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Biden Under Intense Scrutiny As NATO Leaders Meet In DC; Jury Selection Begins In Alec Baldwin "Rust" Trial; Trump On VP Pick: "I Haven't Made Final Decisions"; West Endures Punishing, Record-Breaking Heat. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 13:30   ET



KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: What this tells Vladimir Putin is that we lack the commitment and resolve to actually move right now. And, therefore, incentivizes him to continue the war. He thinks that if he can keep fighting, he can still win. We need to have a stronger response.

And that said, I think this summit is not going to do that. And this summit is going to make incremental steps. But we do need to have a clear commitment to a Ukrainian victory and then bring Ukraine into NATO at the end of that so that we can avoid future was in Europe.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: And of course, there's also, Ambassador, the question of the role of the U.S. and NATO with -- as it relates to the current political environment and our election.

We have President Biden, obviously, a stanch supporter of NATO, as all presidents have been. And then we have President Trump who has said somethings like, if countries don't pay what they're supposed to, he'll let Russia do whatever -- do whatever it wants to them.

How does NATO go about protecting Ukraine in this case from the political headwinds and kind of the volatility that American politics can inject into this?

VOLKER: Well, first of all, you're absolutely right. That question is the big elephant in the room. It's casting a shadow over the entire summit.

People wonder, what's going on with President Biden? Is he fit to lead as president today? Will he run for reelection? Will he be replaced? And if he's not, is it going to be Donald Trump? And what is he going to do?

That question about American leadership is fundamental and hanging over the summit.

Now, what should be done and you asked this in your question. We should be institutionalizing ways of supporting Ukraine so that we are a little bit more secure against the volatility in our own democratic systems. Of course, the Congress is going to have times when other priorities and it's going to be difficult to pass something. The same thing with the European Union.

So let's establish a couple of key things. A fund at NATO, based on the existing cost share formula -- the U.S. pays 20 percent -- to say that this is how we're going to provided ammunition and arms for Ukraine over the long term.

Let's put in place the Lend-Lease arrangements that we had on the books until the end of '22. Get them back in there so Ukraine can borrow money if needed without depending upon an appropriation from the U.S. Congress.

The E.U. could put in place of fund for increasing their defense industrial production and providing that to Ukraine.

A lot of steps could be taken that are more structural than what we're doing right now.

DEAN: All right, we'll see what develops over the next few days.

Ambassador Kurt Volker and Beth Sanner, our thanks to both of you.

Jury selection underway in the trial of Actor Alec Baldwin three years after the deadly shooting on the set of the film, "Rust." We're going to have the latest from inside the courtroom.

And in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl, millions in Texas are without power. And making matters worse, temperatures are now soaring, creating dangerously hot conditions. We'll have details ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Jury selection is underway in Alec Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial. He's, of course, charged in the death of cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the set of the film "Rust".

Prosecutors say the actor was negligent and reckless in his handling of a prop gun when it fired a live round. He, of course, had pleaded not guilty.

DEAN: And in a significant victory for the defense, the judge ruled Baldwin's role as one of the film's producers is not relevant to the trial.

There have been a lot of twists and turns in the nearly three years since the tragic shooting in Santa fe, New Mexico.

And CNN's Josh Campbell walks us through it all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): October 2021, Alec Baldwin was rehearsing on the set of "Rust" in remote New Mexico, seemingly, just another day in the life of a megastar with four decades in show business.

He's handed a real revolver as a prop and told it's safe. Then an unexpected gunshot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One female shot in the chest.

CAMPBELL: Hours later, cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was dead, another crew member injured, and the film's production in chaos.

Baldwin's involvement in the shooting and alleged safety concerns on set suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

Flash-forward two and a half years later.

UNIDENTIFIED JUROR: We find the defendant, Hannah Gutierrez, guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

CAMPBELL: The movie's armorer is sentenced to prison for involuntary manslaughter.

And Baldwin, who is an executive producer on the film, is facing the same charge. He's pleaded not guilty, and in a 2022 interview with CNN, denied any criminal liability.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I never took a gun and pointed at somebody and clicked the thing.

CAMPBELL: He blames armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and assistant director, David Halls, for the live round that was loaded into the gun, while his attorneys argue the shooting was an accident and Baldwin is not criminally liable.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Just because it's an accident doesn't mean that it's not criminal.


CAMPBELL: The convoluted path to trial has itself all the makings of a Hollywood drama. Months after being charged in 2023, Baldwin's case was suddenly dropped by New Mexico's special prosecutors, citing, quote, "new facts."

But the actor was indicted in January with involuntary manslaughter, this time by a grand jury.

His attorneys tried and failed at multiple attempts to get the case dismissed. At one point, alleging improper destruction of evidence, arguing the gun was virtually destroyed by FBI testing.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: I'd love to do this once again. I'll do it again.


CAMPBELL: The pretrial hearings, thus far, marked by frequent clashes between attorneys from each side.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: If the prosecutor is listening to testimony that a prosecutor knows is false, a prosecutor has an obligation to correct it. So this testimony that he's given --




UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Stop, stop, stop, both of you.

CAMPBELL: Prosecutors also intend to highlight what they say is Baldwin's negligence while overseeing a set allegedly plagued by dangerous conduct.


CARMACK-ALTWIES: He didn't do any of the things that he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.

CAMPBELL: Beyond Baldwin's approaching legal fate --

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: The future of "Rust" is in limbo. There is no distribution partner. There is no release date.

CAMPBELL: -- and beyond this one movie, a larger question remains: Will the deadly accident on the set of "Rust" lead to new laws regulating safety practices across the film industry?

WAGMEISTER: There's a ton of production in other states, like Georgia with Atlanta, also New Mexico, and, of course, New York. So it remains to be seen just the reach of this terrible tragedy and if these laws will go into effect nationwide.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Santa Fe, New Mexico.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Josh for that report.

Still ahead, former President Donald Trump says he is in wait-and-see mode when it comes to picking a potential vice president. Why what happens to President Biden could factor in that decision.


[13:45:08] SANCHEZ: In a matter of hours, Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail after keeping a relatively low profile for several days. It comes less than a week before the Republican National Convention begins on Monday in Wisconsin. And the clock is ticking for the former president to name his running mate.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now live from Miami where the former president is set to hold a rally later tonight.

Kristen, what can we expect?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, there is a deadline here for Donald Trump to actually make his announcement for a vice-presidential pick, and that is Monday. One source said it could come as late as Monday morning.

But right now, we really are in a holding pattern. Obviously, we had thought originally -- we were told by some of Trump's advisers that they were looking to tonight at this event in Miami to potentially be the unveiling of the vice president.

But it doesn't seem like that's going to happen. And part of that is because Donald Trump himself is waiting to see how this all plays out with President Joe Biden.

Here's what he said in his interview last night.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't made a final decision, but I have some ideas as to where we're going.

And a little bit -- you know, we wanted to see what they're doing, to be honest, because, you know, it might make a difference, I don't know. I'm not sure that it would.

But there are those that say Trump's waiting until he finds out what's going to happen with Crooked Joe Biden. And we'll see what happens with Biden.


HOLMES: And this is one of my favorite things. There are those who say Trump is waiting, even though Trump himself is the one speaking and talking about it. And he is also the one who is going to make the final decision.

So here's what we actually do know. All these question marks that we have heard from senior advisers is the list is really down to three.

There are three people whose names he has continued to bat around. That is Senator Marco Rubio and J.D. Vance as well as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Now which one of them is at the top of the list? Well, it really depends on who Donald Trump spoke to last and who reporters are speaking to.

Remember, there are a lot of people who are allies of all three of these men who really want to see their person win, which means they might hear a different thing from Donald Trump than, say, someone else here.

All of this to say we are reading every tea leave. We are waiting to see what he does and when he does it.

One thing I will say is not to read too much into the fact that he is currently doing a rally in Miami and the only one on that list is Senator Marco Rubio, who is going to be here tonight.

But, Boris, it is impossible not to read too much into anything when we are all staring at this giant question mark and this counting down clock ahead of Monday.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it could be just a big tease until the convention. Perhaps he will announce it there.

Kristen Holmes, live for us in Doral in Miami, thank you so much.

Still ahead, a massive heatwave is blanketing the United States right now, shattering records and creating dangerous sweltering conditions. We have details on who is feeling the worst of it next on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



DEAN: Happening now, remnants of what was Hurricane Beryl could trigger flash flooding and possible tornadoes across parts of the Midwest tonight.

In Texas, more than two million people are still in the dark after Beryl knocked out power. And some customers could be waiting days, possibly even weeks before theirs is back on.

And this is all happening as sweltering heat settles in over that region, prompting officials to open a number of cooling centers.


SANCHEZ: Yes, sweltering heat. More than 130 million people are under heat alerts across the United States. That includes people in Las Vegas, which has reached or exceeded 110 degrees every day since last Wednesday.

And get this, New York was so hot yesterday that this bridge stopped working. It got stuck in this open position from all of the heat causing the steel to expand. Thankfully, traffic is now moving again.

Let's get a check-in from California with CNN's Staphanie Elam who is live for us in Woodland Hills.

Stephanie, how are folks coping with this weather?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You have to stay inside or you have to do what you need to do early in the day, Boris. And actually, I've moved from Woodland Hills and I'm now in Burbank.

And I can tell you, you see people out walking early in the morning when the temperatures are still high 60s before they jump up to these triple-digit numbers that we are seeing by the time you get to the late afternoon.

Now we have seen records just being broken around the region. I mean, Palm Springs, all time new high of 124 degrees, Las Vegas 120. That was hit on Sunday. Today -- or yesterday, hit 115, if you can call that a cool off. Not really.

And then you have Ukiah 117, Palm Dale at 115. Just showing you, it's not just southern California, it's not just the desert, but also the far northern part of the state as well as we are seeing these baking temperatures that are sticking around as climate change is really being felt here in the west.

And the extent of this heatwave and how long it's hanging around. Death Valley, that hitting 125 degrees. That is expected to continue. These temperatures through Friday and through many of these other places through the weekend as well.

So it's not just that fact that they are hitting these temperatures, it's the length of time as well, Boris, of these heatwaves that are making them so entirely dangerous.

And you've got to keep in mind that a lot of these people live near the coast or they live in parts of the state or area where they don't need air conditioning, usually.

But because we're seeing it more humid and hotter, this is something that they don't have and now they're inside with these hot temperatures without a lot of relief.

SANCHEZ: And the heat, Stephanie, is also having an impact on all those fires burning out west.


ELAM: No doubt about it. And I was, you know, out in the fire line Fourth of July, out there looking at these fires that are blowing up.

And then -- you can probably see the wind is also starting to pick up. That's also part of the problem. When you take a look at the Lake Fire, which is the largest fire that's burning right now, more than 26,000 acres, is now 12 percent contained.

But they are concerned about these winds picking up in the afternoon. And that is dangerous because all it takes is a little bit of a breeze to pick up an ember of fire, below it to another home or another building nearby, and that fire could become engulfed in flames. This is the concern. And then on top of that, think about those firefighters that are out there with all of that gear hiking up through that rough terrain to put out these blazes. It's also very dangerous for them.

Well, we saw with an earlier fire that some of the firefighters were hurt because of heat illnesses, but they were expected to recover. So all of this making it very dangerous for everyone working outside and also living here -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Challenging conditions for those firefighters, no doubt.

Stephanie Elam, live for us in Burbank, thank you so much.

So just minutes from now, we're going to hear from members of Democratic leadership from both the House and Senate. What are they going to have to say about the future of President Biden's reelection bid?

Stay with CNN. We're back in just a few minutes.