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The Lead with Jake Tapper

FDA Authorizes Pfizer's Vaccine For Emergency Use In Kids 5-11; Pope & French President Top Biden's Marathon Of Meetings Overseas; Biden In Europe For G20 Summit, U.N. Climate Conference; Virginia Governor's Race Neck-And-Neck With Four Days To Go; "Rust" Armorer Lawyers: She "Has No Idea" How Live Ammo Got On Set. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 29, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And then there is dumdums. It's a waste for me. I don't like that.

Now, candy corn, we both love candy corn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yeah, I mean, it only comes out around Thanksgiving and it's so delicious.

BLACKWELL: People have called this sweetened candles.

CAMEROTA: Sweetened candles.

BLACKWELL: It's delicious.

CAMEROTA: It really is. It's like a vegetable. I mean, it is candy corn.

BLACKWELL: I'm just going to sit here and eat. Go ahead.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Pfizer can now start shipping vaccines for young kids.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Twenty-eight million children in the United States could soon get a COVID shot as millions of adults in the U.S. continue to refuse to get theirs, even at risk of losing their jobs. With tens of thousands in New York City alone, fighting a vaccine mandate that goes into effect in minutes.

The final days of Virginia voting. In a tight governor's race what the results could reveal for Democrats and Republicans.

Plus -- the person responsible for guns on the set of the film "Rust" is now speaking about the incident for the first time as authorities underline they've got some questions for her that they need answered.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We start today with breaking news in the health lead. The shot clock

is winding down. Parents are one step closer to getting their young children vaccinated if they want. Moments ago, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

And now, the drug company can start shipping child sized doses to pediatricians, pharmacies and vaccination sites where the shots will be administered. The CDC still needs to greenlight use of the vaccine.

And as CNN's Nick Watt reports, that could happen as early as Tuesday.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pfizer can start shipping vaccine doses for those younger kids 5 to 11 because the FDA just granted emergency use authorization. There could be shots in little arms as soon as Wednesday, if the CDC green-lights.

DR. WILLIAM GRUBER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, PFIZER VACCINE CLINICAL RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT: This is a great day for the health and well- being of children.

WATT: Vaccine mandates for older folks are the hot-button issue right now. Florida's governor just filed suit to halt an upcoming mandate for federal contractors.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Many people have recovered from COVID and also have strong immunity through prior infection.

WATT: A CDC study of 7,000 people hospitalized with COVID-like illness published at lunchtime states, we now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection. Vaccination can provide a higher, more robust and more consistent level of immunity.

In Rhode Island, a mandate kicks in for state health workers Sunday. There are holdouts.

GOV. DANIEL MCKEE (D), RHODE ISLAND: We'll work on other plans to activate strategies, including the National Guard if necessary.

WATT: In Iowa, lawmakers passed a bill granting unemployment benefits to anyone fired for failing to get a shot. And in Oakland, California, the school board voted to un-enroll currently eligible but unvaccinated kids come January 1 or teach them online only.


WATT (on camera): Now, I just want to underline this Pfizer vaccine could be the first vaccine rolled out in this country for kids as young as 5. So what happens next? Those CDC advisers meet on Tuesday. If they are in favor, then it goes to the CDC director. And if she green lights, then we could be seeing shots in those little arms Wednesday morning.

And remember the dosage for kids is about -- it's not, it is exactly one-third of the dose getting stuck into the rest of us -- Jake.

TAPPER: Right, ten micrograms. Nick Watt, thanks so much.

Your house is on fire. What are you going to call?

Well, in New York City, city officials are bracing for the possibility that thousands of essential workers, including firefighters, cops and sanitation employees could be placed on unpaid leave if they do not meet today's deadline to get at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

Let's get right to CNN's Miguel Marquez who's following the story for us.

And, Miguel, Mayor de Blasio said he is expecting 11th hour vaccinations. Does that seem to be the case?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does, as we saw with teachers and nurses before this. There are a lot of individuals that are getting those shots in arms in the last minutes in part because the city is offering $500 if you get the shot before 5:00 p.m. So they have about an hour at this point to get that sort of inducement, if they choose.

Look, we're talking about 160,000 workers. The highest profile several dozen agencies, highest profile agencies, police, fire, emergency services, sanitation.


Those numbers were quite low, the number of vaccinations in recent days. But they have climbed. Police are up to 80 percent. Firefighters were only about 65 percent a few days ago. Now, they're up over 75 percent. So it looks like they're all climbing.

The plan at this point, at least for the fire department union, is to have all of their employee goes to work on Monday whether they're vaccinated or not and let the city send them home if that's what they choose.

Now, keep in mind they can still get vaccinated over the weekend. If they don't and they show up and go home on Monday, they'll be put on unpaid leave. They can still get vaccinated. They have their medical benefits, their union benefits so they can still get vaccinated along the way as they choose but right now it's a game of chicken between the city and unions here.

The city says they're prepared between canceling vacations and offering overtime. They can make it work. There may be some reduction in services. The city says they are ready for it -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yesterday, the firefighters union protested outside the mayor's residence, Gracie Mansion. What kind of resistance to the vaccine mandate are you seeing on the ground?

MARQUEZ: I mean, we are seeing a lot but there was a very big protest on Monday among many of the different groups at Gracie mansion. Several hundred, maybe over 1,000 firefighters and other workers who were out there. What is not clear, even though the vaccination rates were low or climbing, it's not clear how many people are just not reporting that they have been vaccinated.

It is possible they have been vaccinated but not reporting it. The union is really trying to build leverage here with Mayor de Blasio. He felt they did this all too quickly and didn't give them time to react to this mandate.

So they are hoping when the new mayor is elected on Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio will leave at the end of the year because he's termed out. They'll have a better relationship and they will have a better deal going forward, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor at GW Medical Center.

Dr. Reiner, thanks for doing this.

So if the CDC approves the vaccine for young kids on Tuesday, which is anticipated, how soon can shots be administered and kids 5 to 11.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Wednesday. I think this is a big moment for the 28 million kids who are vulnerable to infection, to their families. It's a big moment for keeping schools open around the United States, particularly as we get into cold weather and people move indoors and typically respiratory viruses increase in frequency.

And it's a big moment for protecting the vulnerable people in the community, people who are immunocompromised either as a consequence of their illnesses or treatment for illnesses. So, I think it's an important step forward. CDC will certainly approve it and the CDC director will sign off on that on Tuesday night.

TAPPER: When it comes to vaccinating kids 5 to 11, which is obviously important, how much of it is about protecting these kids, 5 to 11, versus how much is it about slowing the spread so that other individuals who are immunocompromised who might be 12 or 30 or 100 protecting them?

REINER: It's both. So while kids, thankfully, don't die in large numbers, although we've lost over 700 children to this illness, kids do get really sick. Kids get hospitalized and end up in ICUs. And over the last six weeks, we've seen over a million kids get infected.

So, it is about preventing kids from getting sick and every parent wants their child to remain well. We give kids influenza vaccine which does prevent the rare fatality but primarily prevents them from getting sick.

But just as importantly it's about putting the rest of this fire out. It's about getting the spread in the community lower. It's about, again, protecting the people that vaccines can't protect because they just can't mount an antibody response. So it's sort of a holistic response to trying to get us onto the other side of this pandemic.

TAPPER: And there are a lot of schools where there is no remote learning, period, and this is the only option is either mask the kids or vaccinate the kids or hopefully both. There's a new poll that shows that a majority of parents in the United States, a majority, say they will not vaccinate their younger kids right away. Breaks down roughly one-third will, a little less than a third. Roughly a third are wait and seers and one-third will not.

What happens if we don't get sufficient kids vaccinated?

REINER: The virus remains in our community. Kids are out of school. Maybe some schools have to close down. If large numbers of children in certain grades get sick, the virus continues on.

I think now the responsibility really falls to our pediatricians who are universally loved by their patients and the parents of their patients, trusted by them.


It falls on the pediatricians really to start talking to parents about why this is important. People trust their doctors. They particularly trust their pediatricians and now we'll see how deep that trust is.

I hope people will take the opportunity to talk to their doctors because they are going to recommend this vaccine.

TAPPER: A new analysis shows done for CNN shows that at least 89 percent of those Americans who are already vaccinated, like you or me, will qualify for booster shots, if it's been six months since they got their second shot or their last dose. Do you recommend that every one of the 89 percent get our booster shots?

REINER: I think eventually everyone is going to get a booster shot. When we started to hear that boosters were on the horizon, one of the sort of talking points we heard from folks like Tony Fauci was, you know, in retrospect, this was really always going to be a three-dose vaccine. So -- and I think that's true.

And if the mRNA vaccines are really truly three-dose vaccines, why aren't they three-dose vaccines for everyone? And if we look at who is high risk and we include hypertension and obesity and public-facing job, yeah, then just about everyone can fit into one of these categories. Maybe the exception of, you know, 20-year-old with no past medical history, but the vast majority of us will fall into that category.

And we know that everyone is susceptible to reinfection the longer it's been since your last dose. So my sense is, if this is really a three-dose vaccine, then let's get the third dose into people when they get to six months. And I think we're sort of inching towards that kind of strategy.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Reiner, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

President Biden admits a, quote, "clumsy" mistake on the part of his administration as he meets with a key ally.

Plus, the armorer speaks and says she was overruled on safety protocols before the fatal on-set shooting.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: President Biden's overseas trip tops our world lead. He just wrapped up day one of a marathon of meetings, ending the day with French President Emmanuel Macron, trying to mend the U.S. relationship with its oldest ally after the nuclear submarine deal with Australia cost France billions. Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history, started the day with a 90-minute session with Pope Francis inside the Vatican in front of Vatican-controlled cameras only.

President Biden seemed to have a warm reception with each leader.

Let's bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins in Rome. She's traveling with the president.

And, Kaitlan, Biden acknowledged some of the more sensitive subjects he addressed behind closed doors with both leaders.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, meeting with the pope behind closed doors for about 90 minutes, Jake. 75 minutes of that which were one on one and the president afterward was candid talking about what they had discussed. But also with the French president that conversation happened in front of cameras over this public feud that broke out between the two countries about six weeks ago.


COLLINS: President Biden conceding a faux pas with France.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: France is an extremely valued partner.

COLLINS: Biden attempting to repair his relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron following a major diplomatic rift.

REPORTER: Is the relationship repaired?

BIDEN: To use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace.

COLLINS: Biden candidly acknowledging the U.S. poorly handled a submarine deal with Australia and the United Kingdom which undermined France and cost them a multibillion-dollar deal.

BIDEN: I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through. Hones to God, I did not know you had not been. COLLINS: Biden arguing the U.S./French relationship is too strong to

let a diplomatic feud damage the friendship.

BIDEN: There is too much we have done together, suffered together, celebrated together.

COLLINS: Macron echoing that sentiment as he pushed his own priorities.

PRES. EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE: What really matters now is what we will do together in the coming weeks, coming months, coming years.

COLLINS: Before making up with the French, Biden spent 90 minutes behind closed doors with Pope Francis in what became a deeply personally meeting at the Vatican.

BIDEN: I know my son would want me to give this to you because on the back of it, I have the state of Delaware and the 261st unit my son served with.

COLLINS: Amid a push by conservative U.S. bishops to deny him communion because of his support for abortion rights, Biden says the pope called him a good Catholic.

REPORTER: Did the issue of abortion come up at all?

BIDEN: No, it didn't. He came up and we just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving communion.

REPORTER: He said you should keep receiving communion?


COLLINS: The president will end his trip with a global climate summit as his domestic agenda remains in limbo in Washington after Democrats declined to pass legislation cementing hundreds of billions to fight climate change.

GINA MCCARTHY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISER: The president has every right to go there and hold his head up high and show the world that we can tackle climate. We have no time to spare.


COLLINS: And, Jake, the way they scaled back the climate provisions in the president's latest framework came up during his meeting with the pope today, he said. Of course, climate was one of the number one issues on their agenda, something that they both deeply care about. But whether or not those agreements and that framework he got before leaving Washington and not an actual deal passed by Congress, if that's sufficient enough for those world leaders at the climate summit remains to be seen, Jake.


TAPPER: Yeah, Kaitlan, stay with me.

I want to also bring in Nic Robertson, CNN's international diplomatic editor.

Nic, let's start with the president's last meeting of the day with French President Emmanuel Macron. Biden himself used the word clumsy to describe his own administration's handling of that submarine deal with Australia that cut France out of its own submarine deal with Australia. I want to play again part of that moment.


BIDEN: What we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace. I was under the impression that France was informed long before that the deal would got through. Honest to god. I did not know you had not been.


TAPPER: President Biden might believe he's patched up this Democratic rift. How is it being received in France? The fallout and the apology?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think the groundwork that has gone over the last few weeks has been referenced in the joint document, joint statement that President Biden and Emmanuel Macron have put out speaks to that. The sort of concrete efforts that have happened over the past few weeks since they first spoke back in late September. Macron seems to be taking some comfort from that. Talked about the nuclear relationship, talks about defense points that are important for France and important for France as well is security Cooperation, particularly the Sahil of Africa.

So, I think France is going to take something away. Macron comes out of this looking better -- much better than he did a few weeks ago. He needed that. There are elections coming up.

I think they are both playing it as a plus, and it is for Macron right now.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, this is the first meeting President Biden, who is the only second Catholic president in the history of the United States, the first meeting with the pope as president. It sounds like it was a very emotional and meaningful meeting.

I do wonder, there are tens of thousands of Catholic Americans who remain traumatized by the decades if not centuries-old Catholic sex abuse scandal which includes some really nefarious cover-ups by the church itself. Some of those were in Biden's own diocese in Delaware. Do you know if he brought this up to see that nothing like this ever happens again?

COLLINS: Well, Jake, it's a subject that seems almost unavoidable. But we've asked the White House whether or not explicitly it came up during that meeting given how long that meeting went. The White House hasn't said yet. We know some of the touchier subjects the president would decline to

say whether that was something they discussed, including the controversy inside the United States with those conservative bishops trying to say the president shouldn't be able to get communion. He was saying that's a private conversation.

But this was a really lengthy meeting, Jake. And so, we've seen the priorities that they talked about. Of course, what was on the official schedule -- climate change, immigration, and whatnot, the COVID-19 pandemic. This was not mentioned in the readout we got from the White House, though.

TAPPER: Nic, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be among the world leaders Biden meets with tomorrow. What are we expecting from that?

ROBERTSON: Yeah, this is going to be about Iran. I mean, he will -- Biden will have a separate sort of brush by with Boris Johnson but there is this quadrilateral meeting if you will where President Biden gets to talk with the other partners in the Iran deal, remembering that just in the past couple of days, Iran has agreed with an EU diplomat that they will get back into the JCPOA, the nuclear talks that stalled at the end of June.

So this is a chance tomorrow for President Biden to speak with Emmanuel Macron, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and this is her farewell summit, if you will, and with Boris Johnson. So, this will be a real sort of frank, focused, make sure that both -- sort of all on the same message page, if you will, how to deal with Iran because this is seen as an important moment, a pivot moment with Iran.

Are they really going to get back into talks and what are the costs if they don't? So, this will be an important meeting on the Iran issue tomorrow, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, after the G20 summit, President Biden then heads to the climate conference in Scotland. He'll do so with only a commitment of clean energy initiatives instead of a deal in hand from Congress.

COLLINS: Yeah, and I think that could question -- you know, make some of the leaders question how firm that commitment is. It's not just that the president wants to go there and have this and say we got this passed. The White House is hoping to use it as a standard, kind of, to show other nations and their leaders what the United States is doing and say that this is something you should follow suit on.

And, Jake, we should note the president, of course, is going into this meeting without having that in hand. And it's really a standard that his own administration and the president has set because when he was discussing these climate provisions with Democrats privately at the White House earlier this week, he said the U.S. -- the procedure the United States was on the line and wanted to make sure that they had that.

[16:25:01] So, that is the standard set by the White House, and one that they are going to fall short of because of what's happening in Washington right now.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, Nic Robertson, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.

So, how is President Biden's foreign trip going? We're going to talk to the ranking Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, next.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, an old saying here in Washington held that politics stop at the water's edge.


Meaning, everyone kept quiet when a U.S. president headed overseas on a diplomatic mission. That's kind of been out the window for a long time. These days, it's all politics all the time.

So, President Biden is in Europe for the G20 Summit, as well as the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. Let's get a Republican perspective on it all.

Congressman Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He represents a district in the Austin area of Texas?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Austin to Houston.

TAPPER: Austin to Houston.

So, just broadly, what's the most important issue you want President Biden to talk about at the G20 summit?

MCCAUL: For me personally, national security. I think China with their launch of the hypersonic missile that we detected. It's been released now in August. It's a huge, serious threat not only to the United States and our homeland but to the world.

These missiles can go undetected. Our missile defense systems cannot stop them. And I was disappointed to hear that China is not going to participate in person but rather virtually. And I really think the role that China is playing right now is a now global military, economic superpower. It needs to be addressed.

TAPPER: What would you want the G20 to do with China? I mean, they will be participating virtually. I'm not sure what they're trying to convey with that. Maybe that they don't have to go or maybe because of the pandemic that originated there. But in any case what do you want the other 19 nations to do?

MCCAUL: Well, the Sputnik moment needs to be addressed by the international community. And we need to look at international treaties.

We have no treaties with China when it comes to ballistic missiles, these hypersonics now. Their capabilities exceeded what our intelligence community thought they were capable of doing.

And the world stage needs to address this threat. We have new START with Russia. And we need to come in new START agreement that includes both Russia and China when it comes too nuclear weapons, and we don't have that with China right now.

TAPPER: What are you looking for in the U.N. climate conference, both as a U.S. congressman and as a congressman from Texas? Which, obviously, a lot of your economy depends on fossil fuels.

MCCAUL: Well, you know, look, I think it's got to be a transition. We're all for clean environment, but I think some of Biden's energy policies with letting Putin complete his pipeline into Europe is dirty energy. Now, we're replying on OPEC again. Not as clean as the United States. Shut down of Keystone, not permitting in the United States.

We were a large number one exporter of energy. Now going back to being reliant on other countries. I do think that if they are going to talk about this, and I think it should be talked about. Climate is important.

But if you're going to do that, why is China not being held accountable to the same standards as all the other nations? And you know why? Because under the Paris agreements they were treated as a developing nation.

This goes back to the World Bank. Give them interest-free loans, belt and road initiative. China is one of the number one polluters in the world.

TAPPER: I think the number one.

MCCAUL: I would say number one, I think belt and road initiative in Africa, there's coal power plants up every week and if this is not addressed, it's really an issue of just more pragmatic about this. What's going to really work?

We can all sign up for this and put all this money in. But if you'll leave out the number one polluter, that doesn't make sense to me. So I think if they can hold China accountable, that would make sense.

TAPPER: Speaking of China, CNN's Will Ripley got an exclusive interview with the president of Taiwan earlier this week in which she publicly disclosed, surprisingly perhaps, that there are U.S. troops in Taiwan providing training and China, the government, obviously, took umbrage, restated his opposition to any official military contact between the U.S. and Taiwan. This is potentially very dangerous, combustible situation.

MCCAUL: It's -- China is on a sprint right now with Taiwan. They took over Hong Kong after Afghanistan. I think both Putin and President Xi see weakness. And they are looking at Taiwan right now. The nuclear submarine deal was a positive thing for the administration.

TAPPER: The one with Australia.

MCCAUL: The one with Australia and the Brits but that's going to take years to implement.

So, I've got a classified briefing on this. Not privy to talk about this on national TV, but it was chilling, in terms of the influence that China has over the island. What they've done in terms of circling the island, and the disparity in terms of weapons systems.

You know, Taiwan needs an asymmetrical warfare system, just like what Beijing has done to us with the hypersonic. That was a wake-up call, the hypersonic. If we don't show deterrence, you know, against China with Taiwan, they will take it over.

And so, I think deterrence is really the key here. And the Indo- Pacific Command that we got briefed by, they are aware of that.


The administration is aware of it. And I think we got to show a strong deterrence there.

TAPPER: I have a hard time imagining many Americans, especially after the 20 years of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq, thinking that they are willing to send one American service member, one man, one woman, one son, one daughter to fight a war against China to protect Taiwan.

I mean, however lofty the goal, however solid the commitment, however important it is to deter China, I just have a very tough time imagining any Americans saying, yeah, that's worth it.

MCCAUL: I think we are a war-weary nation. The American people, at the end of the day would they be willing to go to war with China over Taiwan? And we talk about the democracy and freedom issues, the fact that Taiwan is a great intelligence asset for us in the region. But if we don't show that deterrence, if it gets to that breaking point, the CCP is moving in, are we really going to be there as a nation and our allies to stop it?

TAPPER: And lastly, speaking of Afghanistan, tomorrow marks two months since the U.S., the last plane left that country. In a speech today, U.S. government special inspector general blasted both the State and Defense Departments for withholding information since at least 2015. So this is both -- not both, Biden, Trump and Obama about warning signs that could have predicted what took place.

Have you found the Pentagon and State Department, generally speaking, transparent, cooperative, when you've had hearings or participated in hearings?

MCCAUL: Well, I applaud the IG, the watchdog's efforts here and they have been withholding information. They haven't been transparent with Congress. Not just in the last summer as you and I have talked a lot about but also for the last, shoot --

TAPPER: Twenty years?

MCCAUL: Maybe 20 years, right?


MCCAUL: And we need a candid assessment of that just like with the evacuation.

So, I think it's important. I've asked my chairman and ranking member to hold a full investigation on this. We've had some hearings. But I hired a former CNN reporter to do our investigation into what happened last summer.

How did it get so wrong, as you said on air? How did this whole thing get so wrong where we left so many Americans behind, so many of our Afghan partners behind that are certainly now probably most likely going to be executed by the Taliban.

TAPPER: Congressman Michael McCaul, it's always good to have you here. Thank you so much.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: It's a contest that could give us a clue into the midterms. The latest in the final fight for Virginia's governor's mansion. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, it's the final weekend of campaigning in a race seen as a bellwether for the midterms. Democrats rolling out another big hitter in the Virginia governor's race. Vice President Kamala Harris set to campaign with Terry McAuliffe in just a few hours, heading to Norfolk, a military area with a large minority population. It's an area Biden won by more than 45 points, but it could be the inability of Democrats in Washington to find consensus and that could be a fatal blow to the McAuliffe bid.

CNN's Arlette Saenz taking a closer look at the last-minute messaging wars on both sides of the aisle.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With four days to go, the race for Virginia's next governor is entering its final sprint.

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This race is going to be decided about who works the hardest, who plays the hardest, who leaves nothing undone over the next four days.

SAENZ: Democrat Terry McAuliffe leaning on big names like Vice President Kamala Harris and Virginia native Farrell Williams in Norfolk tonight.

Hoping to get Democrats happy and to the polls.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Big, big plans to take Virginia. None of this happens if you don't vote.

SAENZ: While Republican Glenn Youngkin is rolling through Virginia on a bus tour ahead of Tuesday's election.

YOUNGKIN: Polls don't elect governors. Voters do. Voters do. So, now, it's time for all of us to go to work.

SAENZ: Nearly 1 million Virginians have already cast their ballots. With most polls showing the candidates running neck and neck. Just one year after President Biden beat Donald Trump in the commonwealth, by ten points.

For months, Democrats have tried to tie Youngkin to former President Trump.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just remember this, I ran against Donald Trump. And terry is running against an acolyte of Donald Trump.

SAENZ: But Youngkin has tried to walk a Trump tightrope, even as the former President plans to call into a conservative video host's tele- rally on election eve.

YOUNGKIN: Well, he's not coming. And in fact, we're campaigning as Virginians in Virginia, with Virginians.

SAENZ: As he seeks a second act as governor. McAuliffe is heading into election day without much hoped for Democratic win on Capitol Hill. With President Biden's economic agenda still tangled up in division among Democrats.

MCAULIFFE: They just need to do their job, and quit prancing around. Get in a room, get this passed. We need help here in the states.

SAENZ: The stakes are high for both parties. They have their eyes on 2022 when Democrats will defend their narrow majorities in congress.

MCAULIFFE: This is real. This is not only the future of Virginia. This is who we are as a country.


SAENZ (on camera): Now, Vice President Kamala Harris will take the stage with Terry McAuliffe here in Norfolk in just a few hours.

This is the second time she's campaigning with him during this race. And it comes as both Youngkin and McAuliffe are set to launch a full- court press over the weekend. Each candidate has ten events across Virginia as they are trying to gear up and drum up support heading into Tuesday -- Jake.


TAPPER: Arlette Saenz on the campaign trail in Norfolk, Virginia.

Tuesday night is election night in America. CNN is covering the high stakes races in both Virginia and New Jersey. Plus, New York City's mayor's race. Our special live coverage starts Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Investigators are trying to piece together what happened in the fatal Alec Baldwin shooting. And now, we're learning what the armorer, the person in charge of the guns, has to say. That's next.



TAPPER: Continuing coverage of the tragedy in New Mexico in our pop culture lead today. The armorer, the person in charge of the guns on the movie set "Rust", says she, quote, had no idea, unquote, where the real bullets that killed the film's director of photography Halyna Hutchins came from. An admission put out in a statement put out by her lawyers, the armorer's lawyers, as investigators tried to piece together what led to Alec Baldwin firing a gun that killed one person and injured another during rehearsal.

And as CNN's Natasha Chen reports for us now, the statement on behalf of the armorer raises more questions than answers.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the last people to handle the gun handed to Alec Baldwin before he fired that fatal shot has broken her silence. A statement from the attorneys for "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed says she's been falsely portrayed. It goes on claiming safety is Hannah's number one priority on set and would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from.

The Santa Fe sheriff told CNN the live rounds may be key to their investigation.

SHERIFF ADAN MENDOZA, SANTA FE COUNTY, NEW MEXICO: That's the focus of the investigation as I stated. Why these rounds were there, who brought them there and how they got there.

CHEN: Reacting to allegations reported by "The Wrap" crew members they may have used them for target practice during down time. Gutierrez Reed's lawyers say she never saw anyone shoot live rounds with the guns, nor would she permit that.

MENDOZA: We encourage Ms. Gutierrez Reed to come in so we can try to determine how those live rounds ended up on set.

CHEN: Gutierrez's Reed's attorneys defended their client stating she was hired for two positions on "rust," making it hard for her to focus on the job of armorer. It says she fought for training, time to maintain weapons but was overruled by production. A new inventory list for a warrant revealed 12 revolvers and ammunition have been recovered from a prop truck. It's unclear if the ammunition includes live rounds.

Gutierrez Reed claims two accidental discharges on the "Rust" set before the fatal shooting were at the hands of other people and these never had an accidental discharge. A key grip who worked with Gutierrez Reed on a previous film said there were unannounced discharges on that set.

STU BRUMBAUGH, KEY GRIP ON "RUST": Those are star in our film had actually yelled out about the unannounced discharge.

CHEN: He says, in general, producers find younger people willing to work for less instead of hiring Hollywood veterans who demand more manpower and time for everyone's safety.

BRUMBAUGH: This young mother, this DP, was killed on a movie set because of money. And that's really what it boils down to. And that's the sad part about this.


CHEN (on camera): The production company behind "Rust" has said it was not aware of any complaints about weapon or prop safety and that safety is the top priority.

Our colleague Josh Campbell is also reporting that since giving an initial statement to the sheriff's office here, Hannah Gutierrez Reed has yet to indicate whether she'll follow up with another interview. That same source tells josh that investigators have been in direct contact with Alec Baldwin who is willingly spoken with them when they've called him for additional follow-up questions -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A quick note from us here at THE LEAD, we don't often mention our competitors but the Fox Channel anchor opposite us from 4:00 to 5:00, Neil Cavuto, has been in the news. And we just wanted to take a moment to say a couple of things about Neil.

Neil is a survivor. He has multiple sclerosis. He has had open heart surgery. He beat stage four cancer and he's now fighting COVID.

Neil recently talked about the importance of vaccines on air precisely to protect people like him who have compromised immune systems. Sadly, many in the audience watching have been lied to about vaccines by others. Neil has received death threats for his simple, logical, science-based call for vaccinations.

And Neil Cavuto is a gentleman. Neil does not deserve that. Stay strong, Neil. We wish you health and a long, long life.

Coming up next -- can Democrats come to an agreement on President Biden's agenda? We'll talk to someone at the center of all the action. The chairman of the congressional progressive caucus will join us next.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, a COVID vaccine can now ship out for kids 5 to 11, but millions of parents have questions before they'll make an appointment for their kids. We're going to talk to the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Plus, a top Republican critic of Trump will not run for re-election but Adam Kinzinger has not ruled out running for another office.

And leading this hour, President Biden's last-minute push for his agenda in Washington fails. The Democrats punt, for now, on his legacy-defining legislation. We're going to talk to the chair of the Progressive House Caucus in moments.

But, first, President Biden has kicked off his foreign trip. The proud Catholic president meeting with Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron after a major diplomatic dust-up or major diplomatic dust-up, depending on your point of view.

President Biden admitting his administration had handled that all in a, quote, clumsy manner.

Let's bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's in Rome traveling with the president.

And, Kaitlan, Biden has a packed schedule with world leaders. So does his part in negotiations with Democrats on Capitol Hill over that agenda, does that, for --