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Extraordinary Trend of Defensive Supreme Justices Speaking Out; Virginia Governor's Race Takes Feisty Turn; New Study on Black Americans Killed by Police; Family Reunited after Escaping Afghanistan. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 01, 2021 - 06:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the Supreme Court is set to return for a new term beginning, as always, the first Monday in October. And this comes as the high court finds itself in the political spotlight in an extraordinary public display by justices who are angry and clearly on the defensive.

CNN's Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic joining us now for this -- it's high drama with the high court these days.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It is. Samuel Alito, yesterday, gave a very fiery speech, complaining about how some internal processes were being interpreted. When they stopped the -- they refused to intervene in the Texas abortion law, let that take effect, which essentially just stopped abortion rights in Texas on September 1st. And he was defending the midnight order that they put out and the processes that occur on their emergency docket.

But in a broader picture, Brianna, he was the fifth of the nine justices to complain about public expectations, media coverage, and, frankly, fellow justices in just recent weeks. And it really underlines this potential for a declining public confidence and legitimacy of the Supreme Court. They say they're worried about that, but they're also sort of taking shots at outsiders and insiders.

Here's the deal. We have a 6-3 court now with the three Trump appointees. Six conservatives, all appointed by Republicans. Three liberals, all appointed by Democrats. And they are at odds. So there's no getting around this partisan divide, even though they say things, as Amy Coney Barrett said in mid-September, I want to convince you that we are not partisan hacks. But she says that in the face of divisions that look very partisan.

So you have these statements coming out when justices typically, the ordinary speeches are very much about the history of the court. They can be very bland. But these have all expired a lot of coverage. They've been very provocative. And just think, one day before Sam Alito was complaining about how the court is seen, Justice Sotomayor said, essentially, you ain't seen nothing yet. There's going to be a lot of unhappiness coming, a huge amount of unfortunate rulings, and she's on the other side.

KEILAR: They don't want to be politicized. But perhaps the things that they're saying so publicly might backfire and actually politicize the situation even more.

Joan, thank you so much.


KEILAR: Joan Biskupic.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have major breaking medical news, and something that -- that could be a game changer in the fight against coronavirus. This is one of the holy grails that people have been waiting for, which is, an anti-viral, a pill that could keep you from getting sicker once you get COVID.

Drug maker Merck has announced that it's experimental pill to treat the virus cuts the risk of hospitalization and death in half. Now, this is according to Merck so far. This is clinical trials. And Merck has put out information that says it plans to apply for Emergency Use Authorization as soon as possible.

This would be the first anti-viral pill for COVID-19. Again, we're just seeing this information now. And if it is what it purports to be, this could be hugely important.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us live to react to this in just a few moments. So, stand by for that.



BERMAN: The Virginia gubernatorial race between the state's former Democratic governor and Republican businessman is shaping out to be a tight one. Right now, Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, is leading in the polls, but Republicans may maintain an edge in one category, enthusiasm among voters.

Jeff Zeleny has been all over the commonwealth of Virginia to give us a sense of what's going on there.



Terry McAuliffe has been sounding the alarm, trying to get Democrats interested and focused on this race. It is much closer than they expected. Virginia, of course, always elects its governors the year after a presidential campaign. The race often offers a glimpse of the party's mood.


GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: All right, who's ready for a new governor?

ZELENY (voice over): Glenn Youngkin is auditioning to be a new face of the Republican Party.

YOUNGKIN: We're about to absolutely send a shock wave around the country.

ZELENY: That shock wave would be a victory this fall in Virginia, where the GOP has not won statewide in a dozen years.


He's locked in a tight race for governor with Terry McAuliffe, who's hoping to keep that Democratic streak alive by trying to paint his rival as a clone of Donald Trump.


ZELENY: Youngkin is testing just how big the Republican Party's tent can be.

YOUNGKIN: Forever Trumpers, never Trumpers, the single issue voters and libertarians and Tea Party folks and -- it's about bringing people together.

ZELENY: Yet he rarely mentions the former president by name, a point Trump has noticed.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The only guys that win are the guys that embrace the MAGA movement. Does that make sense to you?


ZELENY (on camera): But the former president says you need to embrace him more.

YOUNGKIN: This is what it's all about.

ZELENY: And embrace the MAGA movement more.

YOUNGKIN: Well, he knows exactly where I stand, which is I'm --

ZELENY: You didn't mention his name tonight.

YOUNGKIN: I'm a Virginia first candidate. I'm on the -- I'm on the ballot. It's Glenn Youngkin running in Virginia.

ZELENY (voice over): He makes clear, Republicans, at least here, must chart a new course.

YOUNGKIN: The Republican Party has figured out one thing over the last 12 years, and that's how to lose.

ZELENY: The former private equity executive is investing millions of his own money into the campaign, introducing himself through TV ads as a former college basketball player, a father of four, and an outsider.

YOUNGKIN: I'm Glenn Youngkin. I'm not a politician.

ZELENY: But his positions are coming under closer scrutiny, like his support for requiring vaccinations for Measles, Mumps and Rubella, but opposing mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine.

YOUNGKIN: I do believe the COVID vaccine is one that everyone should get, but we shouldn't mandate it.

ZELENY (on camera): Is it the politics or the science that's different about COVID and the other shots that you do support mandates for?

YOUNGKIN: Oh, yes, I -- there's nothing about politics in here for me.

Should we mandate it for young children? I -- I think we need to just step back and recognize the best way to do this is to encourage everybody to get the vaccine.

ZELENY (voice over): And his calls for election integrity, which he repeatedly raised during his primary race to solidify his standing with the far right base, despite saying now there's no evidence of fraud as Trump and many of his followers insist.

ZELENY (on camera): But you believe all day long, since election day last year, that President Biden won?

YOUNGKIN: That's -- I have been very clear that there -- there's not -- there's not -- there's not extensive fraud in Virginia.

ZELENY (voice over): With early voting underway, Youngkin is hoping to capitalize on any dissatisfaction with President Biden and the Democratic policies in Washington.

YOUNGKIN: Go vote. Who's voted early already?

ZELENY: In a November contest in which both candidates are portraying the other as extreme, in a race that offers an early glimpse into the nation's mood going into the 2020 (ph) midterm elections.

YOUNGKIN: All eyes are on Virginia. America wants us to win. Why? They need hope.


ZELENY: So Mr. Youngkin there does have a careful balancing act ahead of him, trying to get those Trump voters, but not necessarily fire up Democrats by mentioning Trump so much.

But, John, this race also is focused on this stalemate in Washington.


ZELENY: Terry McAuliffe believes that the, you know, inaction by Democrats, the inability to govern really is hurting his race as well. So here on the first day of October, one more month to go in this race. It's going to be a fascinating window into the moods of both parties offering a bit of a tea leaf, we'll see, for those midterm elections next year.

BERMAN: No one is watching what's happening in Washington more closely than Terry McAuliffe.

ZELENY: That's right.

BERMAN: No one cares more about this deal going through. He just turned the lights off behind you, he cares so much.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much for being with us.

So a rock legend walks into a bar, and no one notices. That's what happened to Mick Jagger. Look at this. That's Mick, the guy standing there seductively, all by his lonesome, the one who looks like Mick Jagger, drinking a beer at a bar called The Thirsty Beaver Saloon in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Rolling Stones were there for a concert on their No Filter Tour. We're told some of those bar patrons who didn't notice him in that picture, they're huge fans and they plan to go to the concert. Jagger himself, amused, tweeting the picture with the caption, out and about last night in Charlotte.

What do you think?

KEILAR: I love that. I mean, is that the most like Mick Jagger profile you've ever seen.

BERMAN: I know.

KEILAR: I was trying to figure out the word, and you nailed it, seductively, that's how he's standing.

BERMAN: Yes. I will tell you, my main reaction to that story is thirst.

KEILAR: You want a beer.

BERMAN: I do --

KEILAR: Hey, you're like two hours away from a beer.

BERMAN: I didn't (ph) say that. I'm looking at my --

KEILAR: That's when -- that's when your Friday night is.

BERMAN: Oh, that looks like a good place to go at 9:01 this morning, if I can get there.

KEILAR: Right.

BERMAN: All right, we have much more on our breaking news.

Drug maker Merck has announced that its experimental COVID pill, this is a pill you take after you get COVID, it cuts the risk of hospitalizations and death in half. This is a big deal. This is what has been missing in this pandemic so far. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us live ahead.

KEILAR: Plus, police killings in the U.S.


A new study finds a startling statistic on just how many black Americans are affected.


BERMAN: All right, this just in, a disturbing, new study reveals that black Americans are dying at the hands of police at a much, much higher rate than white Americans. And those numbers, they're being severely undercounted.

CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now.

So how's this happening, Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, there's just a number of factors that researchers point to in this study. Overall, what it really highlights, though, is the need for more comprehensive and public data system on police violence, particularly because this data shows, again, how much people of certain races and ethnicities are impacted disproportionately by that violence.

Now my colleague, Peter Macias (ph), he broke down this study and he found that researchers looked at a 20-year period in the U.S. and they determined more than half of all deaths found to be due to police violence are underreported or miss classified in a government database where they can be accessed publicly.


A closer look at those numbers showed the mortality rate over the two decades was three and a half times higher among the black population and 1.8 percent higher for Hispanics. A spokesperson for the national center for health statistics said it's commonly understood that that particular database compared to this study undercounts deaths for one reason, caused by -- for one reason is that death certificates, rather, don't always note police involvement.

But, again, the bottom line here is there really isn't a single, comprehensive source of national data for use of force by police or a standard against which any use of force is judged. And this suggests that one is needed. And so the scope of this problem could really be fully understood.

This study, of course, punctuating the national discussion we've had in the aftermath of high-profile cases like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor. We saw so many states, of course, taking action in the wake of their tragic deaths, and others. But we also know, John, that Congress, so far, has failed to pass major federal reform.


BERMAN: Look, to fix a problem, you have to know the facts behind the problem.

GINGRAS: Exactly.

BERMAN: And this just shows how lacking that has been.

Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Ahead, no vote, no deal, no nothing. A deep division within the Democratic Party over the infrastructure bill. But are there signs of possible hope for them ahead?

KEILAR: And, next, we have an interview with a family, including five kids, age four to 13, reunited after a harrowing escape from Afghanistan.



KEILAR: A family of American green card holders separated by the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, finally reunited back home in Philadelphia after a harrowing escape. The father, Mohammad Sadeed, who had worked at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, took his wife and children for a visit to Afghanistan to see family. A last chance to see his ailing mother, he thought. He returned home ahead of his wife and children but then Kabul fell and he wondered if he'd ever see them again.


KEILAR (voice over): A harrowing journey for a Philadelphia resident and her five children, ending in the U.S. with a reunion that almost didn't happen. Mohammad Sadeed embracing his family after their visit to Afghanistan was interrupted by the fall of the country to the Taliban.

His wife, Bibi, whose face we aren't showing because she fears reprisals from the Taliban, was out shopping when life in Kabul changed in an instant.

BIBI SADEED, EVACUEE (through translator): Yes, they were closing the shops. I asked what the matter was. They said the Taliban had come. As I got closer, the gunshots increased and everyone started running.

KEILAR: She hurried to her family's house, where her kids, including her 11-year-old Zareena (ph), hid.

ZAREENA SADEED (ph): We were so scared. And my cousins were telling us that the Taliban is coming. And then my mom came to the home and she said, everybody have to go to the basement. And that was a scary time.

KEILAR: Mohammad had returned to Philadelphia just days before, for his job helping resettle immigrants, like himself. Bibi and the kids, also green card holders, were to follow in early September, too late, it turned out.

Afraid but determined to get home, they went to the airport where they took this video.

Z. SADEED: There was a lot of people to come and the Taliban was also there and -- and at the airport we -- we hear some gunshots and -- and we were so scared. My cousin was crying and everybody like I was so scared too.

KEILAR: Bibi describes teargas as she urged her children to hold hands so they didn't get lost.

MOHAMMAD SADEED, FAMILY EVACUATED FROM AFGHANISTAN: The first time she attempted with my children there were shots and seven people were killed.

KEILAR: Mohammad was desperate. He told his story to "The Washington Post" and he appeared on CNN.

M. SADEED: I can call it a matter of life and death. So they are still in there. I tried all my network but I could not succeed them to bring them back.

KEILAR: Mohammad was at a dead end. So I sent his wife's contact information to the White House. And in what I initially thought was a Hail Mary, I connected Mohammad with a network of veterans. They were remotely shepherding people with a legal claim to be in the U.S. through a little known route to a secret gate at the airport.

Bibi's first attempt at this route failed because even with all her kids in tow, the Taliban said she couldn't travel without a male escort for her family. So, she hatched a plan.

KEILAR (on camera): So she pretended that your brother was her husband.


KEILAR: That was the only way through the Taliban.


KEILAR (voice over): For Mohammad's brother, getting Bibi and the kids to safety meant leaving his own family behind. Just before the explosion outside the airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 90 Afghans, Bibi and her children made it through and onto a military transport plane.

KEILAR (on camera): Zareena, what was the airplane like as you flew out?

Z. SADEED: It was the military airplane. And that they don't -- that airplane that was not have the seats that we can sit.

KEILAR (voice over): They flew to Germany, staying in tents like these. At times going hungry because they said there wasn't enough food. And finally, after 10 days, they arrived back in the U.S.

KEILAR (on camera): Who did you hug first? M. SADEED: My brother. To just respect him and to just show my

appreciation to my brother. He was the first one I hugged him.


And I -- to just give him a sense and a thought that I have not forgotten whatever you have done to my family.