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Questions Remain after Laundrie's Death Confirmed; Haitian Gang Vows to Kill Hostages; Tom Vilsack is Interviewed about Broadband and Climate Change Dr. Ali Khan is Interviewed about Boosters. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired October 22, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this morning, the attorney for Brian Laundrie's parents responding after the FBI confirmed human remains found in a Florida reserve are those of Brian Laundrie.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities have been searching for Brian Laundrie for over a month, looking for answers, of course, in the disappearance and the death of his fiance, Gabby Petito.

But it was only when his parents led authorities back to that reserve this week that the remains and some other items were found.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Florida, joining us now.

So, Nick, Laundrie's parents would hopefully be able to fill in some of the gaps here. There's a lot we don't know. Do we know if they're talking much this morning with authorities?


At this point we're only hearing through the -- from them through their family attorney. They have not released any public statements regarding the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito or the disappearance and death of their son, which has now been confirmed.

You know, now that Brian Laundrie is confirmed dead, much of the public's interest and suspicions have zeroed in on the Laundrie parents. That's something that Steve Bertolino, the family attorney, addressed in an interview earlier this morning.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Did Brian tell the Laundries anything about what happened to Gabby before he disappeared?

STEVEN BERTOLINO, ATTORNEY FOR LAUNDRIE FAMILY: George, that's not something I can comment on right now. And I'd like to just leave it at that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, if you can't comment on it, it means you know something about it.

BERTOLINO: Well, I think everybody out there knows that, you know, whether the family or myself have some information to share, but, you know, there's not much we can say at this point in time. And, you know, I'm going to leave it at no comment.


VALENCIA: Bertolino went on to say that when it comes to Gabby's death and disappearance, the Laundries have nothing to say to the FBI. And when it comes to Brian Laundrie, their son, that they have allegedly cooperated with the FBI since day one. Those words are unlikely to be of any solace to Gabby Petito's parents, who have indicated that they believe the Laundries know more than they are letting on. They have not released a public comment since their interview to "60 Minutes" over the weekend, but their attorney released a statement on their behalf saying, in part, Gabby's family is not doing any interviews or making a statement at this time. They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter. Gabby's family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready.

Back here at the entrance of the Carlton Reserve, there is no police activity. Much different than what we saw yesterday. Still so many unanswered questions. Principally, the cause of death of Brian Laundrie, as well as anything that's in that notebook, what if anything is in that notebook that could potentially bring more closure to this case.

Jim. Erica.

HILL: Nick Valencia, appreciate the reporting, as always. Thank you.

Turning now to Haiti, where the leader of the gang that kidnapped 17 American and Canadian missionaries is now threatening to kill them if he doesn't get the ransom money.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The gang leader, Wilson Joseph, has demanded $1 million for each of the hostages, which we should remember includes children. A State Department official says they believe the video threat is legitimate.

Joining us now live from Haiti, CNN's Joe Johns.

And, Joe, the kidnappers, we understand, have provided proof of life for the hostages. Where does this stand? Are there negotiations underway? Are there considerations for paying some sort of ransom?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anybody's guess, but I can tell you that there are concerns about actually paying ransom, simply because it could cause problems for other Americans who might be kidnapped down the line. And I have to tell you, this group is not known to be as sadistic as it were as some of the other gangs. But, at the same time, across this country, since last year there have been hundreds and hundreds of these kidnappings, which create a very worrying situation for the United States simply because this is a country just a few hundred miles off the shores of the United States. The White House deputy press secretary was asked about it just

yesterday. Here's what she said about the problem.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We have been working closely with the Haitian national police to try to build their capacity, as well as help put -- put in place programs that can effectively deal with the gangs. But it's a very challenging and long- term process. We're focused on it. But it is absolutely essential that this security dynamic change if Haiti is going to make real progress.

So we're doing everything that we can. As I mentioned, the FBI, the State Department staff is on the ground. I don't have anything else to report, as you can imagine. And I think Jen said this a couple of days ago, for privacy and security reasons, we can't say more.


JOHNS: Typically, these gangs will make enormous demands for ransom, which has already happened, and then it gets negotiated downward over time.


That's the hope in this case here. But the authorities are trying to maintain some kind of silence as they try to figure it out.

Back to you.

HILL: Joe Johns.

Appreciate it, Joe. Thanks.

New details on President Biden's infrastructure plan or things related to it. The secretary of agriculture joining us with an announcement. How could it impact access to broadband? Secretary Tom Vilsack is with us live, next.



HILL: As Democrats scramble to finalize a deal on President Biden's Big Back Better plan, the Biden administration is announcing a new step this morning toward closing the digital divide. The USDA announcing an expansion of access to high speed Internet, healthcare and educational services for rural America. They're doing that through more than a billion dollars in loans and grants. It's part of an effort to encourage the private sector to bring broadband to rural communities.

Joining me now to discuss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He is also, of course, the former governor of Iowa and the former president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Good to have you with us this morning.

So give us a sense, these are loans and grants to encourage more expansion into rural areas, to bring that much needed broadband access, those speeds to rural areas. But how quickly could we see the impact? How quickly could that happen for folks?

TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Well, this is a program that's really designed to provide immediate relief. And what we hope we'd see activity in 2022 to expand access, this will give communities the opportunity for distance learning, for telemedicine, for small businesses to develop their markets, for farmers to have access to real-time information. It's critically important that rural America have the same upload and download speeds that are currently available in urban and suburban areas. Right now we've got this divide. Roughly 30 million Americans are without adequate access and this is a effort, a step forward.

Obviously, with the passage of the Build Back Better agenda and the infrastructure bill, we'll see sort of a jump start to expand access. But, in the meantime, we're going to put these resources to work immediately.

HILL: Speaking of those two bills, we know what a push -- what -- the push that's happening right now, of course, to hammer out that framework for the economic package but also to get that done so that there can be a vote on infrastructure.

Are you confident that those two things are going to happen fairly quickly?

VILSACK: I think I am. And the reason I am is because I think people understand the imperative to rebuild the physical infrastructure of this country and also to make sure that we're investing in American families to strengthen them. The combination of the two puts us in a position where we can be more competitive in a very difficult global economy.

This is key for broadband. You know, we can provide these resources today, but at the end of the day what we need is -- really, we need the $65 billion that's in the infrastructure bill to really finish the job. We can't let 30 million Americans in rural and remote areas not have access to this 21st century infrastructure.

HILL: And there are also a number of folks, we should point out, in urban areas which, you know, maybe it's not falling into what we're talking about today in terms of that announcement of these loans and grants for rural areas, but we know that there's a massive digital divide in urban areas as well really impacting school children and families across the board.

You know, I'm interested, when we look at the infrastructure bill, when we look at where the country is right now, you spoke with my colleague Victor Blackwell just a couple of days ago about the impacts on the supply chain and what we're seeing, which is something that every American can relate to. And you said, you told him you'd be happy too when it comes to climate change. And when we're talking about climate change and what's in this economic package, you'd be happy to talk to Senator Manchin about why you feel some of these measures are so important, why they need to be in there. I'm curious, have you had that conversation with Senator Manchin?

VILSACK: Actually, ironically, within five minutes after that CNN interview, Senator Manchin called me. We had a good conversation about agriculture and the important role that agriculture can play in the country's efforts to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. I think there are a lot of early wins in agriculture and that's why I'm pleased to see a commitment in the reconciliation bill, the infrastructure bill, that is really committed and focused on the important role of agriculture and forestry in climate change.

HILL: Do you think that he better understands why it's so important to you?

VILSACK: I think he does. And I think he probably did. It was a good conversation. I think he is very interested in making sure that the folks in his state, in West Virginia, and the people in rural America are connected. That they have the opportunity to contribute.

There is tremendous opportunity here for carbon sequestration in our agricultural land. We just need the resources to be able to help farmers do what they are currently doing, but just to magnify it and amplify what they're doing because the results can be phenomenal. And there's just so much new innovation out there. With a little bit of assistance and help, American agriculture can lead the way, not just for us, but for the rest of the world as well.

HILL: When you talk about leading the way, I'm hearing that as you believe American agriculture can lead the way in terms of continuing to do what they do, but doing it in a much more climate friendly way, correct?

VILSACK: To do it to reach the president's vision, which is a net zero agriculture for the U.S. by the year 2050 and make significant strides by 2030. There is no question that can be done. There are aspects of agriculture today that are on the cusp of getting to net zero. We just need to give them a push. And that push can come from the reconciliation of the Build Back Better effort in the Congress.


HILL: We'll see if maybe your push for Senator Joe Manchin holds some sway too.

Secretary Vilsack, appreciate you being with us today. Thank you.

VILSACK: Thank you.

HILL: Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead this hour, there are now three CDC approved booster shots available here in the U.S. How should you decide which one to get, if any, and when? We just got an answer from Dr. Fauci.


HILL: Today millions of additional booster doses of COVID vaccines are available to Americans. Why? Well, it's because the CDC gave the green light for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.


SCIUTTO: The CDC also saying that the mix and match approach is fine. That is, if your first vaccine was with one brand, you can boost with another.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says do that if you have to, but if you can, stick with the original shot.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's generally recommended that you get the booster that is the original regimen that you got in the first place. But for one reason or other, and there may be different circumstances for people, availability or just different personal choices, you can, as we say, mix and match. And those are the data that were discussed and were acted upon yesterday that you can now mix and match one with the other. But, in general, it just makes sense to go with what your original regimen was.


SCIUTTO: Here to discuss is Dr. Ali Kahn. He is dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Public Health, former director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response for the CDC.

Doctor, great to have you on here.

The reason behind this seems to be a lot of data out there showing that after a number of months that protection fades, not so much for hospitalization and death, but for infection. We've seen some breakthrough infections.

So tell us, how should folks at home receive this news that more and more Americans are being recommended that they get boosters?


So what's happening essentially is that official policy is now lining up with what we were already seeing happening in practice. So if you got vaccinated six months ago with the mRNA vaccines, Moderna or Pfizer, you can now get your booster depending on your age, your risk, and your medical condition. So, perfect.

If you got vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can now get -- two months -- more than two months ago, you can now get your booster. And thanks to the mix-and-match permission, you can now get that booster with an mRNA vaccine. And that's a discussion that people who got their J&J vaccine should have with their clinician. HILL: They should have that discussion with their clinician, but is

there an advantage to mixing and matching?

KHAN: Erica, yes, there is an advantage to mixing and matching, especially for those who got the -- who initially got the J&J vaccine. There's an increased level of antibodies in them and in other countries such as Canada and Europe, they actually use one dose of an analogous vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine, and they follow it up with the Pfizer vaccine -- with an mRNA vaccine.

SCIUTTO: It's CNN's reporting that soon there will be a recommendation moving down the age at which it's recommended you get a booster, moving it down to 40. We don't know when. But is that the direction we're heading, that over time most people, perhaps all people who have been vaccinated, it will be recommended you get a booster?

KHAN: Potentially. And that's really going to depend on how we see the drop-off.

So the good news is, and why those who have already been vaccinated should consider themselves fully vaccinated is, the vaccines are really good against things that matter. So dying, severe illness and hospitalization, it's the getting clinically -- getting sick is where we see a drop-off. And the boosters prevent you from getting sick.

HILL: And it's so important.

Really quickly, before we let you go, one other thing that stood out to me is this talk about, do you need to separate, if you're going to get a booster, do you need to separate that from your flu shot? Sounds like we're learning you may not need to.

KHAN: Correct, Erica, you can get both at the same time. And if we have one second, the reminder is this is wonderful. Those who are vaccinated can get the boosters. The bigger issue remains those who are unvaccinated, those 66 million are the ones who are driving this pandemic currently.

SCIUTTO: That's a thing, a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Let's hope they listen.

Dr. Ali Khan, thanks so much.

KHAN: OK. Masks on and get vaccinated, America.

SCIUTTO: There you go.

HILL: There we go. Always my favorite part.

SCIUTTO: Follow his example. Exactly.

HILL: Thanks, Dr. Khan.

KHAN: Always a pleasure.

HILL: New questions this morning about the health of Queen Elizabeth. This after Buckingham Palace confirmed the 95-year-old spent a night in the hospital earlier this week. She's back home this morning, expected to rest for a few days. Royal officials, though, were actually forced to confirm that she was hospitalized on Wednesday after a newspaper broke the story. The palace saying she was in for some, quote, preliminary investigations after she abruptly canceled a trip to northern Ireland earlier this week upon advice from her doctors. Now, a spokesperson says this is not COVID related and that the queen is still expected to attend the COP26 summit in Scotland later this month.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, tragedy on set. Actor Alec Baldwin firing a prop gun during a scene that somehow killed a cinematographer, injured another. How could this happen? We're going to be live, next.



SCIUTTO: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HILL: And I'm Erica Hill.

We are following, at this hour, developments in a real life tragedy on a film set. Police now investigating after actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed the cinematographer on his latest film. You see Baldwin here. He was outside the sheriff's office, as you can see, understandably likely shaken after the incident.

SCIUTTO: For sure.

Investigators say Halyna Hutchins was airlifted from the set of "Rust," a western being filmed near Santa Fe.


She was pronounced dead at the hospital. The film's director, Joel Souza, also injured.