So this recommendation for low-dose aspirin every day for people over 60, it's been standard medical advice for years. Is this going to cause needless confusion? Is this going to further undermine public trust at a time we need public trust in the medical community to be strong?

JHA: Well, I hope not. And the reason is, look, this is how medicine works. When I think about what I practice today when I'm in the hospital, it's pretty different from what I learned 20 years ago. Medicine changes. Evidence comes in. Treatments we thought worked turned out not to work as well as we thought. Other things turn out to work well. Medicine is constantly evolving, and I hope people understand that this is just part of that evolution.

TAPPER: Speaking of confusion, let's turn to Texas Governor Greg Abbott's new executive order. He's saying that no businesses, no schools, no restaurants, no one can impose a vaccine mandate for their employees. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines say they're going to ignore his order. They're going to keep the vaccine mandates for employees. Also, a new Axios-Ipsos poll shows that 65 percent support vaccine mandates for health care workers. How do you respond to all this?

JHA: Yes, I think it's really unfortunate. I mean, look, we're what, 20 months into this pandemic, we've got the tools that we need to end the pandemic and move on with our lives, and hampering private businesses. The government stepping in and stopping private businesses from creating safe spaces is wholly unnecessary.

I don't totally understand why the governor of Texas is doing this, certainly isn't very helpful from a public health point of view. And I hope businesses do the right thing for their employees and customers and continue to require vaccines.

TAPPER: Texas is home to some major drug and healthcare companies. U.S. News & World Report named the University of Texas's MD Anderson Cancer Center as the number one cancer center in the U.S. How might this affect hospitals?

JHA: Yes, I think on the hospital and there's really no debate. I mean, you cannot have hospitals take care of immunocompromised, high- risk individuals. You can't run a hospital consciously and in a ethical way without a vaccine mandate.

So, I don't know what these hospitals are going to do. They're in a quandary. I think it's hard to push back against a governor. I hope there's at least a carve-out for healthcare institutions.


TAPPER: The new Axios poll I referred to also found growing pessimism in the United States about when life might return to some semblance of normal. 30 percent expected to take more than a year. That's more than tripled since early June. When do you think we're going to get back to something like normal?

JHA: Yes, I would be more optimistic than that. I understand why people feel that way because we just went through this Delta surge after what felt like we should have had a good summer. Look, at this point, a good number of Americans have been vaccinated. We need more. We need more Americans vaccinated.

I think in places with high vaccination rates, you're going to start seeing a normalization in the upcoming months. In places with low vaccination rates, they may struggle for longer.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Ashish Jha, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Breaking today, the cause of death in the Gabby Petito case as her fiancee remains missing. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, CNN has obtained new details about Gabby Petito's death. Documents reveal that she died by manual strangulation. Earlier today, a Wyoming coroner also said the manner of her death was a homicide.

Now as CNN's Athena Jones reports, this could change how investigators handle the search for Brian Laundrie, Petito's fiancee, who returned to his home in Florida without her and then disappeared.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gabby Petito died of manual strangulation.

DR. BRENT BLUE, TETON COUNTY CORONER: The manner of death of Gabrielle Lenore Petito, we find the cause and manner to be cause, death by strangulation, and the manner is homicide.

JONES (voice-over): The 22-year olds remains were found September 19th in a camping area in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, eight days after her family reported her missing.

BLUE: Our initial determination is the body was in the wilderness for three to four weeks.

JONES (voice-over): Now, after an extensive examination, the coroner revealing more details about when and how Petito died.

BLUE: This autopsy included a whole body CAT scan examination by forensic pathologist and examination by a forensic anthropologist and toxicology evaluation. So it was pretty much covered all the basis.

JONES (voice-over): The coroner also revealing DNA samples were taken from the body. The new details coming as the search for Petito's fiancee, Brian Laundrie, now in its fourth week, drags on. Laundrie has not been charged in connection with Petito's death, but he is suspected of using her debit card to access over $1,000 after her death.

A federal warrant has been issued for his arrest, but he knows parents. Petito's parents telling Fox News last week --

JIM SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S STEPFATHER: Turn yourself in to do the right thing. Do the right thing for yourself. Do the right thing for Gabby, for our family and for your own family.


JONES (voice-over): Petito and Laundrie spent much of the summer traveling across the Mountain West, documenting their so-called van life on social media.

PETITO: Hello, hello and good morning. It is really nice and sunny today.

JONES (voice-over): But Petito's text to her family and her social media posts stopped abruptly in late August. About two weeks after this incident in Moab Utah on August 12th, where police pulled a couple over after receiving a 911 call about a possible domestic dispute.

PETITO: We've just been fighting all morning and he wouldn't let me in the car before.

JONES (voice-over): On September 1st, police say Brian Laundrie returned to the North Port, Florida home he and Petito share with his parents without Petito. And on September 13th, according to Brian Laundrie's parents, Brian left home with a backpack telling them he was heading to the nearby Carlton Reserve. They reported him missing to police September 17th, sparking a massive search.

SCHMIDT: What happened out there? You know, until they find him, we won't know.

NICHOLE SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S MOTHER: We believe he knows everything.

JONES (voice-over): Nearly four weeks later, Laundrie is still nowhere to be found.


JONES: Now, the coroner would not answer questions about whether Petito's body was found buried or on the surface of the ground, or explain how the team concluded strangulation was the cause of death, saying, we are only tasked with the determination of cause and manner of death. Who committed the homicide is up to law enforcement. Jake?

TAPPER: Athena, what more might we learn, for example, about the exact time of death?

JONES: Well, it doesn't look we're going to learn that. Petito's death certificate has not yet been completed. But the coroner said he does not expect an exact date of death to be included. Under Wyoming statute, they can give a date range.

Bottom line here, Jake, there's a lot of information from this autopsy report, this extensive autopsy report that we, in the public, are not going to be privy to. But I can bet you, law enforcement is and they're going to use some of those clues to help them, you know, investigate this case. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, it's a critical remaining clue to find out how coronavirus first started. The only problem, Chinese government is in control of it. We'll explain next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, a vital remaining clue into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, but we may never have learned the truth about it. I'm talking about blood samples, thousands of them sitting in a Wuhan Hospital in China. After two years, the Chinese government is preparing to test these samples but as it stands, the World Health Organization and other foreign experts will not be allowed to analyze the data independently. Meaning, the Chinese government is in charge of examining the results and revealing their findings.

And as Nick Paton Walsh reports, Chinese government doesn't exactly have a track record of transparency.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ground zero for the illness sparking global unease.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is likely a brand new viral pneumonia.

WALSH (voice-over): It is perhaps the last publicly known clue to where coronavirus came from. But will the world ever learn the truth of what it says? Tens of thousands of tiny blood samples taken in Wuhan in the last months of 2019 are still stored in a hospital there.

MAUREEN MILLER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: The samples from the blood bank absolutely will contain vital clues.


YANZHONG HUANG, PROFESSOR, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: This is the closest to the word we've seen a real time samples.


WALSH (voice-over): The samples might reveal when and even where antibodies against the virus first appeared in humans in October or November two years ago. China says they had to be kept for legal reasons for two years in case of lawsuits over the blood transfusions they are from. But now that limit is almost up for the key months at the end of 2019. And a Chinese official confirmed to CNN that China is preparing to test them. Echoing a promise from July when they said they would share the results.


WALSH (voice-over): Related institutions from the Chinese side, he says, also express that once they have the results, they will deliver them to both the Chinese and foreign expert teams. The samples come from the disposable tubes that carry donor blood into the donor bag, and it's something that WHO team said earlier this year, they wanted to examine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for the origins of the coronavirus.

WALSH (voice-over): They could contain vital detailed information.

HUANG: Might also help us to follow the trajectory of the spread of the virus, you know, by tracking the individuals who may carry the virus.

SCHAFFNER: And you would like to go back to find out exactly during which month this virus started to leave fingerprints in the human population in China.

MILLER: It is common practice to de-identify the samples. So you could strip it down to basic demographics, age, gender, neighborhood where they lived, all of those data will be available.

WALSH: (on-camera): But the same problem emerges again, it will be China and China alone, doing the testing and reporting their results. The U.S.'s recent report into the origins of the coronavirus and statements from allies have all demanded greater transparency from China. But now, this key data is being examined a full two years later. And there's no plan as it stands for outsiders like the WHO to be allowed in on it.

HUANG: In order to make it convincing and credible the results, I mean, ideally, you want to involve, you know, the WHO, you know, the foreign experts.

MILLER: I'm not completely certain that China has not done this testing and has not shared the results.

SCHAFFNER: What we always say is trust but verify. It truly would be better if the Chinese scientists would permit external scientists to be with them to collaborate to do this all together.

WALSH (voice-over): But instead, this vital remaining clue risks being mired in recriminations and uncertainty again.


WALSH: Two years, Jake, still two years now since the virus, most likely, according to a lot of the studies got into humans. They're still asking these questions. It's not like China isn't extremely curious, doesn't spend millions every year in trying to learn more about viruses in general. So you heard one of the experts touch on it there, there is some skepticism as to whether these tests may not possibly have already been done.

But great pressure for them to happen possibly again, or the first time now on those results, if not even the process to be made public and shared globally. Jake?

TAPPER: Nick, where does this leave the ongoing debate about the origins of COVID?

WALSH: Yes, I mean, look, this has been a huge issue of geopolitical contention. China's rivals pointing at it, essentially saying that maybe a lab leak was involved, the evidence behind that not public. And so, this particular set of samples could, if they revealed a cluster around people near a laboratory point to that, but more likely, it's all about leading to where the natural origins of this could have been. The southern supply chains of wet markets, other places in China, which are known areas where the viruses could have spread into humans in the past, and trying to dig into that. That's what this is such a vital set of live clues for. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nick, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, an unprecedented number that should concern all of us. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, Miami police chief and rising law enforcement star Art Acevedo is expected to lose his job just six months after arriving in South Florida. Today, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced that Acevedo's leadership is incompatible with the city, in his view. It all stems from an ongoing and heated disagreement between Acevedo and city leaders about changes within the police department.

If he is fired, he'll add to a growing and alarming trend in 2020 alone. 39 of 79 police chiefs in big cities have retired, resigned or been fired. The director of Major Cities Police Chiefs Organization says many are due to political pressure.

In our Earth matter series now, a fire that first sparked yesterday afternoon in Santa Barbara County has rapidly expanded to 6,000 acres and at this point, it is 0 percent contained with hundreds of firefighters battling the blaze. The U.S. has now seen an unprecedented number of billion dollar disasters in the first nine months of this year. 18 climate and weather disasters so far, according to the U.S. government.

Scientists blame human caused climate change for more frequent extreme weather events. Later this month, the U.N. Climate Change Conference will convene today the president of the International Climate Summit pressed the world's leaders to come up with more ambitious goals, warning that the world will either, quote, succeed or fail as one.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.