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At This Hour

Crew Member Blames Armorer & Producers For Deadly Film Shooting; Affidavit: Alec Baldwin Was Practicing Drawing Gun When It Fired; Biden Hosts Manchin At Delaware Home In Push To Reach Spending Deal; Source: Manchin Open To $1.75T Spending Bill After Biden Meeting; Military Coup Underway In Sudan, Prime Minister Arrested. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Here's what we are watching at this hour. Major developments in the deadly shooting investigation involving Alec Baldwin. One crew member publicly placing blame for the tragedy on their movie set. Let's make a deal, President Biden spending time with Senator Joe Manchin as he hopes Democrats can agree on a spending bill this week. And Facebook facing the biggest crisis in the company's history with a trove of new documents reveals about the social media giant.

Thank you so much for being here, everyone. We begin with the very sad tragedy and now death investigation on the set of an Alec Baldwin movie. A newly released affidavit says that the movie's Director Joel Souza told investigators that Baldwin was practicing, rehearsing, drawing the prop gun across his body while in a church pew on the set, been pointing his revolver toward the camera lens. Moments later, the weapon went off killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring that director.

This morning at least one crew member is directly blaming the armorer on the film. That's the person responsible for handling weapons, weapons safety used on a set. Now this tragedy is sparking calls for change, about how firearms are used on any movie sets right now.

Let's begin with CNN's Stephanie Elam, she's live in Santa Fe, New Mexico for us this hour. Stephanie, what are you hearing today?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've learned a lot from that affidavit to be honest, Kate, when you take a listen to what exactly transpired. We know from this affidavit that some of the members of the camera team had actually walked off of set earlier that day because of concerns over pay and housing. So there was only one camera that was available at that time when they were doing this rehearsal.

We know that Hutchins was behind the camera, and that the director, according to his -- what he's told a law enforcement officials that he was standing behind her, that she was hit in the chest, and that another camera operator who was there when this happen, said he heard her say that she could no longer feel her legs. We know that the director was also hit in his shoulder.

Before that, according to the affidavit, there was also from the director, this testimony that he heard that the assistant director yelled, "Hold gun", meaning it should have been clear that there was nothing inside of it before that happened. He also said that traditionally, there will be three people who would touch firearms, that they would be the armorer, and then the assistant director and, of course, the actor who would be using that prop, in this case, who should have been able to look and make sure that was clear.

So a lot of questions about that. CNN has learned that the assistant director's name is David Halls, was the subject of complaints about his safety failures on two different productions in 2019. Now CNN has reached out to Halls but he has not responded to our requests for comment.

However, we are seeing some support for Baldwin from people who know him and who have worked from him, starting off with a man who was there when this accident happened. He said he had always been very careful, making sure that not -- he was not using the firearm when there were children around, making sure that it was a safe environment for the other actors. And then earlier today, we heard from a dear friend of Hutchins, who spoke a bit about this predicament that now Alec Baldwin finds himself in. Take a listen to what Rachel Mason had to say.


RACHEL MASON, FRIEND OF HALYNA HUTCHINS: He's in kind of in a similar state of everyone else just in deep shock and sadness and feels terrible for the family. You know, that's really, to me, a testament to him being a really good person, Alec Baldwin's not a murderer. He's an actor and he was literally at the center of something horrible that should have never happened ever to anyone.

And film sets are going to learn from this. Film production companies are going to learn from this. And, you know, I think he wants to figure out as much as anyone else does what happened.


ELAM: It's also worth noting, according to Deadline, the production company behind the movie that was being made called "Rust", they said that they had not received any complaints about safety on this production up until this point, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, much more to come still. Thank you so much, Stephanie for being there.

Joining me right now for more on this is Nischelle Turner, CNN Contributor, the host of Entertainment Tonight. Also with us is Dutch Merrick, a prop master for film and television. Dutch is currently working on a series, "Euphoria" on HBO, which is owned by WarnerMedia, the parent company of CNN. Thanks for being here both of you.

Michelle, the sheriff's department actually said that their first press conference is going to be on Wednesday about this, but we, as Stephanie has laid out, we know a lot more than we did on Friday but there are still so many questions.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely, a ton of questions still in this situation, Kate. We did get really painful explanations of what happened through that affidavit. It was really tough to read exactly what went on piece by piece, point by point until Ms. Hutchins was shot and killed.

We -- one of the big questions that is now being brought up, though, that they were getting a little bit more insight in is to the armorer, to that person who was supposed to make sure these guns were safe. We do know she's fair -- fairly young, 24 years old, very young. This was really kind of her second big film. And she does have -- her father is legendary in the business. He is definitely an armorer that people know.

But she did a podcast back in September. And so now those words are really kind of coming out. And it's tough to hear because she says the scariest thing about her job is loading blanks into the gun. And that, you know, she's nervous on films, but she's been kind of figuring it out.

So her name is Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. I think there's going to be a lot of questions on what was going on with that gun. Why they said that it was clear and had it been, and I think there are going to be a lot of questions that she has to answer as well.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Dutch, one question. It may be it is simple and maybe it's complicated, but why would there be live ammunition on a set?

DUTCH MERRICK, PROP MASTER FOR FILM AND TELEVISION: Honestly, for that show, I can think of no reason why there would have been live ammunition there. Of course, the armorers and I, we've all gotten together and sort of speculated amongst ourselves to say how could this have happened. If her dad was a shooting expert, you know, sharpshooter, quickdraw expert, maybe she was showing an actor how to do that with live rounds out in the desert near the set, which would -- you should never ever do.

It really -- it befuddles us why there would be any rounds near a set. It's just an absolute taboo to have live, actual ammunition on a film set or anywhere near a studio.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And you're getting the armorer right, Nischelle, but also, according to the search warrant affidavit, the film's assistant director has been identified as a person who handed the gun to Baldwin off the cart. And there's this new reporting, as Stephanie was getting to, of passed complaints against him --

TURNER: Yes. BOLDUAN: -- including complaints of disregarding safety protocols for weapons. What more are you hearing about this?

TURNER: Yes. His name is David Halls, he's the assistant director on this film. And within the affidavit, it was stated that he was handed -- he handed Alec Baldwin the gun and said that it was a cold gun, which, you know, Dutch can talk to this more, but that apparently means that the gun is clear, that it's OK to rehearse with it and to use it. So in that, you know, aspect, Alec thought it was OK to rehearse with.

So there are questions about why he would say that if he was told that, you know, and also he has had some conduct issues in the past. He's had complaints against him in the past. So his past is coming up now. There are so many questions as to what was going on on this set, Kate.

Now, we do have an statement from the production companies saying they have just completely wrapped on this set. They are cooperating with the investigation. But they did say that they had not gotten any formal complaint. It's kind of hard to hear that when now we're hearing so many cast members say we walked off the set, these were issues, housing issues, pay issues, all these issues at the production company never heard anything. So it will be interesting to see in the days to come what comes out of there as well.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Dutch, so you have the film's assistant director. Nischelle spoken to, you know, this armorer who is prepared what was supposed to be a prop gun, or at least was supposed to be preparing what was supposed to be a prop gun. And she was very young. And this was -- like she just wrapped her first major project.

Can you just speak to me about the layers here? How do you become an armorer? Why are these rules so critical and that's clearly coming to light now, Dutch, when it comes to safety procedures around guns on set. Because the question is, if there are layers of safety protocols, how did this break down so bad?

MERRICK: Well, you're right. There are many layers of safety protocols and there's a chain of custody that happens with firearms on a set and the prop master or armorer will secure them and have them in a locked safe and they will bring them to set and they will clear them. They will add the blanks when it's time and then they'll hand them to the actor.

There's nobody else that should be in that chain of custody. It goes from the armorer directly to the actor, only when they're about to shoot. The ultimate arbiter of safety on a film set is the first A.D., the first assistant director, but they know that they can inspect the gun but they can't go take the gun.


There's something that strikes me as odd was where was the armorer during this time. Was she unaware that she stepped off to the restroom for a moment? That first A.D. should never ever reach for a gun on a set, it's unheard of. And I've never worked with an A.D. that would even consider that. It's kind of crazy.

BOLDUAN: It's so important to have that perspective, Dutch, because this is new to, you know, these terms may mean nothing to a lot of us. And having that perspective, I think is so critical that it just kind of blows your mind that that would even be even considered as it is now being reported very clearly.

Nischelle, thank you, as always, for coming on. Dutch, thanks for your expertise. We'll continue to follow this.

MERRICK: Of course.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's turn to our other very big story, the big push by President Biden to get a spending deal done before he heads overseas later this week. There may be a big breakthrough. And I really want to emphasize maybe because after the President -- this breakthrough may have come after the President hosted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the key vote and one of the key voices in this, Senator Joe Manchin, at his home in Delaware, a source is now telling CNN that Manchin now appears to be open to a bigger price tag of $1.75 trillion overall.

CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House with more on this. John, what are you hearing about this today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, President Biden is just now arrived in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he's going to make the public outside case for parts of this reconciliation economic package, particularly the -- part about universal pre-K. Before he left, he said he'd had a productive meeting, meeting had gone well with Senator Manchin in Wilmington. Chuck Schumer also participating in that meeting. So there are a few other things to work out. And he hopes to have a deal before he goes to Europe at the end of this week principally for an environmental meeting.

What we're learning is that the top line is no longer much of an issue. $1.75 trillion, $1.95 trillion, that's not really the main source of disagreement. What they're arguing about now and negotiating about on a very granular level, is the specific spending pieces that Manchin and Sinema are going to be able to agree to and how that fits in with what the rest of the Democratic caucus wants. And the very specific tax increases and pay force (ph) that each of them can agree to.

It's complicated, because they're both holdouts, they need all 50 Democratic senators, but they want different things and objected different things. So what Joe Biden and his team are going to try to do over the course of this week, they hope to get a deal by the end of the week, they hope to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal. But this is very specific negotiation that's going on.

President Biden has gotten things off the dime by a more aggressive approach last week. He laid some of that out at his town hall with CNN, with Anderson Cooper. But now it's really about the short strokes getting it finally over the finish line has not happened yet, might happen by the end of the week. BOLDUAN: Might, may be.

HARWOOD: Might. Might.

BOLDUAN: I'm still couching everything. It's good to see you, John, thank you so much.

Coming up still for us, so what will it take to John's point? What will it take for President Biden to get his party to agree on this massive part of his agenda? We might find out today, might. We're live on Capitol Hill next.



BOLDUAN: President Biden is facing a critical week to strike a deal on his spending plan. There is no agreement yet. And as smart minds often say when it comes to Capitol Hill, nothing's agreed to until everything's agreed to. Keep that in mind.

Yes, a source tells CNN that Senator Joe Manchin, a key vote in all this, is open to a bigger price tag than he has been before $1.75 trillion. And after blowing pass a series of self-imposed deadline, the President has now set one of his own. He wants a deal in hand before heading overseas on Thursday. So where are things?

Joining me now CNN Congressional Correspondents Manu Raju and Lauren Fox. So Manu, what are you hearing about how much closer to yes, and agreement is Joe Manchin?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are closer, the closer than they have been in months, in large part because the White House has essentially come down to what Joe Manchin has been calling for four months. He had initially been at $1.5 trillion in the overall price tag, of course, that is much less than the $3.5 trillion that the White House and Democratic leaders and progressives supported.

He has signaled, I'm told, that he is open to going as high as $1.75 trillion on the larger plan. The White House is still trying to get him to go a little bit higher. We'll see how that's resolved. But also some key issues that they need to deal with, how to deal with the expansion of Medicare, that remains a big sticking point. Manchin has resisted, calls to add dental vision and hearing as part of that plan that are still ongoing back and forth about that.

Bernie Sanders on the left has pushed that very hard. How does that -- is that going to be dealt with. Also paid leave, that resisted also by Joe Manchin. Initially, the White House wanted 12 weeks of paid leave in this proposal. They've been talking about potentially for weeks. That is still unsettled issue too. So there are still some key sticking points, but at least some optimism among the Democratic leaders that they can get there and get Joe Manchin's blessing.

[11:20:01] BOLDUAN: That is true. And I even saw -- you know, on Friday, I spoke with a progressive member, Lauren, who did have a different tone, the tone has shifted. They do definitely seem much more optimistic like they're moving towards a yes. But there have been many a critical week when it comes to this fight and debate. Self-imposed deadline set and self-imposed deadline passed by. What is different about this week, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the House Speaker made it clear yesterday on CNN's air that she really wanted to move forward with a bipartisan vote on that infrastructure bill as soon as mid this week. Obviously, that would require her to have some kind of framework or deal in hand when it came to that larger social safety net package. I think that the President going abroad, wanting to have something to present to his international partners when it comes to climate is another factor that's really pushing both progressives and moderates to try to come to the negotiating table.

Look, part of these negotiations is always going to be that everyone wants to air their grievances. Everyone has stuff that they've been working on for their entirety of their careers that they want to get into this large social safety net bill. There's a lot of people who think this may be one of the last trains leaving the station in the Biden administration until the midterm election is over.

So there's a lot of emphasis right now to try to close this deal. There's also the fact that just in a couple of weeks, we have to do another government spending bill as well as raising the debt-ceiling, Kate, and that's going to take some time. So Democrats see this next week and a half is really critical to moving forward with the President's agenda because after that, the clock really starts to run out.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Guys, thank you so much, really appreciate it. Let's see what today brings.

Coming up for us still this hour, a military crew breaking news out of Sudan. The Prime Minister arrested thousands on the streets protesting, that is next.



BOLDUAN: We have breaking news at this hour. Sudan's military seizing power in a coup. The country's Prime Minister and wife have been arrested thousands of people are in the streets in protest. All of these putting Sudan's transition toward democracy in very real danger, very real depth jeopardy now.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir joins me now. Nima, what is going on here?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it felt like Sudan had come so close, almost to the midway point of the transitional process in which the civilian leaders of Sudan's revolution was supposed to be taking back power from the military and then the military took power completely it seems. We are hearing a lot of concerning reports about the Prime Minister and his wife being taken away by soldiers. Senior civilian leadership have also disappeared.

I've been trying to call all of the numbers on my phone, the context that we have, no one is picking up. What we've heard from around the world are expressions of alarm and concern. But most importantly, what we're hearing from the U.S. is a determination to try and pull back Sudan from the precipice.

Senator Chris Coons, a close ally of President Biden has tweeted out just in the last few minutes, Kate, that he chairs the Senate panel that puts together for an assistance and oversees it, and that they will not be releasing assistance to Sudan's military rulers. And less civilian rule is reasserted and that is one of the strongest messages we've heard so far.

Many other messages that we've been receiving in and around Sudan's awful internet that's been intentionally pulled down by the new military rulers. They've been really heart-breaking, Kate. A real sense for people that Sudan had come so close only now to Tito (ph) at the precipice. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And even getting information with everything you just laid out. Getting and gathering information from there is so challenging in this moment.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Nima. Much more to come on that.

Now to this developing story, tens of thousands of newly released internal Facebook documents paint an even further damning picture of the social media giant. They show the company is painfully aware that it didn't do enough to stop the lies that fueled the Capitol insurrection, and that Facebook has known for years that it has a human trafficking problem and still has not fully addressed it.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has much more.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On January 6th, as the U.S. Capitol was being attacked, some Facebook staffers began to consider what role their company might have played in fueling the lies that led to the insurrection. One employee suggested Facebook had placated then President Donald Trump for too long as far back as 2015.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Never forget the day Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. A Facebook staffer wrote in response to a Facebook executive on January 6th, "We determined that it violated our policies, and yet we explicitly overrode the policy and didn't take the video down. There is a straight line that can be drawn from that day to today. History will not judge us kindly."

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We don't fact check political ads and we don't do this to help politicians but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.