tv Don Lemon Tonight CNN September 20, 2021 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
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-- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com president biden just hours away from addressing the u.n. general assembly as tensions in his own party threaten to derail his agenda. the house speaker nancy pelosi says the next 48 hours will be critical. plus, pfizer announcing a lower dose of its covid vaccine is safe and effective for kids ages 5 to 11. dr. anthony fauci telling cnn a decision from the fda could come within weeks. and we're learning a 9-1-1 call reporting a so-called domestic dispute between gabby petito and
her fiancé brian laundrie just days before her disappearance. the fbi just concluded a search at the laundrie family home. i want to bring in cnn white house correspondent brian harwood and a former campaign manager jim messina. mr. hardwood, i'm going to start with you. president biden's domestic agenda is on thin ice tonight all because of his own party. the house speaker nancy pelosi says the next 48 hours is going to be crucial and determining if they can reach a deal. where do negotiations stand at this hour? please fill us in. >> look, don, this is a very difficult moment for the biden white house and for democratic leaders when they're about to figure out whether they can pull this off with very narrow majorities, a very substantial bill expanding the social safety net, expanding health and education benefits for the american people. they have a significant consequence split between moderates and progressives in
the party. when you get this deep into the calendar, they want to enact this month or this month bleeding into next month. the deeper you get into the calendar, the more these threats from both sides take on added meaning. and, so, we don't know if they can bridge that gap. joe manchin did make a comment to one of our colleagues tonight that there's a lot going on that you don't know. so we will see what happens in those next 48 hours that pelosi referred to. but whether or not they can get through to something that's reasonably close to what joe biden wants in this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, we don't know if they can pull it off. there's cautious optimism in the white house they still can, but a recognition that once people late in the process play chicken too long, sometimes they collide even though they don't intend to, and that could have bad consequences for them. >> yeah. so, jim, if these bills collapse because of open warfare within
the democratic party, there will be tons of finger-pointing here. will biden be able to carry on with the rest of his agenda if this falls apart? >> i think he will, and i don't think it's going to fall apart. washington runs on two things, don, power and time. democrats have the power to do this, now there is, as john just said, they're starting to run out of time. and now is kind of the point where they got to figure out what to do. and the truth is there is a split inside the party, and that's okay. that's very traditional. the question is, you know, can the progressives live with getting only half a loaf? when i was in the white house i used to say passing something and getting things done is always better than doing nothing. that's the choice in front of some of these members tonight is, yeah, you might not love this, you might not have everything you want. but we're talking about historic investments in childcare and tax credits and other things that democrats have been trying to do for 20 years. i just hope that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater
here. >> democrats are also facing a show down with the gop over raising the debt ceiling. there's going to be a test vote on this tomorrow. the gop is saying that they won't vote to raise it, despite it happening three times in the trump administration on a bipartisan basis. so, what's changed now? what's different? there's a -- >> mitch mcconnell's decided to play politics, don. as you said, they did it three times for president trump, they did it countless times with president obama. it's what the government has to do to continue to go forward. and mitch mcconnell's decided that he wants to draw a line in the sand and see if he can hold his base together. because his party has a similar problem. they're warring with themselves too. the trumpians who are trying to continue to run this party and you have traditionalists like mitch mcconnell. he's saying, well, here's an issue that we all can get behind, which is fighting joe biden. no matter the economy would crash and the stock market would go crazy and all these things. mitch mcconnell just wants to play politics, and it's sad, but it's true.
>> i just remembered during the bush and the obama administrations, all the consternation, and we covered it over and over, the debt ceiling, and we may have had a countdown clock, who knows. but it was most probably we did -- but this isn't something that's new just to this administration but under the previous administration there was bipartisan support to raise the debt ceiling. john, biden has his hands full at the moment. the infighting is just, you know, the major issues he's facing right now, including what's happening at the texas border. there's new video that appears to show law enforcement officers using aggressive tactics with migrants crossing the u.s./mexico border. these images are awful. i mean, the optics are terrible. what's the white house saying about this? >> they're acknowledging that it's awful. homeland secretary mayorkas said this even that he was troubled by the video, and they're looking into potential disciplinary action.
there's no getting around the fact that the situation on the border is one that's a big problem for the biden white house. immigration is not what they want to be talking about right now. but you can't avoid it when you have a situation like that, and that video by bringing it to life is a headache for the biden administration that they don't need right now. as jim well knows, when you serve in a white house, the pitching machine throws about ten pitches at the same time. well, biden's got about 20 coming at him right now. this is one he does not need. >> gentlemen, i appreciate you joining us. i want to bring in cnn political commentator david axelrod and political commentate for bakari sellars. bakari, what do you think of those images? >> you know, i want to be clear. they're not just aggressive tactics. that's brutality when you have haitian migrants in custody. and i think what we saw was despicable.
what we saw is what we expect in countries, not the united states in our backyard but it harkens to a dark period in our history. and for me it makes my stomach turn. i know the secretary made a statement, but it was lukewarm at best. they damn well better get their act together because they can't be beating black folk at the border or anybody for that matter. >> a clear indication that the immigration process needs to be overhauled. there's a lot of blame to go around. but the gop has been fighting immigration reform for quite some time. >> yeah. well, it's not clear how that would relate to this situation. you had a situation in haiti where you had an outpouring of people to the border from haiti. but it really doesn't matter. bakari's absolutely right. whatever the circumstances, there's no excuse for what happened down there and what these images show.
i don't think the administration has any rebuttal to that assertion. but they're going to have to act to it. >> they've got a terrible situation at the boarder. it's been festering for some time. this has made it a lot worse. and, you know, they can't tread water on this. they have to act. >> yeah, my point is if there was some real immigration reform that had already taken place, perhaps these images like this would not have -- and i understand that and we have migrants that come across. the systems might have been in place to handle these things had we had some real reform. >> we badly need immigration reform from top to bottom, don, and that's been true for a long time. democrats we're hoping to get some of that done through the reconciliation through. that's not going to happen because of the parliamentary rule in the senate. it's a real, real problem for the administration, for the country. >> yeah. bakari, both sides of the
democratic party digging in, moderates like senators manchin and cinema on one end and the house progressives like congresswoman ocasio-cortez on the other. is it possible for biden to bring the party together? i don't know if i should be qualifying manchin and sinema as moderate. >> from my perch and i think many people, i don't think you can compare the power or the leverage of alexandria ocasio-cortez to that of manchin and sinema. i don't think it's fair to equate her, simply because she doesn't have that same type of juice that manchin and sinema have. i think the democratic party has a manchin and sinema problem. i was articulating a few months ago that part of the hiccup that we have in the democratic party is manchin and sinema. whether or not you're talking about the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package and them standing in the way of childcare, et cetera, et cetera, or whether or not you're talking about a prescription drug plan
to actually lower the cost of prescription drug prices in this country, which we know does well across party lines. i mean, it seems as if kyrsten sinema and joe manchin are just stifling the progress of let me check my notes of democrats. it's the wildest thing that i've seen. and there appears to be no appetite. i know they have a meeting but there really appears to be no appetite to reign in the fact that we now have a president joe manchin. >> yeah. david, i want you to respond because if you were advising president biden, what would you tell him to do here? because it seems like this is a legislative standoff where neither side wants to blink first. >> listen, i agree with what my old colleague gem messina said a couple of minutes ago. i think this is too big to fail for democrats. they're at a historic juncture here. if they cut off their noses to spite their face and walk away from historic progress here,
that would be not only a tragic circumstance for the country but it would be a really disastrous one for the democratic party. i think one thing that manchin and sinema have taught progressives in the house is how to use leverage. and everybody's trying to use leverage to shape the final form of this legislation. but if they miscalculate and it ends up in the whole thing crashing, the infrastructure bill, the reconciliation bill, that would be a disaster for the democratic party. i think they understand that. i think that they will come to some conclusion here. i cannot believe that they're going to walk away empty-handed. but as harwood said, it could be that they've gotten in so deep here, it's hard to get out. but, remember, manchin and sinema have a huge infrastructure in that infrastructure bill. they really helped shape it.
i don't believe they're going to want to see it go down. >> what will that say about -- people keep calling them moderates. so then who are the people to the right in the democratic party of alexandria ocasio-cortez? because it seems to me that they are -- i would say right, center-right when it comes to democrats. and alexandria ocasio-cortez and that wing, those are the progressives. and most of the people are somewhere in the middle. that would be the moderates and not the sinema and manchins of the party. >> i understand how you're reshaping the kind of the paradigm in which we see the democratic party. i mean, the fact is, and this is what is troublesome about the position that -- and i actually agree with jim and david. they've spent time in the white house and crafted major legislation like that.
dare not disagree with anybody who help usher in the affordable care act. my only point in saying all of this is that no one truly knows what sinema and manchin are standing for. it's not where they fall on the political paradigm. but the fact is they say 3.5 trillion is too much. okay, well, what's enough? what do you want? do you want 3 trillion? or 2.5 trillion? what do you want it could cover and what don't you want it to cover? >> i just knew i was going to be wrong with that. [ laughter ] >> no, my point is this. presumably they are talking about what should be in that bill. one of the things that disturbs me about this whole discussion is we talk about, well, it should be 3.5 trillion or manchin said 1.5 trillion, 1 to 1.5 trillion. these are just numbers. and this is not the way this should be discussed.
what is going to be in there, and what are you leaving out? and that's the discussion, that's the hard discussion that they're having. but i will say this. if joe manchin says i'll vote for a reconciliation bill that will spend, you know, $1.5 trillion, perhaps it'll get to $2 trillion. there's a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. i fear that if that is the result that you have a $2 trillion infrastructure bill and a 1.2 -- i mean, a 1.2 infrastructure, $2 trillion reconciliation bill, that somehow people will walk away from it and say, gee, that wasn't very good. it would be historic, and it should be noted as such. >> i got to go, bakari. if you can quickly, please. >> no, i was just going to say i agree with him, but the simple point is that no one knows what joe manchin is standing for. we want to know what he wants in that 1.5 trillion. i think that would help this discussion go a long way. and i think you're right. he's just not communicating in
his office. he's terrible at it. >> maybe they just want to put it off to -- you know, that's the whole point of it. thank you very much. i appreciate it, gentlemen. lots of new developments tonight in the case of gabby petito just one day after investigators found what they believe may be her remains. the fbi searching the family home of her fiancé. that as a chilling 9-1-1 call is released. renae runs with us on a john deere 1 series tractor. because out here, you can't fake a job well done. hear renae's story at deere.com
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leading up to her disappearance. joining me now is a former fbi profiler. this is what you do, and i've known you for well over a decade now. when i was working the local news in st. louis, missouri, we did a story together. so i know that you're an expert on this. i want to start by playing this is a 9-1-1 call where the caller reports a domestic dispute. watch this. >> hi. can you hear me, sir? >> yeah. i can hear you. >> hi. i'm right on the corner of main street by moon flower. and we're driving by and i'd like to report a dispute domestic with a florida license plate, white van, gentlemen -- >> where's it at? they just drove off. they're going down main street. they made a right onto main street from moonflower. >> what were they doing? >> what'd you say? >> what were they doing? >> uh, we drove by and a gentleman was slapping the girl. >> he was slapping her?
>> yes. and then we stopped. they ran up and down the sidewalk. he proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off. >> so i just want to put up for everyone, this is video from the couple's encounter with the police where brian says that gabby was the one who hit him, contradicting what we heard in the 9-1-1 call. so, what do you believe, jim, that the police video on this 9-1-1 call tells us about the nature of this couple's relationship? >> don, i think it's very complicated and nuanced. but right from the start you could see the difference in their emotional behavior. he was calm, he was a little nervous about what the cops were going to do. once he got out of the car and he realized he wasn't going to get arrested right away, he was very calm. he was actually very social. he was charming. whereas she was in complete depress the entire time. something much greater than what's described by him. he minimizes his role, he blames everything on her. on the other hand, she takes the
blame. she says, i get ocd and it frustrates him and i had to apologize to him for my behavior. that sounds like coercive control. that sounds like a situation where there's been ongoing domestic violence, and she has basically taken over his controls. if she wants them, she apologizes to him. this 9-1-1 call basically told totally contradicts what he said and is very consistent with a pattern of abuse that apparently has led to her death. >> you know, jim, the autopsy is scheduled to be completed tomorrow. what kinds of details do you think we're going to learn from this report? >> well, the thing about it, don, because we don't know exactly how long she was exposed to the elements and whether or not the body was concealed in some way or buried. actually it probably would be better if that were the case
because that would mean that the animal activity and the decomposition may have been slowed. but if decomposition was advanced, we may not get that much from the body itself. and we'd have to then of course rely on forensic evidence found in the van or his car or at his home or on the telephones or other devices and credit cards and so forth. but i think the autopsy will likely be able to at least give us some idea of the time of death or date of death. and we're hoping that there's a cause of death. and from that and all the other circumstances the manner of death will be determined. and that's either homicide, suicide, accident, natural or undetermined. and in cases where a body is found skeletonized, sometimes if there's no actual fractures or tool marks on the bones, sometimes it's just
undetermined. >> i'm going to lean on you and just let you answer this. i cannot believe it, 1997, it's been 24 years since we've known each other. so, listen, jim, what's next? what do you see happening here? no one knows where he is as of now. the autopsy's coming out. we've got the text messages. >> well, i'm hopeful that the family's attorney tomorrow will say that they're going to basically have him turn himself in, and hopefully -- >> they canceled the press conference. chris cuomo said he spoke to the family. they're awaiting word from the fbi, they said, until they get the fbi's word. >> well, i'm saddened to hear that because it sounds then like it won't be moving forward. i was hoping that they were going to bring him out and let him actually face whatever happens. but the fact is that his claim, the lawyer's claim that he was just keeping him quiet because
that's his fifth amendment right. i think when you balance that, don, against, the fact that gabby's life was hanging in the balance. i mean, she could have still been alive. and yet he didn't cooperate at all. it kind of tells me that that's a huge red flag that he knew that it was already too late for her. >> thank you, sir. i appreciate it. >> thanks for having me. just moments ago a texas school board moving forward with a process to fire their high school principal. their first black principal ever. there's a story behind it. stay with us. you'll hear it.
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at a special session tonight, a texas school board voting unanimously to move forward with a process that could lead to the firing of principal james whitfield. he's the first black principal at his high school who was put on leave late last month after accusations that he was supporting critical race theory. the school district said at the time in a statement that the suspension was not in response to community complaints. cnn's omar jimenez has been monitoring the meeting tonight and he joins me now. omar, good evening to you. so, tell us what went down tonight. what happened? >> yeah, don. so the school board basically voted to move forward with the nonrenewal process of dr. whitfield's contract. it's step one of a two-step
process. and in this step one, they laid out their reasons, their accusations for why they believe his contract should not be renewed. in particular they laid out six. and among them they said that it was because of performance and communication concerns dating back to february. behavior to supervisors, dishonesty with media, failure to express concerns appropriately, dividing the community, and relationship with parents, community, and colleagues. now after that dividing the community part, the entire hearing room, which is full of parents that had come out to support dr. whitfield and voice their concerns, that whole hearing busted out in laughter. and one person even yelled repeatedly at the school board "you are full of -- it." in more explicit terms. the school board said this was not a decision about critical race theory, his race or any public callings for his firing. but, again, they emphasized this was step one of a two-step process. >> okay. so then what's the school board -- what does the school
board say? we've heard that. what is the community saying? we've heard what the school board saying, excuse me, what is the community saying? >> yeah. well, one of those accusations was saying that he failed to maintain great relationships with the parents in the community. well, take a listen to the parents in the community that came out. >> and to the board, it is not okay to punish a respected educator for defending himself when you could not find the intestinal fortitude to defend him as you, yourself,s should've done. >> on the possible termination of dr. whitfield's contradict, the lasting impact of his time has permeated our student body so much that the fight against ignorance will never stop. >> this is not about one man. i'm worried about their children that they're not going to have the best administrators, teachers, specialists because some folks are not welcome at the table. >> and dr. whitfield even spoke
himself at this hearing. take a listen. >> i can assure you i have not chang changed, i'm still the same man today as when you hired me. so i ask you what has changed since july 26th. >> thank you, dr. whitfield. [ applause ] >> as you heard, the room broke out in applause after -- the people there, we didn't hear a single person that was against him or that was for him being fired, i should say, don. >> interesting. so some board members made it clear tonight that this vote is just the first step of a process, and they want to hear from dr. whitfield. we heard a little bit from him tonight. i don't know if they want to hear more. but what comes next? >> yeah. so basically the way they laid it out, step one was tonight. that was laying out the accusations against dr. whitfield. so they voted to move forward on those. step two is going to be an actual hearing where evidence and testimony is heard where he
can defend himself, where he can argue for his position that he should stay and bring in, again, testimony to support his actual position. and that was something they wanted to make clear that, again, this was one of two steps because people were angry and emotional, as you heard in some of that hearing. so, whatever happens will be decided at that date. but he has been with the school district since 2018 and hired consistently since he was -- since he first began there. >> all right, omar, thanks for this. we'll continue to follow it. appreciate it. have a good night. so absolutely overwhelmed. that's what a missoula, montana, hospital is saying about their er right now, and the mayor of that city is resorting to begging people to get vaccinated. he joins me next. can be proud of your walls. go ahead, throw your wine on it. what? it's also scuff resistant. you're paying for that! introducing behr dynasty™, the best of behr.
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covid cases spiking in montana. things so bad in missoula that they are asking for the national guard's help and begging residents to get vaccinated. >> if you have not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated. that is the single most effective way for us to ensure the safety of our friends and neighbors and family members and to relieve that stress on hospitals. i would resort to begging to ask you to get vaccinated.
it makes such a difference. >> well, that was missoula mayor john engen. and he joins me now. mayor, thank you so much for joining. good evening to you. you know, we just heard you pleading with people to get the shot. how many people still haven't gotten vaccinated? and why at this point? >> oh, a big question, and i think one that's not exclusive to missoula. you know, we had roughly 70% of missoula county vaccinated early when vaccine become available. and those numbers are holding to a certain degree. the challenge we really have is, you know, the greatest generation showed up early. there was a time when i had folks begging us for the vaccine. and now the tables have turned.
today we've got north of 1,300 active cases in missoula county. and our hospitals are experiencing something they haven't during the course of the entire pandemic. i've got hospital administrators calling me, begging for help and some relief. so we reached out to the governor's office with request for national guard support. we're not alone in montana in asking for that support. but i often say missoula is a city near montana, our politics are a little bit different, we're a blue dot here. and i think we've been, to a certain degree, insulated until now just by virtue of the fact that folks were really compliant with mask orders and certainly when the vaccine became available, they were lined up to get it. >> yeah. and now it's different. so, listen, i mentioned that you called on the national guard.
what kind of help are you asking for, exactly? >> you know, we put in a request for 24 members of the guard. today there's not an emergency order in place in the state of montana. the governor rescinded that. so, the national guard isn't really up and running. so these folks have to be activated and deployed. we asked for 24, and we would share that resource around the community. so the hospitals clearly need help in all sorts of clinical efforts. we run what's called a noncongregate shelter. that's federal speak for folks who are unhoused can isolate and quarantine to not only recuperate themselves but make
sure people aren't spreading this virus on the street because they don't have a place to live. we would deploy those folks in those circumstances as well. we're way behind on contract tracing to the point that i'm not sure contact tracing even makes a difference for us anymore. and, ultimately, all of this can be fixed if we had enough folks vaccinated and by virtue of vaccine either immune or when they contract the illness suffering much less and not filling up emergency rooms or intensive care units. >> one of the city's health officials is saying that the state legislature is keeping you from implementing basic safety protocols like mask mandates and limiting event sizes. is the state keeping you from keeping your residents safe? >> oh, absolutely. the montana legislature is a function of what was really for us a brutal legislative session. the state legislature meets
every two years. and this session was all about backlash against local health departments and really local communities and local control. we are no longer able to issue mask mandates. we can't -- we really have none of the tools that were at our disposal early in the pandemic, which i think contributed mightily to keeping our numbers low and to keeping the community safe. those options aren't available to us today. and it's tragic, and it's some of the dumbest politics i've experienced in 16 years in the city of missoula. >> mayor, thank you. good luck. thank you so much. be safe. >> thank you. appreciate the chance to tell our story. >> absolutely. so, idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates, and their covid cases are so bad that they're spilling into their neighboring state. who now says that they need
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they aren't as crowded. now there is a battle about who gets care when there is a desperate battle against the virus. >> he works as a truck driver. today del weiss is a full-time truck driver in idaho to twins dale and emery after their mother, dale's sister, died last month from covid-19. >> they intubated her and her heart just let go. >> natalie rise was only 46. >> tell me, what did natalie do for a living? >> natalie was a registered nurse and she did home health care. she went around and helped people in their homes, elderly. >> which makes her firm anti-evacuation stance all the more puzzling. z >> she was telling me not to get vaccinated.
i think it was misinformation. it was from false information, bloggers, youtubers. >> reporter: as the virus continues to run rampant, as of july many still had not been vaccinated. as cases run rampant in idaho, there is only one word to describe the current situation. >> awful. we're in the worst state than we ever have been in the pandemic. >> reporter: things last week so dire that they gave hospitals the right to ration treatment. it comes even as the state still has no mask mandate, protesters staging mask burning rallies like this one in march. idaho also has the lowest vaccination rates in the country, causing consternation in neighboring washington state where there is a mask mandate and where hospitals like this one in spokane are filling up with patients from idaho.
anywhere warning everyone they could see delays in treatment. >> when you turn away families, how do they take that? >> horribly. we're doing everything we can to expand capacity, get those folks in the operating room with folks who can cure them, but at the end of the day, we're delaying their care. >> reporter: as dale got the tragic news his sister had died. >> i didn't know what was going to happen with these two beautiful children. >> reporter: he was grappling with something else. his 70-year-old mother also had gotten covid and was coming out of a coma. he had to tell his mother her daughter had died of the disease. >> reporter: you have to tell her she lost her daughter. she deserves to know. >> reporter: as of now, his mother is still on the fence about the vaccine. now left to raise his niece and nephew, he says the day following his sister's death -- >> the next day i went and got
my vaccination. it was the hardest decision in my life. am i doing right by god, am i doing right by natalie? i got it out of fear. >> health officials on both sides say what they're seeing is so tragic. why wouldn't you stick with the status quo? why wouldn't you at least require a mask mandate? people are dying needlessly. don? >> thank you for watching. our coverage continues.
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anti-abortion law in texas that turns residents of texas into amateurs has just seen amateurs emerge. one is under home confinement, the other doesn't even live in texas. in a few moments, john walsh on the hunt for evidence and answers in the fiance of gabby petito days after what officials believe to be her bodies that was missing for days. sheriffs released this 911 recording. >> grant county sheriff's office. z >> can you hear me, sir? >> i can hear you. >> i'm calling on main street by moonflower and we're driving by and i'd like to report a domestic dispute, a florida license plate, white van -- >> where is it at? >> they just drove off. th'r