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FBI Returns to Laundrie's Home to Collect 'DNA Matching' Items; Clock Ticks as U.S. on Verge of Default, Biden Agenda at Stake; Trump Confesses to Pressuring Georgia Governor to Overturn Results. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired September 27, 2021 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar, alongside John Berman on this NEW DAY.


And the manhunt for the fiance of Gabby Petito is entering its third week as the FBI pays another visit to Brian Laundrie's home in Florida.

It's a critical week, as well, on Capitol Hill. Can Congress find a way to advance President Biden's agenda while keeping the government from shutting down?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump returns to the rally stage, blasting Republican leaders in Georgia and offering some surprising praise for one prominent Democrat.

And teenagers arrested in a chilling plot planned for the 25th anniversary of Columbine.

KEILAR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Monday, September 27. And there is movement in the Gabby Petito death investigation and some new clues in the manhunt for Brian Laundrie.

On Sunday, the FBI showed up at the Laundrie home in Florida to collect some of Brian's items. They may be trying to match DNA samples to the crime scene.

Where the investigation goes from here is not clear. Laundrie has not been seen in two weeks.

BERMAN: "The most amazing person." That is how Gabby's father described his daughter at an emotional service over the weekend. Relatives, friends, and total strangers showing up to offer condolences and support for the heartbroken family.

Nadia Romero is outside the Laundrie home in North Port, Florida. Nadia, where the FBI was again this weekend.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. And that was probably the most activity we saw all weekend, was when those two FBI agents came right here to the door steps of the Laundrie family home. Now, we're not too far from the Carlton Reserve, where search efforts

were supposed to resume to try to find out where is Brian Laundrie? But we didn't see a lot of police activity over there either.


ROMERO (voice-over): The search for Brian Laundrie stretching into its second week. The FBI returning to the home he shared with his parents and Gabby Petito.

According to multiple news outlets, his attorneys saying federal agents requested some personal items to assist with DNA matching, adding Laundrie's parents provided the FBI with what they could.

Laundrie going missing, according to his parents, nearly two weeks ago. He'd returned to Florida without Petito on September 1, two months after the couple set out on a cross-country trip, living out of a van.

GABRIELLE "GABBY" PETITO, FOUND MURDERED: I think our plan for today is to just hang out here in the tent.

ROMERO: Now rewards for tips to find Laundrie's location totaling $30,000. Authorities searching this Florida nature preserve, based on comments from Laundrie's parents, looking for any signs of the 23- year-old in these 25,000 acres of swamp land.

Laundrie has not been named a suspect in Petito's death. The FBI issuing a federal arrest warrant for the use of unauthorized devices. According to the indictment, he allegedly used a debit card that did not belong to him for charges exceeding $1,000 between August 30 and September 1.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Remember that the sole focus is on getting him, bringing him back to justice. Perhaps moving forward, investigators will potentially find him, and he could be brought to a court of law to answer for what now is a single count of an indictment for a debit card.

ROMERO: The search for Laundrie continuing as communities gathered to honor Petito this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want Gabby's family to know that North Port, Florida, and the world are praying for them.

ROMERO: Family and friends, and even strangers, attending a memorial at her New York home town on Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just so horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really such a shame. It's a tragedy.

ROMERO: Petito's great-aunt remembering her as a beautiful soul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just so heartbreaking what happened to her. And we love her. And we know that she's at peace. ROMERO: Her father asking mourners to be inspired by his daughter, a

young woman he says was always smiling and treating everyone kindly.

JOSEPH PETITO, GABBY'S FATHER: If there's a trip that you guys want to take, take it now. Do it now while you've got the time. If there's a relationship that you're in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now.


ROMERO: And you also heard from Gabby Petito's mother via Facebook, posting for the first time in almost two weeks, saying how grateful she's been to everyone around the world for all of their support during what's been a really difficult time for her family.

And of course, we know that Gabby Petito's family believes that Brian Laundrie has the answers to all of their questions -- John.

BERMAN: I have to say, some of the words at that service haunting. Nadia, thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: With more now on all of this, let's bring in criminal defense attorney Sara Azari.

Sarah, thanks for being with us this morning. Just this news that the FBI has visited the Laundrie House over the weekend asking for DNA samples, it appears, to perhaps match to the crime scene, what does that tell you?


This is huge. This is probably the biggest development in this case since Gabby's body was found.

And the reason this is big is because up until now. We've had these bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence like, you know, Arsenio Hall used to say "Things that make you go hmm."

You know, the domestic dispute before her disappearance. His interactions with people. He was -- you know, he was hitch-hiking. His disposition. His words. The fact that he came back without her.


But now we're entering the world of forensics. And in today's day and age, with today's technology, DNA evidence is pretty ironclad and pretty difficult to dispute.

So if there is a match between samples taken from the scene of the crime, or where Gabby's body was found and Brian Laundrie's DNA, then that places him right there. It's going to be very difficult for him, in a court of law, to come in and say, "I don't know what happened to her. She disappeared. I have no knowledge." He's not going to be able to do that in his defense.

So this is really huge, because DNA evidence in homicide cases either confirms the suspect or excludes him from suspicion. And so more shall be revealed once we have these results.

KEILAR: He has not, though, been named a suspect in Petito's death, despite this huge manhunt for him. How are you seeing that?

AZARI: Well, you know, we heard on September 14 when he disappeared that he's just a person of interest. But -- but he is really a suspect. That might be what law enforcement is doing to sort of protect the integrity of their investigation until they find him.

But the fact that he has been federally indicted on what's really a very minor financial crime that in most jurisdictions is -- is potentially a misdemeanor, tells us that they want to bring him to justice, really, on the homicide.

And so I think he is a suspect, despite however you want to label it.

KEILAR: Let's listen to some comments from Gabby's father. He delivered a heartfelt eulogy, and he also made an apparent reference to his daughter's relationship with Brian.


J. PETITO: If there's a relationship that you're in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it. Now. We've got more emails of men and women doing that, taking care of themselves -- taking care of themselves first.


KEILAR: An appeal he's making to people who are in unhealthy relationships.

We do know, Sara, that Moab Police investigating officers who we saw -- we saw on video how they handled a domestic dispute between the couple. How should they have handled that?

AZARI: You know, the response to domestic violence calls really sort of escalated and became more aggressive across the country, starting in the early '90s with the O.J. Simpson case.

And I can tell you, having defended, you know, dozens of these, that when police show up, typically one person is walking away with handcuffs.

And so the idea that they showed up and did not arrest Laundrie or Petito says a few things. You know, the idea of arresting somebody for domestic violence is really within the discretion of those police officers. They show up. They look for marks. They look for injuries. They listen to both sides of the story. Often, one police officer listens to one person, another to the other person; and they make a determination as to credibility.

And in this case, with body cam footage, thank God, they didn't believe that they could identify any first aggressor and -- and that warranted an arrest. And so they decided that the best thing to do under the circumstances was to have them have this sort of cooling off period.

And I just think that, you know, if Laundrie was brought to justice and in custody, there wouldn't be as much of a focus on blaming or looking for wrongdoing by third parties or third-party departments like the Moab Police Department, so soon at least, you know.

And so I think the idea that we're focused on who -- who else could be at fault is -- has got a lot to do with not having the real person and -- you know, the real person of interest in custody.

But, you know, this is an investigation. They will look into what the officers did, that they shouldn't have done or, you know, what they neglected to do. But I -- given that there were no visible injuries, that the stories were sort of conflicting, I don't see it as that easy to say, you know, they abused their discretion. They should have arrested someone.

KEILAR: I mean, look, there appeared to be some minor marks. They were on Brian Laundrie. So I think there are so many things to be learned from that video and from that interaction, perhaps, for future cases.

AZARI: Right.

KEILAR: Sara, really appreciate you speaking with us this morning. Thanks.

AZARI: Thank you.

BERMAN: A week from hell. That is what Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is calling this morning on Capitol Hill. It's all happening starting today, or not happening, which could be the Democrats' worst fear, with President Biden's agenda on the line.

Democratic leaders plan votes on two signature spending plans against the backdrop of a looming government shutdown and possible default on the U.S. debt. A week from hell.

CNN's Lauren Fox, agent of Lucifer, live on Capitol Hill for us this morning. We are starting to see the shape of what this week will now look like, Lauren.


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, John, the laundry list of things to do up here is growing every single day. And look, tonight is when we're going to get things started.

The Senate is going to vote on that government funding bill to keep the government from shutting down. But there's a catch: it's also attached to a debt ceiling increase that Republicans are going to vote against en masse.

So, what does that mean? It means that tonight in the Senate, this vote is going to fail. At that point, Democratic leaders are going to have to make a decision. Are they going to decouple these two items to make sure that the government funding bill passes with Republican votes, or are they going to keep Republicans on the line and then blame them for a potential government shutdown? We just don't have the answer to that yet.

Meanwhile, Democrats are also trying to move ahead with their bipartisan infrastructure bill and that larger $3.5 trillion social safety net bill.

There's a couple hang-ups. The first one is that progressives are saying they are not going to vote for that bipartisan infrastructure bill without assurances that that $3.5 trillion bill is going to get through the U.S. Senate. Right now, they don't have that.

So leaders were supposed to bring that $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor tonight in the House. Instead, that is going to get pushed for a vote on Thursday. They're still going to bring it to the floor tonight. They're going to begin debate. But they are also going to have what I'd like to refer to as a family meeting of the Democratic Party. This evening at 5:30, the Democratic Caucus in the House is going to get together.

And the point of that meeting is for leadership to get everyone in the room, have everyone air out their grievances, and get a feeling for what needs to happen to move the president's agenda along.

Because really, at the end of the day, Democratic leaders are trying to impress upon their members that this is about doing something or doing nothing. And right now that is the message they need to get through to their members, because they have moderates and they have progressives lobbing arrows at one another, John. And it's a major issue up here on Capitol Hill.

So, by the end of the week, the government has to be funded, or Friday the government shuts down. That is the deadline that really matters. But, look, there are so many moving parts right now. A lot Democrats have to coalesce around. Will they or won't they? That's the big question this week, John.

BERMAN The week from hell family meeting. Sounds like Festivus, where there is the airing of grievances. Democrats hope they move on to feats of strength by the end of the week. A lot of "Seinfeld" references there, Lauren. I don't expect you to know them all.

Thank you so much for being with us. Terrific reporting, as always.

Coming up, former President Trump all but admitting to the behavior that has him under several investigations. What he said about efforts to pressure Georgia's Republican governor.

KEILAR: And how soon will children as young as 5 get their chance to be vaccinated? The new timeline from the head of the drug -- the drugmaker Pfizer.

BERMAN: And the plot to carry out an anniversary attack 25 -- 25 years after Columbine.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me hammer it out, call him up. I said, Brian, listen, you know, you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election, and let's get to the bottom of it for the good of the country. Let's get to the bottom of it for the good of your state. Let's go. Election integrity. What could be better than that?

Sir, I'm sorry, I cannot do that.

I said you cannot -- and that's why -- let me tell you, this guy's a disaster. He's a disaster.


BERMAN: That is the former president of the United States, admitting or maybe confessing during his Saturday night rally, that he tried to pressure Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia to help him overturn the election results there.

I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor; and Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for "The New York Times."

Jeffrey, to an extent, it's not news that the president said this. He has said things like this before. But he just does it out in the open now. There is -- there is no shame any more.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: There's no shame. And, you know, there was a widely read article by Robert Kagan in the "Washington Post" a couple days ago about how we are already in in a constitutional crisis.

Because basically, we now have a very substantial portion of the population who will not acknowledge that the other side can win an election legitimately.

Trump said it at the rally, that even in 2022, 2024, we are not going to believe that a Democrat can legitimately win an election.

So now we have these audits going around, you know, these purported audits going on in -- The one in Arizona just happened. We've got one in Texas. There may be one in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan.

And the idea that your opponents are illegitimate and incapable of winning an election is something new in American politics. And it's scary, and it's dangerous. I don't like to think of myself as a big alarmist, but I think we're in a dangerous place now.

BERMAN: And Maggie, it's the transition from words to action that has you -- that you're taking notice of.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What I'm taking notice of, John, is the jump between his words to other people's actions. And this has always been the issue, is that Donald Trump is expert at saying something and then getting the people around him or who support him to do something on his behalf.

Now, the on his behalf can change, depending on the scenario. But in this case, the on his behalf are these, are you said purported audits. These are not really audits, and we should always bear that in mind. But these investigations of elections in various states.

He tried getting Kemp to do it. Kemp said no. But there are other people, or there might be future elected officials, should Trump get back in power, who would say yes. And I think that that is -- that is part of where the concern lies.


BERMAN: I think a lot of people look at this and say, Why are you all still talking about the 2020 election? Because it's not about 2020, Jeffrey, at this point. It's about 2022; it's about 2024.

You know, Bob Costa and Bob Woodward, in their book, the last two words in their book are "peril," "the peril remains." Because this isn't over.

TOOBIN: Well, and these are things that are happening now. We're not just talking about what Trump said at a rally. You know, the latest crazy thing. Or, you know, we used to talk about the tweets that, you know, we just struggled about whether to ignore them or report them.

But, you know, we are having audits now, purported audits.


TOOBIN: Of elections aimed to discredit the idea that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States. We have something like 70 percent of the Republican Party does not believe that Joe Biden was legitimately --

BERMAN: Seventy-eight.

TOOBIN: Seventy-eight percent of the -- of the Republican Party.

BERMAN: I always look at it as crazy.

TOOBIN: Well, it is crazy. But -- and we've never had that before.

And you know, when Al Gore lost the recount in 2000, he went away. He said, Look, you know, I disagree with what the Supreme Court did. I disagree with how the recount went. But that's just how American politics works. You accept the results.

We do have have -- a very substantial part of the population, thanks to Donald Trump, does not accept the results. And they are restricting the vote in -- you know, the state legislatures are acting in -- in Iowa, in Texas, in Florida, to make it harder to vote as a result of what's going on. BERMAN: Any legal repercussions about what he said at this rally,

since he said he called Kemp and told them to hold a special election? He's under investigation.

TOOBIN: The Georgia -- I always thought that the Georgia investigation was actually more serious than any sort of federal problem he might have, because his actions are on tape in -- in Georgia.

BERMAN: Raffensperger, yes.

TOOBIN: And this admission is -- is further fuel for that fire. At the end of the day, do I think he's going to be prosecuted in Georgia? Probably not. But he certainly didn't help his case there.

BERMAN: I want to play one other thing he said, Maggie. Because this gets to what I think and I know you think is also a central issue here. Which is what are Republicans going to do with all this?

Here you have the former president talking about Brian Kemp, the sitting Republican governor there, and also talking about Stacey Abrams, whom Kemp beat in the last election, who may very well run again this time. Listen.


TRUMP: When Stacey Abrams says, "I'm not going to concede," that's OK. No problem. No, she's not going to concede. She's not going to concede. Of course, having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth. Might -- might very well be better.


BERMAN: Stacey Abrams might be better than Brian Kemp.

HABERMAN: Look, he is invoking somebody who Republicans have made as big a boogeyman as AOC over the last two years, right? So you can look at it on the hand that way.

On the other, he is talking about Stacey Abrams, who could run for governor again in 2022. And he's elevating her. And this is not something that Republicans in the state are happy about. This is not something that most Republicans nationally are happy about.

I got a text from a former Trump official who said to me he clearly would rather just burn it all down if he's not going to get what he wants. And that is what that is.

And so Republicans are going to have to decide at a certain point -- well, they're not going to have to decide, because they've never actually had to decide. But so far, what they've done is avert their gaze as if what he says, at the end of the day, will be a wash and won't really matter. And that's clearly not true.

And you know what you can point to to know that? The 70 percent of Republicans who think that the election was illegitimate at this point.

Just because his words are not being aired all the time, just because he's not president any more does not mean there are not people hearing this repetition that he does over and over and over.

And so this is a reminder that Republicans who are hoping that they have a pretty good landscape for 2022. But it not -- it is not necessarily thanks to the former president.

BERMAN: I mean, so what will Republicans do with this? It's hard to imagine they're going to stand up on this.

HABERMAN: No. I think on this one they're going to ignore it. And they're going to say that, if we talk about it, we're just elevating it. But the question is, what other action does he take that's similar? What other thing does he take, say, that's similar. And I think that's the concern for them.

Look, his agenda is not the same as Republicans' agendas. Now, sometimes they may -- they may coincide. But his agenda is about himself. And theirs is about the midterms.

TOOBIN: But, you know, I don't think we should neglect how shameful it is that Mitch McConnell, that Kevin McCarthy, the leaders of the party, the structure of the party, are ignoring these anti-democratic, anti-American actions that the president -- the former president does all the time. And they basically refuse to discuss it.

McCarthy sort of does. McConnell refuses to engage at all about Trump. And he's the real leader of their party, and he's leading them in a very dangerous direction.

HABERMAN: McConnell has clearly made a decision that giving any attention to somebody who values any kind of attention, negative or positive, is a mistake. Whether that's the -- the right call on a variety of crimes is a different issue, but that is clearly his strategy.


I also think that the Stacey Abrams piece is really different than the other things he's saying.

BERMAN: Maggie, Jeffrey, thank you both very much. We'll see you again in a few minutes.

TOOBIN: Indeed.

BERMAN: Don't go far. You have behind-the-scenes reporting on this controversial new Alzheimer's drug that one expert says is one of the worst approval decisions ever.

KEILAR: And he supported the big lie, but he didn't stop there. We will roll the tape on the growing pile of B.S. from GOP Congressman Paul Gosar.


KEILAR: What happens when the wildest part of the conspiracy theory comment section gets elected to Congress? You get Paul Gosar.

Here's what he said about two weeks before Republicans in his state announced they had found nothing but additional votes for Joe Biden in their bogus and expensive audit of election results in Arizona's most --