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U.S to Open Canada, Mexico Borders for Vaccinated Visitors; Autopsy Shows Gabby Petito Died of Manual Strangulation; GOP Lawmaker Faces Scrutiny for Role in Trump's Coup Plot. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2021 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: This border thing is a huge deal for people with families across the border. Loved ones, they could not see, also for tourism and businesses who lost millions in shoppers who cannot get to their store. So, this is clear progress this morning in the pandemic. 38 states are declining or holding steady on hospitalizations. 44 states are seeing cases flat-line or decline.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: But still, there is a growing sense of urgency among the president's top aides to turn the corner quickly on a number of crises. So, let's bring in CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood.

The border, at least, is signaling some good news for the administration, but there is a lot of work that they have cut out for them.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, the delta variant over the summer set back the administration's hopes for returning to normalcy. This is a small step. But the administration keeps working on multiple fronts to try to get Americans feeling like their lives are coming back.

This morning, they are announcing some progress in their work on supply chains. The port of Los Angeles is working 24/7 to try to get those containers off those ships and goods into market. The fact that the pandemic turned the country upside-down in the beginning of the Biden administration, that was an asset for him because he was getting vaccinations out and people were feeling like they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. That light has been obscured lately and it is very important for Joe Biden and his aides to get that back while getting their program through the Congress.

KEILAR: They're very worried, right? They're watching Congress. And this administration is concerned about a potential collapse of the president's agenda there. They're not taking for granted that this is going to get through.

HARWOOD: No. Time is not their friend here. A new president typically has this first year to get the big items on their agenda through. They got the American rescue plan done very quickly in March by holding Democrats together. The president got through negotiation, got that bipartisan infrastructure bill through the Senate. But now, he has got the really hard part of this climate change and social spending bill he is trying to advance.

It's not easy to do big things with margins of zero in the United States Senate. You have to get all 50 Democratic senators. They have got a couple of holdouts, very important for the Biden administration to get that moving. And a senior administration official told me we're going to wrap this up this week or move to a new approach. I don't know what that would be exactly but they feel the clock ticking and need to get moving

KEILAR: Well, that tells you just how urgent this is for them. John, thank you.

HARWOOD: You bet.

KEILAR: So, in just a few hours here, William Shatner, star of a certain fabled sci-fi show, maybe you know it, is going to rocket into space for a brief suborbital joyride. Now, Shatner, well, he lives in a young man in our minds, is actually 90 years old. And he is set to become the oldest person ever to travel to space.

He and three crewmates will board a Jeff Bezos Blue Origin flight, and then they are going to liftoff from a remote stretch of West Texas. And then they will get a chance to stare into the vastness of the universe at least for a few moments.

And joining me now to talk about this is Hakeem Oluseyi, who is an astrophysicist and professor at George Mason University.

Okay, let's geek out on this a little bit, because we have seen these launches before. But this is Captain Kirk.

HAKEEM OLUSEYI, ASTROPHYSICIST: Absolutely. This is amazing, right? So, he was a pioneer in science fiction. And now he's a pioneer in the access to space for folks like you and me, right? We're not astronauts but you can go up. And what's really cool is that the model that Blue Origin is using, right, they have free passengers, like William Shatner, going up with paying customers. So, we have some hope. We can get up there potentially. They can take us along.

KEILAR: Yes, I can't wait. Look, I am not a Treky, but my mom was a Treky. So, I watched a lot of Star Trek. And what I have found very interesting is that William Shatner, Captain Kirk, cool as a cucumber normally, he's used to piloting the Constitution Class Star Ship Enterprise. This is going to be a little bit different. And yet even he is nervous, Hakeem.

OLUSEYI: Oh, absolutely. You are about to sit on top of a controlled explosion and be blasted into space. But you know what, I was just reminded of a story about William Shatner. I'll tell you a quick story. I was in L.A. working on a show and I had a driver taking me to the airport. So I asked her. I said, hey, do you have any stories about celebrities? And she told me a William Shatner story. And it turned out that her grandfather was William Shatner's butler for many, many years.

And so when she went to pick him up, she told me the rule was she couldn't talk to him. So she put her grandfather's picture on her phone and placed it in the back seat. And when he saw it and realized that the lady was a granddaughter of his former butler, he took her in the home and showed her around, showed her where her grandfather stayed and all of the above, right?

So, to have this guy be such a wonderful person, and then he's now been such a -- played a big role in the lives of nerds, like me, right, now we get to see him doing this.


And what is this? This to me is the reinvigoration of our space program, right? This is the reigniting of imaginations around the country. But this time it's not just the kids, right? The adults have the inspiration too, up to 90 years old. We had Wally Funk at 82. Now, we have William Shatner at 90. We always focus on the kids. But if you're a 50-year-old and you decide you have a dream, you can achieve it by 60.

KEILAR: It's pretty cool to be an astronaut.

Speaking of which, let's listen to this. This debate even among this crew, which seems like a fun one on whether or not they are astronauts.


WILLIAM SHATNER, 90-YEAR-OLD-ACTOR SET TO BE ODLEST PERSON TO TRAVEL TO SPACE: Small A, followed by two Ss. It's a little jeopardizing.

AUDREY POWERS, VICE PRESIDENT OF MISSION AND FLIGHT OPERATIONS, BLUE ORIGIN: I'll take the astronaut title. I would very much appreciate being held in that club.


KEILAR: Okay. So he is an asstronaut. She's an astronaut. Okay. But are they really astronauts?

OLUSEYI: It depends. They are going up 60 miles vertically. I would say that qualifies, right. If they're Russians, they're cosmonauts. But there is a difference, right? Astronauts are part of our civil space program. This is a part of our private space program. So it's a very different thing.

And what Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin are showing is we that have this idea that is going to become commonplace. And already after doing a rocket launch in July, they're doing another one, right? And so if it's going to be commonplace, you have to show us you can do that. And that's what they are illustrating.

KEILAR: Yes. We're going to be talking a lot about this launch today, also safety concerns that some former and current employees have raised. We'll be talking about that as well. Love having you here, Hakeem. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm that we're seeing.

OLUSEYI: I love it.

BERMAN: So, this morning, we're learning new details about how Gabby Petito died.


DR. BRENT BLUE, TETON COUNTY, WYOMING CORONER: And the manner of death of Gabrielle Venora Petito, we find the cause and manner to be, cause, death by strangulation and manner is homicide.

Time of death, we estimate three to four weeks from the time that the body was found.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Deborah Norville, Anchor of Inside Edition. Deborah, thanks so much for being with us.

Just broadly speaking, 30,000 feet, manual strangulation, and the time of death was three to four weeks before the body was found. What does that tell you?

DEBORAH NORVILLE, ANCHOR, INSIDE EDITION: Well, what it tells us is we can really put a much more finite date on the likely day that Gabby Petito was killed because three to four weeks would put the date between August 22nd and August 29th. We know that Gabby was last seen at that restaurant in Jackson, the Merry Piglets, she and Brian Laundrie had an argument that was so vociferous, it left the waitress at the restaurant shaken. That was August 27th.

We know the beginning on August the 29th, Brian Laundrie was spotted by another woman hitch hiking. She picked him up in the Jackson area. So, that puts the likely date of death between august 27th, after the argument in the restaurant in Jackson, and presumably the 29th of August, when he was picked up alone hitch hiking.

BERMAN: And it certainly makes it possible that the time of death or likely that the time of death was before Brian Laundrie showed back up in Florida.

I want to read a statement from the Laundrie family. It says, Gabby Petito's death at such a young age is a tragedy while Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito's demise. At this time, Brian is still missing. And when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him

What's your takeaway from that very specific statement?

NORVILLE: Well, very specific, obviously very, very carefully worded by the family lawyer and the response from Gabby Petito's mother was garbage. That's the word she used to describe that statement. It is interesting the statement completely ignores any possible involvement of their son in the death of Gabby Petito. And that's probably very strategic on the part of the prosecutors in this case, to keep him only a person of interest allows them, should he be detained, to question him. Obviously, he's going to say, I'm not going to answer any questions.

One thing that's very interesting, though, we actually may have had a hint of Gabby's manner of death, manual strangulation. If you remember when Gabby and Brian were pulled over by the police in Moab, Utah, and she talked about how he had cupped his hand around her face and dug in so hard that his fingernail pierced her cheek.


And you could see a wound on her cheek. That is, lower the hand three inches, manual strangulation.

Inside Edition has obviously been covering this a lot. We had a forensic pathologist on yesterday who said, the instinctive move when someone is trying to strangle you is, you do your head down like that to protect your neck. One may have had a clue in that video of if Brian Laundrie is the murderer of Gabby Petito, we may have had a very clear clue of how that murder took place when she showed with her hand how he had cupped her face.

BERMAN: And I'm sure they will be looking at that video again very closely. Deborah Norville, as always, we appreciate your contribution. Thank you so much for joining us

NORVILLE: My pleasure, John. Thank you.

BERMAN: A CNN investigation reveals new details on how a Republican lawmaker played a role in Trump's plot to overturn the election.

And how hard is it to just say no? Asked three times whether the election was stolen, Republican Steve Scalise refused to answer. How that evasion is as toxic as Trump's lies.

KEILAR: And Paul McCartney throwing shade at The Beatles's biggest rival and leaving no stone unturned, if you know what we mean. Hear why Mick Jagger may get no satisfaction in what McCartney called the band.



KEILAR: A Republican congressman from Pennsylvania facing new scrutiny for his alleged role in Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election and in helping to fuel the January 6th Capitol insurrection.

CNN's Sara Murray is joining us live. She has been covering this. What's going on here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Scott Perry is a little known congressman but he was a fierce ally to Donald Trump, particularly at a time when it really mattered to the president when he was trying to overturn the 2020 election results.


MURRAY (voice over): As the Pennsylvania congressman trumpeted baseless claims of election fraud --

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): Oftentimes, they say, well, there is not enough to overturn the election. First of all, we don't know how much there is.

MURRAY: Donald Trump was lapping them up. The president was saying that these local officials, or in Scott Perry's case, a federal official, had all kinds of information about all kinds of fraud and problems and things that had impacted the election, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Now, the five-term congressman and army veteran is facing scrutiny as new details emerge about his role in Trump's plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Scott, thank you.

MURRAY: Perry has said he's unaware of any GOP lawmakers playing a role in the Capitol insurrection.

PERRY: I don't know of any. We're here and open for the investigation. And if people are culpable, they need to be -- justice needs to prevail in that regard.

MURRAY: But a report from a Democrat-led Senate panel says, Trump allies, including Perry, have particularly notable ties to January 6th. And these ties warrant further investigation.

PERRY: How does the president incite an attack that was preplanned and already under way before his speech concluded?

MURRAY: And the House select committee investigating January 6th wants phone records of several lawmakers, including Perry.

Perry has admitted in introducing Trump to Jeffrey Clark, who led the Justice Department's Civil Division. Clark tried and failed to press other top DOJ officials to announce election fraud investigations in battleground states a near coup of Justice Department leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeffrey Clark became Donald Trump's big lie lawyer.

MURRAY: The same day Trump told DOJ officials to just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressman.

Trump dispatched Perry to convince Donoghue the election had been stolen. Perry called Donoghue, POTUS asked him to call according to notes Donoghue provided to the Senate panel. According to Donoghue, Perry talked up Clark effectively saying Jeff Clark is great. He's the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this.

And as for Donoghue's emails, saying, can I send you stuff, we have a lot of evidence? He sent a document of debunked claims like this one.

PERRY: Over 205,000 more votes were cast in Pennsylvania than people who voted in the November election.

MURRAY: Claims Perry clung to as he objected to the 2020 election results just hours after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

PERRY: Sadly, but resolutely, I object to the electoral votes of my beloved commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

MURRAY: An objection he still stands by as he continues to cast doubts on the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you vote the same way now?

PERRY: I absolutely would. It's not about President Trump. It's not about President Biden. It's about the process.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, it's unclear if the House select committee is going to want to talk to Scott Perry. My colleague, Ryan Nobles, caught up with him on the Hill, Perry said he doesn't like to talk to CNN. Brianna?

KEILAR: Okay. Perry introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark. How did Perry know Jeffrey Clark?

MURRAY: This is a big, outstanding mystery. We've asked Perry's office multiple times. They have not responded to our questions. Even in these reports, his DOJ officials say it was never clear how this congressman from Pennsylvania had this relationship with Jeffrey Clark, how it came to facilitate introductions to President Trump, and even an Oval Office meeting with Clark and Trump in it.

KEILAR: Something that would be nice to find out. All right, Sara Murray, great report. Thank you.

BERMAN: If only there were a committee investigating this.

Donald Trump continues to push lies about the election that Joe Biden won. Some of his biggest supporters are taking a slightly different yet no less duplicitous approach. Here is Republican House Minority Whip Steve Scalise refusing to answer the simple question, does he believe the election was stolen.



REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): I hope we get back to what the Constitution says. But, clearly, in a number states, they didn't follow those legislatively set rules. CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: So, you think the election was stolen?

SCALISE: What I said is there are states that didn't follow their legislatively set rules. That's what the United States Constitution says.

WALLACE: Do you think the election -- the last time, I promise, do you think the election was stolen or not? I understand you think there were irregularities and things that need to be fixed. Do you think the election was stolen?

SCALISE: And it's not just irregularities. It is states that did not follow the laws set which the Constitution says they're supposed to follow.


BERMAN: It's not a trick question. It's a basic foundational question. And the answer is no.

Joining me now is CNN Reporter and resident fact-checker Daniel Dale.

You see in the answer that Scalise is giving, and there are others now giving that same answer, something as potentially dangerous as the outright lies that Donald Trump is spreading.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: That's right, John. I think Congressman Scalise and many of his colleagues have been playing kind of a double game for months now. On the one hand, they avoid the mockery and scrutiny that comes with going full conspiracy theory, sounding like Donald Trump or Mike Lindell talking about the servers and the routers and the dead people voting, explicitly saying the election was stolen.

What he is doing is, as you heard, declining politely to say that it wasn't stolen, and offering this kind of legalistic explanation about states not following their own rules or laws. And by doing that, he avoids the wrath of Donald Trump and the millions of supporters who subscribe to this lie, while also achieving the same ends as Trump is looking for, which is to delegitimize Joe Biden, the current president, who won fair and square.

And so this kind of double game, this kind of polite evasion works clearly for Congressman Scalise, but it does not work for American democracy.

BERMAN: Also, it's not like the courts didn't weigh in on the argument that Scalise is making.

DALE: Yes. Over and over, Republicans, Trump's legal team and their allies put forward these arguments about states not abiding by their own election laws. No court, as we know, endorsed the argument that Joe Biden won because any state violated its rules. Some states -- some courts explicitly weighed in on the merits of these cases, ruling that what the states were doing are fine.

And so this is done, John. We are so far beyond this, and yet it lives because people like Congressman Scalise are unwilling to put it to death like it should be.

BERMAN: It does more than lives. It festers. I mean, what's the long- term impact of this level of deception?

DALE: I think that this is as toxic as Donald Trump's own lies. I mean, we know that Trump is the main driver of this. He has the biggest megaphone. But the reason that it's not treated as a complete joke by American society is that Republican conservative media and Republican congressmen and women, including the leadership, are unwilling to say that it's a joke. Of course, some people would still believe it if they did. But it would not be a mainstream accepted thing if people like Congressman Scalise were willing to reject it, laugh at it, scoff at it.

And so I think as we saw during former President Trump's presidency, the enabling, the complicity is as toxic as the lies themselves.

BERMAN: Daniel Dale, we appreciate you and your work. Thank you very much.

DALE: Thank you.

BERMAN: The Brooklyn Nets benching star Kyrie Irving until he's vaccinated. We have new reaction from Irving.

Plus, a reality check on vaccine mandates.

KEILAR: And an attorney representing 40 former employees of the Washington football team demanding the league release all the findings of the investigation into the team in the wake of the Jon Gruden scandal. She's going to join us next.



BERMAN: The data is in on vaccine mandates. John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's been surreal to see so many conservatives suddenly become pro-choice, at least when it comes to vaccines. Apparently being pro-life doesn't extend a public health policy during pandemics but then neither do traditional deference to business or local school boards.

I've got to admit, I've change a bit as well. I've always been a pro- choice kind of guy, not a big fan of bans of any kind. Instead, I was dug the idea of Nudge, a book by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, which basically argues that the best way to encourage beneficial behavior is to incentivize it.

But it seems we have hit the limit on nudge, at least when it comes to pandemics that have been politicized. Because remember this summer, months after vaccines became widely available in America after a vaccine lottery payments and promises of free beer, there was still roughly a third of eligible Americans refusing to get vaccinated. And as the delta variant spread like wildfire, it was the states with the lowest vaccination rates, like Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Idaho and Mississippi that saw some of the worst hospitalization and death rates.

Then in late August, the Pfizer vaccine got full authorization from the FDA, which opened the door to more vaccine mandates or weekly tests soon directed by President Biden for businesses with 100 or more employees. And seven weeks later, the results are in. Mandates work. And we've got the data to prove it.

Now, remember how one-third of eligible U.S. military service members opted not to get the vaccine after it first became available to them? Well, now, post-mandates, 96.7 percent of active duty military have received at least one dose, that's according to the Pentagon.

In New York City, vaccine rates among local government workers have spiked since city hall requirements to get vaccinated or face weekly testing.