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New Day Sunday

At Least Three Dead, Several Injured In Montana Train Derailment; COVID Deaths Remain High Among Unvaccinated As New Cases Decline; Biden's Sweeping Agenda Faces Make-Or-Break Week Ahead; Negotiations On Police Reform Bill Stall In Senate; Germans Vote In Tight Election Race For New Chancellor; Homeowner Face Deadline To Request Mortgage Relief Extension. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 26, 2021 - 07:00   ET


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AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: To learn more, go to


WALKER: It is Sunday, September 26th. Thank you so much for waking up with us.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you as always, Amara.

We begin with a developing story out of Montana where three people have died in a train derailment.

Yeah. It happened on Saturday and, apparently, it was an Amtrak train traveling from Seattle to Chicago.

WALKER: Yeah, images of the scene show toppled cars and people gathered around the tracks. Authorities say eight out of the ten cars were derailed.

The crash happened in a remote area near Joplin, Montana. That is about 30 miles from the Canadian border.

SANCHEZ: Let's go to CNN aviation and transportation correspondent Pete Muntean.

Pete, a team of federal investigators headed to the scene to figure out what happened. What do we know so far about some of the condition surrounding this derailment?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION AND TRANSPORTATION CORRESPONDENT: Boris, the big question here is, why did this happen? A tragic end to what was supposed to be a beautiful trip, only about half over. Amtrak says it's deeply saddened that three people died in this incident. A hundred forty-one passengers on board and 16 crew, and Amtrak now says passengers and crew were among the injured.

This all happened about 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time on Saturday. Two locomotives, ten cars in all, you mentioned about eight of those according Amtrak derailed up from the original five that was reported.

The big trick here is the location. Joplin is in Liberty County, Montana. Population only about 150. Passengers were being taken to a local senior center but because of this location where this derailment happened, Amtrak is not able to provide another train to get these people to where they were going.

I just want you to listen to one of these passengers now, Meghan Vanderves, she was on board as this train derailed and she describes a terrifying scene.


MEGAN VANDERVES, TRAIN PASSENGER: I awoke to it derailing. I would describe the experience as kind of like extreme turbulence on an airplane, but like louder. And there was kind of a lot of smoke smell. And it was -- the first thought I really had when I woke up was, oh, my God, we're derailing. It was 10 or 15 seconds of rocking back and forth and tons of noise, and then we came to a stop. And really it was -- we didn't know what was going on.


MUNTEAN: Amtrak now has an incident response team on the ground to help out with this NTSB investigation, which is just getting started. A lot of factors here. Speed will be one of the big factors that investigators will look at, whether or not this train was under a speed restriction on this section of track.

The entire empire builder line, the entire trip, takes about 45 hours from Chicago to Seattle. The average speed about 50 miles an hour. But this train can go up to 80 miles an hour.

Another factor that investigators will look into is track geometry, whether or not the rails were perfectly straight, whether the ties were in the right spot. These rails themselves were operated by a company called BNSF and it tells me it is assisting in this investigation.

SANCHEZ: And, Pete, we heard from Mary Schiavo, one of our CNN experts on transportation this morning, and she detailed that weather is another issue that investigators will be looking for. But just from those images it didn't appear that there was severe weather in the area.

Do we know anything about what it was like when the train derailed?

MUNTEAN: A beautiful day, about 80 degrees out. Typically these issues with derailments because of heat happen on really, really hot days. That doesn't seem to be an issue here and you can see in the images, it's a beautiful, big sky Montana day there. So, it doesn't seem like weather will be a factor here.

Although investigators never leave any stone unturned as they look at this. We do know that in the past, speed and track geometry are the big factors that they will be looking at and it's just something that is getting going. So, this will take some time.

WALKER: Yeah. And just a little bit more about the investigation because Mary was mentioning this, that the trains also have black boxes, so I would imagine that that's where they're going to start to look at to figure out the cause of this?

MUNTEAN: Well, a lot of data factors go into this that they will pick apart as investigators look at this. Some trains have cameras even in the cab of the locomotive to see whether or not the conductor or the operator was paying attention to what was happening on the tracks.

They will also look at whether or not anything was on the tracks, whether or not someone could have been crossing in a car or somebody on foot.


So that is another factor here that they will be looking at what was on the tracks, what was happening inside the train, and as it moved through this area, which is pretty desolate, this is a remote area, which is another big challenge here. The investigators are actually staging two hours away in the big sky area Montana is not all that far, but also creates another wrinkle here as well.

WALKER: Must have been just such a frightening moment for those survivors especially. Pete Muntean, appreciate your reporting, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Let's get to Mary Schiavo. She's a former inspector general with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and a CNN transportation analyst.

Mary, we appreciate you sharing your expertise with us.

Something that Pete just mentioned struck me, the fact that this is such a desolate area. This is about 30 miles from the Canadian border. 200 miles from Montana's state capital. How can distance become a hurdle in this investigation?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, distance is a hurdle in a couple ways, one, just getting the first responders, the investigators, and people to provide support for the passengers and others who are affected by this crash, just physically getting them there where there aren't side rails, for example. There's only one rail track you can't enter in on the rail, you have to do it by car or by helicopter. And so, just logistically, it makes it rough.

But the desolation of the area is also very interesting in the investigation as well because the major causes for train crashes usually involve congestion, other traffic crossing the tracks, high speed approaching a turn and this particular section of the track appears to be very straight, not congested, no other areas where surface traffic crosses the train tracks, which is literally the cause of the majority of train crashes in the United States.

So, the desolation is both, you know, a problem for the investigation, in terms of logistics and a problem for the investigation as they scratch their heads and say, why here when we don't have the usual compounding factors?

SANCHEZ: Right. And, Mary, you mentioned earlier that Amtrak and I think Pete brought this up as well, Amtrak doesn't actually own the rails that this train was traveling on. It leases them. I can't remember the specific name of the company that it leases them from, but how might that complicate the investigation? Does it add a layer of complexity?

SCHIAVO: It does. And that's a great point. That's the ways the rail lines work, literally all over the country. Amtrak travels coast to coast, up and down the East Coast, and other places, east to west, but on those tracks they're not Amtrak tracks by and large. They have agreements with other railroad companies and there are, of course, many in the United States and by those agreements, Amtrak travels over those tracks.

The really interesting thing on the legal side is, of course, that Amtrak and by an act of Congress, Amtrak is responsible when there are accidents or injuries to Amtrak trains and passengers, even if Amtrak didn't own the rails, even if Amtrak didn't cause it. For example, the last Amtrak crash near the state capital in South Carolina, was on another railroad's tracks and that rail company made a mistake and put the Amtrak train on a collision course with another train.

Amtrak had to be the responsible party in terms of litigation. It's very interesting. And it also comes into play when there's that equipment called positive train control, which Congress wanted on all tracks over which Amtrak travels. Amtrak trains are equipped, but not all tracks are equipped. Amtrak doesn't own them.

SANCHEZ: Fascinating. We will stay on top of this story and we appreciate any expertise you can offer along the way.

Mary Schiavo, always good to see you.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

WALKER: All right. Turning now to the coronavirus pandemic and the latest surge of COVID-19 cases is finally showing signs of slowing down. But deaths from the virus still remain high.

A recent CNN analysis showed the rate of COVID deaths in the ten least vaccinated states was four times higher over the past week compared to the ten most vaccinated states. The rise in death have officials on edge as more than 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, but a vaccine mandate for New York City teachers may be in jeopardy after a federal judge postponed tomorrow's deadline for school workers to get their first shots.


WALKER (voice-over): Right now, three quarters of eligible Americans have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And millions are now able to get booster shots if they took the Pfizer-BioNTech at least six months ago and fall into one of these three high-risk groups.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Number one, you are 65 or older. Number two, you have a medical condition that puts you at high risk of severe illness with COVID. These conditions include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and others. And number three, you work or live in a setting where you're at increased risk of exposure to COVID.

WALKER: But as some are heading in for their third shots there are still more than 70 million Americans who haven't got their first, and medical experts say COVID isn't going to go away with that many people unprotected.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I want to be clear, we will not boost our way out of this pandemic.

WALKER: Right now, New York state is bracing for a potential nightmare scenario. On Tuesday morning with massive staffing shortages possible, at hospitals and long-term care facilities. After a Monday deadline passes for medical workers to get at least one vaccine dose, Governor Kathy Hochul says she is prepared to declare a state of emergency which would allow New York to bring in medical workers in other states and countries to fill the gap.

New York City school system is waiting to see how a vaccine mandate will play out there. A federal court issued an injunction Friday night against the measure, which would have required all teachers to provide proof of at least one shot by Monday.

The city's Department of Education says the court's ruling puts students at risk. But a teacher's union is celebrating the delay, saying it gives the city's mayor and education officials time to come up with a plan to handle the expected staff vaccine vacancies the mandate would create.

And New York City's police commissioner is pushing everyone in the NYPD to get the shot pointing out eight members of the force are hospitalized with COVID-19, some in critical condition and all of them unvaccinated.


WALKER: Congress and the White House have a busy schedule this week with the full plate of spending bills that must pass to keep the government running and secure the president's legislative agenda. Can they do it?



WALKER: President Biden faces a make or break week ahead with his economic plans on his agenda -- and his agenda on the line. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a timeframe of this week to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the president's broader economic spending package, but Pelosi faces a family feud of sorts within her own party.

Let's get some insight from CNN political analyst, Toluse Olorunnipa. He is a political investigation and enterprise reporter for "The Washington Post."

Toluse, great to see you.

You know, the big question is, of course, you know, can Nancy Pelosi pull this off? It's tough to overstate how critical this moment is. How do you see her maneuvering her way through these bills?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she has a lot on her plate this week. There's a lot of moving part in what is described by some reporters on Capitol Hill as the week from hell because they have so many different things that need to get done.

You have the government that would shut down at the end of the month if they don't pass some sort of resolution or find some way to make sure that the funding for basic government services continues. You have the reconciliation bill Democrats are fighting over with progressives wanting the full $3.5 trillion package and some moderates saying we need to slow down.

And then you also have the idea that the debt ceiling needs to be lifted. Otherwise, the U.S. would default on its debt and the Republicans are not going to help the Democrats pay for the bills that have been racked up and for that reason, Democrats need to find a way to get all of those things done in a matter of days and make sure that the government doesn't shut down, the government doesn't default on its debt and President Biden's agenda doesn't go up in flames because Democrats can't agree among themselves when it comes to progressive ideals and moderates and their hesitance to move forward with the large package that Biden has supported so far.

So, it has a lot to do, very short amount of time to do it. You would have to maneuver and she has been counted on before and been able to thread the needle. But this is probably one of the most difficult set of circumstances that she's faced as speaker in her long career in Congress.

WALKER: Yeah, I mean, you said it right. A whole lot that Pelosi and the Democrats are trying to push through in a very short period of time, Toluse. What happens if she can't pull this off?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, there's a long list of circumstances, a long list of consequences both for the Biden agenda, the full faith and credit of the United States, as well as for the economy. There are some economists that say that millions of jobs could be lost if the government shuts down and the U.S. defaults on its debt. And we are in a shaky part of our recovery, still millions of jobs that have not recovered since the pandemic hit, and we're also still dealing with the pandemic.

There are still thousands of people dying every week as a result of COVID and for that reason, you know, these kinds of distractions in Congress, this threat of a government shutdown, really would reverberate with consequences for the entire country and the consequences for the Biden agenda cannot be overstated.

This is a very pivotal time for the presidency where if he's not able to get through this major chunk of his agenda, he could find himself somewhat of a lame duck with the likelihood of Democrats losing the house and his agenda being stalled for years until 2024 at least.

WALKER: So, speaking of a pivotal time for the Biden administration, Toluse, a new Gallup poll shows the president's approval rating is at 43 percent. That's the lowest we've seen that figure so far. So how does that affect, you know, his agenda getting passed?


Especially when you're talking about potential, you know, lame-duck session?

OLORUNNIPA: Yeah. It does make it more difficult for the president to use the bully pulpit to get the moderates or more hesitant members of the house on board or members of the Senate that aren't necessarily on board with his agenda. If he had higher poll numbers he could go to their districts and talk to them and say the people are with me, your voters are with me, you should be with me as well.

But it's more difficult to convince hesitant voters when, you know, members of Congress are looking at some of these poll numbers saying, I have to think about my own re-election and get through the midterms. The president doesn't have to be re-elected until 2024 and some of them are going to look at their self-interests and say maybe we can't support some of these ideals or get on board with this unified message of a unified Democratic caucus.

So, he's going to have to use his power of persuasion, work with the leadership in the House and Senate and make sure everyone is on board. Otherwise, those poll numbers could go down further if it seems like Democrats are not in unison and cannot deliver on their agenda for the American people.

WALKER: Toluse Olorunnipa, I appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: So after a year of demonstrations and months of negotiations, calls for action, police reform talks collapse on Capitol Hill. We'll get a reaction next from a mom who knows what it's like to lose a son at the hands of police.



SANCHEZ: Following a year of demonstrations and months of negotiation, this week talks over a bill on police reform broke down with no hope of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill -- talks between Democrats and Republicans stalling over disagreements about qualified immunity and whether simply codifying into law the executive actions passed by the previous president would mean defunding police.

The blame-shifting and finger-pointing now on full display. Republican Senator Tim Scott claiming that crime will rise because Democrats walked away from the table. Meantime, President Biden and Democrats blame Republicans saying, quote: Regrettably, Senate Republicans rejected enacting modest reforms which even the previous president had supported, while refusing to take action on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address.

We're joined this morning by someone who deeply understand the need for police reform, Gwen Carr. She became an activist after her son Eric Gardner was choked to death by a New York police officer in 2014 for selling loose cigarettes. She's the author of "This Stops Today: Eric Garner's Mother Seeks Justice After Losing Her Son."

Good morning, Gwen. We appreciate you joining us.

As someone who has fought so hard on this issue, I'm wondering what your reaction was? What went through your mind when you heard that these talks fell apart?

GWEN CARR, AUTHOR, "THIS STOPS TODAY": Well, actually. Good morning and thanks for having me.

Actually, once I heard that they went -- that there was no deal and that the politicians could walk away from the table and flat leave it, I just thought, you know, after all of these months, what is the big deal about them passing the bill? Other bills, they pass so quickly. But when it comes to police reform or seeing that the police do the right thing, that's what we want.

We want transparency. We want them to be accountable for if they do wrong. They can't come to agreement with that? What is the problem?

SANCHEZ: It seems like it should be simple, right? You met with a lot of these politicians that were dealing with police reform legislation, that were negotiating. You were part of a group of families that lost loved ones to police violence that met with them. Did you keep hearing from those lawmakers? Have you heard from them since?

CARR: Well, actually, no, not -- maybe one or two, but no, I haven't heard from them. I know that they were negotiating and we were very hopeful that this would already be a done deal. Now, we stand without anything. So I think they need to go back to the table. They need to rethink

this. They need to go and pass this bill. We got -- they gave us a Juneteenth bill which was really unnecessary to give us a Juneteenth holiday. We need the George Floyd bill passed, the policing bill passed.

This is a very important, very necessary bill and we have to go to negotiations again because it has to be passed.

SANCHEZ: Gwen, I keep hearing that one of the reasons that momentum has stalled on this issue is because crime rates across the country has gone up and there's a hesitation, a fear, from some, that reworking police departments amid a crime wave could lead to bigger problems.

What's your response to that?

CARR: What bigger problem could we have than we have today? Yes, there is crime, but there's crime on both sides. There's crime, the police are committing crimes and the citizens are committing crimes. We need to talk about all of it. It can't be just one way. Okay. Of course we need the police. We need them to go out and fight crime. But on the other hand, we need them to do the right thing also. This should be a two-way street, not just a one-way street.

SANCHEZ: And how does this effort move forward for you?


What are you planning to do next?

CARR: Well, I'm going to have to regroup. We're going to have to go back and talk with the politicians. You know, I'm going to get together with some groups and we're going to find out what we have to do to get this bill passed, because we can't let it -- let it die and we do nothing about it.

We're not going to let our fighting be in vain because this is very, very important to the nation, not only to my family, not only to some other families, but to all families. It is a very important bill. I don't see the problem because the police officers, the ones doing the right thing, they have no worries with this bill. I thinks the ones that -- the ones who have a different agenda.

SANCHEZ: And, Gwen, if you had the two leading senators that were negotiating, Cory Booker and Tim Scott, if they were listening to you right now, what would you say to them?

CARR: Go back to the table. Let's get this bill passed. Don't just let it die.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Gwen, given everything that you've lost and that others have lost and all of what we saw last year, if that doesn't spur change, it makes you worry about what actually has to happen and what may be lost in order for something to shift in this country.

Gwen Carr, thank you for joining us this Sunday morning.

CARR: Thank you for having me.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

WALKER: After nearly 16 years in power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping down. What's at stake for her and her country as voters head to the polls. We're going live to Berlin, next.

Also tonight, be sure to watch the CNN film "THE LOST SONS." Here's a preview.


PAUL FRONCZAK: My name is Paul Fronczak. I thought I knew who I was. When I was 10 years old, my mom and dad said you were kidnapped from a hospital. The FBI found you. Is this really true? I started wondering, am I really Paul?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For quite some time he was trying to find out who am I. He knew that DNA testing could help him find the answer to his mystery.

FRONCZAK: The test result said there's no possibility that you're Paul Fronczak. But there's more. What the --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were in shock.


FRONCZAK: Everything I thought I knew was a lie. This is bigger than what happened to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, the FBI is revisiting a half century old case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful what you wish for. You don't know where this leads.

FRONCZAK: I mean, this is really twisted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who might be the real Paul?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And who was he?

FRONCZAK: The truth. It's going to come out.




WALKER: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee and he is certain to face a barrage of questions about his actions during the last days of the Trump administration.

In the book "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, they wrote Milley assembled top military brass to ensure Trump couldn't go rogue with nuclear weapons and he reached out to his Chinese counterpart to reassure China the U.S. government was stable and not planning an attack. Milley denies doing anything wrong but Trump accused him of treason.

SANCHEZ: Looking overseas, Germans are casting their ballots today in what is expected to be a very tight federal election. The race will determine who succeeds Angela Merkel as chancellor after nearly 16 years for her in office.

WALKER: So, you would imagine Merkel has become a symbol of stability since taking office, but it is unclear who exactly is going to fill her shoes. The chancellor's party is hoping to stay in power, but polling predictions suggest the race could be very close.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Berlin.

I mean, it is remarkable Germany is facing this uncertainty after such a long period of stability. How are Germans feeling about that and what is the latest?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Amara. You're absolutely right, it is quite remarkable there is this much uncertainty in the election. You're absolutely right, it is absolutely much too close to call this race on whether or not the actual designated successor of Angela Merkel, a gentleman named Armin Laschet for the conservatives will win, or whether or not the social Democrat named Olaf Scholz will win.

But you can see that people here are taking this very seriously and understand it's a pivotal election. You see behind me there is a long queue actually at this polling station and we talked to the folks in charge of this polling station I'm at right now, and they confirmed to us that there's a lot more people here than were here in the last German election in 2017. The last three elections here in this country weren't really very close because it was pretty clear Angela Merkel was going to win.

In fact, we just saw the folks who are heading this polling station bring in an additional voting booth because so many people are turning out. You can see folks understand it's a very important election and one that could be pivotal for this country.

And you're absolutely right now, the social Democrats who are not Angela Merkel's party, they are essentially saying that their candidate is the real successor to Angela Merkel because he's been in the government.


He's someone who announced his candidacy very early and so, they are polling quite well.

One thing we've been saying on the show the past couple days and remains true, is that the main topic of this election and one thing that we've noticed now more so than ever before, is that no one is going to become chancellor in this country unless they have a very strong green agenda. German voters are demanding this country become more green. It is one of the largest industrialized nations in the world. And they certainly want the economy here to be more climate- friendly.

So, a lot of reason why a lot of folks you see behind me are coming out and that's something that voters have made clear before this election as well. You can see right now, many, many people turning out and the parties have tried to get out the vote. Germans taking this very, very seriously, guys.

SANCHEZ: Frederik Pleitgen reporting from Berlin, thanks so much, Fred.

WALKER: Well, millions of Americans are worried about further falling into debt or even losing their homes. They have one more deadline to watch, September 30th, to request an extension on mortgage relief. Struggling homeowners with federally backed loans were given assistance through the CARES Act to defer or reduce mortgage payments.

And with the U.S. economy still more than 5 million jobs short of pre- pandemic levels, people are still in desperate need.

Here with me now is Mark McArdle. He is the assistant director of mortgage markets for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Mark, good morning to you.

First off, what is your advice to people who are watching and are struggling to still pay their mortgage since the pandemic started? What options do they have, especially with the help about to run out?

MARK MCARDLE, ASST. DIRECTOR, MORTGAGE MARKETS, CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU: So as your forbearance comes to an end, it's very important to stay in contact with your servicer and talk about what options are available to you. Also, the more you know about your options the better off you will be.

Generally, there will be five different sets of options one could do. One could do a repayment plan, one could move the payments to the end of the mortgage, the missed payments, one could do a modification or for some you can pay it off at once, but that's never going to be required for federal loans.

Also for some people, if they need to, they could move. Unlike the last crisis, there is equity in many homes these days.

WALKER: So, you know, should homeowners be making phone calls now to the lenders and what are the chances that they agree to some kind of plan, like you mentioned? MCARDLE: So, the loan is -- yeah, if the loan is federally backed. That means if it's an FHA loan, a VA loan, USDA, Fannie or Freddie, they're required to go through a set of options with you. And so, the important thing is, the servicer should reach out thanks to the rules 30 days before the end of forbearance, but if you don't heard from your servicer reach out to them and they should walk you through the options.

In the federal loans, there will be options. Even if you're not in a federally backed loan ask your servicer for options. If you hear one thing and it doesn't work for you, ask for other options available.

WALKER: So, you wouldn't be panicking if you're in a situation?

MCARDLE: Right. There are ways so you can resume your mortgage payments or if you need a lower payment to get a modification, there are options for folks. The important thing is to stay in touch with your servicer and to make sure you pick up the phone when the call comes and make sure you listen for the option that works for you.

WALKER: Will this impact a person's credit at all?

MCARDLE: So if you talk with your servicer, the CARES Act requires that you were reported as current during the forbearance and if you enter into a solution after forbearance there should be no impact on your credit.

WALKER: You know, I do want to ask you this, we know that communities of color suffered the most during the pandemic, right? With studies showing that from August 2020 to March of this year, I think nearly 18 percent of black homeowners fell behind on mortgage payments.

Is the bureau putting any extra protections in place for vulnerable communities?

MCARDLE: Yeah, so there's two things we've done, we've set up a set of rules -- this summer, we released a set of rules which basically set the guidelines for servicers on how to treat consumers and give them more options in time. The second thing we're doing is targeted outreach to those communities of colors and low income communities most impacted. So, we know that, you know, those folks have not even recovered from the last crisis and that anyone, any unavoidable foreclosure is something we want to avoid here.

So, the bureau is focused on this, doing outreach, set rules. We're going to be watching servicers closely. The bureau wasn't around the last time so there are people watching servicers and what they're doing.

WALKER: Well, I appreciate the advice this morning and thanks for joining us. Mark McArdle, thank you.

MCARDLE: Thank you for having me.

SANCHEZ: Up next, new revelations about the surveillance that Britney Spears was reportedly under during the conservatorship that she's now fighting to end.



SANCHEZ: So this week, a judge in Los Angeles is going to take up a request to terminate Britney Spears' conservatorship. This court- ordered conservatorship has controlled her life for the last 13 years, including her finances and many of her personal decisions.

WALKER: Tonight, in a special report, CNN takes a look at Britney's battle for freedom. Here's a preview.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: There were reports that on the circus tour, she couldn't read certain books, she couldn't have a cellphone, true?


CAMEROTA: What books she couldn't read?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She could only read Christian books.

CAMEROTA: Says who?


CAMEROTA: She couldn't have a cell phone is this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At times she did have a cell phone. Her phone was monitored. The text messages were read. The call logs were there. I don't know whether or not calls were recorded but the use of a phone was very tightly controlled.

CAMEROTA: CNN cannot independently confirm these allegations. Britney says her doctors and therapists were also carefully controlled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conservatorship dictated to her who her doctors were going to be, which doctors she was going to see, how often she was going to see them, how long those sessions would be. Every aspect of her medical care and not just her medical care, was extremely, extremely controlled.

CAMEROTA: As was who she could see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who she could date, who she could be friends with was very, very tightly controlled.

CAMEROTA: The conservatorship told her who she could be friends with?


CAMEROTA: Why? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there was a concern a third party could

introduce something that was detrimental to the order putting structure in her life. And I think the conservatorship did a good job of doing that.

CAMEROTA: They were trying to keep out the riffraff or make sure they were protecting the bottom line and this commodity could keep performing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, she was treated as more of an object than a human.


WALKER: It is just all so incredibly stunning.

Here to discuss is CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas.

I guess what we the most shocked to learn as you spoke to those who know Spears.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Hesitant to speak out because they had to sign non-disclosure agreements and they never spoken out before. Remember this conservatorship had been going on for 13 years. I was surprised probably because there is so much about how tightly controlled her life was throughout the last 13 years, just how incredibly oppressive this seems to have been, you know?

And you heard Britney herself saying in those two emotional testimonies, this summer, saying it in her words, which only further emboldened our reporting that you're going to see tonight.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. She revealed that the conservatorship wouldn't let her remove an IUD, effectively keeping her from having kids. I do wonder about how the Free Britney may have played a role in this because her fans were so fascinate and so dedicated to bringing some of these issues to life, so many things people didn't know were happening to Britney.

MELAS: Look, I mean, we all should tip our hats to the Free Britney movement. They are unofficial investigative reporters. And you know, for so many years they were dismissed, so many people around Britney putting out a narrative the conservatorship was a good idea. Reporters like myself at one point skeptical of this movement, but the more you speak to then, the more you learn, they layout all those facts, you know, literal like documentation, OK? They got these court documents sometimes before I can get them.

I went to some of their homes, I sat down with them and I wanted to learn more about the motivation and emotional connection to Britney because these people have full-time jobs, families, children, and they are spending a lot of time going to the rallies, organizing them, going down to the courthouse and, you know, a lot of credit goes to them but of course, the ultimate credit goes to Britney Spears.

WALKER: And, lastly, I mean, there is a big court hearing on Wednesday that will have huge implications on their future of the conservatorship. What can you tell us and what do you expect on that?

MELAS: Well, for Jamie Spears, Britney Spear's father, filed a petition to terminate this conservatorship. And, you know, it came as a shock to many because he was sort of the last person for people to expect to file this petition. Nobody over the years filed that. It was a simple petition to file and nobody did.

So, Judge Brenda Penny is going to rule on that on Wednesday potentially, but there is that chance that Judge Brenda Penny would require Britney to have to undergo a medical evaluation, which Britney said she doesn't want to do. So, we'll see. I don't think it's going to be completely over Wednesday, but that would be the hope.

WALKER: Chloe Melas, thank you so much, really stunning details but thank you very much for that.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Chloe.

WALKER: And don't miss the CNN special report "Toxic: Britney Spears Battle for Freedom." Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

That went quick. That's our show. Thanks for starting your morning with us.


SANCHEZ: Great to see you as always, Amara. Great to spend time together.

Don't go anywhere. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next. Have a great morning.