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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

New Revelations in Garry Petito Mystery; FDA Okays Boosters for Those 65+ or At High Risk; Bipartisan Police Reform Negotiations End Without a Deal. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: An angry argument, a van in the wilderness, now, an under water search. New clues about the final moments of Gabby Petito's life and the search for her fiance.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Boosters could be in the arms of older Americans as soon as today, but another anti-science move could jeopardize children in Florida.


MARC BENIOFF, CEO, SALESFORCE: Especially Facebook, you can see that they don't really care that their platform is filled with all of this misinformation.


ROMASNS: And a rare moment in tech, another CEO taking another to task over misinformation.

It is Thursday, September 23rd, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We have reports this morning from Florida, Los Angeles, China, Capitol Hill and Texas.

But we begin with more red flags in the days leading to the death of Gabby Petito. A couple vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming, say they saw a commotion involving Petito and her fiance Brian Laundrie at a restaurant on August 27th. Nina Angelo telling CNN Petito was in tears and Laundrie visibly angry going in and out of this restaurant several times.

Hours later, the text message from Petito to her mom. And her very active social media feeds went quiet.

ROMANS: At the very same day, two bloggers spotted what they think was Laundrie and Petito's white van near where her body was later recovered. And the day before a woman noticed the van parked near the camping area where Petito was found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JESSICA SCHULTZ, SAYS SHE SAW LAUNDRIE AND VAN NEAR SPREAD CREEK CAMPING AREA: I'm 100 percent certain that I did see him parking his van and he was very kind of awkward and confused, and it was just him. There was no Gabby, but that's only because as a van lifer, I was checking out their van and checking out to see if it was a couple or a solo dude. It was a solo dude unless she was in the back somewhere.


JARRETT: That's Jessica Schultz. She and the FBI are declining to comment to CNN about that report. Meantime the city of Moab, Utah, also investigating how the police responded to a 911 caller who claimed in mid August that he witnessed Laundrie slapping Petito.


CALLER: We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl.

911 DISPATCHER: He was slapping her?

CALLER: Yes, and then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.


ROMANS: Right now, the search for Laundrie is intensifying in Florida. Both above ground and under water in a swampy 25,000 acre reserve in Venice, Florida.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is there.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, we expect the search to continue later this morning. Yesterday they added an under water recovery team. This is a very highly specialized team of divers that will help with the search, taking a very methodical approach.

KAITLYN R. PEREZ, SARASOTA COUNTY SHERIFF'S SPOKESWOMAN: These divers are specifically trained and very talented in low visibility bodies of water, right. So they dive down where you and I can't see anything at all. They utilize technology and other special equipment to help them get down deep into really deep bodies of water.

SANTIAGO: And remember, this is a multi-agency operation. The FBI is here, but they are also searching through much of the evidence that they recovered earlier in the week from where the couple lived. In the meantime, police are searching here because they say this is where the family is leading them. This is where the family told police that Brian was headed the last time they saw him -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: Leyla, thank you for that.

JARRETT: Thanks for that, Leyla. Let's bring in retired Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She's author of the

upcoming book, "The Confidence Chronicles: The Greatest Crime Story Never Told". That sounds juicy.

Sergeant Dorsey, good morning. We are now hearing from witness after witness in this case who saw clear red flags between these two people, before Petito's death. Her fiancee gets this significant head start when he goes missing. His parents obviously, you know, can't really do anything about it. He's an adult.

But to me this just seems like a classic case of domestic violence. And I wonder, in your mind as an expert, did investigators drop the ball here?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: Listen, I absolutely believe that those officers who responded to that domestic violence call should have done more and could have done more. Even if there wasn't a legitimate reason to make an arrest, just, you know, once an officer gets involved in a radio call, when we're called out, we have a duty to make sure that everybody is okay.


And you can't just extricate a police officer once you've inserted them into a situation. At the very least, they could have done something that some might consider inconveniencing. Take them to a station, put her in a place she can speak to someone outside of his presence truthfully and candidly about what was going on.

There's going to be a lot of finger pointing and they understand the civil liability is no doubt down the road.

ROMANS: The officers there separated the two. They slept in different places for the day to cool off.

And also, you know, it was very clear that perhaps the 911 call information was not relayed properly maybe to them. We'll have to see what the investigation finds, what those police officers thought they would be finding on the side of the road.

Sergeant Dorsey, authorities ramping up the search for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend/fiancee. Dive teams have been brought in. His parents have been interviewed.

Tell us what you think is happening on the ground in Florida right now for this search.

DORSEY: Well, we now know that Gabby's death has been classified as a homicide, so they may very well be -- certainly they should know the cause of death quite possibly. And maybe looking for evidence relative to if there were any injuries on the body, you know, instruments of death, if you will, could be something that they're looking for. Evidence of Laundrie either having been in the area or still in the area may be something of interest to them.

And what is the family saying? What is the veracity of the direction that the family has pointed them in terms of is he even there? Did he get a head start? Is he in a different direction?

There's so much that we don't know. But I'm sure the authorities are keeping a lot of this information rightfully away from the public.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: Sergeant Dorsey, it seems to me that this case highlights two things. One, how the sort of everyday violence against women is not taken as seriously as perhaps it should be in so many cases. At the same time, you have an overwhelming public response to this case that you do not see in all missing persons cases. You just don't. In just Wyoming alone where Petito's remains were found, hundreds of indigenous women have gone missing in the last decade.

I cannot remember in my lifetime a case of a young black woman receiving this level of public attention with digital detectives searching all over social media for her. How do you correct this?

DORSEY: Well, listen, I mean, the onus would certainly be on the police department to hold a press conference. They know how to do that when they want to.

The media certainly has a role to play because you guys are talking about this.


DORSEY: And so why are you talking about this for those 400 missing indigenous women there in Wyoming?

Everybody has a part to play in terms of bringing this to the forefront. I've read articles that have spoken to investigations being underfunded. So it seems like there is really not much value placed on the bodies of these missing indigenous women in Wyoming, and all of that needs to change. The community needs to hold the police department accountable and make sure that they do.

ROMANS: Yeah, and it's sort of cyclical, right? The more media attention there is, the more pressure there is on law enforcement to react. You are seeing that certainly on the ground in Florida now.

All right, retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, thanks so much for getting up with us. Appreciate it.

DORSEY: Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. COVID boosters could be available for older Americans as soon as today if you haven't gotten it already.

ROMANS: And the feds are ready to pull back on emergency pandemic-era support. What it means for you.


[05:13:05] ROMANS: All right. More booster shots of Pfizer vaccine now have the green light from the FDA. Overnight, the FDA granted emergency use authorization, but only for people 65 and up, or at high risk for severe disease, or whose jobs put them at risk for infection, like teachers and health care workers.

CDC researchers say vaccine protection has declined with the delta variant especially in older people who were given their initial shots earlier in the rollout.

JARRETT: The CDC vaccine advisers will meet to give their final recommendation. The CDC director will sign off and people can start getting their shots.

So, what about younger people?

Here's former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I suspect what's going to happen is we'll continue to collect data on this cohort, 65 and over, and other people who are made eligible. And eventually the agency may walk down the authorization to younger age cohorts depending on what they learn from the data set here in the United States.


JARRETT: The CDC and FDA have already okayed third doses for immunocompromised people.

ROMANS: In Florida, there is a new surgeon jen in charge of the state and he's already relaxing health precautions in schools. Originally, the Palm Beach School Board had required masks in schools. Now it is reversing course after the state issued a new rule allowing parents to send their kids back to school if they've been exposed to COVID as long as they have no symptoms. Remember, the CDC says people can spread COVID two days before they are symptomatic.


FRANK BARBIERI, CHAIRMAN, PALM BEACH COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: The new surgeon general, he's changed the decision so now we've modified our policy to meet the new surgeon general's decision three. So, if parents who don't want their children to go home that are otherwise, we keep them in school.


JARRETT: Meantime, more than 50 University of Georgia faculty member have announced plans to mandate masks in their classrooms, though they say they face possible punishment for violating the university's policy. In New Jersey, there have been virus outbreaks in 22 school districts this week alone, and 102 students and staff tested positive.


And this year's New York City marathon will require proof of vaccination or negative COVID test. The race will have fewer runners with staggered start times.

ROMANS: All right, the Fed, the Federal Reserve is signaling the end is near for all of that emergency COVID stimulus. The economy can stand on its own.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: If progress continues broadly as expected, the committee judges that a moderation in the patience of asset purchases may soon be warranted.


ROMANS: Those asset purchases, $120 billion in bond buying a month, the Fed will start to slow that pace, though it hasn't done it quite yet. We're looking to maybe next month's meeting in November, the next meeting. The Fed carefully signaling the end of this emergency era is coming.

The central bank also left interest rates unchanged for now, but signaled it could raise rates in 2022, a year earlier than expected. Maybe lengthier higher inflation for a time here is the reason. Once the fed starts pulling back asset purchases and interest rates start rising again, that means higher rates for you for credit cards, mortgages and car loans. Fed officials downloaded GDP forecast for this year, estimating growth at 5.9 percent, still a robust rebound.

But down from the 7 percent the Fed had projected all the way back in June. It revised from 2022 to 3.8 percent. That's up a bit.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell also underscored the importance of raising the debt ceiling. He said the U.S. should not default on any of its obligations. Moody's Analytics warns a U.S. default would wipe out nearly 6 million jobs and raise the unemployment rate to nearly 9 percent, setting back progress made in the labor market as it climbs back from the pandemic crash of last year.

JARRETT: Six million jobs at risk.

ROMANS: This is not something to trifle with, the debt ceiling, guys.

JARRETT: All right. Coming up, it was one of the biggest agenda items for President Biden, but all sides now admit police reform is dead. What happened? We have a live report from Capitol Hill, next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

While Congress haggles over infrastructure and the debt ceiling, other major items on President Biden's agenda haven't yet been addressed. One big one seems to have just gone up in flames.

Congressional reporter Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill for us.

Daniella, good morning.

There was a time police reform seemed possible in this country. Now even some of those more modest changes, they're totally dead?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It appears so, Laura, unfortunately. Look, these three lawmakers that had been working for six months on trying to find a way to reform the police system in this country were unable to reach an agreement. Ultimately, that's what happened, and they finally announced it yesterday.

You know, these three lawmakers, of course, include Democratic senator of New Jersey Cory Booker, Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, the former Congressional Black Caucus chair, and Republican senator of South Carolina, Tim Scott.

So, these three have worked for six months, have been in countless meetings to try to reach a deal on police reform in this country in hopes of getting a 60 vote in the Senate, a bipartisan deal. They weren't able to come to agreement on multiple issues including what appears to be the most important issue that they were not able to reach an agreement on, which was a qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers from being sued in civil court.

Look, Booker told reporters yesterday here at the Capitol, quote, it was clear at this negotiating table in this moment we were not making progress. But he did say that the work would continue with Democrats on this issue, so he was optimistic they would continue on this, but unclear whether they could reach a deal with Republicans on this.

And, look, Congresswoman Karen Bass put the pressure on the White House to do something on this. She said she was hoping that the next step would be is that President Joe Biden's administration would act. Look, yesterday White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that president Joe Biden is considering taking executive action on the issue. You know, they were getting space for Congress to figure out a deal on this. And now that it's clear this is not going to happen, they are considering taking this up.

But, look, bottom line is the White House has a set of legislative agenda items they wanted to address. This was one of them. And now this is another one including voting rights, other issues that probably won't be addressed by Congress this year.

JARRETT: Yeah, it feels like this one sort of fell through the cracks while everyone was focused on very important issues when it comes to the budget and infrastructure, but it seems like this one, this one really did slip through.

All right. Daniella, thank you for your reporting as always.

ROMANS: All right. The Biden administration confronted with a humanitarian emergency at the border. CNN reports from the border next.



JARRETT: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the U.N. general assembly humanity needs to grow up and take action on climate change now. Johnson urged leaders to listen to the warnings of the scientists and give up the belief that someone else will make clear this mess we make of our environment -- clear up this mess we make of our environment. He named a famous amphibian to make his point.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And when Kermit the Frog sang, it's not easy being green, do you remember that one? I want you to know that he was wrong, he was wrong. It is easy, it's lucrative, it's right to be green. It was necessarily rude to Miss Piggy, I thought, Kermit the Frog.


ROMANS: He called the upcoming U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow in November a turning point for humanity.

EARLY START continues right now.

Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.