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The Situation Room
COVID Death Toll In U.S. Surpasses 1918 Flu Pandemic; Biden At U.N Amid Turmoil In Foreign And Domestic Agendas; FBI Searches Family Home Of Gabby Petito's Fiance After Remains Found; Member Of CIA Chief's Team Reported Mysterious Havana Syndrome Symptoms On Recent Trip To India. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 20, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage continues right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. More Americans now have died from COVID-19 than were killed by the 1918 flu pandemic, this as Pfizer declares its vaccine safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11. Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us live this hour to break down the new data.
Also tonight, President Biden kicks off critical talks over at the United Nations as he faces turmoil in his foreign and domestic agendas, including an urgent new crisis at the U.S./Mexican border.
And we're following new twists in a woman's mysterious disappearance during a road trip. The FBI has been searching the family home of Brian Laundrie a day after the likely remains of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, were found.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with the breaking news on the loss of life from COVID-19 that is both unfathomable and, frankly, totally unacceptable. The U.S. death toll from this pandemic just rose above 675,000. That's higher than the death toll from the 1918 flu pandemic more than 100 years ago.
The youngest Americans are increasingly at risk in this crisis here in the United States, and tonight, they may be closer to being eligible for vaccinations. Pfizer says its vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11 in a smaller dose, a lower dose than adults get.
Let's discuss all of this and much more with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden. Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for joining us. As we pass this very grim milestone, we're still losing an average of nearly 2,000 Americans to this virus every single day. How high do you fear, Dr. Fauci, the death toll could go, and what should we be bracing for?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I don't want to be predicting how high it can go. I can only say what we do know is that we have the capability. We have the resources. We have the vaccines to stop that and turn that around, Wolf.
As I've told you many times, we now, today, have approximately 70 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten vaccinated. If we get overwhelming majority of those people vaccinated, we will not see the numbers that you just mentioned.
2,000 deaths per day is absolutely terrible. We've got to get that way, way down, and we can do that by vaccinating the people who are unvaccinated. Those are the people who, when they get infected, have a high degree of likelihood of getting on to a severe disease. Unvaccinated people are the ones who are driving this pandemic. We've got to get these people vaccinated, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly do. And, remember, three months ago about 200 Americans were dying every day from COVID-19, now it's 2,000. That's obviously unacceptable.
As you know, Dr. Fauci, Pfizer says a low dose coronavirus vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11 years old. How big of a game-changer would this be, and how quickly could children in this age group start actually getting vaccinated?
FAUCI: Well, the data is going to be presented to the FDA for application of an emergency use authorization. When the FDA looks at, that I'm sure they will work very quickly to make a determination as officially to its safety and its immunogenicity and efficacy. So, I would imagine we're talking in a matter of weeks, possibly by the end of the month, beginning of next month because I know the FDA really wants to do it correctly, but they want to do it quickly.
With regard to the impact, we already know, Wolf, that parents are very concerned about children of that age group, particularly those who are going into the elementary school age range. We want to make sure we thoroughly protect them. Before, we were protecting them by surrounding them with people who were vaccinated. Now they themselves, if the FDA gives the approval, can be protected by their own vaccination.
BLITZER: As you know, Pfizer made the announcement but did not publicly release the data behind it. Is there any reason, Dr. Fauci, to be skeptical of these findings?
FAUCI: No, not at all, Wolf. I have confidence that if they feel that they are going to present that to the FDA for an EUA approval, I doubt very seriously that there's anything to be concerned about in that data. [18:05:01]
BLITZER: Why is it that a 12-year-old child is getting vaccinated with a full dose that is three times the size of the dose that will be given to an 11-year-old? Is the distinction based on development, weight, something else because there's a lot of confusion out there for a lot of parents who have children in that specific age range?
FAUCI: That's understandable, Wolf, but you've got to have a cutoff point and do something that's logistically feasible. If you start talking about multiple different doses down by weight, for example, a microgram per kilogram regimen, that's going to be confusing. It's going to be more confusing than what you're talking about right now, so you have to have a cutoff point. The decision was children from 11 down instead of getting the 30 microgram dose will get a 10 microgram dose. I don't think there's anything wrong with that and parents should not be confused or concerned about that.
BLITZER: Last Friday, FDA vaccine advisers recommended boosters for Americans 65 and older and those who are at high risk. You predicted that the FDA decision about boosters will likely be revised as more data becomes available. What kind of data would change the calculus here, Dr. Fauci?
FAUCI: Well, there will be data that are coming in from our own cohorts through the CDC and the others are following as well as from the Israelis who will continually have data for us, both for the waning of protection, particularly against severe disease in younger groups would trigger the FDA to look at that and see if they want to expand the recommendation to go much younger than 65.
All of that data is going to be coming in in real-time on a weekly basis. Also very important, Wolf, when you get down to the younger group, particularly a young men where the potential for the rare adverse effect of myocarditis exists, that will be very important to get good safety data in younger people, particularly men. If we do, then I think it's likely as we go over the coming weeks. We'll see a more and more of an expansion of the recommendation for the boosters for those individuals.
BLITZER: The booster shot conversation, as you well know, has been centered strictly around the Pfizer vaccine, but what about the tens of millions of Americans, Dr. Fauci, who received the Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson shots? When will they be able to start getting boosters?
FAUCI: Well, they have not been forgotten, that's for sure. What's going to happen is the data associated with the boosters in those individuals will be coming to the FDA I would imagine in a couple to three weeks. They will examine it in the same way as they did before and hopefully we'll get a recommendation that would provide equity among people who have had different products in their vaccination regimen.
BLITZER: The Brazilian president who is currently in the United States for the United Nations General Assembly in New York says he doesn't need to get vaccinated because he previously had the coronavirus and says his immune system is strong enough. What do you say to that argument?
FAUCI: Well, there is some truth to that in the fact that people who are vaccinated -- who -- excuse me, who have gotten infected and recover do have a degree of protection. What we don't know, Wolf, is what the duration of that protection is and what the range of protection against variants are. So, you don't want to deny that there is certain protection by people who are previously vaccinated.
What we do know that's really important is that if you vaccinate people who have recovered from getting infected, that you boost up their level of immunity very high, far higher than just plain vaccination alone. So that's the reason why the CDC still recommends that those who have recovered from natural infection still go on and get vaccinated.
BLITZER: Yes. Just like the former president, Trump, he had COVID but he still got vaccinated which is the right thing to do.
The U.S. is also relaxing travel restrictions on fully vaccinated international air travelers. Should we expect to see restrictions requiring domestic air travelers to be fully vaccinated as well?
FAUCI: Well, as I mentioned before, Wolf, that is on the table for discussion. There has been no determination about that, but all of those things are continually discussed, and I can say it's still on the table for consideration, but it hasn't been decided about what to do with that. We do know that the president has said that for domestic flights, if people refuse to wear masks they are doubling the fines on those individuals.
BLITZER: Dr. Fauci, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
FAUCI: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: And we'll continue this conversation down the road.
Just ahead, how the Trump team failed to convince some very staunch Trump allies to buy his big lie election fraud. Stand by.
We have new details on the peril of the Trump presidency.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're learning new details right now of extreme efforts by former President Trump's team to convince his closest Senate allies to vote against certifying the election he lost, an effort that obviously ultimately failed.
CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. So, Brian, more fascinating information details coming out from the new book, Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Update our viewers.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The co-author have riveting new details on the back and forth between then-President Trump's Personal Attorney Rudy Giuliani and his legal team, and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee.
They revealed that the two senators while backing Trump publicly basically scoffed at Giuliani's efforts in private.
RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL LAWYER TO FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is not a singular voter fraud in one state. This pattern repeats itself in a number of states.
TODD (voice over): Tonight, new indications that then-President Trump's Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump's legal team couldn't even convince two of Trump's closest allies that the 2020 election results were fraudulent.
After the election and before January 6th, Giuliani met with Republican Senator and Trump loyalist Lindy Graham at the White House. Giuliani sent Graham documents which Giuliani believed proved his theories, but the claims were so flimsy even Graham didn't buy them.
That's according to the new book, Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post. Their reporting about Giuliani and Graham excerpted today in The Post. They write while Graham publicly backed Trump in private, he came to the conclusion that Giuliani's argument were suitable for, quote, third grade.
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The interesting thing about Lindsey Graham is that he was one of President Trump's top allies on Capitol Hill, one of the senators he was most close with, daily conversations over the phone, frequent visits to Mar-A-Lago. And if he couldn't convince him, then there wasn't going to be any convincing anyone.
TODD: Woodward and Costa write that Trump's team also tried to convince another Trump loyalist, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, that certain slates of electoral votes could be set aside by then Vice President Mike Pence on January 6th but that Lee didn't buy that legal argument.
After publicly backing Trump's efforts, Graham and Lee both in the end voted to certify the election results. And on the night of January 6th in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, Graham voiced his frustration with Trump's efforts to counter the results.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough. I've tried to be helpful.
TODD: Neither Graham's nor Lee's offices responded to our requests for comment on the new reporting by Woodward and Costa. The co-authors meanwhile are defending the actions of Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, which they report on in the book, that Milley was so concerned about Trump's mental state in the final days of his presidency that the general called his Chinese counterpart twice to assure him that the U.S. would not strike China.
In an interview with Newsmax, Trump leveled a serious accusation at Milley.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): That's treason. I've had so many calls today saying that's treason.
TODD: But Woodward and Costa tell ABC, they believe General Milley's actions were not treasonous.
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, PERIL: He talked to the chief, the head of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and said full time watch everything. And then he called the admiral in charge of the region in the Pacific and canceled, asked him to cancel operations that the Chinese might see as somewhat provocative. And so there's nothing hidden about this.
TODD (on camera): And there's other news on Trump's big lie about election fraud. The former president on Friday wrote a letter to Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, claiming that -- Trump claiming that there were 43,000 absentee ballots cast in one county in Georgia that were fraudulent, calling on Raffensperger to investigate, and if the claim is true, to start the process of decertifying the election.
But even has Trump has done that, criminal investigators in Georgia have been conducting interviews, collecting documents of possibly building a case to charge Trump criminally for his alleged attempts to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results. Wolf?
BLITZER: A story clearly not going away. Brian Todd, thanks very, very much.
Let's get reaction from CNN Senior Commentator, the former Ohio governor, John Kasich. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
So, what do you think? Does it make any sense that, what, ten months after the election, these -- Trump and these other supporters of his are still alleging that he won the election, that it was a big fraud, the election outcome?
JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: You know, Wolf, I think the situation is once people make up their mind for something, it's amazing in our country today the truth doesn't seem to matter, and they will continue to cling to this, and I saw some polls indicating there was a significant number, percentage of Republicans that believe that Biden was not legitimately elected, which is -- it's crazy to me. And it's all about truth. I wish that Lindsey and Senator Lee had come out at that point after they reviewed this and said, there's been no fraud. There's been no court that said it, but there haven't been enough people who have come out publicly, you know, who are kind of linked to these groups that continue to believe in some voter fraud to say there wasn't any. And that's the way to knock this down.
But we're in a point today, Wolf, in our country that people will send misinformation to their friends if it confirms something that they and their friends agree with, even if they know that it's false. I mean, it is a psychological issue that we're going to all have to deal with.
BLITZER: And what do you -- what's your reaction, Governor, to the fact that Trump is now being investigated possibly for criminal action in the steps he took to try to overturn election, being investigated in the state of Georgia?
KASICH: Well, we have to see where that goes, Wolf. This is all news to me. I've just heard it for the first time. But, you know, when it comes to voting and the legitimacy of it, we're not fooling around here. This is what representative democracy is all about, and we'll see what they come to when they get to the bottom of this.
BLITZER: And, you know, you just heard what Bob Woodward and Robert Costa said about General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What's your reaction to this uproar that has developed as a result of the suggestions written in the book?
KASICH: Wolf, it's standard operating procedure for people in the military to have contacts in the military of other countries, and think about this. What he tried to do was to calm people. You know, we've got many countries, too many countries now that have multiple nuclear weapons. You don't want them sitting on the edge of their seat.
Milley did not counter what Donald Trump was doing. He warned his people, check the procedures. Make sure the procedures are legitimate and he warned and talked to other countries. This is not unique. This has happened throughout our history.
I totally believe in civilian control but at the same time you want the military-to-military communication so that there are no serious mistakes. And a launch of a nuclear weapon, that's, there's nothing more serious than that, Wolf. Milley was right in what he did.
BLITZER: All right. Governor Kasich, thanks so much for joining us.
Coming up, President Biden's high-stakes visit to the United Nations at a time when his foreign policy is in turmoil and his domestic agenda is also under threat.
[18:25:00] BLITZER: This hour, President Biden meets with the United Nations the secretary-general in New York hours before addressing a critical meeting of world leaders, the president juggling multiple crises at once impacting both his foreign policy as well as his domestic agenda.
Our White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond is joining us right now. Jeremy, as the president prepares to speak to the U.N. General Assembly new clashes within his own Democratic Party are now threatening to derail some of his top priorities.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And this is another critical week on Capitol Hill for President Biden's domestic agenda. And at this hour no sign, that that chasm between the moderate and progressive factions of the Democratic Party is narrowing at all.
Officials say President Biden will ramp up his personal engagement in trying to get his agenda passed this week. But before then, he has the speech to deliver tomorrow at the United Nations to try and calm these choppy international waters. It follows several weeks that have been very bumpy for President Biden on the world stage.
DIAMOND (voice over): Tonight, President Biden's domestic agenda hanging in the balance as he arrives in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly for the first time as president. Lawmakers are racing to finish work this week on a $3.5 trillion package to implement Biden's economic agenda.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): If there's not enough clarity, then you need to get clarity.
DIAMOND: But Democratic divisions threaten to torpedo that measure in a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill. And as Biden prepares to tout the end of the war in Afghanistan and reaffirm his commitment to U.S. alliances and diplomacy --
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm sending a clear message to the world, America is back.
DIAMOND -- he must also contend with the roughest stretch of his presidency on the world stage, from the messy U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan to a drone strike that killed civilians, and a diplomatic rift with the U.S.' oldest allies.
Some of the criticism that he's faced in many of the capitals of the allies whose partnerships he planned to about to reinvigorate, does he believe there's work to be done to restore that credibility?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's important to note that criticism of a decision is different from criticism of the credibility and leadership of the United States, broadly speaking. But larger point here, and what you'll heart president talk about tomorrow, is that we are committed to those alliances and that always requires work. DIAMOND: Friday, France ordered its ambassador in Washington back to Paris after the U.S. announced plans to help Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines, quashing a multi-billion dollar French deal with Australia. Biden has asked to speak with France's president, but a call isn't yet on the books.
PSAKI: We're still working on the scheduling of it.
DIAMOND: And while officials said Biden will look to close the book on 20 years of war, his administration still facing questions about the last known U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan, which killed ten civilians.
PSAKI: This was done in error. As a human being, as a president, as somebody who has overseen loss in a variety of scenarios, both as a leader and personally, it is his -- his reaction is it's a tragedy and every loss is a tragedy.
DIAMOND: Meanwhile, another crisis bubble on the U.S. southern border, where about 12,000 migrants, many of them fleeing disaster and unrest in Haiti, crowded into makeshift camps in Del Rio, Texas. Hundreds are being deported back to Haiti.
PSAKI: It's a challenging situation. It's devastating to watch this footage. I think it's important though for people to also know that what we're trying do is also protect people. Our message continues to be, as you've heard Secretary Mayorkas convey, now is not the time to come for a range of reasons.
DIAMOND (on camera): And, Wolf, another major showdown is brewing in Washington. Lawmakers have just ten days to fund the government to avert a government shutdown and just weeks to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the U.S. defaulting on its debts. But Republicans for now standing firm, saying they will not help Democrats raise that debt ceiling. Democrats are really daring them here to go through with that. Wolf?
BLITZER: Very critically important and potentially very decisive week, this week here in Washington. Jeremy Diamond, thank you very, very much.
Let's go to the United Nations right now and our Chief National Affairs Correspondent is on the scene for us covering President Biden. You know, Jeff Zeleny, the president has a lot on his plate. What is the biggest challenge when he addresses the general assembly tomorrow?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, certainly, one of the biggest challenges is something that Joe Biden probably could not have imagined, that is convincing or trying to convince other world leaders that he's not like Donald Trump. It is something unthinkable when he was running for president certainly on the credentials of, you know, essentially a half century in Washington. Much of that on the foreign relations platform.
But now so many questions have come up from allies, never mind the critics of the decisions of the Biden administration. So when the president takes the rostrum here tomorrow morning in New York delivering the speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he is going to try, I'm told, to reassert America's leadership and going to try and make the case for strengthening global alliances.
There are questions about Afghanistan, no doubt. There are hard feelings about his dealings with the French over that submarine deal with Australia last week, no doubt, but he's going to, I'm told, make the case largely through COVID-19 as well, offering up more vaccines and using that as a bridge to show how the U.S. still, is you know, a giving country and that he's going to make the case how he is a different type of leader.
So, Wolf, it was just three months ago when he was traveling on his first foreign trip, saying America is back. Now, he needs to back that up and prove it. So, certainly a challenging speech from him but also made clear by domestic issues here as well.
Wolf, the world is watching those images on the southern border that we've seen in Del Rio, Texas, and this is a central challenge for the Biden administration. They are trying to work to get those migrants in a different place. They are trying to move them from under that bridge but they are also facing questions of the treatment of them by border patrol officers. So, Wolf, this is all linked, many world leaders are here in New York and around the world, of course, watching these images.
So, for the president who is in the city right now, certainly a big challenge for him to make the case that America actually is back. Wolf?
BLITZER: We shall see and we look forward to hear his speech tomorrow before the General Assembly. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we'll have the latest on the manhunt for Gabby Petito's fiance following the very grim discovery what I believe to be her remains.
BLITZER: The search for the fiance of Gabby Petito is intensifying tonight following the discovery of what are believed to be her remains in Wyoming.
CNN's Leyla Santiago is working the story for us and joining us from North Port, Florida right now. Leyla, the FBI searched the fiance's family home there today. Tell us what happened.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we watch as agents went in and out and even surrounded the home initially and have left with evidence. Just in the last half hour, the FBI saying they have concluded their search here, not putting out any other details citing an ongoing investigation. But the question remains, Wolf, where is Brian Laundrie?
SANTIAGO (voice over): Tonight, the investigation into Brian Laundrie's disappearance deepening as the FBI pulls evidence from his home. His parents also questioned. They are seen here being escorted in and out of their home as agents executed a search warrant, the search coming a day after tragic news out of Wyoming.
CHARLES JONES, SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI DENVER: Earlier today, human remains were discovered consistent with the description of Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito. Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery.
SANTIAGO: Last night, Laundrie's sister, Cassie, told ABC News, Gabby was close with her son, saying Gabby was a fun and loving influence to the boys, as she always referred to them. We will cherish all the time spent with her.
Investigators are still searching for Brian Laundrie who returned to his family's Florida home without his fiancee earlier this month. Over the weekend, police searched a nearby nature reserve after Laundrie's parents reported him missing on Friday, police say, claiming the last time they saw him was three days earlier as he was headed to the reserve.
But this morning, police tell CNN they exhausted all possible avenues at the Carlton Reserve tweeting, quote, our search of the Carlton has concluded for the evening, nothing to report.
New video showing the white van Petito and Laundrie were believed to be traveling in was posted to YouTube by a couple who say they spotted it in the evening of August 27th in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, same area where the body was found.
In the video, the couple says, they saw the Florida tags thought about stopping to say hello since they're also from Florida but that the van was completely dark and looked abandoned.
Petito and Laundrie began their road trip in June exploring the American west for the summer while posting photo, and stories to the social media pages. Those posts abruptly stopped in late August and Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, with their van but without Petito on September 1st. Petito's father, Joseph Petito, tweeting a picture of Gabby Sunday evening saying she touched the world.
SANTIAGO (on camera): And no charges have been filed in the case of Gabby Petito. Police said they want to talk to Laundrie because they want to ask him about Gabby.
Now, we've also just obtained a recording, a 911 call out of Utah. You see, one of the last times that the couple had some sort of encounter with law enforcement was in Moab when somebody reported that they had seen some sort of altercation between the two. I want you to listen to the 911 call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling -- I'm right on the corner of main street by Moonflower, and we're driving by and I would like to report a domestic dispute, a Florida with the white van, Florida license plate, white man, gentlemen with 5'6 --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just drove off. They're going down main street. They made a right on to main street from Moonflower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what were they doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were they doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We drove by them and the gentleman was slapping the girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was slapping her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And then we stopped and they ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: Now, worth noting, Wolf, if you read the police report of that incident, the police later talked to that caller again asking what it was exactly that made him call 911. Obviously, you heard the recording. But in the police report, that caller also says he feared the worst.
BLITZER: All right, Leyla, thank you very much, Leyla Santiago reporting for us.
I want to dig a bit deeper right now with our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. Chief Ramsey, can you explain how law enforcement is approaching this manhunt for Brian Laundrie, and how did police let him slip off their radar in the first place?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you know, initially, they are investigating a missing person, and there was no indication at that time that there was any foul play or anything like that. Of course, now that they have recovered a body, they still don't know if they have a homicide on their hands. We'll find out tomorrow when the medical examiner conducts the autopsy to find out the cause of death, but they are handling it like a murder investigation.
They need to find him. He is a suspect. They suspect that there has been some foul play perhaps and they need to talk to him. They need to find out all that they can. They had enough probable cause to get a search warrant. They entered that home. They probably seized computers and various other items and you don't know what was found at the crime scene, for example, maybe there's a footprint there. They go in the house and they start looking for boots or shoes or what have you, to see if they can match it, to see if they can put him at the scene where the body was found.
BLITZER: What red flags, Chief Ramsey, do you see in Laundrie's recent actions and perhaps even more telling his own action when Gabby Petito was reported missing.
RAMSEY: Well, the biggest red flag is the fact he came back from a vacation without her and there was no clear explanation as to what happened. Then he comes up missing supposedly by the family's information. He left Tuesday. They didn't report it until Friday.
I mean, there's just one flag after the other as far as his behavior goes. You would think that if this was something where he feared she was a victim of an accident or something like that, he would have called the police. He would have started a search right then. He wouldn't have driven all the way back to Florida.
So one thing after the other kind of lead you to believe that she met her end as a result to foul play, but we won't know until the medical examiner gives us the cause of death sometime tomorrow.
BLITZER: As we just heard, Chief Ramsey, the FBI has now finished searching Laundrie's home. What specific things do you think federal investigators were specifically looking for?
RAMSEY: Well, anything, you know, looking at the social media footprint, computers and so forth, as I mentioned before, there may be some clothing items that might be of some value in terms of evidence. They probably are subpoenaing -- already have subpoenaed phone records, cell phone records, not only his but even his family members to see whether or not there's been contact. Those kinds of things would be what I would imagine they are doing right now in terms of processing the evidence they recovered from the house.
BLITZER: And what do you think the next steps in this investigation are?
RAMSEY: Well, the medical examiner is the key. I mean, you know, if the medical examiner can determine cause of death, and I say that because sometimes it's obvious. You've got gunshot wounds, you've got stab wounds, you've got whatever and you can classify it immediately as a homicide. But this is one where the body probably had been exposed do the elements for a period of time. We don't know the state of decomposition or whether or not other factors have taken in while the body lay there in the woods.
One thing that they said (ph) from the field office, said yesterday, which I found interesting, is that where the body was found in an area of rugged terrain, as he describe it. And so that's going to make their search very, very difficult. And if a fall is involved, it may make it very difficult to determine whether or not the trauma is a result of a fall or a result of someone actually causing the fall.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, thanks, as usual, for joining us. We'll stay on top of this story.
And we'll have much more news right after this.
BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news into THE SITUATION ROOM right now on what appears to be yet another case of that mysterious illness dubbed Havana syndrome that's been affecting U.S. officials abroad.
CNN's national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is joining us right now.
So, what are you learning, Kylie?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, when CIA Director Bill Burns traveled to India earlier this year, a member of his team reported symptoms similar to those of Havana syndrome and had to receive medical attention.
Now, this put the U.S. government -- alarm bells went off in the U.S. government. I'm told that the director of the CIA, bill burns, was fuming with anger according to a source familiar. We should note that these Havana syndrome incidents are mysterious illnesses that have impacted U.S. intelligence officers and U.S. diplomats around the globe since 2016, dating back to when they first began in Cuba, hence the Havana syndrome name here.
But this is the second time in less than a month that reported incidents of these Havana syndromes have impacted the travel of top Biden administration officials. This happened also about a month ago when the vice president, Kamala Harris, traveled to Vietnam. She had to slightly delay her visit because there were multiple incidents of Havana syndrome that were reported around the time of her travel.
Now, I am told that this specific incident in India is really alarming to U.S. officials, particularly because the CIA director's controversial isn't -- travel isn't something that -- travel isn't something that is shared widely and publicly. So there are questions about whoever did this, how they knew the CIA director was going to be there, how they were able to pull off this aggression.
Of course, the U.S. government has not said who they believe is behind these incidents, what they believe is causing these mysterious illnesses. And a CIA spokesperson, when we asked them about this incident in India, said that they don't talk about specific officers. They don't talk about specific incidents, but they did say that there are protocols in place for anyone who reports these symptoms, including medical attention -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kylie Atwood, thank you very much. Kylie Atwood reporting.
Up next, we're going to talk to CNN's Anderson Cooper about his new book on the rise and fall of his very famous family.
BLITZER: A truly fascinating new book is coming out this week co- authored by CNN's own Anderson Cooper, and it digs deeply into the very rich and storied history of his mother's family. It's called "Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of An American Dynasty." There you see the book cover.
Anderson is joining us right now.
Anderson, congratulations. I know you wrote this book, which is terrific by the way, as a letter to your son. Why was it so important for you to do this?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. You know, my dad wrote a book about his family in Mississippi growing up during the Depression right before he died, and it really was like a letter to my brother and I. I was 10 when he died. My brother was 12. I think he knew -- my dad knew he wasn't going to be around to see us grow up, and he wanted us to have something we could always look back on.
And so, that's been really important to me in my life, and I wanted this book to be a letter to my son. I hope -- I certainly hope to be around, but I never really knew about the Vanderbilts. I consciously didn't want to pay any attention to them. I thought as a kid no good could come of me thinking of myself as part of that past dynasty. I very much focused on the Coopers, who seemed much more hardworking and, you know, a better model for me to follow to have a decent life.
And so I didn't know what I would tell my son one day about them, so I basically started doing this research to kind of learn myself about who these people were, who were, you know, in the public eye and had huge fortunes and fortunes which kind of disappeared over a very quick span of time. In my mind, they were always like ghosts and slightly scary, you know, figures from the past I wanted to avoid.
And I didn't want my son -- I just wanted him to be able to kind of see my perspective on who these people were.
BLITZER: I know your mom passed away in 2019, a loss you've spoken about openly. Tell us what do you think she would have thought about this new book?
COOPER: She would love it because she actually was very much like me. She didn't really know anything about the Vanderbilts either even though she was born to a guy named Reggie Vanderbilt who, you know, was my grandfather. He died when she was an infant. She was raised in Europe by her mom. She was taken away from her mother by courts in 1932 and sent to live with Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
But she never really had a connection to her and never really had a connection to the family. And I think my mom would be just, you know, it's a really interesting, fascinating, fun read. Sometimes it's infuriating because some of the characters are -- you know, they're extraordinary but some irredeemable.
I think she would have been incredibly surprised just to learn about the details of her dad's life, which she didn't even really know.
BLITZER: Yeah. I know you talk a lot, Anderson, about being a father. How has that changed your life? What's your favorite part about being a dad?
COOPER: My favorite part about being a dad? Wow, I'm not -- I mean I love it all. I love waking -- you know, being there in the morning when my son opens his eyes and smiles, and I'm just besotted with this little tiny human being.
And it's fascinating to me to see how with a kid, so much of them is already there. It's like he already is the person he's going to be, and I'm just trying not to, you know, mess it up.
BLITZER: You're not messing it up. You're doing an amazing job. Congratulations on the new book, Anderson. Thanks so much for joining us.
Once again, the new book is entitled "Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty."
And I'm Wolf Blitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.