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Federal Judge Issues Order Blocking Texas Abortion Law; House Panel Spoke with Former Trump Justice Official; Lawmakers May Avert Debt Crisis for Now; Biden and Xi to Meet Virtually Before End of the Year; Flash Flood Emergency Issued in Central Alabama; Laundrie's Parents Clarify When They Last Saw Their Son; Rainforest at Risk as Deforestation and Fires Rage in Brazil. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 07, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London and just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A really sharp rebuke. Really, I'm just afraid the court of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Judge Pittman had no patience at all for what Texas was done here.


SOARES: Flagrantly unconstitutional -- a federal judge blocks the enforcement of the Texas six-week abortion law.

Time is running out before Trump aides issued with subpoenas as the January 6th committee begins interviewing key witnesses.

Plus closing in. A renewed search for Gabby Petito's fiancee focuses on a fresh campsite in Florida. We have the details.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Isa Soares.

SOARES: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the show. It is Thursday, October 7th, and we begin with a significant legal victory for abortion rights advocates to strikes down a controversial and restrictive abortion law in Texas. A federal judge has blocked a state's ban on abortion after the six weeks of pregnancy.

The judge is granting the Justice Department's request, quote, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.

He goes on to say, this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.

Texas has already indicated that it will appeal. The Texas law has sparked anger and nationwide protests as women fight for reproductive rights. The law to protect last month after the Supreme Court declined an emergency request to block it. Our CNN legal analysts have been weighing on this latest decision.


JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Judge Pittman had no patience at all for what Texas has done here which is really purposefully written a law in order to evade the federal court's from testing that law's constitutionality. I mean, he makes it perfectly plain. And this is what makes it so puzzling that five of the nine, you know, supposedly the most brilliant legal minds in our nation on the Supreme Court couldn't figure how to possibly issue an injunction here. Well, Judge Pittman figured it out. You just literally enjoin everyone in the state of Texas including everyone who works in the courts from excepting the lawsuits that SB8 allows to be filed. So, he had no patience at all for what the Supreme Court has done and no patience at all for what the legislators in Texas are trying to do, which is to not allow the federal courts to do their jobs of ensuring that all state laws are constitutional according to our federal constitution.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's a really sharp rebuke really of the Supreme Court of the United States. Their decision not to actually rule on the underlying constitutionality, or the idea of somebody thumbing their nose at the very valid or still in place precedent of Roe V. Wade. This could actually be a very decisive moment in terms of the longevity of their District Court ban. If it goes up to the Circuit Court of Appeals it might in fact actually be able to be reinstated. So right now, it is a victory for those who are in favor of abortion legal services and of course, Roe v. Wade. But it might be short-lived. But for now, it is a clear rebuke of an attempt to have an end run around a very clear precedent.


SOARES: Well, the decision has drawn strong reaction really from both sides of the issue. Planned Parenthood tweeted this.

It's been 36 days since Texas deprived its citizens of their constitutional right to abortion. The relief granted by the court today is overdue. We will continue fighting this ban in court, until we are certain that Texans' ability to access abortion is protected.

Meantime antiabortion rights groups, Texas right to life call the judge's decision while they brought and said quote: We are confident that the Texas Heartbeat Act will ultimately withstand this legal challenge and succeed where other states' heartbeat have not.

And in less than two months the Supreme Court is set to hear a case concerning a Mississippi abortion law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks. States across the country will be watching both Texas and Mississippi as others look to pass restrictive abortion-related measures. Reproductive rights groups fear these cases threatened to overturn the abortion protections established under Roe v. Wade in 1973. Of course, we will stay on top of that story for you. Now, a source confirms former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donahue is among the first witnesses interviewed the House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now Donahue took handwritten notes during a phone calls during which President Trump pressures him and the acting Attorney General to take steps to overturn the 2020 election.


Meanwhile, today is the deadline for four Trump allies -- you see them there -- subpoenaed by the committee to turn over documents. The panel hasn't been able to serve former Trump aide Dan Scavino with a subpoena because they can't find him. But they likely want to ask about Trump's actions on January 6th including this statement. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go home. We love you. You're very special. You've see what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel.


SOARES: Well, Trump has issued a statement saying the real insurrection hammed on November 3rd, the presidential election, not on January 6th, which was a day of protesting the fake election results.

The investigation into January 6 could be the biggest of its kind in U.S. history and penalties for those who don't cooperate could be severe.


JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The biggest surprise to me is that the House has not gotten itself in shape. There are procedures they could implement. Ted Lieu, Congressman from California -- my Congressman as a matter of fact -- introduced a resolution to the House rules that would give them a tool to enforce fines against people who refuse to honor subpoenas. And they could get quite significant. They could get up to $25,000 for the first hit, up to 100 and this could start repeating itself. That'll get people's attention if they have to pay that kind of money.

REP. PETER AGUILAR (D-CA): We'll continue to make progress. Members are engaged in this process. And our ultimate goal here is to produce a report that lays out exactly what happened on January 5th and January 6th and the events that led up to that.


SOARES: Well meanwhile, the January 6th Committee could face today -- could meet today with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Sources tell CNN she could provide insight into how Facebook was used to facilitate the violence at the U.S. Capitol. The committee sent letters to 15 social media company in August asking about misinformation and efforts to overturn the election on their platforms.

Well, U.S. lawmakers appear ready to resolve the debt limit crisis at least for now. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has floated a couple of options to head off a default and he says talks are continuing to finalize the measure. Democrats are waiting to see the plan in writing. Our Manu Raju has the details for you.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After weeks of a bitter standoff, signs that it could finally be easing here after Republicans suggested a short-term increase in the national debt ceiling. That's what Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, made clear, told his colleagues, earlier during the day, saying that yes indeed he is willing to raise the national debt ceiling or at least allow a vote to raise the national debt ceiling, until December. Giving Congress a couple of more months to hash things out.

Now he wants Democrats to use a budget process on Capitol Hill that would force them to essentially carry this vote ultimately on their own to deal with the national debt ceiling on a long-term basis. Democrats say they will not go that route that budget procedure because it opens them up to a lot of negative, very difficult, politically charged votes. As a result, it's uncertain how the long- term issue can be resolved.

Now the short-term issue does seem to be debated -- at least for now. There's an October 18th deadline to raise the national limit or they risk the country's first ever debt default. But with this short-term deal, assuming it get approved by the Senate and by the House -- I know there's no handcuffs over the next week or so -- then this immediate crisis could be resolved.

A lot of questions ahead still but Democrats at the moment are relieved because they believe this will give them a little bit more time at least to get their larger economic agenda through, not worried about this economic crisis. But just in a couple months they'll be right back at because under this proposal, it could be December when the debt ceiling is hit again, that means come November, Congress's back could be against the wall once again.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


SOARES: Now, U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping plan to meet virtually before the end of the year. A senior U.S. official says details will be worked out in the coming days. And that agreement came after days of record-breaking incursions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan's airspace. We've been bringing you those details every single day here on the show.

Well, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting with French officials in Paris this week, urged Beijing to cease its military activity near Taiwan. Let's get more on this story. CNN's Ivan Watson is following this for us from Hong Kong. And Ivan, put this all really into context for us. What would both sides be wanting to get out of this virtual meeting? Because I mean relations are pretty strained between both right now.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. And I would say that, Isa, we're probably seeing a new spirit of communication. Not cooperation but communication between the U.S. and Chinese governments.


And that is a result of a phone call between President Biden and President Xi a month ago, because the White House said it just wasn't getting anywhere at all in lower-level meetings with the Chinese government. As a result of that, you've had this meeting in Switzerland where Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan and the senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi. They were able to sit down without the kind of acrimony that we saw March when the same officials met in front of television cameras. And exchanged criticisms and insults.

In this case it was a six-hour closed-door meeting. They were able to touch upon the areas of disagreement. For example, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, Xinjiang, the China's human rights record. The Chinese official were able to warn the United States not to interfere in its internal affairs. To respect China's territorial integrity and national security interests. And we're hearing from the U.S. side there is some kind of agreement in principle for a virtual summit by the end of the year.

The White House has been arguing it needs some channels of communication to establish guard rails between the world's two largest economies. In the White House buzzword is responsible competition. To make sure that a flash point doesn't spin out of control or erupt.

And the case in point here is Taiwan. Where China sent a record number of warplanes over the course of a holiday weekend. Those flights have tapered off. Nonetheless, the U.S. government has issued warnings. Take a listen to what Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State had to say.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The activity is destabilizing. It risks miscalculation and it has the potential to undermine regional peace and stability. So, we strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion directed at Taiwan.


WATSON: Of course, China insists that Taiwan, which has never been governed by the Communist Party is a breakaway region of China and refuses any attempt to recognize Taiwan's independence and has never ruled out the possibility of using force against Taiwan -- Isa.

SOARES: Ivan Watson for us there in Hong Kong. Thanks very much, Ivan. Great to see you.

Well, as you can see there, water rushing across streets in central Alabama where a flash flood emergency has been issued in Jefferson and Shelby Counties. Across the Birmingham metro area, we're told a number of water rescues have been taking place. And there are reports of damage to homes and trees blocking roadways. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more. And Derek, these images are pretty staggering. Give us a sense really of just how bad it is and how long this may last?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Isa, you know this was an extreme amount of rain in a short period of time. The infrastructure here just couldn't simply handle that amount of rain. In fact, it led to the flash flood emergency that was issued within Birmingham, Alabama, flooding roadways, that water creeping into businesses, into homes. There were swift water and high-water rescues that took place within this area.

And now, Birmingham, on average, the entire month of October receives about 3.34 inches of rain. That's for the entire month. Now just in a very short period of time, we're talking maximum of 12 hours. They received in some locations up to 7 inches of rainfall just south of the city. So that is nearly two times the average rainfall that they would receive in the entire month just in that 12-hour period. So that's a lot of rain in a short period of time that led to the flash flooding.

Now this area has just been extremely saturated. Here's Alabama. Here's central Tennessee. Look at central Georgia as well all the way to the Florida Panhandle. Remember, we've got our moisture source just to our south. That is the Gulf of Mexico. We often get that influx of rain from the ocean and that just dumps copious amounts of precipitation across the area.

The National Weather Service here in the United States recognized this. They knew that the flood potential was there. They hoisted flash flood watches across this area, and that shading of red you see over Birmingham is the flash flood warning that took place that's in effect through the morning hours there because of the excessive rain that you saw there a moment ago.

Weather predictions center here in the U.S. had identified moderate risks of flash flooding across these locations. Now you can see that it's going to shift eastward through the course of the day today. So, look out the Atlanta metro area, you still have several inches of rain in your forecast for the rest of the day.


That could lead to some localized flooding across that region -- Isa.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Derek. Good to see you.

Now Southern Pakistan has been rocked by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. At least 20 people are confirmed dead including seven children. The epicenter was near the remote mountain village of Harnai about 100 kilometers from Quetta. And rescuers had to work with flash lights because power was knocked out. The quake triggered a rockslide that blocked a road into the village. Officials say at least 94 had to be airlifted by helicopter.

Now, three weeks after disappearing, police are ramping up their search efforts for Gabby Petito's fiancee. Why they are returning to a Florida nature reserve.

Plus, a TV exclusive. An Amazon defenders take you deep into the rain forest risking their lives to protect the Amazon. Why this battle in Brazil has global consequences -- when we return.


Now, Texas police say they now have a suspected gunman of Wednesday's high school shooting in custody. Four people were injured in the shooting at Timberview High School on Wednesday.


Among those victims two were shot and three hospitalized. Now police say the 18-year-old suspect turned himself in without incident. He will be charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Now, new developments in the search for Gabby Petito's fiancee Brian Laundrie. A source close to the family says police have found the remains of a recently used campsite in a Florida nature reserve. That's where Laundrie's family said their son was headed the last time they saw him. This comes as the attorneys for the Laundrie family says police asked Brian's father to help search that reserve. But they later postponed his involvement. CNN's Athena Jones has more on what the families are saying.



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Gabby Petito's fiancee, Brian Laundrie now missing for more than three weeks, law enforcement still searching for him in the 25,000-acre Carlton Nature Reserve joined by officials from the Sarasota County sheriff's office. Authorities not saying what brought additional officers to the area today.

Petito's parents and step parents and their lawyer in an interview with Dr. Phil say they hope finding Laundrie will lead to answers about what happened to their daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope he's found. I really do. Like, I -- I -- no, I mean like alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to look him in the eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more he runs, the more he hides, the less he can try to say it was -- it was a mistake or he had nothing to do with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see him in a jail cell for the rest of his life.

JONES (voice-over): This as a lawyer for Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian Laundrie's parents, clarifies when Brian left home with a backpack telling his parents he was headed to the nearby reserve. The Laundries, initially, told law enforcement he left Tuesday, September 14th. But Stephen Bertolino now telling CNN we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13th. Bertolino saying the Laundries have had no contact with Brian and are concerned.

Petito and Laundrie had spent weeks traveling cross country in Petito's white Ford van. But Laundrie returned to the Florida home he and Petito shared with his parents in her van without Petito on September 1st. Her body was found in Wyoming on September 19th. The coroner ruling the death a homicide.

JIM SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S STEPFATHER: It was in an area where there was a few trees and there was the remnants of a fire ring there and you could see where those rocks had been moved to make the fire ring. I laid the cross directly over where her torso was and I was told the direction in which her head was laying. And that's where I placed two flowers in the ground right there.

JONES (voice-over): Laundrie has not been charged in connection with Petito's death. But he is suspected of using her debit card and pin to access more than $1,000 between August 30th and September 1st. A federal arrest warrant for Laundrie has been issued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can look at his state of mind by his actions. And he -- he ran. He stole her credit card. He used her credit card to get home. And then, ran from the police.

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


SOARES: Now U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Illinois later today to talk about the importance of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. But there are still many Americans who refused to get the shot like this crowd attending the speech by Senator Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you haven't had the vaccine, you ought to think about getting it because if you're my age --

CROWD: No! No!

GRAHAM: I didn't tell you to get it you ought to think about it.

CROWD: No! No!

GRAHAM: 92 percent of the people in the hospitals in South Carolina are unvaccinated. How many of you have taken your measles shots?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not the same.


SOARES: That's right, those are boos. Well, new data now shows that there are now more people getting booster shots in the U.S. than those getting vaccinated for the first time. That is despite the nation averaging 198,000 new COVID cases a day -- as you can see there. But there is still -- there is some good news among all of this. The CDC forecast predicts new COVID hospitalizations and deaths will continue to decline over the next four weeks.

Now Los Angeles will soon impose strict COVID measures for indoor space as the city will require proof of vaccination for gyms, restaurants and movie theaters. The rules will also apply to spas, and city buildings. All businesses must display notices of their requirement before October 31st, before the ordinance goes into effect on November 4th.

American Airlines is now telling employees they must be fully vaccinated by November 24 or they will be fired. The company told workers last week it plans to comply with the Biden administration's vaccine mandates for federal contractors. Both Southwest and United Airlines also have vaccine rules in place. Delta is now the only major U.S. airline without a vaccination mandate for employees.

The World Health Organization is hailing what it calls a breakthrough against disease that's been stalking Africa. It is giving the go ahead for the first malaria vaccine which will be used in children.


Malaria has been deadlier than COVID in African, which is home to more than 90 percent of malaria cases. The most vulnerable victims, of course, are children under five. They account for more than a quarter million deaths in Africa alone every year. In the vaccine is only 30 percent effective against severe disease and death. But officials say it's still a big step forward.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, W.H.O. DIRECTOR GENERAL: We still have a very long road to travel, but this is alongside, down that road. This vaccine is a gift to the world. But it's value will be felt most in Africa. Because that's where the burden of malaria is greatest.


SOARES: Now, a new report tracking the destruction of the Amazon Rain Forest finds the biggest losses so far have been taking place in Brazil. Grassroots groups there are really fighting back against deforestation and attempts to burn down the rain forest for economic gain. But as I found out in this TV exclusive, their missions are now endangered due to threats from those who want to be the first destroyed further endangering, of course the lungs of the world. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOARES (voice-over): Smoke billows above the Amazon state of Maranhao, a haze so thick it blankets this lush forest. Fires so intense that the earth is left charred only dust remains. It's a site that troubles Romulo Batista, the spokesman for Greenpeace Brazil tells us 60 hectares of the Amazon have gone up in flames in four days. And the blame is squarely he says on President Jair Bolsonaro.

ROMULO BATISTA, GREENPEACE (text translation): We see him announcing a moratorium on fire. These are measures that have already been taken in the last two years and nothing has worked. This year we are seeing this again.

SOARES (voice-over): CNN flew over some of this year's hardest hit areas to see the devastation for ourselves. Cameras captured the damage of these increasing fires. The demarcation lines a sign of human destruction at work, as the forest is cleared for agriculture or mining. There have been nearly 13,000 fires in the same area. Roughly a 50 percent increase from 2020 to 2021. Now, compare these images with these over a period.

BATISTA (text translation): We are living in extreme year in Brazil. Record floods in the north in the biggest rain deficit in the South, Southeast and Midwest of Brazil. Scientists say that this may already be the effect of deforestation in the Amazon.

SOARES (voice-over): Further south, in the same state, Milton da Costa, a former cattle rancher is fighting to protect what's left of the rain forest. This month, he begins the task of helping restore and reforest 2,600 hectares of land that had been burned and used for cattle production.

MILTON DA COSTA, REFORESTATION PROJECTS LEADER (text translation): if it continues this way in no time our children and grandchildren won't have these places to come to. So that's our battle.

SOARES (voice-over): He's made it his mission to reforest the burned land but in doing so he's facing attack on his life.

DA COSTA (text translation): as he was talking to me, the other one was telling him, shoot him shooting right away.

SOARES (voice-over): Recounting vividly when he was ambushed in early September.

DA COSTA (text translation): I just came to deliver you a message, the message is delivered. So, if you don't believe, it will no longer only be a message.

SOARES (voice-over): With the fight for land and resources comes increasing intimidation for those who work here. According to Brazil's pastoral commission, 97 people have faced death threats this year alone. As an association leader of a restoration reserve in the Amazon, Jose Pinheiro Borges has seen this often. JOSE PINHEIRO BORGES, RESERVE LEADER (text translation): It's hard to

know who is threatening. But we imagine that they are offenders who illegally exploit the conservation unit.

SOARES (voice-over): His love for the Amazon has kept him going.

BORGES (text translation): This was burned in early August. It was the hallmark of the people who work there illegally.

SOARES (voice-over): But Borges along with other Amazon defenders could be facing a losing battle. Carbon samples from the Amazon collected over a period of nine years by scientific researcher Luciana Gatti has shown that 20 percent of the Amazon is releasing more carbon than it absorbs.

LUCIANA GATTI, RESEARCHER, INPE: The southeast of the Amazon now, the forest itself becomes a source. This can mean the trees are dying more than growing.

SOARES (voice-over): Behind this an increase in forest fires which is leaving the Amazon unable to renew itself.

GATTI: You know, we have records, deforestation, fires in the Amazon, and also records in reduction in precipitation in the whole Brazil.

SOARES (voice-over): The devastating impact of human behavior, that experts say is tipping the climate scales in the amazon, leaving us all potentially gasping for air.