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Family Lawyer: Strong Likelihood Remains are Brian Laundrie's; Biden to Participate in Town Hall as Dems on Cusp of Deal; Rep. Jim Jordan Struggles to Answer January 6th Question; HBO Film Chronicles January 6th Insurrection. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Thursday, October 21.


And we have major developments overnight in the death of Gabby Petito and the search for Brian Laundrie. It all played out right here on CNN.

A lawyer for the family of Brian Laundrie tells CNN the probability is strong that remains found at a Florida nature reserve belong to him, belong to Laundrie. That statement just part of a long series of claims that raise all kinds of new questions, even as one chapter of this investigation might be coming to a close.

Now, Gabby Petito's body was find in Wyoming on September 19 after disappearing weeks before. Brian Laundrie's parents say they last saw him on September 13, but they didn't report him missing until four days later.

Now, after officials have been searching the reserve for over a month, the Laundries' lawyer suggested a new discovery was made yesterday by Laundrie's father himself. Why only yesterday? Why the father? Had the FBI been to the spot before? Why didn't dogs or the FBI make these discoveries?

A notebook was found. What was inside? Is it even in condition to provide clues?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: So many questions remaining here, and a source close to the investigation tells CNN that the remains appear to have been there for a while.

Nick Valencia joining us now from near the reserve in North Port, Florida. Maybe more questions than answers today, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Brianna.

For weeks, Brian Laundrie was the most wanted man in America. The 23- year-old, who was wanted for questioning in the death of his 22-year- old fiancee, Gabby Petito, vanished without a trace after allegedly telling his parents he was going for a hike in this nature reserve. But that manhunt may have come to an abrupt end yesterday with the

discovery of partial human remains in a part of the park that was previously underwater.


VALENCIA (voice-over): A dark turn in the search for Brian Laundrie.

MICHAEL MCPHERSON, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI TAMPA: Investigators found what appears to be human remains, along with personal items such as a backpack and notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie.

VALENCIA: Investigators making the grim discovery at a Florida nature reserve, saying it could take some time to confirm the identity of the remains.

MCPHERSON: These items were found in an area that, up until recently, had been underwater. It's likely the team will be on scene for several days.

VALENCIA: It's not certain the remains are those of Laundrie, but the family's attorney told CNN Wednesday it's likely they are.

STEVEN BERTOLINO, LAUNDRIE FAMILY ATTORNEY (via phone): The probability is strong that it is Brian's remains. But we're going to wait for forensic results to come in and verify that.

VALENCIA: Brian Laundrie disappearing, according to his parents, nearly five weeks ago, shortly after returning home alone from a trip out west with his fiancee, Gabby Petito. Her body was found in a remote rough camping area in Wyoming on September 19.

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: They want to complete this homicide investigation. They want to identify the body, obviously, and confirm that it is, in fact, Brian Laundrie. But they also want to see if there is some helpful forensic evidence.

VALENCIA: Laundrie's parents notifying their attorney, Steven Bertolino, they planned to go to the nature reserve on Wednesday that Brian said he was headed to on September 13. The attorney saying he thought it was best to notify law enforcement and said the North Port Police met the Laundries at the entrance of the park and accompanied them into the reserve. Bertolino also telling CNN Laundrie's father discovered his son's bag in the park.

BERTOLINO (via phone): Chris didn't want to pick the bag up, because he wanted law enforcement to see it. Chris couldn't find the law enforcement, because they were then out of sight, because Chris had been in the woods. So he didn't want to leave the bag there with the news reporter standing nearby. So he picked it up. He did meet up shortly with law enforcement. They looked at the contents of the bag.

VALENCIA: Earlier this week, Petito's family saying they want to hear from the Laundries, who could possibly provide some answers about what happened to their daughter. NICHOLE SCHMIDT, GABBY PETITO'S MOTHER: I think silence speaks

volumes. 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.


VALENCIA: So why haven't Brian Laundrie's parents spoken out publicly? Well, yesterday, Steve Bertolino, the family's attorney, said to CNN he specifically instructed them not to, saying more information will be revealed when the time is right.

As for those partial human remains, we're still officially awaiting word on the forensic analysis. An autopsy could take days. But one of the big unanswered questions right now is what did Brian Laundrie's parents know about their son's whereabouts and when did they know it -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Nick Valencia, thank you for that report.

BERMAN: So this new odd timeline of the discovery of belongings, it does raise questions and leads to all kinds of speculation, some of it unfounded speculation. Here's more of Chris Cuomo's interview with the Laundrie family attorney.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What do you make of the suggestion that Mr. Laundrie planted the bag and the backpack?

BERTOLINO (via phone): In nice terms, it's hogwash.

CUOMO: Would the authorities have known what they walked onto the trail with?

BERTOLINO: Absolutely. They met them at the gate, were somewhere nearby. They walked in with them. And more importantly, Chris, this is what I said. Fortunately for the Laundries, the press was following them in the whole time.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us now forensic psychologist Kris Mohandie. Look, we'll get to some of this in a second.


First, I just want to ask you about the major discoveries yesterday. Obviously, what could be human remains, belongings there. When do you think this will mean there will be answers finally?

KRIS MOHANDIE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Answers will finally come for -- as long as it takes for them to first determine if those are his remains, which is a medical examiner question. And that, you know, could take varying lengths of time, depending upon how long those remains have been underwater. And second, if those are his remains, what is the cause of death? You

know, is it -- is it accident? Is it homicide? Is it natural causes or suicide? And I think suicide is going to be one hypothesis, if it is his, you know, body or remains, that will, you know, be at the top of the list of possible causes.

And then the issue becomes what's in, you know, those items that were found nearby. Is there the potential for there to be a diary, a confession, an apology or a suicide note? But we only see suicide notes in about 14 percent of completed suicides.

So these are all things that will, you know, be vetted, will be, you know, investigated.

And, again, as was noted earlier in the program, you know, is that material -- you know, has it been underwater itself, and is it potentially problematic to, you know, develop that information?

So as long as that process takes to forensically investigate, that's how long it's going to take to get some of these major answers, you know, developed.

BERMAN: What questions do you have this morning, especially about what transpired yesterday?

MOHANDIE: Oh, you know, it's -- you know, the family, you know, is in there. The father is in there looking. And we talk about chain of custody. OK. So there might be media following them. You know, it's going to raise all kinds of questions about, you know, how the bag got there, if it is indeed his.

You know, but they make the point that, you know, the media is following them. So, you know, the -- and how were these things not seen earlier? Is it because of the water, you know, levels changing? It's very possible. That can have a huge impact on an investigation.

But these are questions that will need to have answers in order to determine, you know, how that evidence, if it is indeed him, was able to be there, remain unseen for this, you know, length of time. And now -- and only now discovered. But the water level is a huge factor and variable in some environments and certainly in Florida.

BERMAN: I want to play you just a little bit more of Chris Cuomo's interview with the family attorney. And it gets to this point of chain of custody, which is what you were talking about.


BERTOLINO (via phone): It is my understanding that they were followed closely by the two law enforcement personnel. And when I say closely, certainly within eye shot.

And as they went further in, at some point, Chris locates what's called a dry bag. They locate the contents of the bag. At that time, law enforcement officers show him a picture on the phone of a backpack that law enforcement had located also nearby and also some distance off the trail.

At that point, the Laundries were notified that there was also remains near the backpack, and they were asked to leave the preserve.


BERMAN: And really it just is interesting to hear that. How unusual would it be for the parents of a person of interest, if that's in fact what Brian Laundrie was, to be searching on their own in the reserve?

MOHANDIE: Well, I don't think it's going to be that unusual. I think parents are going to want to find, you know, their kid. And I think that, you know, many parents in a variety of circumstances would take it upon themselves to go searching.

With this kind of cloud, it raises other kinds of questions. But I don't think it would be unusual for a parent, you know, of any aged kid who is missing to be involving themselves somehow.

BERMAN: As I said, it just is an unusual perhaps conclusion to this story. Very interesting developments here. Kris Mohandie. Thanks for being with us.

MOHANDIE: Thank you, John.

KEILAR: Tonight Joe Biden will be speaking to Americans at a CNN townhall as he and Democratic leaders try to reach a final deal on his legislative agenda. Here's what the president said what is at stake during a speech yesterday in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves. America is still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers in the world, the most innovative minds. But we risk losing our edge as a nation.


KEILAR: Joining us now to talk about this, chief media adviser to the George W. Bush and John McCain campaigns, Mark McKinnon; and former senior adviser to Senator Joe Manchin, Jonathan Cott.


OK, gentlemen. First to you, Mark. What does Biden need to do tonight?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER CHIEF MEDIA ADVISOR TO BUSH AND MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS: Well, he needs to do what he should have -- really should have been doing a long time go, which is to go on a national stage like he is with you all tonight and really talk about not the price of the bill but what's in the bill.


When you talk about what's in the bill, it has enormous support across the country. And unfortunately for Democrats, the last three to six months or so has been all about is it 3.5 trillion, or 2.5 trillion, or 2 point -- and not about what's in the bill.

And so we know that people are very -- very supportive of the different elements of the bill. But now they've got -- the Democrats have to decide what's in and what's out.

KEILAR: What's going to be in the bill when it comes to climate change. What will Senator Joe Manchin allow that would be something that Joe Biden can go out and say, Look, this is a huge victory for avoiding environmental calamity?

JONATHAN COTT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I think Senator Manchin is open to a lot of things that Joe Biden could get on board with. But what he's not on board with is eliminating energy sources that we need for the next 20 to 30 years. Things that energy secretaries from Rick Perry to Ernie Moniz have told him we will need.

So I think he just is going to find the sweet spot that he always looks for. He'll find something that lets Americans invest in clean energy but also protects the workers that are in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and all over the country.

So I think he's -- he's getting -- he's working well with the president, and he's going to find a way to cut a deal, because that's what he wants to do.

KEILAR: The other moderate with an outsized amount of influence in all of this is Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. And her issue right now seems to be how you pay for the bill. She is opposed to an increase in corporate taxes. And that's a big part of this, Mark.

I wonder, how do Democrats pay for this bill if they don't pay for this bill?

MCKINNON: Well, I think it's important that the pay-fors are on the table, and it's clear how this is being paid for. We've had too much debt for too long, driven up by a lot of Republicans, ironically.

But what surprises me, that these are issues that are coming to the fore now, we've been talking about this for months and months and months. Is it only now that we understand exactly what the -- what the bright lines are for Senator Sinema?

So -- and I think the overall problem for Democrats is expectations game. The expectations game, we're going to have this FDR-sized program, transformational for society. And it was going to pass a long time ago. And we keep having these artificial deadlines that are put in place. And it's a complicated bill. So they should have said it's complicated. It's going to take a while.

And at some point, something is going to pass. They just shouldn't have set these huge expectations for everybody. Because they were unrealistic to begin with.

KEILAR: Yes. It's almost like deadlines don't matter. As they've blown through so many of them, as we've seen.

"Mother Jones," Jonathan, has reported -- and this gained a lot of traction -- that Joe Manchin was thinking about switching parties. He was thinking about becoming a Republican. He was pretty clear about what he think about this. What do you say?

COTT: I would quote him if I'm allowed to say bullshit. I've seen this story written in 2014, '16, '18. He is a proud West Virginia Democrat. I don't know where that story came from. And I think he put an end to it appropriately yesterday.

KEILAR: What do you make of it?

MCKINNON Listen, I think if Joe Manchin was going to be a Republican he would have done it a long time ago. I mean, he won, in a state that Donald Trump, 70 percent as a Democrat.

And Democrats should be on their knees every day praying to thank Joe Manchin. Because he could have easily just said, Well, I'll just go to the other side and -- and not get as much grief as he gets from Democrats. But without Joe Manchin, Democrats would not have a majority in the Senate.

KEILAR: So explain this to liberals. Because a lot of them look at this, and they think that Joe Manchin is essentially a Republican. So what do you say to them?

COTT: I say that you should go back to West Virginia and talk to the people that he's helped for the last 20, 30 years in public office. He is a West Virginia Democrat. They may be a little bit different from a New York City Democrat or a California Democrat. But he represents the people of his state.

And, you know, this is a guy who learned politics from watching John F. Kennedy. And that's where he gets his sort of base and model from. But he is a proud Democrat, and I don't know where that story came from. And I'm glad he stomped it out.

KEILAR: So the Senate, for the third time, failed to pass a voting rights measure. Party line vote: Democrats against Republicans here, Mark. And I just wonder, in the context of Republican states passing big-lie bill after big-lie bill, are they just going to get away with it?

MCKINNON: Yes, they are. There was never a chance in hell that the Republicans were ever going to vote for this bill. And I -- I appreciate Joe Manchin's notion that he was going to get 10 Republicans to vote for it. But I think, as Jonathan will say, this -- this is likely going to be a campaign issue. And that's where it averages (ph) at the end of the day, rather than being a bill that they pass.

KEILAR: What do you think?

COTT: I think he is optimistic. I think he thought he could convince some people after what happened on January 6th. Unfortunately, no Republicans came along.


But yes, I think Democrats now have to go around the country and explain why we need these bills and why we need to get out and vote.

KEILAR: Did you ever think, Jonathan, that there would ever be 10 Republicans? Did you ever think that?

COTT: I didn't. But he's way more optimistic than I am and comes in every day thinking he can convince people to do the right thing. The guy runs into the office in the morning and just is excited to get to work. And if he thinks it's a good idea, he thinks he can convince 10, 12, 15 Republicans. You've got 19 on the infrastructure bill.

KEILAR All right. We'll take the Joe Manchin whisperer's word on this.

MCKINNON: He's a prisoner of hope.

KEILAR: A prisoner of hope. Jonathan and Mark, thank you so much to both of you.

President Biden will be taking questions, as we mentioned, from the American people in a CNN exclusive. Anderson Cooper will be moderating the CNN presidential townhall. And that will be starting tonight at 8 Eastern.

When did Congressman Jim Jordan talk to former President Trump on the day of the Capitol riot? This is a question that the Republican lawmaker has been struggling to answer for months. Why?

BERMAN: New never-before-seen video of the insurrection that illustrates why it's so critical to understand what happened that day.

And as the administration prepares to start vaccinating young children, the surgeon general will join us to address parents' biggest questions.



KEILAR: Today the full House will vote on whether to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for defying subpoenas from the January 6th Committee about his role in the insurrection.

Republicans telling their members vote no. And that includes Congressman Jim Jordan, who defended Trump at a contentious hearing, even though he himself may be called as a witness. The reason is that he spoke to Trump on January 6th, except Jim Jordan can't quite seem to get his story straight.


REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): You called the former president on January 6. Did you talk to the former president before, during or after the attack on the Capitol?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Of course I've talked to the president.

MCGOVERN: Or all three.

JORDAN: Of course I've talked to the president. I've been clear about that. I talk to him all the time.

Of course, I talked to the president. I talked to him that day. I've been clear about that. I don't recall the number of times.

MCGOVERN: Was it before, during or after the attack on --

JORDAN: I talked to the president after the attack.

MCGOVERN: So not before or during?

JORDAN: Right.

MCGOVERN: OK. And you --

JORDAN: I've been clear about that.


KEILAR: But he hasn't been clear about that at all. Jordan seems just as flustered to answer that question now as he was in July, when he said he'd look into it.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you talk to the former president that day?

JORDAN: I've talked to the former president umpteen times, thousands -- I mean, not thousands.

BAIER: I mean on January 6th.

JORDAN: Countless times. I've talked to the president. I never talk about what we talk about, because I just don't think that's appropriate, just like I don't talk about what happens in Republican conferences.

BAIER: Sure.

JORDAN: So I've talked to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president.

BAIER: I mean on January 6th, Congressman.

JORDAN: Yes. I mean, I've talked to the president -- I've talked to the president so many -- I can't remember all the days I've talked to him. But I've certainly talked to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: A day later, after having some time to consider it, this is what happened when Jordan was asked again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you speak with President Trump on January 6th?

JORDAN: Yes. I mean, I speak -- I spoke with the president last week. I speak with the president all the time. I spoke with him on January 6th. I mean, I talk with President Trump all the time. And that's -- that's -- I don't think that's unusual.

I would expect members of Congress to talk with the president of the United States when they're trying to get done the things they told the voters in their district to do. I'm actually kind of amazed sometimes that people keep asking. Of course. I talk to the president all the time. I talked to him -- like I said, I talked to him last week

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On January 6th, did you speak with him before, during or after the Capitol was attacked?

JORDAN: I'd have to go -- I -- I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don't know. I'd have to go back and -- I don't -- I don't know that -- when those conversations happened. But -- but what I know is I spoke with him all the time.


KEILAR: And a month later, after having even more time to consider his answer, the infamous "I don't recall" made an appearance twice. Quote, "Look, I definitely spoke to the president that day. I don't recall. I know it was more than once. I just don't recall the times."

BERMAN: Not a trick question, though he seems to be treating it like one.

So never-before-seen video and chilling firsthand accounts of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionists on January 6th is the centerpiece of a new film that aims to give viewers a comprehensive look at the events that transpired. Here's a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the other side of those double doors was 40 or 50 officers battling 15,000 people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heave ho! Heave ho! Heave ho!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heave ho! Heave ho! Heave ho!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heave ho! Heave ho! Heave ho!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it was like pure chaos. It looked like some, you know, medieval battle scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull the cops out! Pull the cops out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull the cops out! Pull the cops out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull the cops out! Pull the cops out!


BERMAN: Joining me now, Jamie Roberts, the director of the new HBO documentary film "Four Hours at the Capitol." It's available to watch now on HBO and HBO Max.

Jamie, there's a lot of riveting stuff in this documentary. And one of the things that struck people who have watched it is the lack of remorse among insurrectionists, among the people who were here that day. What did you hear from them?

JAMIE ROBERTS, FILMMAKER: Yes. There is a lack of remorse. If anything, quite a lot of people that we spoke to who were protesting and some of the rioters, they actually celebrate that day. They see that as a day when their message punched through, and they actually -- the world had what they had to say. So a lot of them are quite jubilant, surprisingly, and pretty shockingly.

BERMAN: What does that tell you?


ROBERTS: I think it tells me that there's a large section of society that -- that isn't -- that isn't speaking to -- we're a very polarized society both in America but I think the west. And it really demonstrates that. And in the film, I think the people that speak to that, you can see it's a real stark contrast between the lawmakers, the politicians, and the rioters and protesters. And there is a political chasm at the moment.

BERMAN: You talked to a number of lawmakers who were there that day and forced into all kinds of situations. And one of the things that I took away from what they say -- and we're going to play a sound montage of a bunch of them here -- is the almost disbelief of the fact this happened before. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was at that point that Mike was to my right, and there was a guy in front of me, and he was holding like this six-inch- long black knife. And I remember, like, slapping it out of his hand, picking it up off the ground, and then just passing it behind me. I looked back to my right, and Mike was gone. He just wasn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost there. You're almost there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went through the tunnels, got to our secure location. We received word after we all got there that the rioters, you know, were essentially in control of the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were so many of us in that room not knowing how long we would be there.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): For hours we were sitting there. The president didn't say a word. The president of the United States, who runs the military, the commander in chief, if he says a word, things happen. To me that was beyond the pale.


BERMAN: Again, as I said, there seems to be almost disbelief among some of these lawmakers. What did you hear on that front?

ROBERTS: Yes. I think a lot of the lawmakers were very shocked how easy people got into the building and also how late they -- they got word of what was happening.

You know, as rioters smashed windows and broke into the Capitol, lawmakers were still in the Senate and in the -- in Congress in the House.

So they -- they escaped. They evacuated very, very late. It was -- at one point there was just one door, one frankly rickety looking door, between lawmakers and the rioters themselves. And indeed, that was when Ashli Babbitt was actually shot dead.

So, you know, the -- how close that day really came to bloodshed and even lawmakers possibly losing their lives, it was very close. And I think you can see the video and the testimony just how close that was in the film.

BERMAN: We're 10 months after the fact now. How would you describe where the United States is in understanding this moment?

ROBERTS: I mean, from a -- from a slightly wider view, the United States -- I mean, it really looks like it's pretty far from reconciling what happened.

At the moment, I mean, you've seen the -- there isn't going to be a true bipartisan investigation. And really, there's just this politicizing and hyperbole and arguments around the subject, and it doesn't really feel like, I think, America is really grappling with what really happened.

That was the reason that we made this film. We wanted to go back to ground zero, moment by moment, what happened. So you can actually -- people can understand that, rather than the kind of punditry that I think we've -- we've arrived at at the moment.

BERMAN: Jamie Roberts, I appreciate your work. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Jury selection in the trial of the men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Already the court is facing new problems. We'll explain next. KEILAR: Plus, the former Washington State football coach suing now

after being fired for refusing to get vaccinated. Does he even have a case?