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16 American Missionaries Kidnapped by Gang Members in Haiti; Big Week on Capitol Hill for Biden Agenda & Insurrection Probe; Ex-FDA Chief Sounds Alarm on New Variant in U.K.; Trump to Be Deposed in Lawsuit Filed by Protestors; Steele: Trump 'Pee Tape' Probably Exists. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Monday, October 18, and I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman.


We do have some new details this morning about the 17 missionaries abducted in Haiti over the weekend. Sixteen of them are Americans. Five of them are children. And a source inside Haitian security forces tells CNN that the gang 400 Mawozo is believed to be behind the kidnapping here.

Gang members reportedly stopped the missionaries' vehicle at gunpoint after they had visited an orphanage. This was in a suburb east of Port au Prince, an area that the gang now controls.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A senior U.S. official tells CNN the United States is not aware of the missionaries' current whereabouts. Haitian officials are communicating with the State Department. Kidnappings are spiraling out of control in Haiti, the numbers rising nearly 300 percent since July.

Let's bring in Jacqueline Charles, Haiti and Caribbean correspondent for "The Miami Herald," with us now.

Jacqueline, first just tell us what happened here and that we know about this gang that is to -- alleged to have kidnapped this group.

JACQUELINE CHARLES, HAITI AND CARIBBEAN CORRESPONDENT, "THE MIAMI HERALD" Well, this gang, 400 Mawozo, they're known for destroying businesses. They're also known for kidnappings. But not just the regular kind. They go after busloads of individuals or car loads or van loads. And they will ransom the entire group, as opposed to ransoming people individually, in order to escape scrutiny.

This is a new trend that we've seen with this gang in the last couple of months. They have wreaked havoc there in that eastern edge of Port- au-Prince which basically connects Haiti to the Dominican Republic.

KEILAR: And we know the FBI is involved here, right, as well as the State Department. What can you tell us? CHARLES: Yes. Because we're talking about American citizens. They

contacted the embassy, which then contacted the FBI. They arrived yesterday in country. And basically, their role is to assist in the negotiating process. The FBI does not go in and release people. They do not pay ransom.

Mostly likely, what you will find is that the gang will eventually ask for a ransom amount. And the FBI will work with either family members or, in this case, the organization, in order to secure the release.

KEILAR: So the kidnappings, these kinds of kidnappings have dramatically increased, 300 percent over the course of 2021. How do they normally resolve?

CHARLES: They normally resolve with people paying ransom amounts. In a few instances the Haitian national police have gone in and freed people. But these individuals who have not yet been moved into the kidnapping layer. Usually, people are kept in cells deep into some of these slums.

In the case of this particular gang, where they operate, it's a large plain. So it's very hard to get access to them even if you know where they're located.

KEILAR: Can you tell us about the group that these missionaries are involved in? I know it's based in Ohio.

CHARLES: Yes. You know, this is the second time in months the Mennonite community -- these individuals are part of that community -- that they have been victims of Haiti insecurity.

In June a number of them died in a plane crash leaving Port au Prince going to the seaside town of Jacmel. They had to fly because they could not go by road, again, because of gang violence on the southern edge of Port-au-Prince.

This group itself, they've been working. They actually live in Haiti. They provide a number of services in that country for the population.

KEILAR: Jacqueline, thank you so much. We know that you are tracking this very closely. And we will follow the developments along with you.

CHARLES: Thank you.

BERMAN: We have important new developments facing lawmakers on Capitol Hill this morning, both in terms of the Biden agenda and the investigation of the January 6th insurrection.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins me now.

So maybe a new sense this morning, Sunlen, over just how far Joe Manchin is willing to go when it comes to the Biden spending plan.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, John. There are still big questions at the start of this week as the House and Senate gets back to work today, facing this very pivotal week as they try to broker an agreement. And the time certainly is running short.

Now Democrats first and foremost, their priorities gain agreement on that massive social spending plan.

But before this self-imposed deadline that they have of October 31st. And of course, getting an agreement on that plan would unlock and unleash the other massive priority for Democrats, the infrastructure bill going forward.

So that is what Democrats are facing this week. And there still, of course, are the same issues over the price tag. What exactly is included in this plan and how long these programs will end up being included for.

And we those key moderate senators, Manchin and Sinema, still not signing onto that floated plan by the Biden White House of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion. They have not indicated, John, to Democrats whether they are OK with that price tag in the end.

So patience up here wearing thin. And time for the Democrats' deadline is incredibly short.

Yes. Reports this morning that Joe Manchin wants basically all the climate provisions practically removed and to scale back in serious ways the child tax credit, which is popular among some Democratic constituencies.

Meanwhile, the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection is set to vote tomorrow on whether to hold Steve Bannon in contempt. What's going to happen there and what do we know about the other Trump aides who have been subpoenaed?


SERFATY: That's right. That's a big day tomorrow for the House Select Committee. Steve Bannon, former Trump aide, he has not cooperated with the committee. He's defied his congressional subpoena.

So they will be holding a business meeting tomorrow night to vote to hold him in contempt. That is expected to pass. It will then be pushed to the House for a full vote and then potentially referred to the U.S. attorney here in D.C. potentially setting off a long and protracted court battle, potentially some jail time or a fine.

But this comes as the committees try to work for other witnesses, depositions and documents from Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Kash Patel. Certainly, they are, John, trying to make an example out of Steve Bannon, that they are willing to aggressively go after what they need and want.

BERMAN: We are about to see something we haven't seen in decades on Capitol Hill. It certainly bears watching. Sunlen Serfaty, always great to see you. Thanks so much.

KEILAR: Some more positive signs in the COVID fight here in the U.S. Cases and hospitalizations are both declining. But cases are spiking again in the U.K., where they are seeing an average of over 42,000 new cases a day. And that has former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb raising concerns about a new Delta variant. Yes, you heard it right.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining us now. What is this?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, just as the cases in the hospitalization numbers are going down, the last thing we want to hear is that there is a new variant, or in this case, a variant of a variant. It is a variant of the Delta variant.

But really, there isn't reason to be alarmed right now for several reasons. One, the numbers of this variant is in such tiny, tiny numbers. No. 1.

And No. 2, we don't know that it's any more dangerous than the Delta variant that we already have. There's no reason to think that it causes more severe disease or that it spreads faster. The alarm that needs to be sounded and what Dr. Gottlieb is trying to do, is to say that we need to keep such a careful watch on these variants so that we don't have another surge like we had this past summer with Delta.

Let's take a look at one of Dr. Gottlieb's tweets. He wrote, "This is not a cause for immediate concern but a reminder that we need robust systems to identify, characterize new variants. This needs to be a coordinated, global priority for COVID, the same as similar international efforts have become standard practice in influenza."

Now, Dr. Gottlieb mentioned that cases are rising in the U.K. However, there are lots of reasons why cases could be rising in the U.K., including some rules that they have, that their mask rules have become much more lax. And so that could be the reason, not this variant necessarily, that's in such tiny numbers -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. We also, of course, will want to know which are breakthrough cases so that people have more protection, because they are vaccinated, as well.

Elizabeth, thank you.

The author of the Steele dossier on Russia speaking out for the first time. It is a fascinating, twisting, bizarre interview. Why he says that he's still confident the Russians have dirt on Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Plus, the former president answers questions today under oath. The first time he's done this in about five years. So how do you get the truth from someone known to lie?

Ugly, ugly, ugly on the field. This is the end of the Tennessee/Ole Miss game. Bottles, trash, even a golf ball thrown onto the field. What's behind all of this awful behavior?


KEILAR: Later today, former President Trump is expected to sit for a video deposition in a 2015 lawsuit alleging assault. The case is brought by a group of demonstrators who say then-candidate Trump's security guards roughed him up outside of Trump Tower. And CNN's Kara Scannell is live for us outside of Trump Tower in New York with more.

Kara, tell us about this.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Brianna.

So today a judge has ordered the former president to sit for a deposition in just a few hours from now right behind me in Trump Tower, which is also the scene where this alleged assault took place.

In 2015, a group of men were demonstrating against former President -- then candidate Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric. It was then that they said they were assaulted by Trump's head of security. And they filed this lawsuit, which has been going through the courts.

Now, in 2019, a judge in New York said that Trump's testimony in this case was indispensable. But his actual deposition was put off because he was still in August.

Now, this will be the first time in five years since the former president is going to be questioned under oath. And he's previously said about this incident that he had no knowledge of it and that he had delegated all of security to its chief operating officer.

But the lawyer today for the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to question the former president under oath about his knowledge, about their security protocols.

And because they're suing for punitive damages, it's also possible that this lawyer will ask the former president about his net worth and his finances.

And Brianna, this isn't the only video deposition or deposition that Trump will have to do in the next few weeks. A judge in another case has also ordered the former president to sit for a deposition by December 23. That's in a defamation lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos, the former contestant on "The Apprentice" -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, many implications here with these depositions. Kara, thank you for your reporting.

BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, she's the author of the book out next week, "Awakening: Ladies, Leadership and the Lies We've Been Told."


Areva, the former president is going to be deposed today for the first time in five years. He has to answer questions under oath. And not only has it been a long time, but he's also been the president of the United States for four of those years. This is an incredible shift in the power dynamic. So not so much the specifics of this case. But if you're the other

lawyer, how do you approach the former president?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, you know that the president doesn't want to be there. We know that he has a propensity for not telling the truth. And we know that he's very combative.

This video, I mean, this deposition is going to be videotaped. So your strategy may be to rile the president up to get him to become confrontational, to get him to, you know, refuse to answer questions, all with the goal in mind of showing this videotape during this trial as an effort to gain points during this trial.

One thing that I think is really important that was brought up in the tape is that punitive damages are at stake. So what President -- former President Trump knew, whether he incited, encouraged these men to take the actions that they took, is going to be a big point of this deposition.

BERMAN: So you want to get him angry in there?

MARTIN: You want to get him angry. You want to get him talking about what he knew, and then you want to talk about those finances. Because punitive damages have to do with what your net worth. And we know the president has been incredibly secretive about his finances.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about another case. This one out in California. Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, is suing Los Angeles County for emotional distress, dealing with the dissemination of the photos of the accident scene, of the helicopter crash. Suing for emotional distress.

L.A. County is asking that she receive a psychiatric evaluation.

MARTIN Yes. That's not unusual in a case when your psychological health has been put at issue, like in this case. I think what's going to be problematic for this judge is getting to that psychiatric evaluation so early in the case.

We don't know if there's been other forms of discovery that has been conducted, like written discovery questions, depositions and other ways that the county can get at what her emotional damages are. The real issue here is are the emotional damages caused by the dissemination of the photos, or is it caused by just the horrific accident that caused the death of her husband and her daughter?

That's what the county is going to try to get at. But clearly, a big step on the part of the county and may be one of those things that causes the parties to come together and start talking about possible resolution.

Because I can imagine Vanessa Bryant doesn't want to submit herself to a six- or eight-hour psychiatric evaluation. They can be incredibly grueling and incredibly intrusive.

BERMAN: And you say not unusual? MARTIN: Not unusual to make this kind of request, but it is an invasive procedure. And oftentimes, the parties try to find less invasive ways to get the same information.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about the book which is out next Tuesday. So eight days until the big release. I know it's big. Right? "Awakening: Ladies, Leadership and the Lies We've Been Told."

One of the things you focus on is the impact, the disproportionate impact that COVID has had on women.

MARTIN: Yes, we've heard so many stories, John, about how the pandemic has really impacted everyone, of course, across the world and particularly here in the United States.

But women in particular suffered disproportionately. So many women had to leave their jobs. So many women had to become school teachers for their kids, principals for their kids.

And now we're seeing a lot of those women not going back to work. A lot of those women are demanding that in order for them to go back to work, they want the circumstances to be different.

We saw many of the women are -- many women are concentrated in low- paying jobs: hospitality, healthcare services. They're demanding higher wages. They're demanding more opportunities for promotions.

And they're saying, Look, we've proven that being out of the work force working, in some cases from home, we can be productive. So they want companies to acknowledge the productivity, the contributions that they make to the workplace.

And I hope this book opens up conversations about how women can break down some of those barriers that have prevented them from achieving, you know, the highest positions in corporate -- you know, corporate jobs, in government and so many other entities.

BERMAN: This costs us more now. We are owed more. It's an interesting important discussion, Areva. Eight days. I know you're so excited for the book to come out.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Congratulations. Great to see you.

MARTIN: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: So a brand-new interview with Jon Stewart. He says it's a mistake to focus on Trump. Why one critic calls him inarticulate and a minimizer.

KEILAR: Plus, the author of the infamous Russian dossier speaking out about the salacious allegations inside his report for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you still believe that that tape still exists?


KEILAR: We have his answer ahead.



BERMAN: Controversial figure Christopher Steele, the man behind the unverified dossier that claimed Russian officials held compromising information on former President Trump, then candidate Trump, is speaking out.

In an interview with ABC News, he is defending his work and speaking about claims of that secret tape, which were never proven. Here's a portion.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Most of the world first heard your name about five years ago. You have stayed silent up until now. Why speak out now?

CHRISTOPHER STEELE, AUTHOR OF STEELE DOSSIER: I think there are several reasons. I think the first and most important is that the problems we identified back in 2016 haven't gone away and arguably have actually got worse. And I thought it was important to come and set the record straight.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of your main collectors spoke to the inspector general, said that especially the kompromat was word of mouth and hearsay. Conversations with friends over beers. "It was just talk."

STEELE: If you have a confidential source, and that confidential source is blown or is uncovered, that confidential source will often take flight and try and downplay and underestimate what they've said and done. And I think that's probably what happened here.



STEELE: I think anybody that's named in this context, particularly if they're Russian, has every reason to be afraid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you stand by the dossier?

STEELE: I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And today, do you still believe that that tape exists?

STEELE: I think it probably does, but I wouldn't put 100 percent certainty on it. STEPHANOPOULOS: So how do you explain, if that tape does indeed exist,

it hasn't been released.

STEELE: It hasn't needed to be released.


STEELE: I think the Russians felt they got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was president of the U.S.


BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, appropriately dressed, and CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, as well.

I feel like I need to just say it so people know what we're talking about here, that he's talking about the pee tape. OK, I said it. It's done. Sorry.


BERMAN: I think people have to know so there's no ambiguity about what we're talking about here. Christopher Steele in this interview says, Yes, I think it probably still exists.

Really? Even after all this, even after the FBI investigated, even after it hasn't turned up after all this time?

AVLON: Yes, you know, he's hanging his hat on a couple of the most salacious details of the dossier that have been among the most discredited. And that causes me to question his reliability.

The -- a lot of the information in the dossier has been verified. A lot hasn't. But I think the fact that some of the most salacious details like said tape occupied a lot of attention diminished the entire episode's credibility.

And so I don't know why he's doubling down on some of those aspects. It seems to me a mistake. The issue of kompromat, over and above that, is a separate one. Because certainly, there's still no good explanation for why Donald Trump never lost an opportunity to praise Vladimir Putin.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But why? My question is why. And I think George asked -- Stephanopoulos asked why -- you know, why are you coming out? Why do you want to talk about this again? I don't really understand.

He says, because I want to set the record straight. He's done no such thing that I've seen. I mean, he still can't prove some of these more salacious allegations. He is even admitting now -- I wouldn't bet 100 percent certainty on it. Well, then what record are you setting straight?

A lot of this has already been discredited. And I think it sent people on kind of a wild goose chase. Portions are bad. We know that. That's true. But it sent people on a wild goose chase. And when it didn't end with Donald Trump talking to Russians and the sort of smoking gun, they got to discredit the whole thing. Is this going to do that again?

AVLON: Yes. And the important thing, it wasn't a finished work product.

CUPP: Right. That's right.

AVLON: So you know, I mean, that's how you can't say enough. This was an incomplete work product. So doubling down on its contents and how it's been presented, probably doesn't help clarify matters.

BERMAN: On that issue of doubling down, there's another example in this conversation that came up with George, and it's about the information that Steele put out in the dossier, that Michael Cohen, the former president's fixer, former attorney, they ended on bad terms.

But that Michael Cohen at some point went to Prague on some secret mission to connect with the Russians on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. Watch this exchange.


STEPHANOPOULOS: One big claim in the dossier, the FBI, according to the inspector general's report, and while (ph) that reinforces it, is not true, is the claim that Michael Cohen had a meeting with Russians in Prague. Do you accept that finding that it didn't happen?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Michael Cohen has completely turned on Donald Trump. He's accused him of all kinds of things. He's gone to jail. It defies logic that, if he did this, he wouldn't say so now.

STEELE: I don't agree with that.


STEELE: It's very -- it's self-incriminating to a very great degree.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Since he's gone to prison, since he's turned on President Trump, he's told every single story. Why wouldn't he admit to this?

STEELE: Because I think it's so incriminating and demeaning. And the other reason is he might be scared of the consequences.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think it hurts your credibility that you won't accept the findings of the FBI in this particular case?

STEELE: I'm prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100 percent accurate. I have yet to be convinced that that is one of them.


BERMAN: All right. Just to put a fine point on it, Michael Cohen weighs in. And if you're getting a statement from Michael Cohen, you know you're in territory here. He says, "I eagerly await his next secret dossier, which proves the existence of Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster and that Elvis is still alive."

CUPP: Well, I don't know that any of those are untrue.

But I think -- listen, Michael Cohen -- you know Michael Cohen. I know Michael Cohen. He's a lot of things. He's not an international man of mystery. He's not a spy. If he's saying he never went on a -- on a trip, I'm sure we could prove otherwise if he, in fact, did. Right?

AVLON: Or he would be offering it rather loudly as --

CUPP: Well, he would. I mean, the FBI looked into this and found no evidence that he actually went on this trip. He's not -- he's not Bond, right? I --

AVLON: Or Austin Powers, as you just --

CUPP: Or Austin Powers.

BERMAN: This is just a case of Steele realizing in this new era. You just never give in. And never admit to being wrong about anything.