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New Day

Merck Applies For FDA Green Light On Pill To Treat Coronavirus; Americans In Limbo As Southwest Cancels 1,000 Plus Flights In U.S.; Stage Set For January 6th Showdown This Week Over Subpoenas; Whistleblower Alleges Police Leadership Failures On January 6th; U.S. Navy Engineer Arrested For Trying To Sell U.S. Nuke Secrets. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 06:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, October 11th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. And this is a special holiday addition of New Day special because of this.




BERMAN: Yes. I just can't help it. It's so good. That's Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox catcher with a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th. So the Red Sox who, honestly, they're not very good. They're now leading the Tampa Bay Rays two to one in this series. It's fantastic. I know this meant a lot to you too, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It meant so much to me, because I knew that you were going to be up very late last night. And so I knew that I had to bring my A game today, right Berman?

BERMAN: Really, honestly, and I thought I was going to have something witty to say when we put this out at first, but I'm so happy. I'm speechless. But I see that I can't even put a sentence together because it's so amazing.

KEILAR: I love that you just admit some of the limitations. And actually, perhaps, that makes the win that much better.

BERMAN: Honestly, all I have is my limitations, and I have to admit them.

All right, in addition to this phenomenal development, we also have other major breaking news and a very positive development. Drugmaker Merck has announced just moments ago that it has applied for Emergency Use Authorization for its new antiviral drug that it says cuts hospitalizations and deaths in half for people with mild to moderate coronavirus.

KEILAR: So if this pill is approved, it would be the first oral medicine to fight viral infection for coronavirus and it could bring us all a giant step closer to our pre-pandemic lives. So let's get right now to Elizabeth Cohen with the breaking details. I mean, that sounds pretty good there. How significant is this?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is really significant, Brianna. Right now as we speak, if you called your doctor and said, "Guess what Doc, I just tested positive for COVID", there is really not very much that he or she could do. However, if this pill gets Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, your doctor could call in a prescription. Wouldn't that be amazing?

It's an antiviral, just like we've all taken antibiotics. This is an antiviral drug. Let's see what happened when Merck put it in clinical trials. So Merck had a clinical trial, there was 762 participants again in early stage COVID. These folks were just days away from having been diagnosed, they were not in the hospital.

Now about half of them got a placebo. Of the folks who got a placebo as they followed them in the coming weeks, 45 of them were hospitalised and eight of those people died who got the placebo, the drug that does nothing. But those who got the actual pill that does nothing, I should say, those who got the actual drug got this actual antiviral, only 28 were hospitalized and none of them died. Those are really pretty stunning results. Of course the FDA and the CDC will be going over these results with a fine-tooth comb.

It is it is not a 100 percent sure thing that it will be approved, but the certain numbers certainly look good. If it is approved finally, your doctor can have something to call in if you have to make that phone call saying, "Hey, I just got diagnosed with COVID, Doc, what can you do?" Now there's something they can do. John, Brianna?

KEILAR: It's really amazing when you look at the results there. And Elizabeth, this is coming amid a series of other developments in the coronavirus fight. Tell us about that.

COHEN: It is. I want to show you a map, Brianna, that I got to tell you. When I saw this map this morning, I felt like my blood pressure went down It was so good to see. In this map, the few states that you see in red, just five states, that's where rates of COVID are going up, in just five states.

You guys remember when I've been on your show talking about just, you know, where dozens of states are going up. 19 states are in yellow, those are holding steady, 26 states, 26 states are in green and the rates are going down. Now, while I just said that my blood pressure did go down with that map, I will say that when you listen to, for example, what Dr. Fauci said over the weekend, this is not the end and none of us should go, "Wow, this is amazing. It's, you know, it's 2019 all over again." That is not the case. We still have many, many Americans dying every day from COVID. We still need to be careful. If you haven't gotten vaccinated, now is certainly the time. We all still need to be careful and do our part.

KEILAR: Yes, I'm having flashbacks for those all red, all orange maps, you know, where we're praying for a little bit of yellow --

COHEN: Right, right

KEILAR: -- we'll take all that green. Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Right. Thanks.


BERMAN: So this morning stock futures edging lower after a nearly flat line finish Friday from the jobs report that fell far below expectations. The report shows that the pandemic has changed how people view their jobs.

CNN's Christine Romans joins us now to explain. And Romans, we were here together on Friday --


BERMAN: -- when the jobs report came out and you simply said that things are different now.

ROMANS: Yes, they really are. You know, COVID essentially broke the jobs market and fixing it won't be quick or simple. That latest evidence is that hiring slowed in September, a setback as the Delta variant rages through the American economy. It is still a pandemic jobs market.

194,000 jobs added back last month, John, as you know, well below very strong hiring seen earlier in the summer. The economy's still down 5 million jobs since the pandemic began. At this pace, it would take more than two years to recover all the jobs lost.

Now the issue, it's not as simple as companies aren't hiring, many report they are, they would hire even more workers but they can't find them. The theory was those fat jobless checks were keeping people at home. But the reality is those benefits have expired and more people actually dropped out of the labor market altogether. It's an unprecedented mix of factors.

Parents can't find childcare. Kids are back in school, but there aren't enough drivers -- school bus drivers to get them there. Parents are just waiting for that call from school that there's a COVID case in class, queue the testing, the quarantine, the waiting, the staying home again

Wages are rising especially for frontline workers. Companies simply must pay more to attract workers. But John, it's not all about the money. In a census survey, nearly 5 million people said they're not working because they're taking care of their kids now. 3 million said they're concerned about getting or spreading coronavirus.

COVID has completely changed how people think about their family, their safety, their job. They're honestly prioritizing again, and literally life goals are changing because of the pandemic and we're still in the thick of that.

BERMAN: People have a different perspective on their lives --

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: -- than did 18 months ago, and it's clearly showing up in the jobs market.

ROMANS: You know, and I'll say that the COVID actually broke how we measure the economy too. I mean, the collapse was so big and the recovery is so fierce. It's almost hard to even measure in some of these statistics. I think that's going to be a problem in the months ahead, too.

BERMAN: It's going to keep you busy. That's for sure. Christine Romans, thank you very much.

KEILAR: There's chaos at airports across the country this weekend after Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,800 flights in a span of just 48 hours, and that left thousands of passengers stranded. The cancellations sparking speculation that Southwest new employee vaccine mandate might be a factor here, something the pilots' union insists is not the case.

Pete Muntean is live at Reagan National Airport for us. Pete, give us the latest here.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this is a huge operational mess for Southwest. This is not like turning off a switch and turning it back on again. It's more akin to unplugging something and plugging it back in again. You know, because Southwest says these problems really started back on Friday. It pins the blame on air traffic control and weather issues.

But what's so interesting here is that the Federal Aviation Administration put out a rare statement saying that those were not problems on Saturday and Sunday when Southwest had the lion's share of its cancellations. 800 cancellations on Saturday, 1,100 cancellations by Southwest on Sunday, 30 percent of its total schedule for the day. We've seen about 320 cancellations for today. So this is not over just yet.

You know, this real ripple effect is described by Southwest in a memo to its employees, it says that people and planes were out of position over the weekend that actually left some flight crews without hotel rooms. And the bottom line here is that thousands of passengers were stranded because of this, and they're not happy about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- explanation for this problem. So I suspect that Southwest isn't being totally honest with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Literally, I couldn't even sleep last night really, just because we didn't know what was going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of looking through and there's just nothing, nothing, nothing for like the next few days.


MUNTEAN: You know, one more factor here, the airline is a lot smaller than it was then before the pandemic. The airline describes that in this memo to employees and it says that because of its trimmed fall schedule going on right now, there are more people being packed into fewer airplanes, that's making it harder to recover from this mess over the weekend.

One more important note, and we mentioned this on the way in, Southwest Airlines pilots say this was not on them. There were a lot of rumours flying around online over the weekend that they may have walked-off of the job, protesting the airline's recently announced vaccine mandate. They say there were no official -- unofficial job actions over the weekend and they're really blaming this on mismanagement by Southwest.

BERMAN: A lot of people stranded, Pete. Let's hope they get this unravel quickly. Thank you so much.


A Capitol whistleblower coming forward, alleging the top officials failed to respond as the Capitol was being overrun and then lied to Congress about this. The details next.

KEILAR: Plus new details about a U.S. Navy engineer who has been arrested. He's accused of trying to sell America's nuclear secrets. And Dave Chappelle embracing canceled culture targeting him for a controversial comedy special we're going to discuss. This is New Day.


BERMAN: The stage is set for a showdown this week between the January 6th committee and some former Trump aides who failed to comply with subpoenas for documents. The committee was finally able to serve Dan Scavino over the weekend after initially being unable to locate him.


And now investigators are threatening to pursue criminal charges against Steve Bannon for refusing to comply. Lawmakers say former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon Official Kash Patel had been engaging with the committee, engaging unclear exactly what that means. On Friday, Donald Trump said he did not want the documents released. He wrote a formal letter to the National Archives to request that they not be turned over.

But the actual President of the United States, Joe Biden, is not asserting executive privilege. In other words, he is allowing the documents to be released or wants to. This sets up a legal showdown between the current and former president over executive privilege.

KEILAR: And new this morning, a former high ranking official for the U.S. Capitol Police is leveling serious allegations at two of the department's top leadership members accusing them of inaction on the day of the riot. CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild is joining us now. Look, I know that you have been working on this story for some time now, what have you found?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this 16-page was a blower complaint, is extremely detailed. And today we're going to share the details of that letter. It's a 16-page letter obtained by CNN, first reported by Politico, claims that two of the top U.S. Capitol Police officials failed to act on January 6th, as violence unfolded and says that former Acting Chief Pittman lied in some testimony to Congress.

The whistleblower says in the letter that they are a former high ranking officer who served 31 years with the department and adds that the disclosure was motivated by now Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman and Acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher's role in disciplining officers for failures and misconduct on January 6th, but were never themselves held fully accountable in this whistleblower's eyes.

Some of the allegations mirror criticism contained in reports from the Senate Judiciary report, as well as the Inspector General reports. But this letter addressed to congressional leadership in both parties takes particular aim here at USCP leadership, and further accuses Congress of failing to investigate those failures thoroughly. Perhaps, the most significant criticism here is the whistleblower allegation that Assistant Chief Pittman, who some may remember again, was the acting chief for several months after the insurrection, has not been honest with Congress and the public about how threat intelligence was shared.

For example, the Senate report says December 21st report included a map of the Capitol campus that was posted to a blog and in that report, they point out that this blog had several comments that were promoting confronting members of Congress and carrying firearms during the protest, a significant report. According to the Senate review, Pittman said that information was shared with only command staff. The whistleblower says that is not true.

Here's a quote from the whistleblower letter. "That was never shared -- never shared it with the rest of the department, particularly those commanders with real operational experience. If provided, this information would have changed the paradigm of that day." Brianna?

KEILAR: That is a pretty stunning revelation. What else did this whistleblower say?

WILD: Again, it's extremely detailed. It takes a lot of issues with the department. Another significant allegation is that both Pittman and Gallagher failed to properly act once the fighting broke out. Here's another quote from the letter. "They didn't try to provide direction or try to help from the command center."

The whistleblower claims they have been in the command center for some time on January 6, and said, another quote, "What I observed was them mostly sitting there, blankly looking at the TV screens showing real- time footage of the officers and officials fighting for the Congress." A law enforcement officer defended -- excuse me, a law enforcement official as it say, a law enforcement source, defended these two officials saying they did not fail to act, but instead we're focused on successfully ensuring the protection of lawmakers, all of which were evacuated, without harm, again, no harm to any member of Congress, which USCP has stressed that was one of their main goals, if not the main goal that day.

A spokesman on behalf of the police -- excuse me, a spokesman disputed to Politico that Pittman lied to Congress. Overall, the U.S. Capitol Police executive team said in regards to this letter that a lot has changed since January 6th. The USCP statement also goes on to say many of the problems outlined in the letter have been addressed under new police Chief Tom manger, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, we'll see if that's true. Obviously, that is the hope. Whitney Wild, thank you so much.

A Navy engineer behind bars this morning accused of trying to sell America's nuclear secrets. What we know about who he was talking to and how he got caught.

BERMAN: Plus George Clooney speaking out in a brand new interview, what he says about the Biden administration struggles and his own political aspirations.



BERMAN: All right, this is quite a story. A year-long undercover FBI operation has led to the arrest of a U.S. Navy nuclear engineer and his wife were attempting to sell nuclear submarine information to a foreign country in exchange for cryptocurrency. This engineer, former Navy, I should say, was allegedly trying to sell some of America's most restricted sub-technology.

I want to bring in David Sanger, CNN Political and National Security Analyst and White House and National Security Correspondent for The New York Times. As I said, David, this is quite a story. So, who is this guy? Who is this couple? What were they trying to sell and to whom?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well it really is a wild story, John. The engineer's name is Jonathan Toebbe and he and his wife are accused of having offered on their own to provide information about the naval propulsion systems for Virginia class submarines

[06:25:09] If those sound familiar to you, John, this is the set of secrets that the United States agreed finally to go share with Australia about a month ago, the thing that sent the French government up the wall because they had a deal with Australia. It's considered to be among the great Secrets of the United States, because this is a technology that allows the submarines to run basically limitless distances and very quietly. What the indictment doesn't say, though, is who he tried to sell it to. But as you read between the lines, it seems like it was a friendly country, doesn't seem like he was trying to sell this to the Russians or the Chinese.

BERMAN: How did they get caught?

SANGER: Well, it was a mix of some very sophisticated methods used by Mr. Toebbe and his wife and some really sloppy ones. So in their communications back and forth to this foreign government, and it looks like the foreign government immediately handed the package of information over to a legal affairs officer at a U.S. Embassy someplace. They communicated with what they thought was the foreign government that turned out to be, they were communicating, with an undercover FBI agent.

And they had elaborate systems to get money through cryptocurrencies, they were trying to make sure they did dead drops in parks. My favorite fact in this entire one, if you believe the allegations, John, is they took basically a USB card, a chip, and they buried it inside a peanut butter sandwich and dropped it off at a park in West Virginia. And this was one of the ways it did the transfers (ph). There were three separate dead drops. But it turned out they were communicating with the undercover agents.

BERMAN: They thought they were doing these elaborate, you know, spy novel dead drops, and it was the FBI setting them up the whole time.

SANGER: Well, setting them up after they had made the initial offer to the foreign government. So the mystery here is, who was this and there are all kinds of theories around. There are a number of governments that use submarine technology, I mean, you know, used to be when they started in the 50s. It was just the United States and Britain. But now, of course, Israel, South Korea, Turkey, many other nations have submarine technology. And you can imagine why he would have thought they would be interested in the best nuclear Naval Reactors.

One other interesting fact, as we looked at his record, his military record, it turns out, he spent more than a year as a naval reservist inside the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. That's the top Navy officer for all of the Navy. So it'd be interesting to see whether or not he learned things there as well or whether this was just nuclear engineering.

BERMAN: Quite a story. David Sanger, thank you so much for this.

SANGER: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So this morning, Dave Chappelle is responding to backlash over his new comedy special. Why he says he loves what people call canceled culture.

KEILAR: Plus Kim Kardashian West roasting her own family during her SNL hosting debut, but one joke doesn't sit well with her critics.