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Tensions Boil Between Petito, Laundrie Families; Nikki Haley Attacks Democrats, Kowtows to Trump; Kabul Airport Bomber Was Released from Prison Days Earlier; Memo Warns of Spies for U.S. Disappearing Fast. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 06:00   ET


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


Mark Zuckerberg responding to those damning claims made by the Facebook whistleblower. We're going to fact check what he said.

Plus, tensions boil between the families of Gabby Petito and her former fiance, Brian Laundrie. Why Petito's dad is calling Laundries' family cowards.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Nikki Haley, former governor, former ambassador to the United Nations, current political gymnast. More flips and twists and contortions than an Olympic floor routine. Hear what she says about the former president now.

And every time the Yankees lose, an angel gets its wings. The Red Sox win, a victory for everything that is good and decent in this world. A defeat for smugness and nearly unbearable shame, shame for the few remaining Yankees fans.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, October 6.

And we are beginning with tensions that are rising between the families of both Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito. Both of them are speaking out as the manhunt for Laundrie intensifies.

Brian Laundrie's sister Cassie breaking her silence. She said she has no idea where her brother is and she said, if she did, she'd turn him in.

Cassie says it's been a couple of weeks since she spoke with her parents, who have been advised by the family's attorney not to talk about the case, even to her.

BERMAN: It really has been a remarkable 24 hours in this case. More people speaking out in public than ever before.

Gabby Petito's parents, stepparents, they talked to Dr. Phil. They say they reached out to Laundrie's family a couple times after being concerned about Gabby's whereabouts, but the Laundries never responded. They believe Brian is in hiding and say someone has to start talking.

Jean Casarez joins us now with the very latest. And Jean, as I said, all of a sudden, the last 24 hours, everyone is talking.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is amazing. Now, Gabby's father said that once all the communication started -- stopped with her, they knew something was wrong. They were concerned for both of them.

He said he found every conceivable number for the Laundrie family. He kept calling and calling. He texted multiple times.

He said, finally, on the 11th of September he texted, We're going to the police because we know something is wrong. Something has happened to Gabby. There was silence.

The justice they want is for Gabby.


CASAREZ (voice-over): There is still no sign of Brian Laundrie, nearly three weeks since he was first reported missing. Now Gabby Petito's family sending this message to their daughter's fiance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn yourself in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn yourself in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn yourself in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn yourself in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn yourself in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to know the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because if you truly loved her, you should turn yourself in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're only making it worse for us and for yourself, and for his family.

CASAREZ: Laundrie's parents telling authorities they last saw him September 14, five days before Petito's body was discovered in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Her mother emotional, recalling that moment in an interview with Dr. Phil.

NICOLE SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S MOTHER: And we knew it was Gabby. Even though we were hoping it wasn't. It's hard. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to listen to. And it didn't hit me right away. For a few seconds. But I knew she was gone. As a mom, I knew she was gone.

CASAREZ: Laundrie's disappearance launching an unsuccessful search throughout this Florida wildlife reserve. Petito's father saying he believes Laundrie is still on the run.

MCGAW: Do you believe he's hiding somewhere?


MCGAW: Why do you believe that?

PETITO: Because he's a coward. Flat-out. I would use some other words, but I can't use them on your show.

CASAREZ: Last week, the attorney for Laundrie's parents saying they do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him.

As the search continues, Petito's mother saying she believes the Laundries have more information about their son's location.

SCHMIDT: Somebody needs to start talking. I do believe they know a lot more information

PETITO: Oh, yes.

CASAREZ: While Laundrie's parents are not talking publicly, his sister is speaking out.

CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: No, I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in. I don't know if my parents are involved. I think if they are, then they should come clean.

CASAREZ: Cassie Laundrie telling ABC News she last saw her brother on September 6th for a camping trip with their family.


LAUNDRIE: We just went for a couple of hours, and we ate dinner and had s'mores around the campfire and left. And there was nothing peculiar about it.

CASAREZ: She says she hasn't spoken with her parents in two weeks.

LAUNDRIE: We are just as upset, frustrated, and heartbroken as everybody else. They're not talking to us either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't they talking to you guys?

LAUNDRIE: If I knew, I would say. I don't know.

CASAREZ: Meanwhile, for Petito's parents, growing frustration as the days go by without any answers about their daughter's death.

SCHMIDT: I'm angry. I know who the last person was that was with her. I can't point fingers until we know for sure.


CASAREZ: CNN has reached out to the family attorney for the Laundries. He has not responded to our request for comment.

Gabby's stepfather also said that he was in Wyoming. And he said that it was all of a sudden the FBI contacted him, saying we've got to talk with you. They went to a conference room at the hotel he was staying. The FBI came in. They had located an article of clothing.

There was a conference call with the whole family. And, John, it was a sweatshirt. A sweatshirt that they all knew Gabby had loved. And they realized it was Gabby.

BERMAN: It's so tragic, so sad for that family. I think we have to remember that as we see all of these people speaking out and try to piece together, maybe even from the tone of their voice, the emotions and exactly what they're saying.

Jean Casarez, thank you so much for that report. Appreciate it.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: Last night Nikki Haley, once a rising star on the GOP, now more like a Republican pinball machine, said this at the Ronald Reagan Library.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: A large portion of our people are plagued by self-doubt or even by hatred of America. It's a pandemic much more damaging than any virus.


KEILAR: The former ambassador to the U.N. not letting more than 700,000 COVID deaths and counting get in the way of minimizing a pandemic politicized by the administration she served, as she suggests that liberals hate America and the country doesn't have a racism program, as she recounted growing up in the South.


HALEY: And take it from me, the first female and first minority governor of South Carolina, America is not a racist country. As a brown girl growing up in a small southern town, I saw the promise of America unfold before me.


KEILAR: She did see the promise of America unfold. But at times she also saw the promise of America denied. And we know this, because she's talked about it, growing up in that small Southern town, where she and her Sikh Indian immigrant parents didn't blend in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've said, "We were always other." What was that like growing up, and what kinds of lessons did it teach you? HALEY: I think you grow up in a small town, and, you know, your father

wears a turban, your mother wears a sari. We looked different. Everybody treated us different. But it was in that small town that I'm very grateful, because my parents reminded us that it's not about how you're different. It's about you're similar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You also say that as a child, you would see people sort of staring at your dad. And even in one case, the police were called, because he was just shopping at a roadside stand. And you said it made you sad for him.

HALEY: It did make me sad, because I knew that they didn't know him the way I knew them -- knew him. And I knew that they were -- whatever fear or concern they had I knew wasn't warranted.

But at the same time, while I talk about those differences, it's in that environment, in that state of South Carolina that I watched them change. I saw the evolution. I saw how they wanted --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people in the community, not your parents?

HALEY: Right. They wanted to know more about our family.


KEILAR: Some people didn't change, though. Like one South Carolina state senator who said this in 2010 as she ran for governor.


JAKE KNOTTS (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: We've got a raghead in Washington. We don't need a raghead in the statehouse.


KEILAR: Now, backlash against that video helped propel Haley to victory in the governor's race. Systemic racism is in the past, she says now, which she also said as governor of South Carolina when she was pressed on removing the Confederate flag from the state house grounds. Here she is in 2014.


HALEY: We really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor, when we appointed the first African- American U.S. senator. That sent a huge message.


KEILAR: The next year, a white supremacist walked into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, joined parishioners for Bible study, and then pulled out a gun and executed nine of them.

Just days later, when asked by CBS News about removing the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, Haley demurred, saying it wasn't the right time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


HALEY: Right now, I am not doing that to the people of my state.


KEILAR: But in less than a week, to her credit, the governor came around.


HALEY: It's time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds. On matters of race, South Carolina has a tough history. We all know that. Many of us have seen it in our own lives and the lives of our parents and our grandparents. We don't need reminders.

In spite of last week's tragedy, we have come a long way since those days and have much to be proud of, but there's more we can do.


KEILAR: There is more to do, she said.

Worth noting that, while Dylann Roof was convicted on federal hate crime charges, he did not face state hate crime charges, because South Carolina didn't have a hate crimes law, and it still doesn't. It's just one of two states without one.

The FBI recently began an advertising campaign in South Carolina, urging residents there to report hate crimes.

But in last night's speech, the former governor, who removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds, only to have that symbol brandished inside the U.S. Capitol by rioters this past January, whitewashed the ups and downs of the American experience with racism and the challenges still ahead, all apparently to appeal to the conservative base.

Nikki Haley courting the followers of Donald Trump, who enlisted the support of anti-government extremists; told the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by; called predominantly black and brown nations, quote, "shithole countries"; and said there were very fine people on both sides of the 2017 protest in Charlottesville, after a white supremacist killed a woman as she protested a far-right rally; even after Nikki Haley said this about President Trump following January 6th.

Quote, "We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn't have, and we shouldn't have followed him. And we shouldn't have listened to him. And we can't let that ever happen again. His actions since election day will be judged harshly by history," she said.

Shortly after that, Haley stopping her criticism. She even tried to go to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring but was reportedly denied.

Now, she may be right that history will judge Donald Trump harshly, but Nikki Haley will not, because she's too busy trying to ride his coattails.

KEILAR: Quite a history you lay out there. And quite a journey, shall we say, for Nikki Haley.

Joining us now Miles Taylor, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security under former President Trump.

Miles, you know, I think there are two things going on here with Nikki Haley that are related. One is she is doing what Mike Pence is doing and what many people in the Republican Party are doing, which is whatever they said before that was negative about Donald Trump and the insurrection, they're trying to walk it back, minute by minute, day by day.

And she's also doing another thing, which is this line of attack on Democrats saying that they're somehow un-American. And there is a connect there, right? What's more un-American: supporting some of the things the Democrats do, or talking about some of the things progressives do, or being acquiescent to an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol? What's more un-American?

MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes. I don't know. I weigh what the Democrats are doing, personally, against insurrection and find that the things can't really be compared.

So you guys used the operative word today, and that's political gymnastics. And that's what Nikki Haley is doing. She's putting herself, frankly, though, in an impossible position. Because while posturing for the presidency, she's also prostrating herself at the feet of Donald Trump. That's a really difficult position to be in. It's almost like people like her are in a hostage situation within the party.

I mean, you know, I heard one very senior member of the cabinet while I was in the administration say about Donald Trump, this is, quote, "the most abusive relationship I have ever been in in my entire life."

And that's what you see with people like Nikki Haley, who try to oppose Trump, and then they're back in his camp, and oppose him again.

And the unfortunate thing about all of this is they all know the same numbers that I know, which is that Donald Trump can't get to 50. And that's the problem. He lost the presidency. He lost the House of Representatives. He lost the United States Senate.

So he's a candidate that is a flawed candidate that can't win elections. So that's where they see some hope. That's where the Nikki Haleys of the world are hoping that they can edge in.

And quite frankly, I think one of the biggest bulwarks against a future Donald Trump presidency is the ambitions of people who want to try to replace them.

And look, the numbers show that the Republican base is opening up to this. I mean, a recent poll that we looked at at my organization, Renew America Movement, shows that Donald Trump's numbers among Republicans have dropped from around 50 percent to 25 percent.

He's now about even with Ron DeSantis in who they want to see as the head of the party. And for the first time ever in his tenure, a majority of Republicans are now saying they want a fresh face.


So the Nikki Haleys of the world see blood in the water. They're just having -- they're having to twist themselves in knots to show that they're the right ones to take over for them.

Because when he was in power, they refused to stand up to the guy. So they're trying to figure out how they differentiate themselves from a man they paid homage to for four years. And that's a challenge.

KEILAR: It's quite a balancing act for one to do while they are simultaneously carrying water. And you say that there's a national security issue here with folks like Nikki Haley doing that.

TAYLOR: Yes. And I absolutely think there is. And this is another place where you just have to dive into the numbers.

Donald Trump and Trumpism aren't just political problems for this country. It is a public safety and national security problem. And let me explain why.

We had another poll that we dove into in the past couple of weeks that came out from the University of Chicago that showed -- showed roughly a 10-fold increase in sentiments nationwide towards political violence in this country.

Specifically, something on the order of 27 million Americans in that poll confessed that they supported the idea of political violence to reinstall Donald Trump into the White House. Twenty-seven million Americans.

And of those, I think around six million in that poll either said they were a part of or knew someone that was affiliated with an armed militia or a domestic extremist group.

This is mindboggling. These are enormous numbers.

When I was originally in government, we roughly estimated there was 100,000 domestic extremists in the United States. Right? Cases that the FBI might be following. That number has increased ten-fold.

And the FBI director recently reported that. He reported a massive increase in the domestic terrorism cases around the country and said it's the No. 1 threat.

What is the source of this threat? It's largely the rhetoric propagated by the former president. And when you talk to these voters and talk to these people in the polls, they cite things like the big lie and the fact that the election was stolen. So that rhetoric is radicalizing people to violence and putting American lives in danger.

This isn't politics anymore. This is a national security concern.

KEILAR: Politicians are fertilizing that frowned. And they know the threat, but they're fertilizing the ground.

Miles, thank you so much for being with us.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

Next, we have breaking new details about the terrorist who killed 13 Americans in the deadly bombing at the Kabul Airport. Released from prison just days before the attack.

KEILAR: Plus, a top-secret memo with a grave warning for Americas spies.

And could Democrats go nuclear? The latest proposal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid economic disaster.



BERMAN: We have breaking news this morning about the suicide attack in Afghanistan that left 13 U.S. service members dead.

CNN has learned that the attacker had been released from prison near Kabul just days earlier. CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Pentagon.

And once again, Oren, this raises questions about the nature -- the chaotic nature of the U.S. withdrawal and the repercussions thereof.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. These latest revelations underscore how chaotic those final days of the withdrawal were and how quickly the situation was deteriorating. It also highlights how quickly Afghanistan could be used as a base by terror organizations like al Qaeda or ISIS-K to reconstitute their organizations.

So on August 15, as the Taliban was essentially at the gates of Kabul, they opened up two prisons, the Parwan Facility at Bagram Air Base, as well as the Pul-e-Charkhi Prison near Kabul.

In opening up these prisons just hours before they took control of the city of Kabul, they released thousands of prisoners: members of the Taliban, members of al Qaeda, as well as ISIS-K.

One of these ISIS-K members, according to two U.S. officials, Abdul Rehman, who just 11 days later, on August 26, would carry out that terror bombing at Abbey Gate at Kabul National Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members: 11 Marines, a sailor and a soldier. The last troops to die in 20 years of combat in Afghanistan.

Two U.S. officials, as well as Congressman Ken Calvert's office, tell us that he was released from the Parwan Facility at Bagram Air Base.

Now, of course, the U.S. handed over Bagram to the Afghans on July 1, though the Afghans had run the prison facility itself since about 2013.

The Biden administration has faced severe criticism -- and we saw that in Capitol Hill hearings last week -- for the way they turned over Bagram. And this is only sure to exacerbate the criticism about why and how it was turned over.

Afghan officials said -- some at least did -- It was almost as if the U.S. military had simply vanished in the middle of the night, allowing looters onto Bagram Air Base.

This only goes to underscore some of the risks and the dangers in how they played out, John.

BERMAN: The ramifications, as well. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much for that report. Appreciate it.

KEILAR: Developing overnight, "The New York Times" reports that the CIA has circulated an unusual top-secret memo, raising the alarm about the number of overseas U.S. informants who have been captured or killed.

Let's talk about this now with CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd.

Phil, this is very alarming to learn of. Give us a sense of how frequently this must be happening of American adversaries picking off U.S. informants in order for a memo to be issued about it.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It's got to be pretty frequent. Because in the 24 years -- 25 years I did this business, I don't remember a memo like this.

I think the most significant part of the memo is that it's not focused on a specific country. It's not like we have somebody who's a traitor selling secrets to the Russians, or the Chinese or others.

By reading the memo from the outside, it suggests that there are problems with U.S. intelligence operations against all these countries, which says as we transition from the war on terror to what the CIA used to do, big hard targets like the Russians and the Chinese, maybe the Americans -- the American intelligence service that I served in has lost a step, in terms of tactics and training. Those are far harder targets, in some ways, than chasing al Qaeda and ISIS.


KEILAR: Look, it seems like technology is an issue here, right? That other countries are getting good at it, and they're able to use it to track informants down. MUDD: Yes, I think that's true. Think of a couple of the aspects of

the spy business.

No. 1 is tracking people, especially people who are trying to communicate outside their countries in a place like Russia, Iran and China. Tracking people through things like social media, email, text.

If you look at the capabilities -- let's take Russia, for example -- of tracking people electronically, remember, this is the same Russia that has thousands of people looking at the U.S. electoral process digitally. It's a very digitally -- digital-capable country. So their ability to intercept communications of their own citizens or look at communications in the United States, very high.

The other thing I'd say is identity. Years ago, if you wanted to travel, we'd give you at the CIA fake documents. We'd photocell a passport. In other words, give you a passport and put your photo in there.

How do you photocell when you're doing retinal scans, when you're doing DNA, when you're doing fingerprints around the world?

I think that the age of spy craft is really going digital. And that's a problem for the Americans.

KEILAR: What does this mean for U.S. intel gathering?

MUDD: I think it's pretty significant. You've got to think of intel gathering in terms of threats to the United States. Threats from Russia would be stuff like election interference. Threats from China would be with the Chinese Navy doing in the South China Sea. If you look at Iran, there's obviously a threat of a nuclear program.

Those countries that pose the most significant threats to American security, whether it's in the United States or overseas, are the same countries that appears from the memo they're having success wrapping up U.S. agents.

So you put two and two together and say those agents are getting wrapped up. That means in those critical areas, the U.S. is more blind. You can't come away from that without saying that that's a problem for American national security.

KEILAR: Phil, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much.

MUDD: Thanks.

KEILAR: One of the men accused of hunting down and killing Ahmad Arbery is now asking the court to bar some specific evidence.

BERMAN Plus, where in the world is Dan Scavino, the aide to Donald Trump, his sometimes personal Twitter fingers? The January 6th Committee wants to give him a subpoena. Just one problem: They can't find him.