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Attorney: Alec Baldwin "Blindsided" By Manslaughter Charges; Biden: "No Regrets" On Not Revealing Classified Docs Discovery Sooner; Officials: Virginia Teacher Shot By Six-Year-Old Released From Hospital. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: By the announcement that he will be charged for the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. As we've learned yesterday during our show, he is facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter now. And in a statement, really the only word that we've had so far from Baldwin, his lawyer vows of the actor will fight the charges.

Josh Campbell is in Santa Fe, New Mexico for us once again. Josh, what happens now?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're looking at those very serious charges for actor Alec Baldwin. We're talking about involuntary manslaughter, which of course, carries a significant penalty. So, you could have just charged him with a minor violation and misdemeanor. In this case, they actually went the route of involuntary manslaughter.

Now, interestingly enough, and again, on your show yesterday, we heard for the first time since charges were announced from the district attorney, and she told us that there's a host of evidence that includes the patterns and practices of unsafe practices on that set, as well as actor Alec Baldwin firing that weapon. And, of course, he has maintained that he never pulled the trigger but I asked the district attorney what she thinks. Have a listen.


CAMPBELL: We know the FBI report says that that gun could not have gone off without pulling the trigger. Are you confident that he actually pulled the trigger?

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO NEW JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Yes, absolutely. The FBI lab is one of the best in the world. And we absolutely believe that the trigger had to have been pulled in order for that gun to go off. The trigger was pulled.

Live rounds were there and they weren't checked. They should have been caught. Three people should have been -- should have been checking those projectiles and should have caught them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMPBELL: Interestingly here, Kate, also one new piece of information we learned on your show yesterday in that interview is you know there's this question about is an actor actually responsible for ensuring the safety of a gun. The district attorney told us that they actually went and consulted with actors including A-list actors who said that they always check the gun or at least have it checked in their presence. So, that was interesting information, obviously to learn.

Now, as far as what happens. The next step is the charges will be filed by the end of this month. And then Alec Baldwin will receive a summon, and then he will enter some kind of plea. We, of course, expect that he is going to put up an aggressive defense, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. And it was -- I should mention again, Josh, it was great that you were able to get the DA on the show yesterday. That was really important. Thank you for doing that. Thanks for the hustle. Great work.

Joining me now for more on this is Elizabeth Wagmeister. She's a chief correspondent at Variety. And Bernarda Villlona, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Thank you both for being here.

Bernardo, when you're looking at the statement from the district attorney, the evidence that is put before us so far, how hard is it to prove criminal negligence? How steep is the hill do you think it -- to prove this case?

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER PROSECUTOR: It's going to be very difficult to prove criminal negligence at least when it goes to Alec Baldwin. It's different for Hannah Gutierrez because she was operating as the armorer, as the expert, as the person in charge that was supposed to take a look at this weapon before it was passed on to Alec Baldwin. She was supposed to make sure that there were dummy rounds that were in there. And she did it. That's why it rises to level -- to the level of criminal negligence.

So, I don't think it's going to be difficult, as to her, Ms. Gutierrez but it's going to be difficult as to Alec Baldwin, that actor. Because they're charging that he should have looked and checked in the gun to make sure that it was a dummy, but that's not his job. That's not what he's trained to do. He's going by the word of the person that passed a gun to him.

So, this is going to be a long fight and Alec Baldwin, he has a good chance of beating these charges. And that's what the information that we have, as of today. Because remember, not much information has been released, aside from that charges will be filed.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Elizabeth, the Screen Actors Guild is now getting involved. And they put out a statement and I'll read part of it for everyone. Saying that the prosecutor's contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm in a production set is wrong and uninformed. They also say performers trained to perform and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use. What do you make of -- the way I will describe it is how forcefully that they are coming out to support Alec Baldwin's position on this?

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, VARIETY: You know, they are coming out forcefully. And I think it's because this is bigger than Alec Baldwin. There's really no precedent for this terrible tragedy. But now, that he has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, what does that mean for actors on set in the future?

It's not his job to check the gun. Now, as the DA said to you at CNN that they spoke to other actors who said they do, OK. But there are other people who this is their exact job. So, if other actors are going to be on sets and they're going to have stunt scenes, and it's going to be their concern to make sure that a car that they drive doesn't get in an accident or that there's not an accident for a stunt double. Of course, everybody wants sets to be safe. This was a terrible mistake. So, I think that that is why SAG is coming out so forcefully.


But the other key piece of information here is that Alec Baldwin was not just an actor, he was an executive producer on this film. So, with that, he does carry more responsibility. But still, he's not the armorer. This was not his key job on paper to make sure that there were no live rounds in that gun.

BOLDUAN: I want to dig into this just one step further, Bernarda, because this is the big discrepancy between Alec Baldwin's account and what the DA is saying is whether Baldwin pulled the trigger, and whose responsibility it is -- it is around this. Let me play -- let me play this for you. Listen to this.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: So, you never pulled the trigger?

BALDWIN: No, no, no, no, no. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: We absolutely believe that the trigger had to have been pulled in order for that gun to go off. The trigger was pulled.


BOLDUAN: Bernarda, when it comes to this case and when it is in court, how key do you think this fact will be?

VILLALONA: Kate, at least one lesson we've learned from the multiple interviews that Alec Baldwin has given is that he needs to be quiet, (INAUDIBLE) don't speak to the media anymore because this information is going to be used against you. That's why they're harping so much on the pulling of the trigger.

I will say this. Have been prosecuted thousands of cases involving guns, there is no way that gun could have gone off without pulling the trigger. Since the FBI expert already did the examination of the trigger pole, meaning how many pounds is required to put on your finger onto that trigger for that gun to go off? But it's still going to be crucial that evidence is going to be presented because that's one of the negligence factors that the district attorney is using to prosecute Alec Baldwin.

BOLDUAN: Thank you both so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

President Biden is pushing back right now against the heat that he and the White House are taking over how they've handled the discovery of classified documents. Listen.




BOLDUAN: More from the president, next.



BOLDUAN: President Biden insists he has "no regrets about when the White House revealed the discovery of classified documents at his former personal office and his Delaware home." The president making his most extensive comments yet on this matter.

Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. He's tracking this for us. Jeremy, tell us more of what Biden said here.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. This is the first time we've heard that comment, no regrets from the President. It is the third time that we have heard President Biden answer questions on this in the last 10 days or so since this story broke. And what the president is saying here when he says he has no regrets, he's not talking about the issue entirely but he is talking about the decision not to release information that these classified documents had been found before the midterm elections. Listen to what the president had to say.


BIDEN: We're fully cooperating looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find -- there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no there there.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DIAMOND: He says there's no there there. What he's saying is essentially, he believes that he's going to be exonerated by this Justice Department investigation now being led by Special Counsel, Robert Hur. And that's why we've seen this White House be so cooperative -- President Biden and his legal team be cooperative with the Justice Department. They believe that that is the best path for the president to ultimately be exonerated here.

There is a sense, though, of course, that obviously the initial week of some of this communication strategy around this, the drip, drip, drip was short-term pain. But they believe that ultimately, in the long run, it will benefit the president, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thank you for that.

Also in Washington, there is still no resolution to the U.S. hitting its debt ceiling. The Treasury Department is now taking extraordinary measures to keep the federal government from defaulting on its debt, but they've made very clear it can only do that through June.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, is there any sign of movement on this yet?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There really is not, Kate, and this is going to play out for some time. The two sides are completely opposite issues about whether there should even be negotiations, to begin with. The White House and Senate Democrats are saying there should be none. There's a -- simply the House should raise the debt ceiling, no conditions attached, something that has happened time and time again, including under President Donald Trump. They don't want to attach any conditions to it.

Republicans, on the other hand, have the opposite view. They want to have negotiations right now. They want to add provisions to this provision -- this plan as well. And one of the key people to watch there, as you see on our screen, Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker. He's one of the, of course, key players in all of this.

In order to cut a deal to win the speakership, he agreed with the hard-right members of his conference to ensure that any debt ceiling increase must include a "commensurate fiscal reform." What that exactly means is unclear. But what the -- what Republicans are saying up and down the line is that they want cuts, spending cuts. And even more moderate members such as Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who is someone who is seen as someone who could potentially defect, he told me that he believes there should be some sort of fiscal agreement in order to raise the debt ceiling.

So, Kate, this is going to take some time to play out. But this is an incredibly risky standoff. A default would happen as early as June if no resolution is reached. That could lead -- send the world's economy into a tailspin. So, how this gets resolved, it's anybody's guess at the moment, Kate.


BOLDUAN: For sure. It's great that you lay it out for us. Manu, thank you very much.

For more on this, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY," Abby Phillip is here with me. I mean, as Manu was laying it out very well, right now, this is a standoff. I mean, Republicans saying that there must be negotiations over future spending for this to go along -- for them to go along with this. Democrats are saying there will be no negotiations since Republicans have raised the debt ceiling cleanly many times before. Someone, Abby, in the end is going to have to give. is it clear who can hold their ground longer?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, I think someone is definitely going to have to give. But if history is any guide, it is not popular to breach the debt ceiling. It's not popular to bring the country to that brink.

Republicans actually learned that back in 2013 and they ended up caving in that case and getting almost nothing in exchange for increasing the debt -- the debt limit. I mean, practically nothing and certainly not what they were holding out for. So, I think it's just a question of how far to the brink are they going to go.

You know, one thing I'm looking at is there are 18 Republican members who are in Biden seats. That sounds like a lot, but it's actually a very small number. It's a small number of moderates. And the question is, can they exert enough influence in this process to prevent really what could be a political catastrophe if Republican hardliners push the country beyond the debt ceiling limit?

BOLDUAN: It's really interesting you put it that way because I'm thinking back to a conversation I had just yesterday with Democratic Congressman Greg Meeks. And one thing that he said he very clearly was making an appeal. He says we need moderate Republicans to come work with Democrats to avoid this from happening.

So, what you're -- what you're laying out is definitely the messaging that is already starting to be -- to become clear from Democrats. But I do wonder, it's no question and no one's disputing the chaos default would cause for the U.S. economy and also around the globe.


BOLDUAN: But how high the stakes are politically on this issue for Democrats and the new Republican majority? Because as you will lay now -- lay out, we've seen polling in the past, this is not popular to take the country to the brink when you look at what voters think.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, and what is different about this particular moment for the country is that there's a very real prospect that there could be an economic recession in this -- in this year.


PHILLIP: And it can be avoided. But it is almost certain to happen if there is a debt crisis in the United States. So, that's why the stakes are high. The American people have been very clear in public polling. They care about their cost of living, the state of the economy when it comes to their pocketbooks, and inflation. And if Congress is doing things that make that problem worse, that's going to be a disaster politically for both sides.

But I do think, again, history has shown that the American people are able to distinguish who is -- you know, the -- who they are going to blame for a crisis like this. And last time around, Republicans were blamed. Last time around, though, Kate, there were 87 Republicans who voted to increase the debt limit. Do you see what I mean? It's a huge difference between 18 moderates today, potentially an 87 then. I just think there's such a narrow band right now that we could go up to the brink this time.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, it could. What do you think of Biden's tone and his posture when it comes to the classified documents now?

PHILLIP: He's frustrated. I mean, there's no -- there's no question about that. I mean, I think that the White House thought that they were handling this, as you heard the press secretary say numerous times by the book, and it still blew up into what has become a political nightmare for them with a special counsel appointed. The president is frustrated.

I think on some level, he probably feels like he is not necessarily responsible for what happened here because he didn't pack up these boxes himself. But at the same time going off the cuff and talking about this, I think that's also something that probably his aides are not super thrilled that he did.


PHILLIP: He has to survive as well.

BOLDUAN: Yes, we'll see how many more questions he decides he wants to take on this after all this.


BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Abby. Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: You too, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, the teacher who police say was shot by her six-year-old student, she is now out of the hospital. And that boy's family is now speaking out for the first time. That's next.



BOLDUAN: So, the Virginia teacher who was shot allegedly by her six- year-old student has been released from the hospital. It's now nearly two weeks since that horrible shooting. And police say Abby Zwerner was hit in the chest by a first-grader who brought his mother's gun to school. The six-year-old's family has released their first statement now and saying in part. The firearm our son accessed was secured. Our son suffers from an acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day. We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.

The statement thanked the teacher for her courage. The school district did not respond to the family's statement.

There are new details also on the failed Republican candidate accused of orchestrating several shootings at the homes of Democratic officials in New Mexico. The source telling CNN that investigators are looking into whether Solomon Pena's campaign was funded in part by laundered fentanyl sales. He's being held without bail after his first court appearance facing 15 criminal charges, including multiple felonies. I spoke with the mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller, about all of this.


BOLDUAN: Pena is now being held behind bars until at least the next hearing next month. How would you say your community is doing now?


TIM KELLER, MAYOR OF ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO: Well, in many ways, it's a sigh of relief being, especially the fact that he is being detained while he's awaiting the next steps in the legal process. But for us, this was a horrific time, you know, to have a series of elected officials literally be scared for their lives in their own homes. It's something we never want to see. But we are grateful that our law enforcement team in the community really stood behind our elected officials and is going to hold this individual accountable.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We had the police chief on yesterday, and he's taking this very -- his job very seriously here in this investigation in the -- in the steps and protecting the community. But before this happened -- before this -- these incidents happen -- the shootings happen, Pena was on some lovely known quantity locally, right? He was a candidate for political office. He's running a campaign, not hiding in the shadows if you will. Was he seen as a threat to the community before all of this happened?

KELLER: You know, folks who met with him and even on the course of a campaign, you know, I think everyone felt uncomfortable with some of his approaches and tactics and things that he would say. But I will tell you that you know, no one ever foresaw something like this in a sense of actual, you know, gunfire at people's houses. And so that's something that I think all of us were certainly taken aback by.

And the connection to, to actually contract with -- you know, like paid hitman to shoot up houses, is something that I think is more maniacal, of course than anyone would have ever expected. But he certainly was echoing radical right-wing rhetoric that is about denying elections and so forth. And so, you know, that was always concerning to folks. But I think we see, he was turning essentially within a month from a candidate using words to somebody who is actively trying to physically hurt elected officials. And that is a terrifying thought, I think for America.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

KELLER: And for democracy.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Adding to how so much of this does not make sense if he was so angered and driven by a false belief that the election was rigged, why he -- his actual opponent in that election was not a target? Have you gotten any answer to that?

KELLER: Well, you know, certainly, we'll see what plays out in the court process.


KELLER: But there is some connection with respect to things like the canvassing board and the other entities in our state. They're involved in certifying elections. And the connection to these elected officials seems to be folks who are associated with that or who are associated with making the case that a felon shouldn't be on the ballot, which of course, our judges eventually allowed.

So, these are individuals who are just doing their civic duty, doing their civic service, and yes, who were not even his opponent. That's who he was targeting. And again, that's also why this is about democracy. This is about elections.


KELLER: If it was about his opponent, it would still be terrible. But it's less a comment on the systematic challenges we're having as opposed to an individual situation. He truly was going after our local democracy with his targeting. And that's the difference between what happened here and what would be different if it was just his political opponent.

BOLDUAN: Do you have said you're going to stop this kind of political violence from happening and getting your city? How do you? What are you going to do?

KELLER: Well, there are some steps that are -- we're taking that are very unfortunate that we have to you know. All of a sudden, we have metal detectors in our state legislature, you know. We actually never had to have that before and kind of prided ourselves on not having to do things like that.

I do know that now, you know, you can always find public records and different addresses of where people live but I think no longer are we just going to have those on everyone's website with their home address, especially with families and children living at home. So, these are things that, you know, I know the rest of America probably has already had to do. But you know, frankly, we prided ourselves on not having to, and now we're taking the opposite approach. And the other one is around security. We are very clear that now, whether it's gunshot detection technology or whether it's surveillance cameras or license plate readers, we're going to have it. And that's how we have at least some confidence that you will get caught. We will hold you to justice. Because it's much more difficult to get away with something like this in Albuquerque than it was just even a couple of years ago.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All of this requiring leadership. Mayor, thank you for your leadership. Thanks for your time.

KELLER: I appreciate it. Thank you.


BOLDUAN: It's great to have the mayor on. I do want to close today by remembering a music legend.


DAVID CROSBY, SINGER: Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by.


BOLDUAN: Folk rock pioneer David Crosby has passed. He was one of the most influential singers and songwriters of his era as a founding member of The Byrds and then Crosby, Stills, and Nash, of course.


His work and talent helped define the sound of the 60s and influenced generations of musicians after him. He was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Crosby kept touring into his 70s. He was releasing new albums still, even in just the last few years. David Crosby was 81 years old. That one hits hard.

Thank you so much for joining us, everyone. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts now.