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Search Continues for Missing Fiance of Gabby Petito; President Trump Criticizes Republican Senators Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham for Not Backing Claims that 2020 Presidential Election Stolen by Biden; Some Rightwing Politicians and Commentators Suggest Immigration Issue Related to Policy of Replacing Americans with Foreigners. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 08:00   ET




RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this may have been how Gabby Petito and her fiance Brian Laundrie drove their van to enter the Spread Creek dispersed camping area. We are in Bridger-Teton National Forest, about 28 miles outside of Jackson, Wyoming. We just turned off Highway 191 and we're driving now on Forest Road 30290. And if you take a look, you can see the road is a gravel road and it stretches for miles into the campsite.

Remember, video blogger Jenn Bethune and her husband Kyle captured this video of a van they believed was Gabby Petito's on the side of the road inside the Spread Creek dispersed camping area. They posted it on YouTube and gave it to the FBI. The Bethunes told us they spotted the van on August 27th around 6:30 p.m., but that the van was dark, and they didn't see anyone near it.

The video bloggers sent us the coordinates where they say they saw that van, so we're trying to find that location right now. They said it was about two-and-a-half miles in or so and the van was right on the road.

This dispersed camping area is an undeveloped camping area that offers few services. It's a popular spot, so it's no surprise Gabby or her fiance seemed to have chosen it. It's on the eastern boundary of the Grand Teton National Park, and the views are breathtaking.

While we don't know for sure, this clearing could be where that van was parked, certainly based on the distance that we were given. It is right on the road, so anybody walking by or driving by certainly could have seen a van parked here. Otherwise, it's pretty private. There's trees on the other side of the clearing. And then if you look out there, there is really not much other than some really big rocks and some gravel, and there is a creek that you can actually hear if you listen closely while you're standing here or parked here in this clearing. The forest where the campground is located spans more than 3 million

acres. Law enforcement has not said exactly where Gabby Petito's remains were found, or what specifically led them here. But somewhere among all this beauty, something terrible happened.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Moose, Wyoming.


BERMAN: And our thanks to Randi for that, a real look at the scene, the location that we're talking about here. I want to focus now on the other area, that's Florida, where the search for Brian Laundrie continues this morning with dive teams on the scene. I want to bring in Chris Boyer, the executive director of the National Association for Search and Rescue. Thank you so much for being with us. The dive teams we think are going to go back out today and search this huge nature reserve. We haven't heard that they've found anything yet. As more and more time passes, if they don't find something there, what does that tell you?

CHRIS BOYER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR SEARCH AND RESCUE (NASAR): So in search and rescue, if we got a good perimeter, a good search area, and you keep searching it over and over and over again, and you don't find clues for what you're looking for, then that means that the probability of that person or that object you're looking for is outside that search area and somewhere out in the rest of the world.

BERMAN: What are the main challenges that you see at this moment?

BOYER: So they have got a swampy area. They have got a lot of water to deal with. It's logistically hard to get searchers into the area. There is a lot of foliage cover, so it's hard for aerial assets to search. The weather has not been very conducive to searching, and certainly rain and time erode clues like footprints and other things that could lead to helping find Mr. Laundrie. So I think that time is one of the biggest issues right now.

BERMAN: And what about the timing gap between when he went missing and when the actual search began?

BOYER: Yes, so he had quite a lead on the investigators. Not just that time, but from the time he left Grand Teton, driving home, he had all this time to think about and plan for what he might do when he gets home. So that puts him a great leap ahead of the authorities. And it's going to take a lot of work on their part to catch up.

So if he's been in that park for eight days and he only walks one mile an hour, he could be 64 miles in any one direction. And if you take that rate times time equals distance calculation you see over my shoulder, that gives you about a 22,000 square mile search area. That's not easy to handle.

BERMAN: Thank you for explaining that equation behind your shoulder, because I never would have picked up on it myself. Look, if you're part of the search team, when do you call it? When do you say, OK, we're done here?

BOYER: Right, so typically if we're looking for someone we look at the factors for how long they would survive.


In this case it is how long this person is going to be evasive and deceptive, and how much risk is involved looking for him versus how much risk he is to the community. At some point when your resources get pretty burned out and you don't have any further clues that you're finding, then it's time to say we're going to go into a limited search and mostly investigative phase, and that the investigators if they have come up with a clue, we will again start up the search and prosecute those clues and sergeant search those areas. But they're rapidly getting to that point.

BERMAN: Just talk to me finally about the human side for the investigators themselves. How frustrating is it for them if they're not finding any physical trace? And how much would they then be critical of the human intelligence part of it, what they're being told or not told from people who may or may not be connected to Brian Laundrie?

BOYER: Yes, so you take every clue on its face and you hope that people give you those clues forthright. But in this case, maybe not. Maybe the family is telling the law enforcement exactly what Mr. Laundrie told them to tell them, and they don't know that it's a lie, that he's using them to propagate his deception.

It's very frustrating on law enforcement part, and it's not just the physical search, though. Remember, there is an investigation. They are looking at his electronic footprint, his social media footprint, and they're talking to everybody he knows, they're trying to figure out his contacts, his locations that he's been before, where he feels comfortable, might be safe. Any of his behaviors that they might be able to exploit to find him.

BERMAN: Chris Boyer, very interesting perspective. We really appreciate you shining a light on what's going on right now.

BOYER: Thank you, John.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, former President Trump now taking aim at two former Republican allies in the U.S. Senate who refuse to back the big lie, according to a new book. Bob Woodward and Robert Costa write in the book "Peril" that Senators Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham investigated Trump's claims of fraud in the 2020 election, and found they added up to nothing.

Here's part of a new statement from Trump. It says, quote, "I spent virtually no time with Senators Mike Lee of Utah or Lindsey Graham of South Carolina talking about the 2020 presidential election scam or, as it is viewed by many, the crime of the century. Lindsey and Mike should be ashamed of themselves for not putting up the fight necessary to win." Joining us now, we have CNN political commentator Ana Navarro to talk

about this. Ana, what do you think about what he's saying, they should be ashamed of themselves?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: These are revelations, but they're not revelations about Donald Trump's character. It is very consistent with the Donald Trump that we got to know in the last five years. And so no matter how loyal people like Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee were to him, for years they were his acolytes, they were his rubber stamps on so many issues, they were by his side, Lindsey Graham was practically his mini-me, a symbiotic twin. Regardless of all that, the minute they turn on him, the minute they're not willing to cross a bridge that is a bridge too far because it is about destroying democracy and based on lies, then they're not loyal. Then he turns on them and he turns all the cannons on them.

And I think it explains some of Lindsey's -- some of Lindsey's actions after the election when we saw him quickly try it go to Mar-a-Lago and try to make up with him. But it is just -- it's crazy. It is never enough for Trump because it's always about one thing -- Donald Trump.

BERMAN: I'm sure Lindsey Graham is going to quit Donald Trump now, Ana, right?

NAVARRO: Hold your breath, why don't you? I'll bring over an oxygen tank.

BERMAN: But seriously, why -- it is just another thing where Lindsey Graham could not possibly do more to curry favor with Donald Trump. Yes, he said count me out on January 7th or whatever it was, but he didn't mean it, because obviously he didn't count him out, because he's still playing golf with Donald Trump, talking to him whenever he can. And Trump criticizing him today for what's in the book, but I can't imagine this is going to keep Lindsey Graham from going to play golf tomorrow.

NAVARRO: I can't either. I think there is not enough time in this program to psychoanalyze Lindsey Graham and his need for a padrino, a big brother, to be somebody's sidekick, whether it's John McCain or Donald Trump.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, Ana, about what we're seeing at the border and how, for instance, FOX and some in the GOP, many in the GOP are responding to it. There seems to be an increase in talking about that this is replacement theory, that this is migrants coming in essentially to benefit Democrats. Let's listen.



REP. JIM JORDAN, (R-OH) HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: The only conclusion any rational person can reach is this is deliberate, this is intentional, this is exactly what Hillary Clinton campaigned on in 2016 when she talked about a borderless hemisphere. TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT: Nothing about it is an

accident, obviously. It's intentional. Joe Biden did it on purpose. This policy is called the great replacement, the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far away countries.


KEILAR: I mean, Ana?

NAVARRO: Look, the one thing I agree with is that very little of this is accidental. I think it's -- I think it's very suspicious, and it's very reminiscent of the caravan that happened right before the midterms, which is an immigration issue that was -- that happened, all of a sudden, you got tens of thousands of people showing up at the southern border, and it is used to enflame the political passions.

This is a very difficult nut for Joseph Biden to crack. He has got issues with his own party who are being critical and attacking him for not being welcoming enough. And then it's also a huge issue and becoming one that, frankly, enflames racists and division and us versus them and invasion and invaders and alien prototypes and stereotypes within the Republican Party.

Look, the truth of the matter is that this is a humanitarian crisis, that this is tens of thousands of people fleeing political strife, fleeing poverty, fleeing political corruption. But I think there's many questions to be asked as to what is happening in the southern border. And I think -- I think we have not seen all the facts here. This is a -- this situation, I think, has many more layers to the onion than what we have seen as of yet.

BERMAN: And look, you can talk about issues at the border, and a clear problem with an influx of migrants, but replacement theory isn't even thinly veiled racism. You heard Tucker Carlson say, replace -- what is a legacy American? It rhymes with white, Ana. And so he's saying that legacy -- white people are being replaced.

NAVARRO: Which is such a bastion, right, such a pillar for the foundation of Donald Trump's campaign. Make white people feel anger. Sew division within Americans. Make it so that you are feeding into this idea that black and brown people are coming across the border and replacing us. Think about "Jews will not replace us" in Charlottesville. Think about all these things, think about the manifesto of the man who went to the Walmart and shot over 20 Latinos, hunted them down in El Paso, Texas. Think of all those things and just how it was about divide and conquer.

And I think that they saw that a winning strategy, making white people feel angry, feel distressed, feel passionately OK to be racist. So this is conflating the immigration issue with racism. If it was 20,000 Norwegians in the southern border, would Tucker Carlson be saying the same thing? It just happens to be 20,000 black Haitians and Central Americans.

And by the way, if he thinks that Haitians and Central Americans are more obedient, I was born in Nicaragua. I suggest one day he leave his little bubble in his studio and get out of this country and go see what people -- let's remember that Haiti was one of the first republics in the hemisphere that declared its independence, that it was slaves rebelling in Haiti that made it one of the first independent countries in the hemisphere.

KEILAR: No indication that he knows that or would certainly share that with his audience. I do want to ask you about something happening in your home state, which is that the governor, putting in place this surgeon general who is, look, if you look at his -- if you look at his resume on paper, Harvard, Ph.D., looks pretty good. But then once you look into what he has talked about, he's anti-mask, he's vaccine skeptical, he's appeared at these America front line doctor events with, for instance, I think the demon sperm doctor, who clearly has problems with facts. What do you think about this?

BERMAN: And demons.

KEILAR: And demons.

NAVARRO: I think Ron DeSantis found a guy who is Ron DeSantis, but with a medical degree. Listen, Ron DeSantis is a guy who is also a Harvard and Yale grad. And the guy we're seeing now in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, is the different than the guy who was first elected.

And let's remember that Ron DeSantis got elected by a very slim margin. There was a recount in Florida -- well, there's always a recount in Florida.

But -- and he came in talking about the environment. He came in trying to be conciliatory.

But he's obviously decided he wants to run for president, that he wants the Republican nomination, and that the way to do it is to cater to the Republican Donald Trump base and that means the folks who embrace anti-science, who deny vaccines, who believe in, you know, cattle dewormers, who -- we see him over and over taking this as a crusade, right? Whether it is suing school boards, whether it is telling local governments that he's going to find them if they issue a mask mandate, and now with his pick for surgeon general.

But, look, you know, the bottom line is as a Floridian, as somebody who lives in Florida, and whose life is directly impacted and affected by this, the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations we have seen out of Florida, and out of the state that are not vaccinated, the 10 least vaccinated states, are gruesome, are scary, are painful. Those are real people.

And so, putting politics over people's lives really is shameful in a way that I hope people will not forget. Floridians will not forget.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Ana, it is lovely to see you this morning and all our best to Chacha.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I was literally going to say, best to Chacha. You stole a line from me. NAVARRO: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thanks, Ana.

Just ahead, we're going to talk to the college professor who went toe to toe with Texas Senator Ted Cruz.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): So what voter ID laws are racist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apologies, Mr. Cruz, your state of Texas.


BERMAN: Also ahead, the standoff that could make the U.S. default on its debt, a dire warning for a man who used to run the Treasury.

And Nancy Pelosi speaking later this morning as a standoff between moderates and progressives puts President Biden's agenda in serious jeopardy.



BERMAN: High drama in Washington over the past 24 hours, setting up a showdown as soon as today. First, President Biden essentially playing referee between progressive and moderate Democrats fighting over his $3 trillion spending plan and the bipartisan infrastructure deal. This as the U.S. is on the verge of default and the government potentially shutting down. Police reform talks are officially dead as the White House and Democrats are now accusing Senate Republicans and demanding too much after months of intense negotiations.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, they went to the White House livid over the treatment of Haitian immigrants.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): I'm pissed. I'm unhappy. And I'm not just unhappy with the cowboys, who were running down Haitians and using their reins to whip them, I'm happy with the administration. What we witness takes us back hundreds of years. What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery. Cowboys with their reins, again, whipping black people, Haitians into the water where they're scrambling and falling down and all they're trying to do is escape from violence in their country.


BERMAN: Lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, leaving a classified briefing on Afghanistan, frustrated by the lack of answers from the Biden administration.

And on top of this, the president's approval rating is sinking and his agenda is in jeopardy not only because of Republican opposition, but because of disagreement within his own party.

KEILAR: Now, unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, the Treasury Department estimates it will run out of cash at some point next month. A default would set off dire consequences. A new Moody's report estimates nearly 6 million jobs would be lost as a result.

And now a group of former treasury secretaries have sent a letter to congressional leadership warning this, even a short-lived default could threaten economic growth, it creates the risk of roiling markets and staffing economic confidence and would prevent Americans from receiving vital services.

Joining us now is one of those former treasury secretaries who wrote this letter, Larry Summers with us.

So, this is the message, Larry, that you have here, that even dancing with this idea could cause an accidental default. Tell us why you are on board with this letter?

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY, CLINTON ADMINSITRATION: Look, the credit of the United States going back to Alexander Hamilton is a fundamental national asset. It is the basis of all financial markets, it is the basis of the way the government is able to spend money.

It has been unimpeachable. If it is called into question, if we don't meet our obligations, if it even gets to a point where there is a serious risk we will not meet our obligations, people are going to be at sea, they're going to become highly uncertain, they're going to freeze their spending plans, they're going to have difficulty with the collateral they have for their financial positions, and you have got a risk of financial chaos.

You can debate how much we should spend, whether -- how progressive taxes should be, what we should do about the corporate tax, there is plenty of stuff that you should debate. But nobody should be debating whether the United States is going to pay its debts back or not. We already incurred these debts. We must pay them back. Let's just get on with it.

If my kid spends too much on his credit card, we might have a family debate about whether I'm going to pay the bill or whether he's going to pay the bill, but it is not an option for our family to stiff the credit card company.


It is not an option for the government of the United States to stiff its bond holders. We need to move on to the so many serious issues that the country faces.

KEILAR: Right now one of those things for the Biden administration is infrastructure and other wide ranging spending that is really part of a social safety net as president Biden is trying to champion. There is two bills, just to be clear, one is a bipartisan bill, a little smaller, then there is this huge 3 trillion plus bill, the Democrats are going it alone on, sort of.

And I wonder what you think about what's happening in the House where progressives are drawing a hard-line and they're saying, look, to moderates and other Democrats, you have to pass both of these or we're doing nothing. You think it is really all or nothing?

SUMMERS: I hope not. Legislation is about compromise. I don't think there is any question that the country nee investments in infrastructure.

I don't think there any question there are ways we can strengthen our investment in people. Our 4-year-old should be in some kind of pre- kindergarten. God knows look at all the fires. We got to make investments with respect to climate change.

So they should be finding a compromise through, that may mean less spending, certainly means that spending should be paid for, given the inflationary threats. But we have got to find a way to move forward and my very great hope is that we will, I think, that if you look at the history of major legislative initiatives, they always have some near death moments along the way.

We're going through that valley right now. But I hope we will find our way through.

KEILAR: You've been critical of the Biden administration when it comes to inflation, Larry. How is the president managing this current economic debate?

SUMMERS: I think we're fortunate to have this president at this time. I've been glad to see the administration emphasize that if we invest more in supply, in infrastructure, for example, that will breakthrough bottlenecks, over time, that can help us have higher wages and more output with less inflation.

I do think it is absolutely critical that any further investments from here be paid for promptly with new revenues, I don't think we can afford an increase in the level of deficits and borrowing based spending given the inflation issues that exist in the country. I think in general we are -- we got more of an inflation problem than many people realize. I suspect that means interest rates are going to go up a bit faster than is anticipated by the markets in a way that was signaled by Chairman Powell yesterday.

KEILAR: As you're watching this infighting in the House Democratic Caucus, and in the senate, what is your optimism level when it comes to the Biden agenda? What is realistic to get through?

SUMMERS: I think it is realistic to have the most important -- on children in poverty in this country in 60 years. I think it is realistic to have the most important set of initiatives around climate change that the country has ever had. I think it is possible to make a big investment in our young people's access to community college.

Frankly, do I think that every single element of the program that has been put forward is necessary at this moment? No. Do I think there is too much of choosing everybody's priority? Yes.

But is there an opportunity to make historically memorable investments in the people and the resources of our country? Yes, I think there is. I think that can be done in a financially responsible way and I think it is absolutely (AUDIO GAP) I am not one who believes, Brianna, we're in some kind of cold war with China.