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Insurrection Probe; Democrats Nearing Infrastructure Deal?; Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun in Deadly Shooting on Film Set. Aired 1- 1:30p ET
Aired October 22, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. And thanks for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We begin with the deadly shooting involving Alec Baldwin, the actor scene here overcome with emotion after police say he fired a prop gun Thursday while filming his new movie, killing the cinematographer and critically injuring the director.
The woman killed, Halyna Hutchins, was 42 years old and had been named a rising star by "American Cinematographer" magazine. Earlier this week, Hutchins posted this video of herself from the Western movie set riding on horseback here.
Now, Alec Baldwin talking about this just a short time ago, posting on Twitter: "There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred. And I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna."
CNN's Stephanie Elam joins us now.
Stephanie, this is just so tragic for everyone involved. What more do we know about how this happened?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and there's no way to get around that part of it, Ana.
What we do know is, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department, is that they got the call just before 2:00 p.m. that there was a shooting on the movie set. They responded to two people shot. We know that Hutchins was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
We know that director Joel Souza was taken to a regional hospital by ambulance. Still no official word on how he is doing at this point. It's still not clear, though, how anyone, especially the director of photography and the director, could be in the line of this gunfire. That's part of the questions that people have out there.
And then just many people wondering why there needs to be these kinds of props that can be so dangerous on sets. Obviously, this is not the first time that we have seen something like this happen. So many of them are saying there's computer technology now. There's ways to get around this where you don't actually have to have this danger on set.
And then also just want to show you this one look from Frances Fisher. She is an actor that you have seen in so many productions, from "Titanic" all the way down. Well, she is also part of this production "Rust," this Western that's being filmed, that they were filming there in New Mexico. It was a 1880s Western.
And she posted there saying just how much she adored watching Halyna work and posting this picture of her to remember her. So many people taking to Twitter to remember -- to Instagram to remember Halyna and the amazing work that she was doing and the path that she was already trailblazing at such a young age, but still so many questions on how this could have happened, and also why it could happen and how to make sure it never happens again, Ana.
CABRERA: No doubt about it.
Any update on the condition of the director who was injured?
ELAM: No, we are still waiting to get an official word on his condition. You can take maybe perhaps a little bit of hope because he was taken by ambulance to a regional hospital. So, maybe, hopefully he is doing better. He's 48 years old. There's still no word on that.
And also noting that, in the fact that he's worked with Alec Baldwin before, but Alec did not reference him in that tweet, in those two tweets that you read, so still looking to get more information on how he is doing. Hopefully, he is recovering and OK.
CABRERA: Thank you for your reporting, Stephanie Elam. We will check back with you as you get new information.
But joining us by phone right now is Mike Tristano. He's a state and federally licensed weapons expert and has more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry as an on-set weapons armorer. And he has worked with Alec Baldwin before.
Mike, thank you for jumping on with us.
First, based on your expertise, how could this have possibly happened?
MIKE TRISTANO, MOVIE SET ARMORER: That is an excellent question.
I don't know. I mean, I know people are saying, why are we using such dangerous weapons? Well, they're not dangerous if they're handled professionally by people who know what they're doing. I mean, we have been using guns in films since the early '20s.
CABRERA: So, how should a scene like this involving a prop gun be handled? What kind of safety precautions are supposed to be in place when scenes involving weapons are filmed?
TRISTANO: First, you need a professional armorer on the set who does this all the time, like myself or my crew.
You know, we supply the weapons, as well as the blanks. And there is never any live ammo on a film set ever. And I'm hearing that that's possibly what fired out of that gun. But the guns are never pointed at an actor or actress, a crew member, an animal, anything, on a set.
And it's a very safe process usually. This will -- having heard this happen was really amazing. And having it -- having heard it was Alec Baldwin was even more amazing. I have worked with Mr. Baldwin. He's very professional. He's very safe, very courteous.
So I can't imagine what he's going through right now. But things like this don't happen on movie sets usually. I think there's maybe a couple of instances over the many, many years that film has been in production, since the '20s, that something like this has happened.
Well, when you talk about this unknown, right, we don't know if it was a live round that was fired out, nothing definitive there.
TRISTANO: Right. We don't know.
CABRERA: But could something other than a live round have been fired out and seriously hurt or obviously killed somebody?
TRISTANO: Well, I don't know what range the gun was at, how far the gun -- or how far away the gun was from the young lady that got -- that was killed.
It is very hard to get killed by a blank, at least a professional movie blank. The blanks that we use are just a crimped casing. So the only thing in them is powder, which is what simulates the flash and in a Western the smoke from guns.
So, I mean, the worst people ever got would be a powder burn, which is -- it would be a little irritating, but certainly not going to kill you, so very many questions on this.
CABRERA: Yes, what are your biggest questions that you have right now?
TRISTANO: My biggest question is, who was in charge of the guns on this set? And no one seems to have that answer, which I find very puzzling.
Whenever we work on a film, we are the department in charge of the weapons. The weapons are always with us. They do not leave our possession until they're handed to an actor or actress on the set.
When that happens, we tell the actor if it's a hot gun, meaning if it's loaded with blanks, or a cold gun, meaning it's unloaded. And it's never -- it's never -- we never put blanks in the gun even until they're actually ready to film the shots.
All the rehearsals are done with what we call a cold gun, being empty. And we also set up the shot with the director of photography and the director, so the actor has a mark, meaning a place to fire at that he or she knows would be safe to fire the gun in that direction.
So, so many unanswered questions here. But who was in charge of these guns? Who supplied these guns? Who supplied the blanks, if there was a blank or how there was live ammo on the set?
CABRERA: And what was done with the gun prior to Alec Baldwin handling it?
TRISTANO: Right, right, exactly. There's so many questions. Was something lodged in that gun, like as what happened on the Brandon Lee tragedy? We don't know that.
CABRERA: Right, the one from 1993.
We supply our guns, so we know their safety aspects and that they're always clear and everything else. Many shows rent guns from different places.
CABRERA: OK, well, that's really interesting to learn.
Mike Tristano, I appreciate your expertise. And thank you for providing that context and perspective on this tragedy for all of us. I appreciate it.
TRISTANO: My pleasure.
CABRERA: I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers now, because there are so many questions here about possible liability.
And, Jennifer, we have heard from a spokesman from the production who called this an accident. No charges have been filed at this point. But could charges come?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In theory, Ana, they could.
So this happened in New Mexico. New Mexico covers criminally negligent homicide with its involuntary manslaughter statute. And that requires that someone cause a death either in the course of an unlawful action or an action that is reckless, willful or wanton, and that without due caution and circumspection. I wanted to get that language right. So, only if Alec Baldwin or someone else acted within the confines of
that statute would they be possibly criminally liable. And, as you said, there's a lot we don't know. We don't know any of the circumstances really, other than the bare-bones that have been released.
So if Mr. Baldwin was handed the gun, had nothing to do with its preparation, pointed it where he was supposed to pointed and pulled the trigger, I can't see how he possibly could be charged within the confines of this statute. That still leaves the armorer, as your prior guest was talking about.
So there are a lot of questions around how that gun was handled, how it was maintained, cleaned, inspected, loaded, what it was loaded with. So there's a possibility of criminal charges there, I would think, for that person. But, of course, it all depends on what the investigation reveals.
And we hear at this point that that's ongoing.
CABRERA: Mike Tristano mentioned that this isn't the first time an incident like this has happened on a film set. It was 1993, Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed while filming "The Crow."
No criminal charges were filed in that case, but Lee's mother did later file a civil suit against the studio for negligence, which was eventually settled out of court.
In this case, we are told Baldwin was the person who discharged the firearm. But is it he or others who are most vulnerable to legal action, both criminal and potentially civil?
RODGERS: Well, certainly on the civil side, I would think he's less vulnerable than others.
The civil negligence standard is much lower than the criminal negligence standard. So when you talk about civil negligence, in other words, filing a lawsuit to get damages, you're talking about whether someone violated a duty of care. Did they act as a reasonable person or not?
And so you think about how this gun was handled all the way from the armorer, to the producers, to the director, what was going on, on that film set that allowed this to happen, there's definitely going to be civil liability there somewhere. There's a term in the law, this Latin term, res ipsa loquitur.
It essentially says that you can infer negligence by what happened. If you have someone that was killed by a gun that was supposed to have blanks in it, there's going to be negligence somewhere. So I fully expect there to be civil lawsuits filed here for what happened.
CABRERA: Does Alec Baldwin have to be careful about what he says publicly about what happened? Or should he be very transparent?
RODGERS: Well, that's going to be between him and his lawyer.
I mean, certainly, any time that you're in the crosshairs of criminal investigators, you definitely need to be careful. But, as I explained, unless there are facts that come out that are different from what folks, I think, at this point are assuming happened, he likely is not in any criminal jeopardy.
Yes, he could still be sued. But, on balance, if he literally was handed this gun and had no knowledge of any problem with it, or live ammunition or anything like that, then he probably will want to err on the side of transparency. There's a major tragedy here. Someone is dead. Another person is injured.
And it sounds like he is not the primary person responsible. So I hope that we hear, whether it's from Mr. Baldwin or elsewhere, some more details about what happened here, in part so that, like what happened after Brandon Lee was killed, the industry can reevaluate their protocols and take additional safety (AUDIO GAP) this doesn't happen again.
CABRERA: For sure.
Jennifer Rodgers, I really appreciate your expertise. Thank you.
Also breaking right now, optimism from Democratic leaders after President Biden pitched his massive spending plan in our CNN town hall. Speaker Pelosi now saying she is hopeful for a vote on key bills next week. Are Senators Manchin and Sinema finally on board?
Plus, he was booted from the January 6 select committee for trying to overturn the 2020 election, so why is Republican Congressman Jim Banks signing letters as the ranking member of that committee?
CABRERA: President Biden on stage and peeling back the curtain on the private talks and political infighting that have bogged down his economic package.
In a CNN presidential town hall, he abandoned the administration's reticence on details, like what obstacles remain, where is he willing to compromise, and what about his party's key holdouts, moderate Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 all -- almost all of the things I mentioned relating to everything from 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Lauren Fox is in D.C. and Phil Mattingly is at the White House.
Phil, the president's approval ratings have been shrinking. He really needed to reassure Americans and bolster their confidence in him. Does the White House feel he achieved that?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think, when you talk to officials, they do, Ana.
And they feel like the president set out with a couple of goals, one, to lay out very clearly what the parameters of the negotiations were.
It turns out all the work that Lauren and I had been doing in the three days prior, working the phones, getting a lot of these details from sources, we should have just waited for the town hall for the president to lay them all out, but also to make clear that where the president is making concessions in order to get the votes, they are still making significant investments, doing the types of things Democrats have wanted to do for years, if not decades, despite those concessions.
And I think the president felt like, according to officials, he was able to do that last night. However, it was also made very clear that there's still a lot of work to come. And I think that's what you're seeing right now behind the scenes.
The president had breakfast with Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer participated via Zoom, as they tried to map out the road forward. And it is a road forward that has a very compressed timeline. Trying to get both the $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal and that potentially multitrillion-dollar climate and economic proposal through the House of Representatives by the end of next week, it is going to be a lift.
Everybody involved acknowledges that. But it underscores that, at this moment in time, the shift, the pivot we have seen from the president over the course of the last couple of days, they're making very clear they want to keep their foot on the gas, Ana.
CABRERA: And, Lauren, top congressional Democrats have predicted a deal in hand by next week. By week's end this week, though, was the original goal, right? And we are there. Today is Friday. After a breakfast meeting with the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did sound optimistic.
Just how close are they?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem like we're going to have a deal in hand tonight. Now, they had talked about some kind of framework or top-line number
that they had hoped to coalesce around. But there are still a number of outstanding issues, one of which is simply how to pay for this bill. Even if you can agree on how much Democrats are going to spend on several programs, you still have to find a way to come up with the funding for it.
And the president made it clear last night that Sinema is not there on key Democratic pay-fors to finance this proposal. He also made it clear that there are some ongoing conversations that are happening around how much you can actually expand Medicare.
Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Budget Committee, has wanted to include vision, hearing and dental. It sounded last night from the president like that wasn't going to happen in full. So, how much do they have to scale back?
These conversations are also ongoing on climate with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, so a lot of moving pieces here. And these negotiations are happening. They are trying very hard, but it doesn't look like we're going to see a framework revealed in the next few hours -- Ana.
CABRERA: And you guys have been the best in the biz. You have been out front on all of this reporting. Keep it up.
Lauren Fox, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for all your hard work.
Staying in Washington, follow the money. The advice that fueled the Watergate investigation is now driving the congressional probe of the January 6 Capitol attack. The House select committee is zeroing in on the financing behind evens and people associated with the riot. And that includes the Stop the Steal rallies that preceded it.
CNN's law enforcement correspondent, Whitney Wild, is joining us from Washington.
Whitney, what are you learning?
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: This could be one of the most valuable avenues for investigation, Ana, because the money trail is something concrete, tangible that the committee can use as evidence throughout their investigation, particularly if they have questions about whether or not this money flow was proper.
So, again, a very critical place for them to begin investigating. And as evidence of that, we know that the committee has basically broken up into five teams, one of those teams dedicated solely to investigating the financing.
We have also learned that there is a very experienced financial forensic litigator, expert who has been added to the team, someone with credentials from the Department of Justice, for example, who will continue to investigate these -- the money trail here. And what we're learning, Ana, from sources is that, based on sources
who are familiar with the interviews of people who have come in voluntarily to speak with the committee, as well as records reviewed by CNN, both of those sources of information are telling us that the committee has asked direct questions about financing and, further, is asking for direct documents to reflect financing, for example, any documents that reflect financing for accommodations, travel, fund- raising for the committee, a host of financial records, Ana.
Again, experts saying this could be one of the most valuable avenues for investigation.
CABRERA: OK, Whitney Wild, thank you for that update.
One Republican lawmaker is now under fire for falsely claiming to be on that committee investigating the Capitol attack. This is Indiana Republican Congressman and Trump ally Jim Banks. He is not a member of the January 6 select committee. That's because House Speaker Pelosi gave him the booth for trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Well, that did not stop him from presenting himself as the ranking Republican of the select committee in letters to government agencies, in an apparent effort to gain insight into the actual committee's work.
Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is on the committee. And she called out Banks on the House floor and submitted some of the letters for the record. And here's one of them.
You can see there signed "Jim Banks, ranking member." Here's what a spokesperson for Banks is saying about all of this: "The letter clearly states that Rep. Banks was refused the opportunity to fulfill his duties as ranking member. This is a bizarre Democrat narrative meant to distract from the actual contents of Rep. Banks' letter" -- end quote.
We should note there are two Republicans on the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger.
Let's discuss this now with Bill Kristol. He's a former adviser in the George H.W. Bush administration and director of Defending Democracy Together.
Bill, your reaction to this revelation that Banks was sending formal letters to government agencies claiming to be the ranking member of the January 6 committee?
BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Yes, what strikes me, Ana, is that Banks wanted copies of everything that was being submitted from these executive branch agencies to the committee.
Why? I mean, they're not on the committee. They don't like the committee. They're going to attack the committee. What does he care about what the different departments say about their -- what happened that day, what conversations they might have had with the White House and so forth? I think they're worried. That's what this tells me. They're worried
about what's going to come out, and not what's going to come out so much about third parties, some second-tier person said this to some other person or some money was spent on this. They're worried about the president's personal knowledge and involvement in what was happening on January 6, what happened that morning, what he might have known the day before about what was going to happen, what he and his closest adviser knew and said on those days.
That's what strikes me.
CABRERA: He's defending this, saying McCarthy appointed him, but Speaker Pelosi rejected him from serving, but ultimately he deserves to see the information, saying -- quote -- "The minority party in Congress retains the same rights to information that is provided to the majority party. And for those reasons, I ask that you provide me any information that is submitted to the select committee."
That was part of this letter.
Bill, there are Republicans on this committee, as we pointed out, so what do you make of that defense? And what do you think Congressman Banks is really trying to do? Is he trying to undermine their work?
KRISTOL: Sure, but they were going to do that anyway.
Again, it comes back, to me, to what -- if the information is worthless, if nothing -- if no one did anything wrong, if they were just some people who foolishly perhaps and perhaps illegally came into the Capitol Building, but it had no connection to Trump, no connection to the chief of staff of the White House, there's no culpability on the part of some of Congressman Banks' colleagues, perhaps, who might have been in touch with these people, if it was all OK, which is the current Republican line, basically, no big deal here, nothing to see here, why do they so much want to see these documents, right?
If you weren't worried about some investigation, and you had been kicked off the committee doing the investigation, you would say, OK, nothing's going to come of it. I'm going to ignore it. And it's a stupid committee. It's wasting money, blah, blah, blah, whatever they want to say.
The fact that he's concerned to see these documents tells me that they know or suspect there's more direct involvement by President Trump than we know yet.
KRISTOL: And Liz Cheney herself said that the other day, I think, a version of that, and she's pretty careful went about what she says.
So I think there may be more here than we know.
CABRERA: Well, and she becomes a growing target among the Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Lobbyists close to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has warned GOP consultants in recent weeks that they have to pick. It's either McCarthy or Liz Cheney in terms of who they can work with. And now at least one of the firm's has already informed Cheney that they can no longer work with her.
Bill, this is the Grand Old Party.
KRISTOL: Yes, they do not want Liz Cheney to win her primary in Wyoming. And they don't want her to be back in Congress. And they don't want her to be there as a kind of conscience, saying things that they're not willing to say.
I was struck by that too, that they might just leave her alone. She's a backbencher. She's in a tiny minority in the party. There were nine votes on her side yesterday, 202 I think it was the other way. And, instead, they want her to lose. They're worried about her role. They're worried about the committee. They don't like having a truth- teller as part of their conference.
CABRERA: Bill Kristol, it's good to have you with us. I appreciate your perspective. Thanks.
KRISTOL: My pleasure.
CABRERA: Brand-new, the CDC says it's OK to mix and match COVID vaccine boosters. How should you pick your next shot?
We will ask a doctor next.