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At This Hour

First Lawsuit Filed After 8 Die In Travis Scott Concert Crowd Crush; Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Is Interviewed About Congress Passing Infrastructure Plan. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Here's what we were watching at this hour. Searching for answers, a criminal investigation now underway into the tragedy at the Travis Scott concert but already new details emerge of warning signs even before he took the stage.

And welcome world, the U.S. reopens its borders to foreign travelers for the first time in over 600 days, one critical step toward moving past the pandemic and back toward normal.

A big win and a late night, President Biden, Democrats, and Republicans coming together to approve more than a trillion dollars in spending on roads, bridges, and more. So what now?

Thank you so much for being here. Let's begin this hour with new developments in the tragedy at a music festival in Houston, Texas. Eight people are dead today, dozens more were injured when a crowd surged, crushing concert goers and leaving others gasping for air literally at Travis Scott's Astroworld festival on Friday night.

The victims ranged in age from 14 years old to 27 years old. And right now a criminal investigation is underway to determine what went so horribly wrong. "The New York Times" is reporting this morning that the Houston Police Chief met with rapper Travis Scott hours before the show about concerns over the energy of the crowd outside. The videos and the personal stories from people who were there are simply gut wrenching.

This morning, Scott, along with the concert organizer, Live Nation, are facing the first of what's expected to be a series of lawsuits now. CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Houston with the very latest. Rosa, I've been watching your coverage. You talk to many of the people who were there. What is the latest this morning?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate, from those concert goers it's the trauma of being in this concert. And some of them later learning that eight people had died and knowing that they were there. I talked to a group of college students who say that they don't know that they'll be able to go back to college and go back to college parties because of how traumatizing this moment was.

They say that at moments, they didn't have control over their bodies because they were just part of this wave this massive crowd. Here's what they said, take a listen.


FLORES: Will you go to another Travis Scott concert?





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I won't go to any, not despite not just Travis Scott. I'm really scared to even be around with people.


FLORES: Now Live Nation, Astroworld festival, Travis Scott, they've all issued statements saying that they are heartbroken, that they're devastated, that they're cooperating with authorities, that not enough for a lot of concert goers. Multiple lawsuits have already been filed. Many of these lawsuits alleging gross negligence, that these, the promoters, that the organizers did not organize a safe event. The latest on the investigation, the Houston Police Department is the lead investigating agency with the narcotics and homicide divisions are part of this investigation.

And one thing that we can't forget is the eight people who died. Now we're learning a little more about their stories. Here are some of their names, 23-year-old Rodolfo Pena, 21-year-old Franco Pitino, 20- year-old Jacob Jurinek, 16-year-old Brianna Rodriguez, 14-year-old John Hilbert, 27-year-old danish Baig. And Kate we're still learning, waiting to learn, excuse me, the names of the other two individuals. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And people still in the hospital as we speak. Rosa, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Joining me right now for more on this is CNN legal analyst Paul Callan as well as Steve Allen, a crowd safety consultant and expert. Steve, let me start with you. You have personally brought a stop to -- have halted in your estimation about 25 performances in your career in order to protect crowds. What do you see here and what we're learning about what happened at this concert?

STEVE ALLEN, FOUNDER, CROWD SAFETY CONSULTING: Well, firstly, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who's been affected by this tragedy. And I really want to get that across. It's very hard to speculate or even be judgmental from this distance, you know, we're in the U.K. and U.S. sort of thousands of miles away, so everyone can jump on the bandwagon speculation. There's a number of facts that need to come to fruition at this stage.


It's a tragedy. It's a hometown concert. So whenever we were touring, whether it be with Eminem in Detroit, or Oasis in Manchester, a hometown shows are always lively, energetic performances. And, you know, you've got Live Nation, you're a world renowned promoter that are well versed with major events, years of years and decades after decades, the risk profile for the event is high.

And, you know, for me, I suppose two things that jumped out to me at this point is, firstly, what was an ambulance doing in the crowd? That I believe it was an ambulance or certainly sort of flashing lights. So that's quite confusing for myself and I wouldn't understand why that would happen, particularly without the artist being made aware of it.

Secondly, you know, it seems as though this has gone on for a prolonged period. And why wasn't the show stops earlier? Certainly a video footage I saw of the former turning around looking for answers from someone, but there didn't seem to be anyone there assisting him.

BOLDUAN: And that's actually something I wanted to ask you about Steve, 40 minutes. That's how long the concert went on after first reports of people being injured reached first responders is what we're learning. And it also is sounding like the concert continued for something like 30 minutes after a mass casualty event was declared by city officials. And we can see this video of Travis Scott, looking around. Does this make any sense to you what we're learning?

ALLEN: No, but again, I wasn't there. So, you know, it's very easy to be judgmental from a distance. What I would say is, once the facts are there, what -- from my own experiences, any incident like that would be communicated to you, we would have crowd spotters, crowd site spotters, all well versed in identifying a crowd in distress from a very embryonic phase. At that point, it is determined whether the situation is life threatening, just because a crowd collapses doesn't mean you have to stop the show, that crowd are well versed with concepts.

And if I get back up, that could be the psychology of that particular demographic of that audience attending that particular event. So let's not overreact with that. However, if the crowd is in distress, and that can be identified by an experienced spotter, that needs to be communicated, and you've only got minutes then to save lives. And as such, an immediate procedure that call you the show stop procedure should be implemented.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk about the show stop procedure in just one second, which you've really pioneered on. But Paul, let me bring you into this one lawsuits already been filed. According to "The New York Times," the police chief personally warn Travis Scott earlier in the day that they were concerned about the crowd. The way "The New York Times" reported it is that the police chief conveyed that there were concerns about the energy in the crowd. What are you seeing here so far? Yes, early on. And yes, lengthy investigation needs to occur. But what are you seeing in terms of responsibility here, Paul?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm seeing a situation where you had a number of warning flags, red flags, that there could be a problem with a crowd of this size at this concert. And obviously, it wasn't handled properly, because eight people are dead, and there could be hundreds of others suffering from crush injuries. The second thing that I find to be very disturbing was that when Travis Scott was on stage, at some point, he was disturbed by what he was seeing. And as a matter of fact, he told members of the crowd to raise their middle finger if they were OK. Well, that's fine. I mean, I think that showing he was concerned about the crowd.

But then he followed that up with his suggestion that they should shake the ground during the next song that he was playing. And I think that that was a very dangerous thing to say, when he knew that there were problems with the crush of the crowd coming forward toward him. So I think that when we look at this there, you're going to see a lot of problems with the way security was handled. And you're going to see a ton of lawsuits being brought against the promoters and maybe Travis himself.

BOLDUAN: What is the criminal investigation look like Paul?

CALLAN: Well, I think there'll be two aspects to it. The first is that promoters can be criminally investigated in a corporate sense for recklessly going forward with a concert that would have endangered concert goers and the standard is often described as recklessness or gross negligence or sometimes depraved indifference to human life.


If you see any of those things and they're just out to make money so they have the concert go forward. But there's another aspect to it as well, if there was a large amount of drug use, and there are reports of Narcan being used, which, of course, is what you use to try to save somebody's life who is -- has OD'd on hard drugs of some kind.

If there was a lot of that going on, prosecutors may be looking at why so many drugs were permitted into the facility? And should safety measures that have been taken in that regard? So I think those would be the two primary areas of a criminal investigation.

BOLDUAN: Steve, finally, can you talk to me about like, show stop procedure? This is something you know. You've described, in great detail, how quickly a show can be stopped in order to save lives. This is something you've pioneered and you've worked on throughout your career, and how important it is to have the artist involved and how it involved from the very beginning of it.

ALLEN: Yes, so the show stop procedure, we identified when we were touring with Oasis in the late 90s in the U.K. that their crowd was extremely energetic, and there was a very real risk, that there would be a death at their shows if we didn't have immediate response to it. So we sat down with the band and I said, look, we need to have a system in place, whereby we if see the crowd in distress, that we communicate this to you, you assist us and cooperate, stop the show put the house lights up, kill all the noise apart from the microphone communicate the crowd.

We will brief you exactly what to say. And they were completely in line with it, cooperated fully. And we had no problem. So when master then stop show some 25 times. As they progressed, we introduced noise cancelling headsets, trained teams, you know, throughout the U.K. and Europe and the rest of the world and how to carry out show stop procedures efficiently and effectively, so it's imminent.

And people get confused whereby they suggest that we need to identify a situation, walk over to event control manager -- prevent controls come over by that time someone's dead. So they need to have the competence in whoever they team up, that they are competent to well versed of identifying that crowd in distress, and can call an immediate show stop.

Now in advance of this, the artists and their management have communicated with in advance correspondence for the safety planning of the event. They are key stakeholders, and they must cooperate with this. There's a duty of care to cooperate. And during the show stop or the actual main performance, the day of show safety briefing, you will have the manager for the show stop caller on the side of stage with the artist's representative.

Crowd safety spotters in an elevated position, either side of stage and the front of house position looking down on dedicated areas where you anticipate your highest pinch points and crowd density to be monitoring those crowds and rely on this information back to the guy on the side of stage who will then communicate --

BOLDUAN: What I hear -- yes, and what I hear throughout what you're saying is just simply in time is of the essence, which is why you have the systems in place in order to communicate quickly stop the show quickly in order to save lives, as well as even get the show back on when the risk and the danger is mitigated which is why I asked because the questions are bound now of what really went wrong that that couldn't happen here at this concert, but much more to learn.

Steve, thank you very much, Paul, thank you both so very much appreciate your time.

Another major story that we're following this morning, a milestone in the fight against the pandemic, for the first time in more than 600 days, United States is reopening its borders to travelers from around the world. Starting today the U.S. will allow foreign travelers who are fully vaccinated to come into the into the United States seen as Priscilla Alvarez live at a port of entry in El Paso, Texas, with the very latest. Priscilla, what does this mean? What are you hearing?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Kate, this is a big day here in El Paso, Texas and across border communities in the United States as travel restrictions ease. We're here at a land crossing in El Paso. And this is where more people are expected to be allowed into the United States. I spoke to a student this morning. He was crossing to come to school here in the U.S.

And he told me he woke up earlier today in anticipation of more travelers. And the key difference here is that now people will be able to come into the U.S. for nonessential purposes that can be visiting friends or family or for tourism. And they're going to have to have a couple items with them, primarily proof of vaccination that can be on a digital or in paper form for U.S. is accepting FDA and WHO approved or authorized vaccines.

Children under the age of 18 are exempt from these vaccination requirements. And people crossing land crossings will not have to show a COVID-19 test that is different from air travel but a large, a very big day here, a lot of anticipation. Veronica Escobar, who represents Texas and El Paso told me it is quote, a long awaited day. Kate?


BOLDUAN: Great to see you, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Still for us, a major win for President Biden, both Democrats and Republicans voted for it, the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, so what happens now? That is next. Also, $6 million in ransom payments seized and new charges coming in a cyberattack on the U.S. company. That's ahead.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, CNN has learned Pfizer will seek FDA sign off as soon as this week to make its booster shot more widely available now for people 18 and older. A Biden administration official tells CNN. Pfizer's request could be pushed back though, but the news is still a big step forward and making boosters available for all adults in the United States before winter. More than 24 million fully vaccinated Americans have already received a booster dose of one of the three now authorized vaccines.

Also this today, a bipartisan deal and Congress getting it done, things we don't often say anymore. President Biden is preparing now to sign the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law after final passage came late Friday. And what a long, strange trip it has been. It's a big victory for the White House, but it's only half of the President's economic agenda being debated. The even bigger social spending bill we've talked so much about is still very much being negotiated. CNN's John Harwood joins me now with much more on this. John, what are you hearing from there? What happens now?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Kate, the President returned to the White House from his beach house in Delaware this morning, in a much better mood than it was a week ago, because his political circumstances are much better. They passed as you indicated on a bipartisan basis, that $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, $550 billion of new money, roads, bridges, broadband internet, removing lead from water pipes around the country, those elements are popular.

It also allows the President to boast about bipartisanship, which people like. It also allows him to shift the conversation away from the struggle to get things done in Washington to being able to talk about the things he has gotten done in Washington. He's going to talk about that in Baltimore at the port this week, probably not going to sign that bill until next week when Congress comes back, and he can have Republicans and Democrats with him.

Meantime, he's working on that bigger bill when Congress comes back hopes to pass it in the House next week after they get that Congressional Budget Office score. Senate action is going to take longer. They've talked about by Thanksgiving probably later in the year. But they remain confident both on Capitol Hill and within the White House, they're going to get both parts of that done. And that will be a boost, an additional boost for this President if they do.

BOLDUAN: John, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now for more on this is Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, the chair of the House Budget Committee. Mr. Chairman, you put it very simply when you tweeted out one done one to go. How far are you do you think from getting there with the Build Back Better bill at this point?

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): Well, I think we're in very good shape, Kate. And by the way, it's good to see Louisville native John Harwood on. Yes, I think we're in good shape to get this done sometime next week in the House. As many people have said, it's going to be a little more difficult in the Senate, because we're pretty sure they're going to make some changes. And we'll get the bill back from the Senate at some point if they can get the 50 votes plus Vice President Harris.

So I feel good about it. You know, they I think we regained a lot of the trust that we had lost among the Democratic members. And we're all working toward the same demand right now.

BOLDUAN: And that actually gets at the heart of this. You and I have discussed this because there was a very clear lack of trust, which is what held up the vote on the infrastructure bill for so long. Members didn't trust members that they were going to stick to the word and move ahead. I will say though, there's a group of Democratic members more moderate members, who say that they need to see the long term economic impacts of this bigger package before they are ready to move forward. Are you concerned then that they might not like what they see and balk once this CBO score comes out?

YARMUTH: Well, I think they're going to be actually very pleasantly surprised that what we're going to see is a bill that actually is a deficit reducer, we saw the Joint Committee on tax put out an estimate of their assessment of what the tax provisions would be, it would be at $1.5 trillion in revenue, that doesn't include drug pricing negotiations, and also increased IRS enforcement that's anticipated to bring in around a half billion dollars.

So when you're looking at an investment total somewhere between 1.75 and $2 trillion, and you can have revenue of $2 trillion or more. I think the moderates are going to feel very, very good about it.

BOLDUAN: Let me play for you on the infrastructure bill specifically. I'm going to play for you what Republican Senator Rick Scott said this morning about the bill. Listen to this.



SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Here's what I hear from voters. I mean they're -- they watch and they say look we've got almost $30 trillion worth of debt, we've got gas prices are up over 50 percent, food prices are up. This is all caused by wasteful government spending. Then they watching they see a bill like this pass that has, you know, unbelievable wasteful spending.


BOLDUAN: That is the Republican reaction to a bipartisan bill this morning. I'm curious what you say to that. And also, do you know how wasteful government spending is forcing gas prices up?

YARMUTH: I have no idea Kate, and neither does Rick Scott, with all due respect, he has no idea what he's talking about. You know, the bill that we're talking about now, the better -- Build Back Better Act will increase spending by 0.6 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. It is insane for anybody to believe that 0.6 percent extra spending is going to do anything to increase inflation.

As a matter of fact, 15 Nobel Prize winning economist has written a letter saying this bill will actually, can't help ease long term inflationary pressures. So again, you know, right now, when you have Republican members calling infrastructure, investment, socialism, you really can't take anything that they say seriously, because again, they're just making it up. They don't want to -- they're trying to convince the American people who are overwhelmingly in favor of what we're trying to do according to polls, they're trying to convince them and somehow dangerous to them. I don't think they're going to get away with it.

BOLDUAN: The country though, is divided that I mean, what Rick Scott is speaking to is just division and distrust, you know, in general, between parties, which has existed for well, since forever. But it speaks to something I wanted to ask about. You're not running for reelection. Well, last time you were on, we talked about this. And I have noted with interest that you've gotten, a little you've gotten reflective in some of your more recent interviews, talking about your frustration, not just with Republicans, as a proud progressive Democrat, but you've also talked about your frustration with both parties.

And when it comes to your own party of frustration of people seeking attention rather than seeking deals, I'm paraphrasing you. Can you talk to me about this says the cable news host who wants people to come on her show, but how do you fix that? Why is that such a problem in your party?

YARMUTH: Well, you know, Kate, I think the reason we've seen some of that, and by the way, I want to clarify, I was speaking much more about Republican members than Democrats, although we have a few like that is that most members of Congress have given up on the idea that they can accomplish anything. So if you're here, what do you do if you can't accomplish something you try to get attention, and you can raise money, and so forth. And hopefully get, you know, you can get a T.V. gig when you leave.

But what's frustrating is that so many, so few people are actually have any experience at getting anything done in Congress. Most -- so most people have been never worked in a governing majority before. And they really forgotten how to say that, you know, and in Congress, if you get 70 percent of what you want, that's really significant, that's a great job. And a lot of members haven't figured out yet that 70 percent of what you want is really success around Congress.

BOLDUAN: I'd love to continue the conversation, Mr. Chairman, thanks for coming on.

YARMUTH: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it. Let's see what happens next with that massive spending bill.


Coming up for us though, the sole survivor in the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting is testifying right now about the horrific night of chaos and gunfire, a live report from the courthouse next.