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FDA To Soon Decide On Merck's COVID-19 Antiviral Pill; Study: Big Gaps In COVID Death Rates Across Racial & Ethnic Groups; Airlines Face Test As Holiday Travel Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels; Smash-And-Grab Thieves Target Retailers Across The U.S. New Jan. 6th Subpoenas Target "Stop The Steal" Organizers; Federal Judge Slams Lawyers Over Election Fraud Lawsuit. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it possible that if it messages with the viruses' genetic material might it affect the genetic material of a developing fetus.

So there's sure to be discussion about whether it's appropriate for pregnant women to taking the pill.

But to get back to the efficacy, let's take a look at what Merck's clinical trials found.

They found that when they gave it to -- they looked at 762 clinical trial participants. The half that got a placebo, a pill that does nothing, over a course of a about month. 45 ended up in the hospital and nine of them died.

The half that got the drug, only 28 were hospitalized and zero died. That is a very dramatic affect.

Remember, this is a pill. And that's important because the only treatment now for early stage COVID -- and this is for early stage COVID -- which is monoclonal antibodies, which work well but they have to be injected or given as an infusion -- Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: I want to ask you about a new study out today highlighting some large gaps when it comes to death rates across racial and ethnic groups. What did it find?

COHEN: These differences in death rates, based on ethnicities and different racial communities, this has been true throughout the pandemic. And this is something that was really -- there were inequities before the pandemic and the pandemic has really hammered this home.

So what these researchers did at Harvard is they looked at what kind of death rates are we seeing in different communities.

Let's take a look. We're looking at deaths per 100,000 people.

When you look at white college-educated people, you see 116 deaths per 100,000 population. For black people, it's 238 and for Latino people it's 265. I mean, those are huge differences right there.

And so the researchers at Harvard talk about how many lives would have been saved if they didn't have this kind of medical inequalities -- Ana?

CABRERA: Those numbers show more than double the death rates for those communities of color compared to whites.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth Cohen.

The holiday travel rush is on. Thanksgiving travel expected to be near pre-pandemic levels.

And CNN's Pete Muntean has been looking into this. He joins us from Reagan National Airport in D.C.

Pete, are airports and the airlines all ready to handle the crowds?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question, Ana. Things getting going at Reagan National Airport and airports across the country.

These numbers are going to be huge. In fact, United Airlines is anticipating its biggest numbers in 19 months. More than four million people will board one of its flights.

Remember, airlines got a lot smaller over the pandemic, making the challenge to get you to the dinner table even bigger.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): The frustrations of Thanksgiving travel are back at airports across the country -- the latest estimate from the TSA that 20 million people will take to the skies for the holiday. That means this year's rush will look nothing like it did last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost back to where it was before the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's good to finally feel kind of normal again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People feel really safe about leaving and are excited to reconnect with friends and family.

MUNTEAN: Now the question is whether airlines can handle this rebound.

United Airlines' Network Operations Center in Chicago is monitoring 3,900 departures a day, packed with the most passengers since the start of the pandemic.

DAVID KENSICK, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, UNITED AIRLINES: I'm ready to deliver a great product to our customers.

MUNTEAN: Operations director, David Kensick, says the goal here is to head off staffing and weather delays before they cause you to miss your flight. KENSICK: I am confident in delivering a safe and reliable operation this Thanksgiving.

MUNTEAN: Shortages of flight crews contributed to schedule meltdowns at both Southwest and American Airlines in October, leaving thousands stranded by canceled flights.

Captain Dennis Tajer represents the American Airlines' pilots union.

CAPT. DENNIS TAJER, ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION: If management fails after Mother Nature hits and the storm hits to connect us to the airplane, then you've got headlines.

MUNTEAN: American says 1,800 flight attendants just returned from pandemic leaves of absence. It is also paying flight attendants time and a half for working this week.

But American's 14,000 pilots say that is not enough and turned down a similar offer to send a message.

TAJER: It's incredibly frustrating because we don't see the structural changes happening.

MUNTEAN: Airlines insist they are out of the woods and are ready for their biggest test of the pandemic.

KENSICK: Through all the challenges we faced, it's just made us a bit more agile in dealing with any issues that come up so we are more prepared when we get to the holiday season.


MUNTEAN: The numbers today will be big. Tomorrow will be even bigger, Ana.

But the TSA anticipates the Sunday after Thanksgiving to be the biggest, when everyone will start coming at home all at once.

And United Airlines is anticipating 450,000 people on its airline alone on Sunday -- Ana?

CABRERA: My little intimate family Thanksgiving is sounding more and more appealing every day.


CABRERA: Pete Muntean, thank you so much.


An alarming trend heading into the holidays. Smash-and-grab thieves targeting retailers across the U.S. Who is behind this, and what can be done?



CABRERA: There's been another major flash mob-style smash-and-grab robbery. This one at a popular Grove Shopping Complex in Los Angeles. Police say at least 20 people were involved. Three are now under arrest.

You can see the thieves smashed windows to get merchandise.

There have been a rash of similar robberies recently, including a Nordstrom near San Francisco. Police estimating around 80 people involved in that incident.

And this terrifying incident caught on surveillance camera where thieves grabbed at least $100,000 of merchandise from a Louis Vuitton store. And this was near Chicago.

Now Stephanie Elam is following all of this for us and joins us from Los Angeles.

What are police saying about their investigations and whether any of these crimes could be connected?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they definitely do believe that some of them, particularly up in the bay area, Ana, could be concerted efforts between different gangs, and they are looking into that.

But I want to show you what happened here last night after 10:30 p.m. You can see they've already had crews out here early this morning boarding up this window and then also painting it over here as they work to replace it.

This happened last night. The police saying this morning there were between 18 to 20 people involved. They used an e-bike, sledgehammers to break into the window and grabbed merchandise.

According to police, they're saying it's about $15,000 worth of damage to the store and about $5,000 worth of damage -- of merchandise was actually taken.

What they were able to do though was get one of the cars that sped away, an SUV. They were able to track it down and they have stopped them and arrested three people for this incident.

But as you mentioned, in Walnut Creek, in the east bay, where the Nordstrom is, also like this one situated partially outside, even though it's in a mall environment.

That's where they said they had some 80 people ransacking one store. And two employees were assaulted. One even pepper sprayed.

According to one person who saw them going in, he said people had on masks and they had crowbars as they were running in.

Police said there were at least 10 different cars that were getaway. They were able to arrest three people there. And if you hop across the bay into San Francisco into Union Square, there's nothing but stores there to shop to your heart's content.

And that's what these looters were allegedly targeting, including Louis Vuitton, a jewelry store. This was Friday night. A Walgreen's, a cannabis dispensary and eye glass shop all getting hit.

What we're hearing from police officers is they are working to stop this, and also to bring in more people, more on site of this locations to make sure that it is safe for the holiday season -- Ana?

CABRERA: Stephanie Elam, thank you for the update.

Let's bring in Cheryl Dorsey. She's a retired sergeant for the LAPD. And the author of the book "The Confidence Chronicles, The Greatest Crime Story Never Told."

Sergeant Dorsey, it's always good to talk with you.

We know crime can increase this time of year, but one of the incidences had 80 suspects. How unusual is this?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED SERGEANT, LAPD: I've never seen or heard of anything like that, certainly in my 20-year career on the LAPD. And 80 individuals were able to gather and then storm a location. It's just nonsensical.

Listen, these knuckleheads are opportunists. And so they are causing an inconvenience to shoppers, because, as women, we like to pick up and touch stuff, but stores need to tie down their merchandise.

Don't make it so easy to run in and grab and run away with something. It's just ridiculous that this is going on at this time.

CABRERA: It's a shame. California's governor called these thieves organized retail crime rings, a crime ring. How do you think these groups could be coordinating? Who could be involved in all of this?

DORSEY: I'm not sure how much coordination is going into it, other than, hey, let's all meet over here at such and such a time.

We saw in one of the instances where they had vehicles that were actually blocking traffic so that 25 cars could assemble and stage.

So for those who get caught, they really need to throw the book at them and make an example out of them. And maybe that will deter these others from doing other copycat crimes.

CABRERA: The other question is why? What do you think is fueling this, driving this?

DORSEY: It works. It's easy. You see it on TV. They watch TV like everybody else and they see, oh, this is working.

They are not hitting the same location obviously. These are different individuals in different states and cities. So it's been successful and probably, in their mind, to little repercussion, very few consequences.

But when they start running these license plates and start gathering these up and putting them in jail, next Christmas they will think twice about doing this kind of foolishness.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. Appreciate your expertise and insights on all of this.


The committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is turning their sights on two high-profile Trump allies in their latest subpoena requestions, including these two. What we're learning about the alleged involvement of Roger Stone and Alex Jones, next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CABRERA: We're back with breaking news. The autopsy results for Brian Laundrie are in. He was the fiance of Gabby Petito who went missing for weeks after her disappearance and death.

CNN's Jean Casares is following the breaking details.

Jean, what did this autopsy find?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just spoke with the attorney for the Brian Laundrie family and he tells us that the Laundries were informed by the authorities that Brian died by a gunshot wound to the head.

So the cause of death, a gunshot wound to the death. And obviously, the manner of death was suicide.

So, there's a quote from the family: "Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son. They're hopeful these findings bring closure to both families."

Now, we don't know how he got in possession of a gun.

I mean, if you look at the facts, if you remember, very shortly after Gabby's family went to police and were able to file a missing-persons report -- so it became official, everyone knew she was missing.

That is when Brian Laundrie, according to his family's attorney, told his family that he was going to go hiking at the Carlton Reserve.

So, he left in their gray Mustang, went there. The family says they never heard from him again, never saw him again. They went and brought the car, brought it back to their home.

Law enforcement started looking in that reserve, day after day after day. And the resources they used were immense. And they never found anything.

And the family said this is where he is, we know where he is. But did the family know he had a gun? We don't know that. Where did he get that gun? That is still a mystery.

And we have a call out to the family's attorney because we want to know. A gun was never part of this equation, Ana.

It was that he went hiking, he was never found. Finally, the family went out with law enforcement one day. Lo and behold, they find personal effects.

And then the forensic anthropologist and the medical examiner had their jobs to do.

CABRERA: OK, Jean Casarez.

Again, breaking news, dead by suicide, gunshot wound to the head. The mystery of what happened to Brian Laundrie, how he died, now we have an answer there.

Appreciate your reporting.

So, the House Select Committee investigating the capitol attack has sent out more subpoenas, bringing the total count to 40 now.

And some of the high-profile targets this time are Roger Stone, conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, and even Trump's current spokesperson.

This latest batch focuses on those believed to have organized and helped fund the "Stop the Steal" movement and rally that Trump headlined just minutes before the violence broke out at the capitol.

CNN's senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, is back with us.

Elie, what does this latest set of subpoenas tell you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Ana, it tells me the committee is aiming right at the inner circle of Donald Trump, those responsible for developing and spreading the Big Lie.

I also think, though, we can safely assume that Roger Stone and Alex Jones will defy these subpoenas and join a long list of people who have defied the subpoenas.

So the question becomes, what's the committee's plan here? How are they going to fight back?

Because time is really slipping away here. We are now nearly 11 months out, of course, from January 6th itself.

Since then, it took six months to get this committee even set up. It took until late June before the committee became an official thing.

It took until July for them to put on their one and only public hearing. Still, to this day, we've only heard one public hearing from those police officers.

They issued their first subpoenas in September -- we're now two months out from that -- to Meadows and Bannon and Patel.

And very little movement other than, of course, the very important movement on Steve Bannon, which just happened a couple weeks ago.

So time's ticking away here. The committee has really done a good job of issuing subpoenas, not so good enforcing them.

CABRERA: We do know they have been also talking to dozens. In fact, I think the latest number was around 200 people voluntarily. So their work continues in some form behind the scenes.

But back to these subpoenas, because with this latest batch, there's also a link to former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Tell us about that. Does it indicate to you that this committee think Meadows is a dead end? As you point, he was in that first batch of subpoenas.

HONIG: It could be, Ana. Mark Meadows was such a crucial witness, with Donald Trump, interacting with him throughout the events of January 6th.

If you told me you can have one witness other than Donald Trump on the stand, I would say, give me Mark Meadows.

Now, nine days ago, Adam Schiff went on TV and said, we're going to be moving very quickly for contempt against Mark Meadows. That has not happened.

And that suggests to me that perhaps they don't think they're ever going to get there. Perhaps they don't think the Justice Department will have their back and bring a contempt charge.

So this new batch of subpoenas tells me they might be trying to get at Meadows' information through other people, around him.


If you have a difficult witness, go to other people around that person who may be more cooperative.

CABRERA: I want to ask you about this, different but related.

An election fraud lawsuit brought by two pro-Trump lawyers last December against Facebook, Dominion Voting Systems, as well as states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and others, those lawyers have now been ordered to pay more than $180,000 to the defendants.

Is this how you stop the Big Lie? What message did the judge send here?

HONIG: Yes, it's a step in the right direction, Ana. And I will say, several of our key institutions have been challenged and compromised. But I think we have to say, our federal courts, our federal judiciary,

has really stood strong for accountability, from rejecting dozens of these lawsuits -- state courts did that as well -- that came to try to challenge the election.

And now we're seeing federal courts take the very unusual step of saying, you lawyers filed such a frivolous, ridiculous lawsuit that we're fining you, that you have to pay. But good. That's what accountability is.

And lawyers, you get to do and say a lot of things as a lawyer, but you can't lie, and you can't bring utter nonsense in front of a court.

CABRERA: Why has it been so rare for the people at the top who sold the Big Lie to face actual punishment like this?

HONIG: Yes, it's a great question. And I think it's a big question for Congress, are they going to get to the heart of what happened January 6th?

And for the Justice Department. DOJ has gone after the people who went into the capitol, as they should.

But I've not seen any sign yet that DOJ is looking at the higher-ups, at the people who may have been behind this or organized it or incited it.

CABRERA: OK, Elie Honig, I appreciate your insights and expertise. Always good to have you. Appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: That does it for us today. Thank you for being here. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. And a reminder, you can join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

Alisyn Camerota picks up our coverage next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.