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New Day

Gabby Petito's Mother and Stepfather Give Interview and Discuss Daughter's Death and Search for Brian Laundrie; House of Representatives to Vote on Criminal Contempt Charges for Steven Bannon for Not Complying with Subpoena to Testify; Americans Kidnapped and Held for Ransom in Haiti; Biden Hosts 2 Meetings with Moderates, Progressives; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed About the Ongoing Negotiations Between Democrats to Pass Biden's Agenda. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 08:00   ET



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They talked about what Gabby was like as a child, how they're coping with her death. But at one point her mom and her stepfather got pretty emotional talking about what they think Gabby Petito's final moments. Watch this.


NICOLE SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S MOTHER: I just -- I hope that she didn't suffer. And that she wasn't in any pain.

JIM SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S STEPFATHER: Just hoping that at that --

N. SCHMIDT: That she was in a place that she wanted to be, looking at the beautiful mountains.



KAYE: I'm sorry. I didn't hear -- I thought that was still playing there.

KEILAR: No, no worries.

KAYE: I also -- I also -- there was some talking about she was -- her mom was speaking about the warnings that she gave her daughter before she made that trek out west. And she said that she thought that Gabby would be in good hands, as she put it, with Brian Laundrie. She also talked about Brian Laundrie's relationship early on with the Petito family, saying that he was polite and quiet. He would read to their other children, and Brianna, she said she thought he was a nice guy.

KEILAR: That must be just heart breaking for her as she thinks back on that. I wonder what Brian Laundrie's parents, what they had to say to them, Randi. KAYE: Well, she -- they got -- they had a lot of harsh words for the

Laundrie family for allegedly not coming forward with all that they might know about their son's whereabouts, where he may be, why he left, and also what they might know about what happened to Gabby Petito. So they had some harsh words for the Laundrie parents and for Brian Laundrie as well. Listen.


NICOLE SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S MOTHER: I think silence speaks volumes, because I believe they know probably if not everything, they know most of the information. I would love to just face to face ask why are you doing this? Just tell me the truth. Just want to get him in a cell for rest of his life.

JIM SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S STEPFATHER: We want vengeance, and him to be --

N. SCHMIDT: -- and justice.

J. SCHMIDT: And justice.


KAYE: And CNN did reach out to the family attorney for the Laundrie family to ask about Gabby Petito's mom's comments that Brian's parents may know more than they're sharing, and the lawyer told us no comment. And one other note, Brianna, about that Moab body cam tape that we saw, we have seen it over and over again after that police stop on August 12th in Moab, Utah, somebody had called 911 reporting that they saw a man slapping a woman, and they were in a white van. You see Gabby Petito crying, visibly upset in that body cam video. Well, her mother was asked about what it was like to watch that during this interview with "60 Minutes" Australia, and she said it is hard to watch. She said she wanted to reach through the screen to rescue her daughter, and that she looked like a young girl who needed someone to hug her, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, I can only imagine. Randi Kaye live from Florida, thank you.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Avlon, who is subbing in this hour as Berman goes to jury duty. Just to be clear, as a juror. He's going as a juror.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Very important to clarify.

KEILAR: Very important.

It is Tuesday, October 19th. And a House select committee will vote here in a matter of hours whether to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt for defying its subpoena. If they do, the matter would then be referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. Bannon is claiming executive privilege. The White House not buying that. CNN has obtained a letter from the White House deputy counsel, and it says that the Biden administration will not support any attempt by Bannon to refuse cooperation with the select committee.

AVLON: And last night, Trump did what Trump does when he's in a jam. He sued the January 6th committee and the National Archives in a bid to keep documents under wraps. Lawmakers accuse him of stalling. The White House is accusing him of abusing the office of the presidency and attempting to subvert a peaceful transfer of power. The National Archives is expected to turn over documents early next month if the courts do not stop them.

Let's bring in CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild with more. Whitney?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Here's how this is all going to play out. The next few hours up until around 8:00 p.m. this evening will be critical in this January 6th commission investigation. Here's how the day is going to go -- 7:30, this committee meets to presumably vote on this criminal referral for Steve Bannon. There is a very strong likelihood, it would be next to impossible that they won't pass this. So very likely to slide through this committee. Then in coming weeks, very likely to hit the House floor.


If the House votes to move on this from the referral, it will then go over to the Department of Justice where Merrick Garland, the attorney general, still has prosecutorial discretion here. So there are a few open questions.

But let's drill down on what Bannon is essentially arguing. So basically, what he's saying is that because the former president has said that he is trying to assert executive privilege over these records and over these communications, Steve Bannon is saying, I don't know what the options are because there is this outstanding question about executive privilege and hasn't been decided yet, so I don't know what my authority is. However, the committee says that that is just not a defensible argument. Basically what they're saying is that he knows that his communications with the former president are not covered by executive privilege. Here is a quote from the resolution that came out last night.

"The law is clear that executive privilege does not extend to discussions between the president and private citizens relating to nongovernmental business or among private citizens." The observation we've made several times on this air is that Steve Bannon wasn't a member of the White House, so the executive privilege presumably doesn't stretch that far, doesn't stretch beyond the confines of the White House itself, John.

Again, as you mentioned, the former president now suing to try to block the records. The committee knew that this was going to happen. So now the timeline continues. Very likely why they put the Steve Bannon subpoena at the beginning of their investigation because they know that the clock could extend here, so they're trying to get this calendar going. The concrete movements, though, tonight to watch are the vote -- the votes coming out of the House committee, then again on to the house floor. So a few outstanding questions, John, but certainly something to watch.

AVLON: We have seen the delay game before, but this is indeed a new frontier. Whitney Wild, thank you very much.

Joining us now to discuss all of this is former U.S. attorney and host of "The Talking Feds Podcast, Harry Litman. It is great to see you. Help make sense of this for us. So you've got the January 6th committee outlining a possible criminal contempt case against Steve Bannon. Do you think it's compelling? Do you think it will stick?

HARRY LITMAN, HOST, "TALKING FEDS" PODCAST: Yes, so, it is totally compelling, John. It's open defiance. It couldn't be more clear. He's thumbing his nose at them. He doesn't know what to do? Sure he knows what to do. Comply with a valid, lawful subpoena as you or I or anyone would do. That's not the drama here. The drama comes across the street after the House refers it, because the Department of Justice normally isn't in the habit of bringing criminal cases against their own or former or former officials for not complying with the congressional subpoena. They normally say our hands, we keep out of that.

Now, they have already bent their normal policies when they said, you know what, we're not asserting executive privilege here. But it would be extraordinary, literally, for them to go forward with a criminal referral. And if they don't, then we have got a dead end and a stalling game once again. It is as you say, there is no play here on the merits. He has an absolutely meritless claim. The only play is to try to stall, play out the clock, and tell the congressional investigation has basically run its useful course.

AVLON: Which is a signature move for the Trump crowd.

LITMAN: That's right.

AVLON: But does the committee actually want to prosecute Bannon? Or are they just trying to get him to testify? And if it is the second thing, do you think this threat will work? How have we gotten to a place where the DOJ doesn't enforce criminal contempt when it comes to Congress?

LITMAN: We got there about 10 years ago in a different world, when they said we generally don't do this. We are now in a place where, starting in the Trump administration, what had been before an occasion for negotiation, accommodation, just became a straight stonewall. And that's how they're in this pretty pass. So that's what could cause them to say we'll change things up.

Which do they want? They want him to testify. But they don't have leverage. We saw the other possible maneuver, a civil suit, not succeed during the impeachments because, again, there is just a disconnect between how much time you need to enforce in the courts and how much time the Congress has to investigate. We have got the same disconnect here, even if the DOJ brings the criminal referral. But if it does bring it, it means there is a real cost to Bannon that changes the overall dynamic, because at the end of the day, he could wind up in a jumpsuit.

AVLON: That is, indeed, a degree of accountability that could change the calculus. But how we got to a place where enforcing the law seems somewhat optional is stunning to me.

Let's switch over to claims of executive privilege. That's Donald Trump's new game, arguing that his record should be protected from the January 6th committee because of executive privilege. Here's the problem, he's not the executive, or the president anymore. So what do you think of his argument? Is it going to wash?


LITMAN: That does seem to be a troublesome detail, isn't it? Yes. The president -- we only have one president at a time, only one person, Joe Biden, who said I'm going to take care, the law will be enforced. And he says I'm not going to assert here. Again, Trump really doesn't have a valid claim. It's not 100 percent clean. There is a little snippet that he can try to rely on from a Supreme Court case, but, no, this is a stone cold loser again.

And it is -- there is a one page playbook here, try to delay. The clock had started on him. Under the legal scheme, an obscure official called the administrator of the U.S. told him in 30 days, and that's November 12th, I'm turning this stuff over. So he had to do anything to try to stop the music. This was his only play. And he's not even trying to win. He's just trying to get the court, either the district court or the court of appeals or the Supreme Court to freeze things while they decide. And that would be, again, in effect a defeat. There is just a very bad flaw in the law here that lets bad claims prevail in the sense that they stall things long enough to make the legal compulsion irrelevant. Not illegal, but irrelevant.

AVLON: As you say, the clock is ticking, and also the extraordinary backdrop of the Biden administration accusing a former president of abuse of power. Harry Litman, thank you very much for joining us.

LITMAN: Thank you, John.

KEILAR: Breaking overnight, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting a Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 missionaries, 16 of them Americans, is demanding $1 million each for their release. So this is a $17 million demand here. Haiti's justice minister told "The Journal" that the FBI and Haitian police are in contact with the kidnappers, and negotiations could take weeks. Joining us now is Andrew McCabe. He's the former FBI deputy director, and he is a CNN senior law enforcement analyst. Andy, can you tell us what would be going on right now, take us behind the scenes of what kind of talks the FBI is having with the kidnappers and amongst themselves?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. So, Brianna, I was in this position many times during my time in the Bureau, working with families, working with the State Department, trying to recover kidnapped Americans. And I can tell you what the Bureau is doing is running an investigation to determine exactly who is behind the kidnapping, and also who could potentially influence the kidnappers.

So you need to establish lines of communication to the people that actually have the hostages in hand, to be able to conduct this sort of negotiation. So you have FBI agents on the ground right now working very closely with their State Department colleagues, working with law enforcement, and possibly intelligence officials in the host country. This is, of course, Haiti in this situation. They are trying to pull together as much information as they can.

All of that goes up to a group called the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, which is also run by the FBI but is an interagency center that is overseen by the White House and has elements of each of the different federal agencies that is involved in recovering Americans overseas. And that's kind of the brain cell that processes all the information and makes sure there is a solid connection with the families involved.

KEILAR: There are kids involved. We're talking about some little kids including an eight-month-old. And this ransom is nuts, Andy, $17 million that they're asking for. And these are missionaries from an Ohio-based group. Do these ransoms ever get paid?

MCCABE: Well, they do. And that's a really sensitive subject, particularly when the hostages are U.S. because the United States has a policy, it's not a law, but a policy against paying hostages for Americans. And it is for very good reason. If you continue to pay hostages, you essentially support the kidnapping industry. You attract more of these groups to conduct kidnappings, and more Americans get violated and abused.

So we have a policy not to do it. But as a practical matter, we are working so closely with the families that we try to help them make the decisions about whether or not they want to pay. We try to help them accumulate those assets that they may need to actually pay a ransom. And I should also say that ransom demands are very, very rarely met in their entirety. The negotiation is conducted, and that number usually comes way down. I think we have seen ransoms paid by this group allegedly for other kidnapped persons in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. So you can see it move a lot.


KEILAR: Really quickly before I let you. Any chance of a rescue operation, or would that be too risky?

MCCABE: Absolutely, that's always on, you know, that's always on the absolutely that's always on, you know, that's always on the radar as something folks are considering. But it is typically not done for exactly the reason you mentioned. It places the lives of the hostages in danger and you don't want to push anything in that direction unless it is absolutely necessary.

KEILAR: All right. Andy, thank you so much. You really illuminated I think what the FBI is dealing with here. Up next, President Biden is about to meet with progressives and then

he's going to meet with moderates at the White House. This as Senators Manchin and Sanders making a bit of a move.

AVLON: Plus, the new announcement expected from the FDA on COVID booster shots. And the major college head football coach fired for refusing to get his COVID shot.


KEILAR: Two high stakes meetings at the White House just hours from now. President Biden hosting one with progressives and then another with moderates as negotiations continue over major infrastructure and social safety net bills. Several Democrats are warning they could vote against the giant spending bill if it does not include key provisions aimed at address climate change.

Let's talk about this now with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.


He serves on the Appropriations Committee, as well as the Foreign Relations Committee and he is a key ally of President Biden's.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

It is a big week. And the president is going to be meeting with moderates and progressives today. What is his goal? What does he need to do today?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, Brianna, politics is the art of the possible. And President Biden is someone who understands how to bring people together, how to resolve differences and how to move us forward.

The Build Back Better bill will move forward, including some significant, I would say historic investments in reducing the costs that Americans stay up at night worrying about, whether that's the cost of healthcare and elder care, day care and pre-K. There is a menu of options for what we can come to agreement about. And our president needs to help our progressive wing understand that any one of these would be a significant, even a generational new investment and to help our two reluctant moderates to this conversation, to come to a final agreement, and to recognize that we all share the same policy goals, which is helping America's middle class.

This bill, the Build Back Better bill, that will move forward will provide a huge middle class tax cut and fully paid for. That's historic. And I think this is a critical week, hopefully week, no more than two weeks between now and Halloween for the Biden presidency and for Democrats in Congress to show the American people what we can get done together.

KEILAR: So implicit in what you're saying there is that Democrats are not going to get everything that we just showed on the screen, all of these different policy provisions that are in there. What policies has the president come to terms with, hey, this may have to go.

COONS: Well, I'll let the president speak for himself, but I'll tell you that there is a very broad and bold and ambitious agenda that I support and that most of our caucus supports. But there is a few pieces that Senator Sinema and Manchin and a few others have pointed out they don't support in terms of either increasing federal revenue or new spending.

So this is the art of the possible and one of my highest priorities is making sure we include some bold climate provisions in this plan. There is big tax extenders that will help accelerate a transition to clean energy. There is the civilian climate corps, which I'm continuing to fight for, and so are many in leadership, from Senator Schumer to frankly President Biden.

This will unleash a new generation of Americans helping promote climate resiliency, making our forests and our public lands urban communities and wetlands stronger and more resilient in the face of climate. The question is whether we can include a polluter fee. Something that would make it more expensive for heavily polluting countries like China to export steel and cement and fertilizer into the United States.

That's something I'm still hopeful we can include. And would allow us to go to Glasgow, the global summit on climate in two weeks showing some ambition on combating climate here in the United States.

KEILAR: So if you want all of those climate initiatives, and the price tag comes down, you have to say bye to something, right? That would be some of the social safety net issues. So, you know, what would get trimmed or what would get eliminated? What do you think would be acceptable? There is free community college, there is expanded Medicare, there is an expansion of Pell grants, the child tax credits, and so on.

What could be jettisoned?

COONS: I personally would prioritize investing in children, in pre-K, in child care costs, in the child tax credit. I have folks who work for me who are paying as much if not more for child care as they are for their mortgages. And it is something that work families struggle with. It is something that is prevent people from getting back into the workforce. And it is something frankly that is going to require significant investment to improve the quality, the affordability, the accessibility.

I have three kids who are now in college, but I'll tell you, when they were very young, that's an absolutely critical phase of life. But, Brianna, these are tough choices. At the end of the day, the values choices that we're going to have to make as a caucus are going to be difficult, but they have to reflect a focus on reality.

We're going to get a few big things done, but they have to be so significant that families across this country next year can say, that's what the Democrats did when they had a chance, when they controlled Congress and the White House, and whether it is lowering prescription drug costs or improving day care and pre-k, it made a difference to me and my family.

KEILAR: You have seen there has been a little bit of acrimony between your colleague Senator Sanders and Senator Manchin. That is a nice way of putting it. The mean way might be they have been kind of jerky to each other.

But here they are as of yesterday talking. How are you viewing the discussions between them and also the discussions between senator Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, the head of progressives in the House?


COONS: Well, Brianna, it is a positive thing when peace breaks out in my caucus. And frankly I'm encouraged that these two iconic, strong- willed leaders in the Senate were able to embrace and to recognize some of their differences. This is because none of us want the Biden administration to fail. All of us represent states, whether it is West Virginia, or Vermont or Delaware, where folks are still struggling to meet the costs of everyday living.

So whether our investments will be in affordable housing, or in higher education, in day care or elder care, it is a menu that is robust, and having these two senators able and willing to talk together about how we land this plane, having conversations both with and at the White House today, that's a significant step forward. I am optimistic we will get this done, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. It's a big week. Big couple of weeks. We'll see what comes out of these meetings.

Senator Coons, thanks for being with us.

COONS: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Joe Biden taking questions from the American people in an CNN exclusive as he tries to sell this build back better plan this week. Anderson Cooper moderating a CNN presidential town hall, with Joe Biden, that will be Thursday night at 8:00. So, be sure to tune in. Get a lot of your questions answered there.

Up next, the FDA's new stance on booster shots. Who can benefit the most from it?

AVLON: And later, a woman raped on a train. Police say passengers did nothing to help her.