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At This Hour

Update on "Rust" Investigation Soon; Senate Dems Unveil Billionaire Tax; FDA Recommends Pfizer Vaccine for 5-11 Year-Olds; Facebook Struggles with Leaked Documents. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here is what we're watching at this hour.

Authorities in New Mexico will brief for the first time since the movie set shooting, killing a cinematographer. The local prosecutor is not ruling out criminal charges.

It's another race against another clock. Democrats unveiling a new plan to pay for the president's spending bill. Time is running out to make a deal before Biden leaves town.

An alarming terror threat: a top Pentagon official warns ISIS-K could be capable of attacking the United States in the next six months.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, everyone, for being here.

We begin this hour with developments in the shooting that killed a cinematographer on the set of the new Alec Baldwin movie. In the next hour, officials will hold a press conference.

This is the first time we will have heard from them since the deadly shooting nearly a week ago. The Santa Fe County district attorney is also expected there and tells CNN she has not ruled out criminal charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins.

Also new today, one of the film's actors is speaking out publicly. In an interview with "TMZ," the actor, Ian A. Hudson, described some of the scenes on the movie set as life-threatening and terrifying. He also said, during one shooting scene in particular, actors felt unprotected.


IAN A. HUDSON, ACTOR: Everyone on the camera crew was protected by shields. The camera was protected by a shield. So that made me question, me being in front of the camera and sort of in between all that fire. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Stephanie Elam live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Any word on what the sheriff will be laying out in this press conference?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. We don't exactly know what the sheriff is going to be saying today, Kate. But we are getting a little bit more information.

For one thing, the district attorney is saying they are waiting on forensics because they want to see what exactly killed director of photography Halyna Hutchins. They also want to know what was loaded into the gun.

They also say there was so much ammunition around the set that they recovered, that they wanted to find out what it was.

Was it live rounds, dummy rounds?

Also, who was the last person to touch the gun and put what was in the gun in there?

They want to look at ballistics as well. We know the autopsy could take 6-10 weeks. So it may not be the answers to all the questions that we want. But we are getting more clues, as you just mentioned, hearing from the actor who already filmed his part in the movie "Rust," Ian A. Hudson.

He talked about what it was like for him on the set. Take a listen to what else he said.


HUDSON: When the rounds were released, when they shot at me, I actually did feel the blanks hitting my face and my body. And I could feel the wind from the shotgun, you know, being discharged. It was heavy. It was strong. Brandon Lee having died in '93, that conversation came up a couple times between my fellow cast members and me.


ELAM: Now there was that reporting from "The Wrap" that some of the crew members on set had taken the guns and used them for what's called plinking, loading them with live ammunition to shoot at cans. We do know the district attorney, telling "The New York Times," those allegations at this point are unconfirmed, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot, a lot, a lot to be learned. Stephanie Elam, thank you.

Joining me, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, former New York prosecutor.

Also with us again Dutch Merrick, a prop master for film and television, currently working on HBO's "Euphoria."

Dutch, Hudson said he felt pieces of blanks hitting him. He felt the air from the shotgun blanks hitting his chest and describes the way -- at least he says it felt life-threatening, it felt too surreal.

What's your reaction to how this actor is describing this situation on set?

What does that mean to you?

DUTCH MERRICK, FILM AND TV PROP MASTER: When we block a scene, it's the armorer's responsibility to block out a scene very carefully and also to determine where the actor is standing, where they're looking, where they're pointing the gun, where is the camera?

We look at all the elements in the room and it's entirely common for us to pad the camera. Obviously it's an expensive piece of equipment. So we're overly cautious in every direction, including for the equipment. So often you'll find the camera wrapped in a furniture pad and some Plexiglas shielding in from to protect it from potential damage.


MERRICK: Now that the actor was between the camera and the gunfire, that raises my eyebrow. I don't know exactly what the physical blocking was. But my sense is that maybe he was standing in the wrong spot. Maybe they had not blocked it out entirely properly when they were firing.

BOLDUAN: Dutch, obviously, I'm not an actor and have not been in one of these films that includes blanks or anything.

Should he be feeling the air, the thud of blanks on him, feel that on his face?

MERRICK: Well, keep in mind, any pyrotechnics or gun going off is a small explosion, so it creates a pressure change. There's a pressure change in the room. When we're in the room doing gunfire, everybody in the room feels it. You feel a blast.

If you're downrange of the muzzle of a gun, you feel it, so yes. If you're nervous and there's gunfire happening and you feel that, I'm sure it would feel even more noticeable, oh, this is jarring.

So that's not unusual to feel that sort of pressure blast. And the peppering, if there's unburned powders hitting him, he may be a little too close to the gun in that blocking, it sounds like.

BOLDUAN: Again, the more we learn, the more questions there are, every time we speak.

Paul, what sticks out to you with this interview with Ian A. Hudson?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The interesting thing is virtually all the interviews we've seen up until this point in time suggests there was a certain amount of sloppiness with respect to safety issues on the set.

I think there was a union dispute going on about some of the workers, non-union workers, who were on the set. This is more of what we've heard before.

Kate, in the end, when a prosecutor is looking at this, we're looking at specific things; that is, was it criminally reckless to have handled safety on this set in that manner?

That depends upon the specifics, which I think maybe we'll hear a little more about at noontime today.

What did Alec Baldwin know about the weapon when it was handed to him?

He fired the fatal shot.

What was the chain of command on passing that weapon from what we call the armorer to the actor on set, who was Alec Baldwin?

All of those things will be carefully looked at by a prosecutor to see if something happened that rose to the level of criminal recklessness. And that can lead to a murder or manslaughter charge, if the answer is yes, the evidence is there.

BOLDUAN: Does it surprise you, Paul, that the DA says criminal charges are not off the table at this point?

CALLAN: It's always surprising when there's a criminal investigation of something going on, on a movie set. They're supposed to be making a movie, not committing crimes. Frankly, it's shocking that someone could have been killed in making a movie like this.

You would think there could be extraordinary care devoted to how firearms were handled on any movie set. So you know, I think it's a shocking thing for anybody to see a movie production company being looked at in terms of criminal conduct.

BOLDUAN: Real quick question, Dutch.

Is there something you're leaning in to learn more about, one specific thing or question you really want answered?

MERRICK: Well, I think, literally, the smoking gun -- pardon the pun but it's the truth -- is where that bullet came from.

Was it left over from plinking?

Was it a prank?

How in God's name did a real live round get into a gun handed to an actor?

Actor Hudson, when I read the article in "TMZ," he said the first AD had regularly been handing the gun to Alec Baldwin. At least that's the way I read it. That's not the normal procedure. The first AD should be out of that

chain of custody. The gun goes from the armorer or the actor before a scene. So that -- I want to know if that was the case.

BOLDUAN: Dutch, thank you very much for coming on again.

Paul, thank you as always. Really appreciate it.

I want to turn to breaking news on Capitol Hill, Democrats are down to the wire, another deadline they themselves have set with little time left to reach a deal on President Biden's spending bill before he leaves for Europe tomorrow.

Senate Democrats unveiled overnight a new billionaires' tax proposal to help pay for Biden's sweeping domestic agenda. Senator Joe Manchin, a key voice in all of this. He just laid out his position after meeting with the president. Let's go to Capitol Hill. Lauren Fox is there with the breaking details.

Lauren, senator Manchin just spoke to reporters. He's expressing some concerns.

What's the latest?


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just as quickly as senator Ron Wyden of the Finance Committee rolled out the new billionaires' tax to try to assuage some concerns for Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, there are new concerns raised from senator Joe Manchin about that specific tax and a number of other issues.

He talked with our colleague, Manu Raju, and a group of reporters a short time ago, saying essentially he doesn't like the idea of carving out a tax for just one group of people, specifically concerns about that billionaires' tax, which would have reimagined really how the government taxes people who are at a very high income level.

That is one major sticking point that potentially throws into question whether or not Democrats are going to have the revenue they need to actually finance this bill.

Then Manchin got into more detail about concerns he had over Medicare expansion to include vision, dental and hearing. That has been a key priority of senator Bernie Sanders, the budget chairman. That could be in flux at this point.

There is also concern that Manchin raised about paid leave. There's question about whether or not Democrats will be able to give enough assurances to House progressives to allow this procession to move forward.

Remember, a lot of House progressives have been calling for not just a framework but potentially a Senate vote in tandem with that bipartisan bill. Manchin made it clear, even if they have a framework, it's going to take a long time to get firmer details. Here is what he said a short time ago.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We need to move forward. The president has made that very clear. He's made that very clear. We owe it to the president to move forward. We're not doing everything today. The Senate is going to take time.

You think, it's going to happen today in the Senate, we're trying to agree to a framework. The president has been very clear, he'll go over to the House and basically explain to the House that I have a framework. But there's still an awful lot of work to be done.


FOX: You hear there, Manchin putting the onus on the president, "maybe we can get a framework today." There's still a long way to go before a vote in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. A lot of moving pieces this morning.

As quickly as they're rolling out new proposals, they're already getting pushback from those key senators.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you for keeping track of it all.

We have more breaking news this hour. A powerful nor'easter has knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers, most of them in Massachusetts right now, as the wild, dangerous and extreme weather trends from coast to coast continue.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, millions of young children could be receiving Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccines as early as next week. How the federal government plans to get parents on board and roll this out.





BOLDUAN: Now to the latest on the pandemic. Millions of children from the ages of 5 to 11 could be just days away from access to a COVID vaccine. FDA advisers recommended late yesterday the lower dose of Pfizer's shot for the 28 million kids in that age group in America.


BOLDUAN: Let's talk about this. Joining me now is Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general of the United States.

Surgeon General, thank you for being here.

Do you think there will be shots in arms next week?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Kate, we're certainly hoping so. We're getting closer and closer to that really important milestone, not just as a surgeon general and as a doctor but as a dad of two kids under 12, who have been waiting for a vaccine.

This is a really important moment. We took the time to do the trials with the right degree of precision. Now that data has been submitted to the FDA. They have reviewed it. And the advisory committee for the FDA voted unanimously in support of providing vaccines for kids under 12 between 5 and 11.

The next step is the FDA needs to do its deliberation, taking into account the advisory committee's input. After that, the CDC committee will meet next week, after which they'll render their decision.

After that is when we'll be able to get vaccines to children, if and when the CDC and FDA recommend those vaccines.

One thing I want to make clear, Kate: we will be absolutely ready when that moment comes.

We've been spending weeks and months preparing for this moment in terms of getting the supply that's needed, setting up tens of thousands of places, where parents and children can get vaccinated, building an outreach campaign to parents have access to information.

BOLDUAN: At this point, there's no getting ahead of the FDA and CDC, of course.

But at this point would you be surprised if this wasn't authorized and you weren't talking about shots in arms next week?

MURTHY: I think the FDA's advisory committee decision yesterday certainly increases the odds that this is something that's going to happen. We don't want to prejudge what the FDA will ultimately authorize and what the CDC will recommend. But certainly yesterday's decision was a positive step forward.

BOLDUAN: It's convincing kids to get the shot but also convincing parents. About 50 percent of all adolescents are fully vaccinated; 61 percent have at least one dose.

Are you happy with that level of vaccination among kids 12-17, that it speaks to what you're up against when looking at kids younger than that?

MURTHY: Yes, it's an important point, Kate. We have much more work to do in the adolescent population. We've done best among seniors; higher than 80 percent fully vaccinated, more than 90 percent of seniors with at least one shot in. We know seniors are our greatest risk group when it comes to COVID-19.

But we want everyone in our country to be protected from COVID-19.

That includes adolescents and kids under 12. We have more work to do to talk to parents and young people about vaccines. We want to be sure -- one of the big barriers we've seen to vaccinations is something we address as aggressively as possible and that's the misinformation, unfortunately that's been circulating quite widely about these vaccines since the beginning of the vaccination effort.

It's one of the reasons we're building this national outreach and education effort including building a new body called Our Parents Leadership Core, which is a build on the COVID-19 community core, with thousands of members that helped us get information to communities in the last many months.

So we have a lot of work to do but we're not going to stop until the job is done because every person in our country deserves to be protected against COVID-19. We've seen the terrible toll it's taken over the last 18 months.

BOLDUAN: We have absolutely seen that. As you mention, misinformation is a big part. We're learning today, despite public proclamations from Facebook, publicly by Facebook, the proclamations that they're doing all they can to tackle misinformation, internal Facebook documents now suggest that's not the case.

I want to read for you what Facebook employees said in an internal research report, revealed by the Facebook whistleblower, at one point, saying we have no idea about the scale of the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy problem when it comes to comments on people's Facebook pages.

That's an internal research report. From February of just this year and what was also released, it says, "Our internal systems are not yet identifying, demoting and/or removing anti-vax comments often enough."

How responsible do you think Facebook is?

MURTHY: Well, Kate, it's an important question. I believe as a doctor that people have the right to make their own decisions about their health. But I also believe they have the right to have accurate information to make those decisions.

And we're seeing so much of this misinformation proliferating around vaccines and COVID, propagating on social media sites. And I've been in touch with a number of the companies over the last year or so.


MURTHY: And I don't believe that they're doing everything they can and need to do to address the full misinformation. Earlier in the summer, I released a surgeon general's advisory on the dangers of health misinformation, precisely because we were seeing that this misinformation was costing people their lives.

It was leading people to make decisions that were counter to what they -- what we all want, which is to protect ourselves and our families.

And the companies, while they have acknowledged that to some extent, they have not nearly moved as quickly enough or as effectively as they need to, to stem the flow of misinformation.

I believe these companies have a moral responsibility to stand up and address misinformation. They have, to date, failed in that responsibility and it's ultimately costing us as a society. So they really need to step up and do so now.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Vivek Murthy, thank you for coming on.

MURTHY: Of course. Thank you, Kate. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate your time. You, too.

Coming up for us, two steps forward, three steps back: spinning their wheels or trudging ahead with slow, steady progress, I guess you get to decide. Democrats are still trying to strike a deal on the spending bill before the president leaves for his overseas trip. New taxes are now the new holdup. A key Democratic senator joins me next.




BOLDUAN: Back to our breaking news, some of our breaking news, Senate Democrats unveiling a new proposal to tax billionaires and a new minimum tax for corporations to pay for President Biden's spending bill.