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At This Hour

U.S. Hits Debt Ceiling, Treasury Takes "Extraordinary Measures"; Biden Plans To Launch Reelection Bid After State Of The Union; Alec Baldwin Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter In Deadly Shooting; Interview With Representative Gregory Meeks On $2.5 Billion Military Aid Package Set For Ukraine. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, America just hit its borrowing limit, setting up a big debt ceiling showdown in Congress.

Plus CNN has new reporting on President Biden's re-election plans and if the classified records controversy impacts his timing.

And prosecutors are about to announce whether criminal charges are coming in the fatal shooting on the "Rust" movie set.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.

The battle over the nation's debt ceiling is upon us. The United States just hit its borrowing limit of $31.4 trillion. And that means that the Treasury Department must now begin to use a series of what is called extraordinary measures to avoid default.

Extraordinary measures that are no longer so extraordinary since they have been -- they've had to be used so often. This is a completely avoidable problem that falls entirely on Congress to raise the debt limit, something that Republicans are right now refusing to do without cutting unrelated spending to the actual bills that have come due, by the way.

Democrats say that is not on the table. If the U.S. defaults, it will cause absolute chaos in the global economy. Christine Romans is standing by for us with this.

Kind of saw this one coming, Christine. But we have hit the moment.

What happens now?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So Kate, the clock starts now. Once the U.S. hits the upper limit of what it could legally borrow to run the government, the Treasury Department now starts juggling with so-called extraordinary measures.

Deferring investments into important retirement funds, for example, for public servants; various accounting moves could buy some time and keep the bills paid until maybe June. June 5th is the date that the Treasury Secretary just gave Congress.

Then come the really hard decisions, choosing which bills are paid and who gets an IOU instead -- members of the military, Social Security recipients.

And what about paying interest on the U.S. debt?

If Congress defaults on its debt, it could rock the foundation of the global economy, American creditworthiness. Borrowing costs would spike, stock markets would fall, millions of jobs will be lost. Grave consequences that would stall the U.S. economy at best and risk a financial crisis around the world at worst.

And in any case, it would add even more money to the national debt, all over a political fight over paying America's bills.

Now the White House warns of chaos and accused Republicans of economic vandalism. Some Republicans insist that the national debt is America's top problem today and they want to tie future spending restraint to paying for what it has already spent.

But they haven't outlined exactly where they would slash that spending and, again, the Treasury Secretary just moments ago alerting Congress that she has already begun these extraordinary measures and June 5th is when they could begin to run out. Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, here we go. It's great to see you, Christine. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome..

BOLDUAN: All right, we also have new reporting in to CNN, President Biden is planning to launch his re-election bid after his State of Union Address, which is less than three weeks away. The controversy over handling of classified documents apparently not impacting his plans at out. Arlette Saenz joins us now.

What are you learning?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, advisers are still waiting for the final green light from President Biden himself. But advisers are still planning for a possible re-election launch in the coming month, after the State of the Union on February 7th.

Advisers say they are trying to comply and follow all of the rules regarding this investigation. They also feel that there are other issues that are of greater concern to Americans at this moment. I want to read you a quote.

"It is a matter of public record what America's highest priority issues are from polling other research. And the most important poll, the midterms, the economy, cutting costs and fighting inflation and creating jobs, standing up for reproductive rights, fighting for gun reform."

The adviser added, "The American people care a hell of a lot about all of that."

Now this all speaks to the sentiment from Biden advisers, who, in the past during the campaign and his presidency, have felt there were moments when the president is counted out, only to have him ultimately succeed.

They are watching this situation involving the classified documents very closely. But they're also trying to make clear that they are sticking to their message and their plans. One of the messages they've been eager to promote in the early start of 2023 is the president's desire to work in a bipartisan manner.

Tomorrow, he will host a bipartisan group of mayors here at the White House, to talk about just that. And for the time being, those 2024 plans seem to be undeterred at the moment.


BOLDUAN: Arlette, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

So the Biden administration is also about to finalize a massive new aid package for Ukraine, $2.5 billion. Sources telling CNN that will include, for the first time, Stryker combat vehicles. All told, this will be one of the biggest U.S. aid packages for Ukraine since the start of Russia's unprovoked invasion.

Fred Pleitgen is in Kyiv for us and joining us now.

Fred, what are you hearing about this aid package and what it means for the fight?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly means a lot for the fight. One of the things that we could see is the U.S. and allies are trying to help the Ukrainians build up Western militarized infantry and fighting vehicles that they want to give to the Ukrainians.

So the Strykers are a big deal for the mechanized infantry that the Ukrainians want to build up. But there is also Bradleys that will be part of that as well. And that will certainly help the Ukrainians on the ground.

As part of that, also, there is also other countries that will contribute similar vehicles. The Germans have a version they are going to give and the Swedes as well. The Ukrainians are saying that is absolutely key.

It was really interesting because I was able to speak to the deputy foreign minister of Ukraine not so long ago and he said that the big problem they have right now is that they're running out of ammo for the old Soviet-style vehicles. So they need Western vehicles. But they want more than just infantry fighting vehicles. They also

want main battle tanks. They're talking about the German main battle tank, the Leopard 2. And tomorrow there is that big meeting in Ramstein, where the U.S. and allies are hoping to push the Germans to give those as well, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Fred, thank you.

We'll have much more on that aid package and on the fight in Ukraine in just a moment.

But we do need to jump over to breaking news right now. Prosecutors in New Mexico have just announced that actor Alec Baldwin has been -- is going to be charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the fatal shooting on the set of the movie, "Rust."

Now this all, you remember, happened back in October of 2021. A gun that Baldwin was holding discharged, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, injuring the film's director. The film's armorer will also be charged. Let's get over to Josh Campbell, where this announcement has just come through.

Josh, what more are you learning?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Significant news here. This is what we have been waiting on. The D.A. said she would make an announcement today in this case. This stemming from the October 2021 shooting here in Santa Fe, on the set of the movie "Rust."

And the actor, Alec Baldwin, will be charged according to prosecutors with involuntary manslaughter. A second individual, this is the person responsible for the weapons on the set and safety on the set, will similarly be charged.

Interestingly, both of these people will be charged with two counts each. And what the prosecutor said is that one of those involuntary manslaughter charges includes underlying negligence. There was some kind of negligence on the part of each of these people.

The second charge requires more than negligence and what she said -- and it sounds at there point that they're throwing significant charges up -- but it will be up to a jury, the D.A. said, to decide which definition best fits the circumstances of this case.

So it is not just one charge. Both Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer, will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Now a third individual, David Hall (sic), who was the assistant director on the set, he had allegedly handled that firearm that was used to -- in that fatal shooting of Helena Hutchins. And according to the D.A., he's agreed to plead to negligent use of a deadly weapon. And that is a misdemeanor.

So he will sign a plea agreement, if that hasn't already been executed, agreeing to plead to that. So three people now expected to be charged -- or excuse me -- two charged, one person expected to plea.

There were a host of other people involved in this, who came under scrutiny, that were involved in the props on the set, from the weapon itself to some of the bullets, the live ammunition that we saw.

At least as of right now, those people have not been charged. And, of course, we'll be speaking soon with the D.A. to get a better sense of whether this case is now over, is a sense of assessing and then moving to prosecution or if either people might be in jeopardy. That is something that we'll continue to watch.

But again the major news here, although these three individuals have claimed they are innocent and continue to say they did nothing wrong, the district attorney's office now moving with charges in this case.

Actor Alec Baldwin and the person responsible for the weapons on the set will be charged by the district attorney here in Santa Fe.

BOLDUAN: Josh, thank you so much for that. We'll look for your interview with the attorney when you wrap that up. Thank you very much.


Joining me now for more is Elliot Williams and prop master Dutch Merrick, for film and television for 25 years. And also with us is CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas.

Elliot, let me start with you. Your reaction to what we've now learned, this statement from the district attorney that I'm looking at, the charges now filed against -- against Alec -- that will be filed against Alec Baldwin and the armorer.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Kate, I'm not surprised at all about these charges. And particularly if you separate Alec Baldwin, the actor, from Alec Baldwin, the producer.

It would have been hard to see him charged with a crime in his capacity as an actor here. But he's being charged in effect as someone who was responsible for what happened on the set.

And what this involuntary manslaughter charge comes down to is negligence. The law defines that as the duty of care that a reasonable person in a similar situation would have provided, right.

And that requires comparing this situation to other movie sets. And what I think the prosecutors found here was that what happened was so unreasonable as to -- and this is the law, right out of the statute -- producing death in an unlawful manner without due caution and introspection.

So it is -- this wasn't just a simple accident that happened on a movie set, at least according to the prosecutor allegedly. What this is was such a failure from the leadership on the movie set that led to an incredibly tragic death.

BOLDUAN: And Dutch, you have been following this so closely and we talked so many times when the report came in from the police.

What do you think of this news?

DUTCH MERRICK, PROP MASTER: Well, it was inevitable that somebody gets charged, most certainly. I think it is important to remember -- so I've been teaching a class based on this now. It is literally a teachable moment for the entire film industry.

And we -- I bring classrooms together of film professionals. And we break down the "Rust" incident, based on the legal reports of the FBI and the Santa Fe district attorney.

And when I ask -- when I turned to the people in the workshop and I say, OK, who is responsible, when they look at this chain of events, give me some names, let's put them on the dry erase board.

They don't come up with any less than 10 names. So this was a chain of events that happened long before a gun got in Alec Baldwin's hand and the round left the barrel. It started with the hiring practices and the budgeting and the way they scheduled the show and the treatment of the crew.

And the seed that was planted that really was a fatal moment was when somebody provided live ammunition disguised as dummy rounds in a box to a film set. I've talked to hundreds of people now and nobody has any recollection ever in history of live rounds being sent mistakenly to a film set.

So that seed germinated and everybody's hands that went through, the prop master and the armorer and eventually the first AD, who inserted himself in this process where he had no business being, each one of those things cascaded in an event that anyone of those things would have stopped this.

So yes, are these people negligent?

Certainly. But I would offer that there are several more people up the food chain negligent from the very beginning.

BOLDUAN: And this is a lengthy statement I'm working through right now.

But to the control room, if you hear an answer to that question in this and I don't see it yet, of that has been -- the question that Dutch is raising, which is who actually -- how did a live round end up on set and in that gun?

I don't see if it is declared here in this -- in this information coming from the district attorney.

But Chloe, just in general, have we gotten a statement in from Alec Baldwin or from Hannah Gutierrez?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we have not. What's interesting is I sat down with him in August. And he said he had nothing to do with hiring the prop masters, with hiring the woman in charge of the weapons on set, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, which is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

And he said when he was handed the gun on the set, it was declared cold and that he did not pull the trigger and that irregardless (sic) of pulling the trigger, there never should have been a live round on set to -- the guest that you just had on said on point.

And at the same time Alec Baldwin saying from the beginning, this was a tragic accident and that his attorney telling me over the summer that it would be a miscarriage of justice for him to be charged.

But obviously we see that the tide is not in Alec Baldwin's favor. Something I do want to point out is that there is a settlement on the table between Alec Baldwin, "Rust" production and Helena Hutchins' family, her widow and her son. And they were going to finish filming the movie so the proceeds could go to the family.


This was a moment where they had all come together.

And now in light of that, the question that I have is what happens to that?

Obviously they can't go back and film that movie now. Obviously there won't be that family settlement.

And what happens to that?

And we do know, from things Alec Baldwin has told me and CNN, is that he will fight this. He will fight charges. He will go to trial. And we are awaiting comments from him any moment.

BOLDUAN: And that will -- and we'll wait to see what his statement is.

And that does, of course, kick start a long legal process, Elliot, of course. And I did see in this statement from the district attorney, the special prosecutor, who was brought on, said this in the statement.

If any one of these three people, Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It is that simple.

What happens now?

WILLIAMS: So we get ready for trial. And just as -- yes, it is Alec Baldwin and it is a common name and someone that many people like to watch on television and movies and so on.

But as of right now or soon, he will be a charged defendant with a crime. He will have a right to answer for the charges. And certainly under the law, is entitled to a speedy trial, just like everybody else.

Now look, one of the defendants here has already pled guilty to an offense. I would guess that -- and this is pure speculation -- perhaps that individual's testimony might have helped support the other charges for the other individuals here, right.

But either they get toward a plea agreement or, as Chloe said, he may fight this and take it all the way to trial. Now look, there is a huge disincentive to going to trial because you're going to end up with a heavier sentence than you would have gotten had you pled guilty.

So that is a consideration for Alec Baldwin and his lawyers to make. But some people, some defendants truly think that they can kick it and beat it and he may fight it to the end.

BOLDUAN: And Dutch, as I was just speaking to, there is no real detail in here about anything more they uncovered in the investigation or the interviews that the prosecutors, that led to the charges, especially this big mystery all along, which is how did a live round end up in the gun?

And that is -- the way you've put it, that is the biggest burning question for you as well. It is not answered here.

Will it get answered, do you think?

MERRICK: Well, I've pored over the FBI reports and the other police reports. And they did, a very thorough job of taking statements and trying to break down the events of that day.

And it turns out that there was a box with more than 25 live rounds on the set. It wasn't one round that happened on that set -- that happened to be on that set. With 25 live rounds, it is incredibly bad odds that something bad is going to happen.

They found these rounds scattered in different places, on work carts, in the belt that Baldwin was wearing, was a live round. Live rounds were scattered around the set. So it was only a matter of time before one of these got fired.

And the fellow that sent them, I would say that it probably boils down to that. And you've also got -- I think one of the biggest conflicts we have in the film industry is the role of the first assistant director.

The producers have seen fit to make them the chief safety officer, because they're on the set at all times. So that means that they're the person that said, let's make it safe and take a beat to check the gun. But they first have another job, let's beat the clock and make our day by the end of sundown.

So you have two conflicting roles. But rounds everywhere on that set. It was a dangerous opportunity.

BOLDUAN: And now we have two people charged and a third pleading guilty to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. Alec Baldwin, charged with involuntary manslaughter as well as the armorer on the film set of the "Rust" movie in production in October of 2021.

We have much more on this as we continue to cover this breaking news.

Also ahead for us, the United States finalized a massive aid package for Ukraine. Coming up, we're going to talk to a key Democratic lawmaker about whether this package has the right elements to turn the tide.

Is it exactly what Ukraine needs in this moment on the battlefield?

We'll be right back.





BOLDUAN: So the United States is a preparing to send billions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine as part of this new $2.5 billion security package, Ukraine will get Stryker combat vehicles for the first time from the United States.

But still, with all of that, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy is not getting everything that he hoped for. It is not everything that he said Ukraine needs right now in this fight. Let's talk about this.

Joining me now is Democratic congressman Gregory Meeks. He's the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joining us from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Thank you for coming in. This new aid package will be one of the biggest yet to be announced since the war started. It is still not -- it is still going to be missing what Ukraine is begging for at this point, which is tanks.

Do you think that it is a mistake, that it is not including U.S. tanks?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I think we've got to make sure now that we're looking at U.S. tanks. And America has to continue to do and to lead as we have.


I've been amazed, being here in Davos, talking to our allies, whether they be from NATO, the E.U., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, how united the democratic world is and how focused they are on making sure that we stand by Ukraine.

And we give them what they need so that Putin knows that -- that we will be there and try to -- and have this war won sooner rather than later.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and Germany is also kind of the center of this debate, when I'm talking about, which is tanks. Other nations like Poland and the U.K. just made an announcement. They're ramping up pressure on Germany to send more modern tanks into the fight.

"The Wall Street journal" reported that Germany says it wouldn't, unless the U.S. sends tanks as well. As Zelenskyy said in his address to Davos, the time to hesitate is long past.

Does that change anything for you?

Do tanks need to be going now?

MEEKS: Well, I think that sooner, better than later for sure. I'm hopeful that, in the dialogue and conversation that will take place tomorrow and the next day, that we'll get to just that point.

But I do believe that we're at that point. We see that Putin is escalating. To see the destruction to the infrastructure of Ukraine, the continuing damage and the criminality of his actions, the death of Ukrainian people, who are fighting for their own sovereignty.

And so, the United States has led and everybody is appreciative of what we have done. This $2.5 billion of additional money shows the United States' continued commitment. And, yes, as I think as Putin escalates, we need to step up and do the same thing.

BOLDUAN: Tanks may be the next place that goes. It is interesting that you say we need to look toward that option. That is an important note that you make.

I do want to ask you at the same time about the other fight that is now happening on Capitol Hill in a very real way on the debt ceiling. The White House has made clear that it wants a clean debt ceiling increase. Democrats have as well. No negotiations.

Republicans say nothing is going to happen without negotiations over future government spending.

Do you think in the end, Congressman, you've been there many a time at this point, do you think in the end that you're going to have to negotiate with Republicans on this?

MEEKS: Well, I think -- and I hope that Speaker McCarthy comes, because, to the Democrats and say we need your help. But clearly, you know, a clean bill for the debt ceiling is what to do.

You know, what we're talking about is not future money spent; we're talking about money that has already been spent. And so therefore, it is our responsibility, with what we have -- and that is why this should be a clean vote. We should make sure that we pass the debt.

And not put in -- and I think what the Republicans want to do is, particularly the MAGA Republicans and the extremists, is to get so they could cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. And we can't allow that to happen because that is -- that is not what the American people want.

So we need to make sure that we take care of the debt that is owed and spent and deal with that. And we could deal with future spending at the appropriate time. But the time now is to pay our debt.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. At the end of the day, if you could fast forward to June, because that is where this is headed, do you think it is going to -- even if this is avoidable and these two things can happen separately, raising the debt ceiling and negotiating over spending -- and we've seen Republicans raise the debt ceiling under president Trump three times without having to talk about any of this spending conversation.

Do you think in the end this -- when it comes to the staring contest of we're not going to negotiate and going right up to the debt ceiling or the limit, do you think that Democrats have to negotiate on spending in order to avoid a default?

MEEKS: I would hope that the moderate Republicans step up before then and say to the extreme Right, their Freedom Caucus, et cetera, just as they said about the vote for McCarthy, because they didn't do that and we saw what took place there.

I think it is time for the Republican moderates to step up and say that we're not going to play party and not play with the taxpayers' money in paying its debt and putting America in trouble, that we're going to stand up and we will work with Democrats and pass a clean bill, as we have done time and time again.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

MEEKS: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

All right. So we're going to turn back to the other breaking news, with Alec Baldwin now facing charges, the prosecutor who just announced they will be charging Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in this deadly film set shooting, the prosecutor is speaking to CNN. Her first live interview is next.