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New Day

School District Bans Books On Race, History, Civil Rights; Georgia Prosecutor Quietly Pursues Case Against Trump; Family Of Missing Woman's Fiance Breaks Their Silence. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You might get your taxes raised if the White House gets its way.

Who is getting a tax hike?

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, it's pretty simple. You start with who's not going to get a tax hike. The president made a commitment to not increase taxes on anyone making over $400,000 a year. He's going to keep that commitment and certainly, the legislation that's moving through Congress would do that.

Where you're going to see taxes change and taxes go up is for the largest companies, particularly multinational companies that benefit from a system where they can move profits and production overseas -- not for any productive use, but to avoid paying taxes.

As well as the wealthiest Americans -- those making several million dollars. And in particular, those who have embedded wealth and who are not paying even the taxes that they owe.

I mean, you heard the president talk about, yesterday -- think about it. One hundred sixty billion dollars a year that is avoided and evaded by the top one percent. That's not a tax increase. That's actually making sure that those people are actually paying the taxes that they owe. We're going to focus on that in this legislation.

BERMAN: So in addition to having to deal with Manchin, Sinema, and the Democrats on this, you obviously have to deal with the Republican opposition as well. Some former Trump White House staffers have put together some kind of an advertising plan. They're going to spend $10 million in a campaign against what you're after.

And then you have House minority leader Kevin McCarthy saying things like this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We have paid for everything the Trump administration spent, plus seven months into this administration in August. Now, this new Congress wants to spend more than $5.5 trillion -- $5.5 trillion, which will only make inflation grow faster. But in that money they want to spend, they don't want to pay for the debt ceiling.


BERMAN: Did I miss something? Was all that spending during the Trump administration paid for?

DEESE: It makes you laugh. Look, we expect a debate but let's try to debate on the facts.

During the last administration, the signature economic initiative was a completely unpaid for tax cut, most of which went to the most well off. That tax cut cost at least $2 trillion to the economy and has not -- was not demonstrated to have any real manifest benefit to the economy.

Over that four-year period, the unpaid for initiatives added up to actually $8 trillion. And during that period, there was really no -- not even an effort -- not even an effort made to offset those costs with either revenue increases or spending reductions. That's what we inherited.

President Biden, from the get-go, has had a very different point of view. Rescuing the economy from an emergency, that's one thing. But on all of the long-term initiatives that he has proposed -- every single one of them, he has identified how he would fully offset those costs over the long-term, and he has encouraged and urged Congress to move legislation that would do that.

That's what we're talking about here. There's a lot of focus on throwing around big headline numbers. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the net cost to our budget and the net impact to families. And this bill is going to end up with a zero net cost, it could actually reduce long-term deficits, and it's going to make families' lives a lot easier, lowering their costs -- actually lowering inflation-era pressures and building the productive capacity of our economy.

BERMAN: Brian Deese, thanks for being with us this morning.

DEESE: Thank you.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A new front has opened up in the fight over how history and race are taught in U.S. schools. Students and parents in York, Pennsylvania are protesting a book ban. They say anti-racism books and resources that are just culturally sensitive were removed from the curriculum by Central York's all-white school board last year. And this list of banned works includes a children's book about Rosa Parks. It includes Malala's book. It includes CNN's Sesame Street town hall on racism.

And joining me now to talk about this are Sonja Holland her son Isaiah, who is a student there.

You know, Sonja, to you first. Tell us what this means to have your son in school and not having access to materials that just reflect who he is.

SONJA HOLLAND, PROTESTING PA SCHOOL DISTRICT BAN ON ANTI-RACISM BOOKS AND RESOURCES (via Webex by Cisco): Yes, it's been really difficult. This is -- Isaiah is actually my second son that's gone through this school district and this has been a thorn in our side for a couple of years now. This is not the first conversation and certainly, I'm hoping that it won't be the last conversation.

We need to have materials and instructors in the Central school district that are reflective of the 30 percent minority population that they currently have in the district.

KEILAR: And why do you think this started? Where did this come from?

S. HOLLAND: Well, it started back last year when all of the -- all of the police brutality against people of color was hitting the news. There was a -- conversations with teachers that wanted to know how do we address the students that have concerns.


And so, there was a board created on diversity and an inclusion team created. And this team was charged to get -- to find resources that would allow teachers to have authentic and real conversations with the students around these sensitive topics.

KEILAR: Isaiah, what is it like for you being in school and knowing about these books that are banned? What does that mean for just your education and your exposure to books that seem perfectly normal?

ISAIAH HOLLAND, SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS BANNED ANTI-RACISM BOOKS AND RESOURCES (via Webex by Cisco): When I first found out what happened, I really didn't understand what was going on. I pulled my friend aside and I told him about it.

And I think it's very unfair because, I mean, it's books about my history and books about everything that's going on and how -- like, there's a lot of important African-Americans that are in our U.S. history that we need to learn about -- not just African-American like me, but that everybody needs to learn about. That's how I feel.

KEILAR: So, if you want to read a book about an African-American hero, if you want to read a book about the history of slavery and its impacts on modern-day, you don't have access to that?

I. HOLLAND: No, I don't have access to that.

KEILAR: Sonja, that is -- it's pretty stunning.

S. HOLLAND: Well, I think that as an African-American mother, I make sure that my son has access at home.


S. HOLLAND: But it's also equally important that my son has access at his school, and that has to happen. It just absolutely has to happen. KEILAR: And I also --

S. HOLLAND: And so --

KEILAR: Sorry, go on.

S. HOLLAND: No -- with that being said, there is a peaceful protest happening this Monday and I'm charging every Central School parent and the community-at-large to come out to the district on Monday at six -- 5:00 to make your voices heard that this is not acceptable at all for any student. We should all be -- all children should have access to books of all authors, especially authors of color and authors of Hispanic descent.

I mean, we just had a peaceful protest last week and one of the faculty members -- or one of the people who work for Central was able to bring a book from the middle school to that protest that was on the history of the KKK. And her question to the group was why was I able to take this book out of the library today but students are not able to have access to books with authors or color or people of color?

So that's a question that the school board needs to answer.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, these are books that are on most shelves. I was actually volunteering in my child's library. I saw some of these books on the shelves there for an elementary school.

Sonja and Isaiah, we're going to keep tracking this story because this is certainly not the end of this. And we thank you very much for being with us this morning.

S. HOLLAND: Well, thank you for having us.

I. HOLLAND: Thank you.

KEILAR: And just ahead, new details on the case against Donald Trump in Georgia. Who prosecutors are talking to about his attempts to overturn the election.

BERMAN: Plus, all next week on CNN, our special "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" series -- stories that spotlight people who might not make the headlines but still smash barriers and inspire others to do the same.

Here's a quick preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Join your favorite CNN anchors for a special week --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immigrants enrich our country and they are proving it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- sharing stories of change-makers.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the most devastating and yet, preventable issues of our day.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": He helps the defenseless learn to defend themselves.

BERMAN: Theater teaches courage, confidence, trust.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: She saw a need, and every day she sets out to fulfill that need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is using scuba diving for a better environment.

KEILAR: She is a trailblazing Black woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Preserving the ocean for our children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Empowering women for financial independence.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, "DON LEMON TONIGHT": No one should drown because they don't know how to swim. Very good, very good, very good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Small steps can lead to a big impact.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": We are hope (ph) can help kids in school and beyond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a champion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a champion.

BLACKWELL: For change.


KEILAR: Change.

GUPTA: Change.





KEILAR: Quietly, but steadily, the investigation into Donald Trump's attempt to reverse his election loss in Florida is moving -- pardon me, Georgia -- very different state. It is moving forward. The district attorney in Fulton County, in Georgia, is quietly building this case to see if the former president's actions were criminal.

And CNN's Sara Murray has new details this morning. What's happening here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there is a lot of flash, a lot of splash when she first announced this investigation earlier this year. Since then you may not have heard as much but that doesn't mean she hasn't been working quietly behind the scenes building a case against former President Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of a sudden, we have a rigged election.

MURRAY (voice-over): As Donald Trump plans a return to the Peach State for a rally next week and continues to air his baseless election grievances.

TRUMP: I won both of them -- it's amazing.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The Trump investigation is ongoing.

MURRAY (voice-over): Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis quietly plowing ahead in her investigation into Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results. Willis' team has been conducting interviews, collecting documents, and trying to build a line of communication with congressional committees investigating the January sixth insurrection, sources tell CNN.

WILLIS: People are being interviewed. Things are being researched. It's where any unindicted case would be.

MURRAY (voice-over): Willis working discreetly as she tries to determine whether Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia election results were criminal.

WILLIS: As a district attorney, I do not have the right to look the other way on any crime that may have happened in my jurisdiction.


MURRAY (voice-over): Her team pouring over records from the Georgia Secretary of State's office, including Trump's January call to Brad Raffensperger that set Willis' investigation in motion, sources tell CNN.

TRUMP: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes -- which is one more than we have -- because we won the state.

MURRAY (voice-over): Sources familiar with the matter say investigators have already interviewed a handful of staffers in Raffensperger's office, including chief operating officer Gabriel Sterling, who loudly dismissed Trump's bogus claims of fraud during the election.

GABRIEL STERLING, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no shredding of ballots going on. That's not real. It's not happening.

MURRAY (voice-over): Willis also clearly eager to strike a formal cooperation agreement with congressional investigators. The January 6 Select Committee has already requested records of communications between the Trump White House and Georgia officials, as well as communications from others in Trump's orbit, like former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump's former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

WILLIS: It is certainly information that my office needs to see.

MURRAY (voice-over): A source familiar with the matter says there has been some staff-level contact between Willis' office and congressional committees, though another source cautions there's no active information-sharing so far.

For Willis, who took office earlier this year in January, the Trump investigation is a juggling act.

MICHAEL J. MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: There's no question she has an inordinate amount of pressure on her if you just remember that she's elected by the people of Fulton County. And while the Trump investigation may get more press on a national basis, she clearly has to respond to the voters who elected her.

MURRAY (voice-over): Willis faces rising violence in the Atlanta region and an avalanche of backlogged cases -- a product, she says, of the pandemic and mismanagement but her predecessor.

WILLIS: We're dealing with an 11,000-case backlog. They are some of your most serious and violent offenders.

MURRAY (voice-over): She's been pleading with local officials for more funds and more staff.

WILLIS: I'm drowning. I need help.

MURRAY (voice-over): Pledging to fight crime --

WILLIS: My number-one priority is to make sure that we keep violent offenders off the street.

MURRAY: -- without backing off her investigation into Trump.

WILLIS: We're going to do it until it's done. Thank you.


MURRAY: Now, the Georgia Secretary of State's office was also conducting their own investigation into the calls Trump made to officials there. But a source tells us they've essentially deferred that as long as the Willis investigation is ongoing.

We, of course, reached out to Trump's team for comment. They didn't get back to us, Brianna.

KEILAR: Do you think he's worried about this one?

MURRAY: You know, I think he's probably more worried about New York at the moment, but it does seem like the D.A. in Georgia has no interest in letting this go. So it could certainly be a concern for him going forward.

KEILAR: We know you will continue to follow, indeed. Sara Murray, thanks for the report.

BERMAN: So, the new book "Peril," from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, making all kinds of waves. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley described as gathering military leaders to make sure a person that he considered unstable, Donald Trump, didn't start a nuclear war unchecked.

With me now is Fred Kaplan, national security columnist for Slate, and author of "The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War."

I want to talk about the nuclear process, Fred, specifically, and this is something you write on. What exactly -- based on the reporting now for the book, which you and I have both read it at greater length than some of the articles about it -- what did Milley do to inject himself into that nuclear process?

FRED KAPLAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COLUMNIST, SLATE, AUTHOR, "THE BOMB: PRESIDENTS, GENERALS, AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF NUCLEAR WAR": Well, there's been some hype about this, both in the book and in the press coverage of the book.

Let me just say very quickly how the nuclear process works because most people don't know this.

The president doesn't have a button that he pushes. Somebody comes in with a big briefcase that has communications gear and codebooks.

He sends a message to something called the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon, which is headed by a one-star general. He authenticates that yes, it's me. Here's my proof that it's me and I want you to do the following. He's the only person who makes this decision.

However, there is a protocol where a few officials are in on the consultation about this, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense, and a strategic command -- maybe some others as well. They don't have any decision-making power but they're in on the process.

As I understand it, all that Milley was saying in this conversation with the officers at the command center was make sure that I'm in on this consultation. He wasn't trying to subvert anything.

BERMAN: Basically, just make sure I'm on the conference call.

KAPLAN: Yes, which is part of the procedure. He was not subverting the procedure.

BERMAN: If in part of this procedure -- Milley, on the conference call, had said Mr. President, you can't do it or don't do it --


BERMAN: -- what happens?

KAPLAN: The president can either listen to him or not listen to him. Same thing with the Secretary of Defense. Same thing with the head of strategic command who is also in on the call.

But, you know, that raises the larger questions. Is this really a good idea, whether it's Donald Trump or Joe Biden or anybody, entrusting the power to essentially blow up the planet with one person who may or may not be insane.


BERMAN: Hold that thought because I want to get back to that in a second.

So, Mark Milley, according to the book, does not say don't follow the orders.

KAPLAN: Right.

BERMAN: If the president says start a nuclear war, don't follow the orders. He does not tell that --


BERMAN: -- to the other people here.

He -- the book refers to the Schlesinger moment -- James Schlesinger, who was Secretary of Defense under Nixon in the final days of Watergate, who basically told generals don't follow orders.

KAPLAN: Yes. No, that was a true thing. Schlesinger sent a message to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, Gen. George Brown, saying if you get any unusual orders from the White House, check with me first. And then, Brown sent a message to all the four-star commanders for nuclear conventional war everywhere, saying do not follow an order until you come through me. Now, that was --

BERMAN: That's different.

KAPLAN: That's different. That's very different.

BERMAN: Which gets to -- we have about 30 seconds left -- the larger issue, which you know here people know this is a problem --


BERMAN: -- that the president unilaterally, basically, can start a nuclear war.

What's being done to address this?

KAPLAN: Nothing. There have been two hearings in the atomic age on this subject of nuclear launch control. One in 1976 shortly after Nixon; one in 2017, the first year of Trump. It was done because of a realization. It was said explicitly that hey, we have unstable presidents sometimes. What can we do about this? And essentially, they did nothing about this.

BERMAN: Yes, and again, it's not in the Constitution either. Yes, there's impeachments, there's checks and balances, but not to start a nuclear war.

KAPLAN: No, no.

BERMAN: And there weren't nuclear weapons in the 1780s --

KAPLAN: Right.

BERMAN: -- and that's a problem.


BERMAN: Fred Kaplan, great to see you. Thank you very much.

KAPLAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Next, the search for a woman who disappeared during a cross- country van trip. Her fiance's family speaking out just moments ago. Deborah Norville joins us live.

KEILAR: Plus, why President Biden is taking off France after a dramatic move aimed at China.



CASSIE LAUNDRIE, HER BROTHER'S FIANCE IS MISSING: Obviously, me and my family want Gabby to be found safe. She's like a sister, and my children love her. And all I want is for her to come home safe and sound and this to be just a big misunderstanding.


KEILAR: New comments right there from the sister of Brian Laundrie. He is the fiance of Gabby Petito, who has been missing since the couple went on a cross-country van trip. He returned from that trip without her and he immediately lawyered up, refusing to talk to police or to her family.

Joining me now is Deborah Norville. She is the anchor of "INSIDE EDITION," the syndicated news magazine show, which has been covering this case very closely. And, Deborah, this is now captivating national attention. Police say that Brian Laundrie is not speaking to them. What is going on here?

DEBORAH NORVILLE, ANCHOR, "INSIDE EDITION" (via Webex by Cisco): As is his constitutional right, which is something I think is important for everyone to remember. He is not obligated to speak to police and, as you say, he did lawyer up immediately as soon as the disappearance of Gabby was reported by her family.

[07:55:04] What we know is this. The last known communication from Gabby Petito was from Grand Teton National Park. And she posted a photograph, which has been authenticated.

There was a communication by text from Gabby's phone in which she said you might hear -- to the essence of you might hear from me. We're at Yosemite. The service is bad. Now, Yosemite National Park is 800 miles away, which has given reason for a lot of people connected to the investigation of this case to be suspicious that text was actually sent by Gabby.

The emergence of this police bodycam footage, which we've all seen, from an incident on August the 12th has raised the possibility that there was friction between this couple. There had been an argument that was so strenuous in a little convenience store in Utah that a bystander called police who later saw the van on the road, pulled them over. And that video from the policy bodycam is the first indication of any friction between the couple and the last known video of Gabby Petito.

KEILAR: Let's listen to part of that video.


GABBY PETITO, MISSING: We've just been fighting this morning -- some personal issues. He wouldn't let me in the car before and then --

POLICE OFFICER: Why wouldn't he let you in the car because you have OCD?

PETITO: He told me I -- he told me to calm down, yes. But I am perfectly calm. I have OCD and sometimes I just get really frustrated.


KEILAR: One of the things, Deborah, that stood out to me about that video was she kind of admits to either like pushing or shoving her fiance. The police are looking at pictures of what appear to be minor physical injuries to him. There's a mark on his face, there's a mark on his arm.


KEILAR: He talks about fingernails.

And the police officer speaking to Gabby basically says look, I don't want to have to write this up. It's going to cause you a lot of trouble. You're too young to kind of have a record. So I just want to separate you two for the night.

She was the one, Deborah, who was going to be on record as the perpetrator of a crime here if it went that direction.

NORVILLE: That is absolutely right. And if you -- if you look at that tape in its entirety, the officer very carefully asks her did you intend to harm him? And she responds no, never. And the sincerity in -- with which she said that seems to make it clear that this was a heat-of-the-moment situation.

What I find interesting about that tape, however, is that upset and distraught as Gabby is as she's sitting on the side of the car talking to the police officer, Brian, who had been separated and was in a different spot of the parking area where they, were seemed very calm.

I don't have many interactions with police but it is usually sort of an increase your heart rate and increase your blood pressure situation. He seems as cool as a cucumber in that interaction which, again, it is his constitutional right to be quiet but it is one of those extra things that in the court of public opinion and in many of these disappearances, it is often the person who is the intimate partner who as the first individual that police or authorities want to talk to, which is why they very much want to speak to this man. He's the last known person who had been with her.

KEILAR: Yes. Where is she? Is she alive? He may have answers to these questions. Her family certainly wants to know.

Deborah Norville, thank you, and please come back any time. It is so wonderful to have you.

NORVILLE: Thank you, Brianna. My pleasure.

KEILAR: NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Friday, September 17th.

And the U.S. Capitol is on high alert this morning ahead of a rally tomorrow in support of the January sixth insurrectionists. The Department of Homeland Security is warning of the potential for violence today.

The former president, whose role in inciting the riot led to his second impeachment, is endorsing this really. Trump saying our hearts and minds are with the people arrested at the insurrection.

BERMAN: Overnight, a vivid example of what that violence and the threat of violence has accomplished.

Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, announced he will not run for reelection in 2022. He cites toxic dynamics inside the GOP.

And more than that, Gonzalez says he was deluged with threats and feared for the safety of his wife and children. He needed extra security, telling "The New York Times," quote, "Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?"

KEILAR: Joining us now is Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and presidential candidate. You know, Anthony Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in the second impeachment trial, and he's no longer seeking reelection come 2022.