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Cinematographer Killed by Prop Gun; Jim Hemphill is Interviewed about Halyna Hutchins; CNN's Town Hall with Biden; Biden Open to Altering Filibuster. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 22, 2021 - 09:00   ET



RAZIA JAN, CNN HERO: To lean. That gives me hope. Maybe it won't be the same, but we can do something to educate these girls because I'm not going to give in.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And next Friday we'll be announcing this year's top ten CNN heroes right here on NEW DAY at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. You can find out more at

And CNN's coverage continues right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill.


We begin this morning with just a shocking death on a movie set in New Mexico. Police are now investigating after actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed the cinematographer of his latest film. Investigators say Halyna Hutchins was airlifted from the set of "Rust," a western being filmed near Santa Fe. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

HILL: The film's director, Joel Souza, was also injured.

You're looking at pictures here, of course, of the movie's star, Alec Baldwin. He's also a producer. This was just, we're told, in the moments after that incident.

CNN's Stephanie Elam joining us now.

So there are a lot of questions about what happened. How many answers do we have this morning, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's probably more questions than there are answers at this point, Erica and Jim.

What we do know, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, is that they received a call shortly before 2:00 p.m. local time yesterday, a 911 call that came in saying that there had been a shooting on the set. They responded to this movie set, which is on the Bonanza Creek Ranch. And that's when they discovered that two people had been shot.

Now, the way they worded it, is that this prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin. That's how they worded it. They went on to say that they continued to investigate. They are talking to people who were witnesses, who saw what happened. No charges have been filed yet in this.

But we do have a statement from the company that's behind "Rust" about this incident and it says in part, the entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today's tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna's family and loved ones. They go on to say that the production has been halted for an undetermined period of time and that they're fully cooperating with the Santa Fe police department investigation and they're going to provide counseling service to everyone connected with the film.

Obviously, this movie being a western set in the 1880s, we went to go look it up, and according to IMDB, the sad irony here is it's about a 13-year-old boy who goes on the run with his estranged grandfather after he's accused of accidentally murdering somebody.

So, just a very sad turn of events here. We still don't have all of the answers. But, obviously, the sadness here is that this woman, this 42-year-old woman, Halyna Hutchins, has lost her life.

The director, we are still waiting to see what his condition is since this event, but, still, so many questions how this could have happened and how these two people were shot.

SCIUTTO: Sad. Just a devastating story.

Stephanie Elam, thanks so much.

Our next guest this morning is a filmmaker, as well as a contributor to "American Cinematographer Magazine."

Jim Hemphill, thanks so much for joining us this morning under just extremely sad circumstances.

But you wrote a profile of Halyna in 2019 as part of a feature on rising cinematographers. You had a chance to speak with her at the time. What can you share about her this morning?

JIM HEMPHILL, FILMMAKER AND JOURNALIST: Well, you know, she was a woman who was just in love with movies and movie-making. She grew up on a Soviet military base where there wasn't much to do but watch movies. So, she fell in love with movies at a young age, came over here, was really making a name for herself as a cinematographer of genre movies. She was known for action films and horror films. And, you know, it's just a devastating loss, I think, to everybody in the cinematography community.

HILL: Certainly so tough and she was young, right, I think 42.

You talk about the impact that she was having. She was also really starting to see some real accolades for her work. HEMPHILL: Yes, absolutely. I mean she came from a documentary

background. She actually studied journalism and then fell into filmmaking when she was working on documentaries in the U.K. That led her to come over here to the U.S. to work in a film industry where she kind of brought that eye that she had from documentaries and nonfiction filmmaking to, again, action movies and horror movies. So they had this sort of immediacy and realism, as well as this eye for beauty that she had. And it was really a unique look that was, you know, it was really announcing her as somebody to watch.

SCIUTTO: Can you describe the shock in the industry right now to something like this?

HEMPHILL: You know, I think -- yes, shock is the only word to describe it. Everyone that I've talked to and corresponded with on email, we're all -- no one can really believe it. I don't think it's really sunk in for people yet.


HILL: It hasn't really sunk in, I would imagine, in -- and on -- and that's two fold, right?


It's the personal for anybody who had a connection with Halyna and then it's also on the professional as to how this happens on a set. And those are a lot of the questions that we also don't have answers to this morning.

How much -- how much is that a part of the discussion?

HEMPHILL: Well, that's certainly a large part of it. I mean it's -- you know, this is, obviously, every filmmaker's worst fear is this happening on a set. And it is a thing, you know, we all know this happened with Brandon Lee on the set of "The Crow" going back now 30 years and we all, I think, thought that maybe after that there would be changes made and this kind of thing wouldn't be able to happen and so it's just -- it's -- it's stunning, yes. It's -- I think everybody's just trying to figure out what happened and how it happened and make sure it never happens again.

SCIUTTO: Well, what kind of changes -- what kind of changes are you talking about there following, for instance, the Lee death, as you mentioned, about three decades ago? What kind of changes were discussed and perhaps haven't been made?

HEMPHILL: I mean, I'll be honest with you, I don't know necessarily if they were implemented. I mean, I think, you know, just -- whenever something like that happens, there's a lot of talk about safety protocols and really, you know, what can be done to avoid it in the future. And to be honest with you, I don't remember actually what was implemented after the Brandon Lee death. And I'm not sure, given that we don't really know the details yet, I'm not sure what caused this accident and what could be done to prevent something like this from happening in the future. HILL: Jim Hemphill, really appreciate you joining us this morning and

giving us a look to -- into Halyna Hutchins, again, who died yesterday. Thank you so much.

HEMPHILL: Thanks for having me.

HILL: President Biden on stage at CNN's town hall. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, though, also sharing that spotlight. The president laying out in the most specific terms yet just what Senators Manchin and Sinema have pushed out of his sweeping social safety net package and what holdups still remain.

Also, where he's willing to compromise.

SCIUTTO: Listen, there was a lot of news last night. One major moment from the town hall, the president opened the door at least to big changes down the road to the Senate filibuster, which has been, of course, a major question, particularly regarding voting rights.

Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If, in fact, I get myself into, at this moment, the debate on the filibuster, I lose three -- at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": When it comes to voting rights, just so I'm clear, though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue, is that correct?

BIDEN: And maybe more.

COOPER: And maybe other issues?


SCIUTTO: That is quite a significant opening there.

We are covering all the angles from the town hall, like only CNN can.

Let's begin, though, at the White House, where Jeremy Diamond is here.

I mean the president laid out a sequence there saying, listen, I can't raise the idea of a carve out in the filibuster for voting rights until I get through this economic plan because he knows Sinema, Manchin, you know, oppose that.

But did he deliberately open the door to a next step that would involve a carveout for voting rights?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it was certainly a shift in the president's previous position over the filibuster. The president signaling, in the most clear terms yet, that he is open to, quote, fundamentally altering the filibuster, not just for voting rights, perhaps also this issue of the debt limit, but also maybe more is what the president said there. Certainly opening up pandora's box. But making very clear that that process is not something that he wants to, nor can he afford to engage in right now as he tries to get Senators Manchin and Sinema on board with this reconciliation package.

And that is where the president's focus is right now. And clearly it is a priority for the president over this issue of voting rights. That is just a matter of fact here.

We do know that the president kind of took us behind the curtains of those negotiations with those senators and with the differing factions of the Democratic Party, making very clear some of the provisions that are in and also some of those that are out. For example, paid family leave provision brought down from 12 weeks to four weeks. This issue of hearing medical -- hearing, dental, expansion of Medicare coverage, saying that that's probably not going to happen, looking instead at an $800 voucher and several other provisions here. The most detail that we have heard from the president so far.

And he repeatedly made clear that it was because of opposition from Senators Manchin and Sinema that the president was needing to make those hard choices.

Here is how he talked about some of the conversations with senator Sinema. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, first of all, she's smart as the devil, number one. Number two, she's very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation.


Very supportive. She's supportive of almost all the things I mentioned relating to everything from a family care to all -- to all those issues.

Where she's not supportive is she says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period. And so that's where it sort of breaks down.


DIAMOND: And a White House official later clarified that the president was only referring to Sinema's opposition to a corporate tax increase. But even with just that opposition, it is hard to see how the president maintains his promise to not raise taxes on people making over 400,000 and also make sure that this plan is paid for. That is indeed the challenge in the week ahead.

HILL: It certainly is.

Jeremy Diamond, from the White House for us this morning. Jeremy, thank you.

How are things playing out on Capitol Hill? Well, President Biden optimistic, some think, that a deal will get done, but there are still those key sticking points, as Jeremy was pointing out.

CNN's Jessica Dean joining us now from Capitol Hill.

So, this morning, Jessica, where do things stand in terms of even just this real framework that we've been waiting on?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica and Jim, there had been hope by Democratic leaders that perhaps they could have a framework around this massive economic package by today. It does not look like that's going to happen. But certainly people are keeping their foot on the gas. They certainly want to these negotiations to continue.

And what was really striking about that town hall last night was to hear from President Biden himself a lot more than we've heard from Senator Kyrsten Sinema ourselves here on The Hill. She really does not talk much publicly at all about where she stands on this and said she's negotiating directly with the White House, with President Biden.

So we did get -- it was more illuminated exactly what was going on, and he did highlight some of the key sticking points that remain, which includes some of the topics Jeremy just went through, things like the climate provisions, how to expand and if to expand Medicare to cover dental and vision and hearing, paid leave, prescription drug price reform and taxes.

And I want to zero in on those last two right there because those are biggies, the taxes probably being the biggest of all, because those are how they were intending to pay for this massive package. And Senator Sinema has expressed clearly to the president that she does not support raising taxes on corporations or individuals. And when President Biden was running for president, that was something we heard on the stump all the time. That's how he was going to pay for this. That's how the Democratic leaders had intended to pay for this.

So the question now is, how will they get that done? That's a big one. And, remember, they had -- you know, that had wide Democratic support across the spectrum in the Democratic Party. So keep an eye on that, Jim and Erica, and, again, prescription drug reform, another one that enjoys wide support from the public, and also from Democrats across this spectrum. That had been one they thought could help pay for this. It's now up in the air how that will work.

So those are the things we're watching as we go into next week and as they continue to negotiate. Over the weekend, we think that Pelosi and Schumer could be meeting with President Biden later today. We'll keep an eye out for that.

SCIUTTO: Well, one word we should banish from these discussions is the word "deadline," give that the deadline -- so many deadlines have been broken in the last couple of weeks.

Jessica Dean, good to have you on The Hill, thank you.

There was another big moment at the CNN town hall. President Biden said that the U.S. is committed to coming to Taiwan's defense if China were to launch an invasion. This follows China sending dozens of warplanes near Taiwan's self-declared air space in recent weeks, read by many as a genuine threat.

HILL: CNN international correspondent Will Ripley is in Taipei, Taiwan, this morning.

The president's stance really does seem to be in opposition to America's stated policy of strategic ambiguity. How is all of this playing out today?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly there have been a couple of moments now where the President Biden has talked about Taiwan and there has been a bit of confusion in this part of the world because when President Biden was asked about a conversation he had with President Xi Jinping, he said, oh, we're going to abide by the Taiwan agreement. But there really is no Taiwan agreement. And, in fact, the foreign ministry here in Taipei called Washington to clarify. And then the White House had to kind of back track and say, no, he's talking about the joint communiques, these joint statements that were released around 40 years ago when the U.S. normalized ties with Beijing and therefore no longer had an official diplomatic relationship with Taipei. Which even though it has its own government, Beijing considers this whole island kind of a renegade province that could be taken back at any time.

So part of the agreement with Beijing is that the U.S. can sell weapons to Taiwan, the U.S. can have a friendship with Taiwan, but it can't have -- it can't have a formal alliance with Taiwan and it can't say, I guess, for -- can't say whether or not it would actually come to Taiwan's military defense if Beijing were it try to take back this island.

The strategic ambiguity has helped to create decades of, you know, sustainable, peaceful co-existence between Taiwan and the mainland, but things have, obviously, been ratcheting up lately.


Here's the sound where President Biden actually spoke about Taiwan that raised a little bit of confusion.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why you have -- you know, you hear people saying, Biden wants to start a new cold war with China. I don't want a cold war with China. I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": So are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked it?

BIDEN: Yes, but -- yes, we have a commitment to do that.


RIPLEY: So that's why the White House is, once again, kind of walking back and saying, OK, he -- President Biden not saying that the U.S. would necessarily step in and defend Taiwan with U.S. troops, but perhaps maybe he was referring to the fact that the U.S. has been selling billions of dollars in weapons to Taiwan.

The government here, the foreign ministry here, wanted to say thank you to Washington for the comments by President Biden that are supportive of Taiwan. In Beijing, they put out a statement, and they said that basically China's urging the U.S. to strictly abide by these agreements, the joint communiques and the others that have helped create this sustainable relationship.

So maybe it was just a slip of the -- slip of the tongue or kind of an off the cuff remark, but certainly it did raise some questions in this part of the world.

Jim and Erica.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, part of the ambiguity, right, is leaving that question open as to what the U.S. would do, which is part of the deterrence against a possible Chinese invasion. So, you know, that's part of the big picture here.

Will Ripley, it's good to have you on the ground in Taiwan.

Still ahead, the FBI confirms the remains found at a Florida reserve are those of Brian Laundrie. What we're learning about where the investigation will go from here.

HILL: Plus, the leader of the gang that kidnapped 17 missionaries in Haiti now threatening to kill them if he doesn't get his ransom. Well, now the State Department is weighing in.

And a bit later, what you need to know about a COVID vaccine booster and the flu shot. Do you need to space those doses out? We'll ask a doctor.



SCIUTTO: There was lots of news last night. And in one of the biggest bits of news, and the strongest statement to date on this issue, President Biden, at the town hall, said that he is open to altering the Senate filibuster specifically to address both the debt limit and voting rights.

HILL: Joining us now to discuss, CNN's senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon.

Good to see you, my friend, on this Friday.


HILL: Making that public statement, that was clearly done for a reason, John Avlon. You don't just throw that out there. What's the impact this morning?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, first of all, we need to say that the president of the United States has zero percent unilateral power to change the filibuster rules.

That said, as a long-time Senate institutionalist, Biden moving his goal post on the filibuster is a very big deal potentially. And basically what he's doing by saying voting rights and the debt limit could be areas where the filibuster needs to be removed is saying that when there are issues of sort of existential basic importance to our democracy, the full faith and credit of the United States, the ability for our democracy to function, that maybe those areas should be separated from the general filibuster rules. That that could lead to a rapid escalation. No telling whether that would appeal to people like Manchin and Sinema. Manchin, who's been stymied in his efforts to get any Republican support for his compromise election reform bill. But it's a significant movement on issues of core importance to the United States.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, though, John. I wonder if there is some risk here because by raising this before he's got, you know, signatures on his infrastructure bill and the budget deal, where he needs a senator like Manchin and Sinema on board for those, but they oppose changes to the filibuster, but by tipping his hand here to say, well, maybe next this is something I pursue, does he risk their support for these budget and infrastructure deals?

AVLON: There's always a risk. But, remember, one of the reasons that McConnell actually got Republicans to back off their threats on the debit limit a few weeks ago was concern that that action was -- the filibuster around the debt ceiling was potentially pushing Manchin and Sinema to back away from their commitment to enforce the filibuster.

Look, it could be a part of an ornate negotiation in the case of Biden. It could also have -- him just being -- saying what he thinks is the right thing to do at that particular moment.


AVLON: But, of course, there's always risks. I don't think, at this point, either of those senators would scuttle the budget over the filibuster, or at least discussions of it being floated now.

HILL: Well, speaking of Manchin and Sinema, I mean, look, they figure prominently for weeks now as we know in nearly every single conversation which involves this bill. That being said, the amount of airtime that they have last night in terms of comments coming from President Biden, how much of that do you think was a signal?

AVLON: Well, look, as Biden said, you know, when you have a 50/50 Senate, every senator can act like president. And Manchin and Sinema have been playing a very hard game, really dragging out negotiations. We now found out from Biden, not Sinema, really, that her bottom line issue is no increase in the individual and corporate tax rate, which makes it very difficult to pay for these proposals that she allegedly supports and the rest of the agenda, which is typically something that centrists care about.

But I think Biden, last night, you know, his best format actually has always been the town hall, going back to the campaign. And I think he was able to explain measures of the bill with a degree of compassion and command of policy detail that we haven't always seen from him when he's behind the podium. And that shifts the debate somewhat.

SCIUTTO: Very quickly, John, the deadline should be, you know, shot to the moon right now, is an expression in Washington, as it relates to these negotiations. But there is like some hard time hacks coming up. Well, one being the debt ceiling question.


SCIUTTO: I mean how much more time do they have, quickly, to make a deal here?

AVLON: I mean, look, Terry McAuliffe, who's running for governor of Virginia, would like it to be yesterday.


The Democrats had a self-determined Halloween deadline.


AVLON: I wouldn't hang your hat on that. But they need to get something done this calendar year because the election cycle for the midterms is already looming.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I keep -- I'm thinking of "The Princess Bride," right, you know, that word doesn't mean what you think it means.

John Avlon, thanks very much.

AVLON: Always a good time for a "Princess Bride" reference.


HILL: Anytime you can bring it up, I'm here for you.

SCIUTTO: I do. I'm going to keep at it.

Still ahead, authorities have identified the remains of Brian Laundrie. And there are now new details emerging about the last time that his parents saw him alive.

Plus, what the family's attorney is saying about his fiance Gabby Petito.



SCIUTTO: Well, this morning, the attorney for Brian Laundrie's parents