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Anti-Vaccine NBA Players Dig In; Trump's Pick to Challenge Cheney; Hinckley's Unconditional Release; FBI Scales Back Search for Laundrie. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 28, 2021 - 06:30   ET



MATT SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, "CAN'T KNOCK THE HUSTLE: INSIDE THE SEASON OF PROTEST, PANDEMIC AND PROGRESS" AND CONTRIBUTOR, "ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE": He might just have to get guilt-tripped into playing by his teammates. Kyrie, my reporting for "Rolling Stone" indicates, is not on some religious crusade as much as a moral one. And so it may just be that he up and refuses to play. It may be that he takes this almost as an anti-Kaepernick stand and rides this out for a while. But I think there's a difference between an excuse and an abdication. And is this going to be a situation where he takes a stand or the NBA just refuses to lead on vaccines.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You say abdication here. Let me read you something you heard from Kareem Abdul Jabbar, one of the great NBA players, who's also a terrific writer. He talks about the current players. He says, they're failing to live up to the responsibilities that come with celebrity. I'm also concerned about how this perpetuates the stereotype of dumb jocks who are unable to look at verified scientific evidence and reach a rational conclusion.

SULLIVAN: Well, I found, sadly, even worse than that. I mean we're -- when I reported my book, at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a team doctor who told me that some players just straight up didn't believe that the virus was real. And now we've got Kyrie's aunt out here telling me about Dr. Falsey (ph), quote/unquote. Another player while I was reporting for "Rolling Stone" last week suggested that masks don't work.

And this is really a step back for the NBA, which has and continues to try to lead on science, but you've got players who are stick of getting nasal swabbed every day, who don't want to get tested on off days, who would rather be out at the club.

BERMAN: What are the vaccinated players saying about this? Is there any -- you know, Karl-Anthony Towns is -- that is a tragic story. He's lost so many people, and he himself got it bad. I was reading yesterday, he lost 50 pounds. There was this first game back. He could barely get back on the court. He couldn't play against NBA centers because he was too light.

SULLIVAN: I think what you're going to see is a lot of education coming from players like that to veterans, stars, and a lot of unvaccinated stars, as well as young players alike over the next couple of weeks here. It's really going to be a race against time for the NBA and its same players to educate the unvaccinated here, or else we might have an unfortunate and easily avoidable kind of superstar super spreader event ahead of us.

BERMAN: Who loses here?

SULLIVAN: Certainly Kyrie if he doesn't get the shot, which last time I checked, is 90 percent efficacy.

BERMAN: Yes. Again, he gave this news conference yesterday at home. It seems as if he wasn't allowed in their practice facility where everyone else was giving a new conference.

Matt Sullivan, as I said, people should go read your piece because there's a lot of information in there. It will really makes you think.

Appreciate it.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Former President Trump throwing his endorsement behind Liz Cheney's primary challenger. Wait until you hear how far that person went, the person now running against Liz Cheney, how far she went to keep Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee in 2016.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, is Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin a danger to the public? How John Hinckley's full release is sitting with Secret Service agents.



KEILAR: Former President Trump is endorsing a primary challenger to Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Harriet Hageman, who is a Wyoming Republican, is Trump's choice to take on his leading GOP critic. But here's the thing, five years ago, Hageman fought against Donald Trump during his campaign, calling him weak and racist.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us now.

He must really hate Liz Cheney. He's looking the other way on this.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Brianna. And you have this very clear about-face here from Harriet Hageman when it comes to the former president. Now that she is running against Congresswoman Liz Cheney, she is fully embracing the former president.


SERFATY (voice over): The race for Wyoming's lone House seat is heating up after former President Donald Trump endorsed Harriet Hageman in her bid against Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Hageman, a lawyer and formerly Wyoming GOP's national committeewoman fronting a failed campaign for governor in 2018.

HARRIET HAGEMAN: And I grew up right here on this ranch where I learned the value of integrity, hard work, and a love of Wyoming.

SERFATY: While Hageman is Trump's choice to unseat Cheney, she once served as an adviser for her now political rival's unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2014. Hageman reportedly tried to prevent Trump from even becoming the party's nominee in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All those opposed, no.

SERFATY: During the Republican National Convention that year, "The New York Times" reported Hageman worked in a failed effort to force a vote on the convention floor between Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. The paper reporting Hageman called Trump the weakest candidate and warned electing him would put somebody who is racist and xenophobic in charge.

But now, Hageman is singing a different tune, telling "The New York Times" in a statement that she fell victim to lies about Trump, and calling him the greatest president of my lifetime, and saying she is proud to have been able to re-nominate him in 2020, and I'm proud to strongly support him today.

Hageman tweeting this seemingly signed printout of Trump's endorsement with a thank you. And on Cheney Hageman saying this just weeks ago.

HAGEMAN: Cheney has betrayed Wyoming. She betrayed all of us. And she betrayed me. And I -- had I known five years ago that Liz Cheney would align herself with Pelosi and the radical Democrats in Washington, D.C., I probably wouldn't even have taken that first phone call.

SERFATY: Cheney once supported the former president, too, but the Wyoming congresswoman became a major target for Trump and his allies earlier this year, falling from grace after voting to impeach Trump and speaking out against the January 6th insurrection and the big lie.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.

SERFATY: Cheney acknowledging the race will likely serve as a test for the future of the Republican Party.

CHENEY: I think it's going to be the most important House race in the country in 2022. And -- and it will be one where people do have the opportunity to say, we want to stand for the Constitution.


SERFATY: And Congresswoman Cheney has already tried to define this race in those exact terms. She says a vote for her opponent is a vote for someone who puts allegiance above -- to Trump above allegiance to the Constitution. This is certainly going to be a fascinating race to watch, Brianna. KEILAR: Yes, allegiance to Trump when it serves her politically, which

is so fascinating about your report there.

Sunlen Serfaty, thank you.

A federal judge granting an unconditional release to John Hinckley Jr., of course the man who shot President Reagan. But the Reagan Foundation believes he is still a danger to society.

BERMAN: Plus, a new warning from prosecutors. Why violent criminals are on the verge of being freed in a major American city.




KEILAR: The man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, granted unconditional release effective next year, meaning no restrictions on his movements or Internet activity. Restrictions he has been living with for several years now.

In 1982, John Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent nearly 30 years at a mental hospital. He was released from the hospital in 2016 and moved in with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Joining me now, CNN law enforcement analyst and a former Secret Service agent who spent five years on President Obama's detail, Jonathan Wackrow, and HLN contributor Casey Jordan. She's a criminologist, behavioral analyst and attorney.

Just so people understand, OK, John Hinckley has been living outside in society for a few years now, but there have been some specific restrictions. Number one, he had to stay away from any elected official, anyone with Secret Service protection, and he couldn't do anything to get anywhere near or contact either the Reagans, any of his other victims, or Jodie Foster.

So, Casey, just explain to me the legal theory, whether you agree with it or not, the legal theory behind now lifting those restrictions.

CASEY JORDAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It is so important that everyone understands that Hinckley was never found guilty of any crimes. He was found not guilty of all 16 counts by reason of insanity.

But in the early '80s, the rules for the insanity defense were very different. Basically, the defendant could posit that defense, and it was up to the prosecution to refute it. This became a watershed event. Almost every state then changed their insanity laws because public sentiment was that he got over on the system. He literally got away with attempted murder, assassination of a president.

And the reason that we are so up in arms is because we think he got over on the system. But when you're found not guilty by reason of insanity, you are basically committed to psychiatric care until you are cured, until you are no longer a threat to yourself or to others. That basically happened almost five years ago with all these restrictions. He was able to live with his mother in the outside world and has been doing that for five years.

But his mother died in July. His psychiatrist is going to retire in the next few months. And this has made the court re-evaluate and realize that make it's time that Hinckley just has no restrictions at all.

BERMAN: Yes, the judge in this case, Judge Paul Friedman, said if he hadn't tried to kill the president, in other words, had he tried to kill someone else, he would have been given unconditional release a long, long, long time ago. What he means is, is based on the law at the time he was convicted, he would have no restrictions now.

JORDAN: Right.

BERMAN: And, Jonathan, I promise I'll get to you in one second here.

Patty Davis, the former president's daughter, the late president's daughter, wrote, now there is another fear, that the man who wielded that gun and almost got his wish of assassinating the president could decide to contact me. There's no manual for how to deal with something like this. You have to live with the fear, the anger, the darkness that one person keeps brings to your life.

She's scared that Hinckley is going to try to contact her now that those restrictions are lifted. How reasonable is that fear, Casey?

JORDAN: Oh, the reason it's -- it's completely -- the reason we are so afraid of this is because he has been out and somewhat unstable. He has complete, unfettered access now to social media. And he -- you know, he can make phone calls. He can do whatever he wants. All of those restrictions about him, contacting the president's family, James Brady's family, even Jodie Foster, they no longer exist.

So we aren't 100 percent certain, given that he has diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizotypal personality, narcissistic disorders, depressive disorders. My big question is, I'm sure he's on medication. Is there anyone making sure he takes it? Currently, I don't think there is. And if he goes off the deep end, what's to keep him from contacting these people or even traveling to see them? Absolutely nothing once the judge lifts the orders.

BERMAN: All right. All right, Jonathan, one of your colleagues, you know, a fellow Secret Service agent, was among those shot here. So what's your view of this?

JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Listen, you know, the reality is that Hinckley shot six times toward the president, 1.7 seconds. So as a Secret Service agent, you know, I have significant concerns that a would-be assassin is now unrestricted out into the public.

[06:50:00] Now, while the Department of Behavioral Health has assessed that he is a low risk for future violent acts, it must be understood that all of these assessments of Hinckley have been done while he's currently under court restrictions. The true test at his ability to control his behavior really remains to be determined. But I want to actually put, you know, a little context around this release. This is the release from the court-ordered restrictions.

The U.S. Secret Service will still view this individual as a potential threat. So this is where we shift from, you know, into a protect (ph) intelligence methodology by the U.S. Secret Service. They will be constantly assessing his means, opportunity, and intent to cause harm moving forward. Again, he has unrestricted movement. He can be in Washington, D.C. He can be around political officials. He can be out in the public. But from the Secret Service standpoint, they have to look at this from a threat intelligence, a protective intelligence perspective and really look at early indications of behavioral problems moving forward.

BERMAN: How closely do you think they'll be watching, Jonathan?

WACKROW: I think they'll be watching very closely. You know, and one thing that really concerns me, John, and I just want to raise this, protective intelligence is very nuanced. The Secret Service does it really well. They train all of their agents well to look at these early indicators.

So, right now, here's what agents should be looking at. Hinckley petitioned the court in 2020 to upload videos of -- YouTube videos in his own name. Why? Because he was disappointed that he wasn't getting enough followers. As an investigator -- as a threat investigator, I would assess that he felt that he wasn't receiving enough gratification for his work and that he was being marginalized. And this is important because, remember, it was his desire in the past for this recognition and fame that led him to the assassination attempt of President Reagan, only to impress Jodie Foster. I fear that the court is literally allowing history to repeat itself.

BERMAN: Casey Jordan, Jonathan Wackrow, thank you both so much for being with us this morning. Again, this doesn't happen until June, but it will happen unless something changes at this point.

The FBI says it is changing its tactics in the search for the fiance of Gabby Petito. We'll take you live to Florida next.

KEILAR: And the U.S. on the verge of default. Another government shutdown as well. Former Senator Al Franken joins us live on the drama playing out on Capitol Hill this morning.



KEILAR: New this morning, the FBI is scaling back its search for Brian Laundrie. The bureau says that it will not be targeted based on intelligence. And in Utah, CNN has obtained a police audio recording that sleds some new light on what authorities knew about that altercation last month between Gabby Petito and Laundrie.

Randi Kaye is tracking all of these developments from North Port, Florida.



Yes, that is now a very targeted search. The FBI is now fully in charge of that search in the Carlton Reserve, not far from where we are right now, looking for Brian Laundrie. They hope that some of the higher waters do down so they can get into those areas that they haven't been able to access before based on intelligence, of course.

But also media outlets are reporting the last couple of days, investigators have come here to the Laundrie home to collect DNA- matching items. We don't know what they took. Possibly a toothbrush or a comb, something to match to Brian Laundrie's DNA, if they find him dead or alive in the Carlton Reserve.

Also, they could possibly match it to the Wyoming crime scene where Gabby Petito's remains were found. Perhaps the killer dropped a piece of chewing gum or a wrapper that they could match there as well.

And you mentioned this dispatch call. We are getting new information related to the police stop back on August 12th of Gabby Petito and her fiance in Moab, Utah. Somebody had called 911 to say that -- that they had seen a man slapping a woman. So then Grand County Sheriff's dispatched Moab Police to stop them. And in this call you will hear them say a male slapped a female.



OFFICER: Do you have a phone number for the RP, maybe just a landline and a location of where our victim's at?

DISPATCH: The phone number is (MUTED), but the female who got hit, they both, the male and the female, both got into the van and headed north. RP states they seen a male hit a female. Domestic. Got into a white Ford Transit van. Has a black ladder on the back.


KAYE: So police determined that this was not a domestic assault. Instead, they separated the couple for the night, Brianna. And now we know that the city of Moab is investigating how that police stop was handled because Gabby Petito was dead within just a couple of weeks or so of that police stop.

KEILAR: Yes. And looking at that police stop, honestly, if you listen to it, it seems like she was going to be the one getting in trouble and that they were talking about kind of letting that go.

I do understand, Randi, that you spoke to a survivalist who detailed what it takes to stay alive in the tough environment like the one that authorities have been searching. What did you learn?

KAYE: Yes, this is really interesting. I spoke to Steve Clater (ph). He's a survival instructor here in Florida for the last seven years. He also does search and rescue with Marion County here in Florida.

And he told me, just in terms of the tools to try and find Brian Laundrie that they would be using would be infrared. They can sense heat at night, possibly see him if he is in the Carlton Reserve. Also, they said, just basic -- he said just basic eyes on the ground, look for brush that might have been overturned or something that might have been left behind, like a piece of clothing.


But problems for Brian Laundrie, he said, could include, if he is out there, heat, humidity, and also predatory animals here in Florida.