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Former Rudy Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas Found Guilty; Democrats Nearing Infrastructure Deal?; Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun in Deadly Shooting on Film Set. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 22, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

And we begin with the real-life tragedy playing out on a movie set, the deadly shooting of an acclaimed cinematographer by Alec Baldwin. The actor today called it a tragic accident.

The local prosecutor in New Mexico says it's unclear if any charges will be filed in the death of Halyna Hutchins. The sheriff's department says Baldwin fired a prop gun on set during production of the movie "Rust," accidentally hitting Hutchins. She was 42 years old.

The film's director, Joel Souza, was also injured. A local paper photographed an apparently distraught Alec Baldwin after the shooting.

And a short time ago, he tweeted this -- quote -- "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 correspondent Stephanie Elam is covering all the developments for us.

So, Stephanie, what is the district attorney saying about this?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, it's not clear, Alisyn, whether or not charges are going to be filed in this case. They said it's still too early to know.

She went on to say -- this was New Mexico's First Judicial District attorney -- she went on to say that: "We look into all facts and evidence of the case. We will look into all facts and evidence of the case with great discretion and have further information at a later time. Our thoughts are with all affected by this tragedy."

We also know that the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department says that the investigation is still very much open and ongoing, that they have been interviewing people who were there at the scene who saw what happened, and they're talking to people. But it's not clear what's going to happen here. And I think it's very

clear to say that, at this point, no one really knows what has happened. That part has not come out yet. Here we are approaching about a day later since this has happened, and we still don't have that information.

Also worth noting a little bit more about Hutchins, because a lot of people have been tweeting about her, posting images about her and saying that she really was a rising star in cinematography.

Her agency putting out this statement, saying: "All those in her orbit knew what was coming, a star director of photography who would be a force to be reckoned with. All of us at Innovative Artists are heartbroken. We mourn for her family. And we hope this tragedy will reveal new lessons for how to better ensure safety for every crew member on set."

And when you think about it, this is something that, if you think about how many times we see a gun in a movie, how many times that this is being used, this idea of a prop, some are saying that it's just not necessary anymore because we do have the technology to do this in post with computers.

But others are saying, either way, something needs to be done to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I know. We just take it for granted when we see these in movies. Oh, I guess it must be safe. It's just -- they're just pretending. And we don't realize just how dangerous it is.

ELAM: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Stephanie Elam, thank you very much.

OK, let's talk about this further with Kirk Riley. He's a stunt man on the TV shows "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead." We also have Nischelle Turner with us, a CNN contributor and co-host of "Entertainment Tonight."

Great to have both of you.

Kirk, just explain how this works on a set when you are handling a gun or anyone is handling a gun on set and what you think happened here.

KIRK RILEY, STUNT PERFORMER: Well, I don't want to get into what I think happened, because there are a number of things that could have happened.

But, oftentimes, we do use what are called quarter rounds, where you will have a little bit of gunpowder in the gun. And they have to cap it with something like a little piece of paper or some cotton or something, so that you can see the muzzle fire go off.

And, as a stunt performer, we make sure that we are a safe distance away, a safe angle away. The camera operators that are up in the action, the actors, the background artists, everybody's at a safe distance.


Sometimes, when you want to see the cartridge, they will take the powder out of the cartridge, but leave the cartridge itself. That can get dangerous if you're switching back and forth between the blanks and the dummy cartridges, they're called.

Like in the instance with Brandon Lee back on "The Crow," they were switching between a dummy cartridge that they themselves had made, which you should not do. They had pulled the gunpowder out of the cartridge. But there was a primer still in there that they didn't know was there, which forced the dummy cartridge into the barrel.

Then they switch to blanks that don't have bullets, but have the gunpowder. And one plus one is two, and then you have a live round.

CAMEROTA: And, Kirk, haven't you had a close call yourself?

RILEY: I wouldn't say close call.

We have close calls all the time. But we're very safe with everything. I have gotten a little close as a zombie to the receiving end of a quarter round. But we have rehearsed it all times.


CAMEROTA: I mean, what's that like? Like, when you're close to a -- when you're on the receiving end of a dummy round to the face, what is that like?

RILEY: Well, it's weird when you're a zombie, because you're wearing contact lenses that make you unable to see properly. You have got fake ears on. So it's harder to hear people yelling things at you.

But, yes, it's very loud. And you just have to be careful and trust that everybody has done their jobs diligently. And somewhere along the line here, somebody (AUDIO GAP) unfortunately.

CAMEROTA: Nischelle, I was just talking to our reporter Stephanie about how, as viewers, as the audience, we take all this for granted. Surely, they're safe. And we don't realize how many risks are being taken.

I think we might have just lost Nischelle there.

So, Kirk, what kind of -- I mean, in terms of having the props ready on set, how much preparation goes into this? We saw a picture earlier of someone from the set of "Rust" posting, it's safety day here, and you see the crew standing around and listening to a safety talk.

Does that happen enough?

RILEY: On the sets that I work on, it always happens. Every morning, the first assistant director will call a safety meeting. And then the crew of 200 or whatever the case may be, we will all come around and we will talk about everything from, there's a hole in the ground over there, be careful, don't trip, to there's going to be live gunfire.

So anyone that has any concern has a point in the morning to voice concerns or get questions answered or whatever the case may be. And then when we get to the point in the day where we're actually going to do whatever the dangerous thing is, we will have another safety meeting.

And the property master will bring the gun and explain whether it's real, or, oftentimes, it's not real. But, either way, they will open the chamber and shine a light down it and let the actor and the director and the stunt performers see that it's either empty or it's got the quarter load or the dummy cartridge, or whatever the case may be, so that everyone's on the same page.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting. It's really interesting to hear that.

So, Nischelle, tell us about this cinematographer. We have heard about what a rising star she was. She had already been considered one of the women to watch back in 2019. What do we know about Hutchins?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, all those things that you said, Alisyn, definitely seem to be true.

We have seen a number of celebrities in the industry posting images and posting things about her and just saying lovely words. And I talked with Wayne Brady this morning, who worked on a movie with her that came out in 2020.

And one of the things he said to me was, she had so much grace and gravitas. And he was explaining how she did a lot of it with ease. And it's so hard for a woman in this industry to be a director of photography, to be in that position, because you have to come in and command the room, command respect, and everyone has to listen to you.

And he said, she just did it with such a grace that he knew that she was going places. He knew that this was just the tip of the iceberg for her. And that was echoed so many times in things that other people said about her today.

But also, Alisyn, she's a wife. She was a mother. She had a family. And that's a real tragedy in all of this as well. Wayne was telling me he spoke a little bit with her when they were on their movie set together about her family and about her daughter. And so you can only imagine how they are feeling today.

I know you read Alec Baldwin's tweet, that he was saying he had been in touch with her husband and is staying in touch with them. But it's just a tragedy all the way around, it seems, for every single person involved.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, the pain that her family must be feeling, the pain that Alec Baldwin must be feeling.

And, obviously, Alec Baldwin doesn't necessarily shy away from controversy in the past in his career. We know that there have been these provocative moments. And just to see him at the center of this, Nischelle, I mean, everybody -- look, he's somebody who is a cross- generational celebrity.


My kids, of course, know who Alec Baldwin is because of his depiction of Trump. We all have known Alec Baldwin throughout his career. And it's just jaw-dropping to see him at the center of this.

TURNER: Yes, it is.

But Keith (sic) also made a very good point about all of the safety checks that are gone through every single day on sets. I mean, we have done set visits to different shows, television shows, in particular, where they handle firearms. And we do know, on those sets, you're not allowed to point those guns at anyone. There are checks and rechecks every single time someone is handling those guns.

So we don't know what happened here. But we do know that, as an industry practice, especially after what happened with Brandon Lee on "The Crow," there has been an extra emphasis on industry practices of safety when firearms are in play.

And so it'll be very interesting to see the information that comes out of this. Like Stephanie said, almost 24 hours later now, we don't really have a clear picture of what happened here.

CAMEROTA: I hope we can get that very soon. Hopefully, this investigation can happen quickly.

Kirk Riley, Nischelle Turner, thank you both. Really interesting to talk to you.

RILEY: Thanks for having me, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

OK, now to this. President Biden says he will get the deal done on his sweeping domestic agenda. And he takes us inside some of his negotiations with Democrats.

Plus: The CDC tells millions more Americans to get in line for their COVID booster shots. What they now say about mixing and matching vaccines.

That's ahead.



CAMEROTA: In the race to close the deal on the president's social safety package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's hopeful she may have a vote next week.

But progressive Democrats are expressing concerns over the concessions that President Biden may be making to moderate Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. At last night's CNN town hall, the president pulled back the curtain on those negotiations and Senator Sinema's red line.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's very supportive of the environmental agenda, 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.


CAMEROTA: President Biden says they are looking at other ways to raise the revenue to pay for this.

CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins us now.

So, Manu, I know you have been talking to some lawmakers today. And are they not happy with those remarks last night?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a number of the progressives are concerned about the concessions that the president has had to make to those moderate Democrats.

Ultimately, they may have to support what they believe is a watered- down package, not just on taxes, as Kyrsten Sinema has made clear she will not support higher taxes on corporations, as well as high earners, but also other issues, expanding Medicare to include dental, vision, hearing, Joe Biden saying last night that would be a reach to include that.

So what ultimately the ultimate package looks like remains to be seen. Pelosi told me earlier today that that issue on health care provisions are still being sorted out. So it's unlikely that they're going to get a deal on a general outline of the deal today, as they had hoped, because not just that, but other issues involving climate change Joe Manchin has resisted, as well as paid family leave.

That's going to be down to 12 weeks to four weeks because of Joe Manchin's resistance, all of which points to some frustration among Democrats, who now believe they have to back this plan because it's their only choice.

Now, at the same time, the question is about what will happen with that separate infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion for roads, bridges, broadband? That is awaiting action in the House. There's a push to try to get a vote on that next week.

But in talking to Democratic liberals earlier today, I asked them about whether or not they would be open to supporting that infrastructure plan if that larger bill has not been signed off yet. And they made clear they want Manchin and Sinema to get behind that larger package. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Can you support the infrastructure bill if it is -- this larger package has not been approved by the House and the Senate?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I think it'd be dangerous. And I don't want anything -- do anything dangerous for the American people.

The two have to go together.

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): The decisions we make in this house and in that house determine the journey that the regular people in our communities walk through. And I feel like they are not looking at that, not wanting to pay attention to those folks, but pay attention to their donors.

I have a huge problem with that. Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, like, come to my district and visit with my folks. Come and talk to the people who actually live out what you're trying to overlook. You don't care, but we do.

And I'm not going to quit talking about that.


RAJU: So, after meeting at the White House this morning, Nancy Pelosi came back, said that it was a good meeting.

And I asked her whether or not Manchin and Sinema have signed off on these final provisions here. And she said, ask the Senate and the White House said. It's them -- up to them to close that deal.

But I can tell you those talks will continue. How long they go, Alisyn, still unknown.

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu, thank you.

Let's talk more about last night CNN town hall, because it turns out President Biden made some false claims.

CNN's Daniel Dale is here.

So, President Biden, Daniel, as you know, is facing some pushback over something he said about the border.

So let's watch this moment.


BIDEN: I have been there before. And I haven't -- I mean, I know it well. I guess I should go down.


But the whole point of it is, I haven't had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down. But I plan on -- now, my wife Jill has been down. She's been on both sides of the river. She's seen the circumstances there.


CAMEROTA: OK, Daniel did that need some cleaning up? When did President Biden go to the border?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Alisyn, that question stumped me last night after the town hall and stumped me today.

I cannot find any evidence that President Biden had ever at any point in his political career made a visit to, say, a border facility or to U.S. personnel stationed on the border.

So what was he referring to? Well, at this afternoon's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that he was talking about a campaign trip in 2008, when he landed in El Paso, Texas, which is on the border. And then his motorcade took a trip to a New Mexico town about an hour away from the border.

"The Washington Post" reported today that the motorcade traveled along the border for -- quote -- "a few minutes."

So does that count as having been to the border, as Biden said? I guess it's up for people to decide. But I think certainly the president could have been clearer that if this kind of fleeting moment was what he was talking about, he could have told that to the American public.

CAMEROTA: You also found something problematic with what President Biden said about COVID-19 vaccines. So let's listen to that.


BIDEN: I first got elected -- when I first was elected, there were only two million people had COVID shots in the United States of America, had the vaccine. Now we got 190 million, because I went out and bought everything I could do it -- by in sight, and it worked.


CAMEROTA: Is that true?

DALE: I think there are two factual issues here. Number one, the issue of credit. Biden was giving himself sole credit for the fact that about 190 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

He said it's because he went out and purchased all these vaccine doses. In fact, as the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reported in January, as of late December, with Trump still in office, the Trump administration had contracted to obtain 800 million doses, including 400 million total of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are proven most popular.

So, in other words, even under the Trump administration, there was enough vaccine to vaccinate all the people who have currently gotten shots. Now, a Biden official told me well, that's true, but the Biden administration bought more, and they helped Pfizer produce more quickly by invoking the Defense Production Act.

That's all fair. But I still think Biden was at least being hyperbolic.

The second issue is the numbers. And the actual numbers say that, as of Biden's Inauguration Day, not the day that he was elected. So, January 20, it was 3.4 million Americans who were fully vaccinated, not the two million Americans that President Biden said.

CAMEROTA: Daniel Dale, your fact-checks are so helpful. Thank you for being here.

DALE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: With us now, we have CNN White House reporter John Harwood and CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend.

Great to see both of you.

John, President Biden made a lot of news last night. What do you think was the big headline?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For me, Alisyn, it was the fact that Joe Biden felt confident enough about his position in these talks to pull back the curtain on what was really happening.

He's been watching as the negotiations on Capitol Hill involving the White House and Democratic leaders and these recalcitrant members get portrayed as gridlock and sort of nobody knew what was going on.

He explained to people what was happening, and the fact that he believes they're reaching or nearing the goal line. Of course, he met today with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They're trying as rapidly as possible to get some sort of a framework deal on the reconciliation package that would allow them to move ahead with the infrastructure package and show that President Biden, as he goes off to Glasgow for COP 26, that he has got the United States Congress behind him in taking strong action on climate change, because that's a big part of the reconciliation bill.

So I think it's -- it was the way that he revealed what has been happening and how he thinks they're going to close the deal.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Eva, wasn't that interesting? I mean, he pulled back the curtain on these internal negotiations. Do we think that moved the needle? Did that anger the people involved in the negotiations on the Hill? Or did that sort of prod them?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I'm not sure if it was helpful, but he did feel as though he had to, right?

We have seen sort of this frenetic episode amongst the White House and congressional Democrats for several months. And he felt as though, as he often says, he had to level with the American people about exactly where things stand.

So that is why we heard that level of candor.

CAMEROTA: There was also big news that he made about his changing position on the filibuster. So let me play that moment for you.


BIDEN: Well, that remains to be seen exactly what that means, in terms of fundamentally altering it, and whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: 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.



CAMEROTA: That's different, John, than what he has said before.

HARWOOD: Well, look, that was another pull-back-the-curtain moment for Joe Biden.

He has hinted previously that he was open to either altering the filibuster by making people stand on the floor and talk longer and not just do it by rote and automatically invoke a filibuster. That's one. Or he has suggested that in the case of things like voting rights or the debt limit, he might seek an exception.

But he explained, as he's getting a lot of pressure from voting rights advocates, why he's not doing that now. What he said is, it would cost him votes as he tries to get his economic package.

So what he's trying to do is sequence these efforts, get the economic package through, then try to build momentum for getting the debt limit raised, getting voting rights legislation enacted. And if it doesn't -- just like this week, Joe Manchin's voting rights bill was filibustered by Republicans.

Joe Manchin has been one of the central Democrats saying, no, no, I don't want to get rid of the filibuster. It would destroy the Senate. There's no better way to move somebody like Joe Manchin than to show him that his own legislation is getting filibustered.

And the president, I think, is building toward potentially an effort late this year or early next year that would, whether it succeeds or fails, have a benefit in the midterm election year.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but he also-called out Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and talked about the position on expanding Medicare. So here's that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: One of the other things that Democrats are looking to do is to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing. Will all three of those still be covered?

BIDEN: That's a reach. And the reason why it's a reach, it's not -- I think it's a good idea. And it's not that costly in relative terms, especially if we allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

But here's the thing. Mr. Manchin is opposed to that, as is, I think Senator Sinema is as well.

COOPER: Opposed to all of them?

BIDEN: Opposed to all three, because they don't...


CAMEROTA: What did you hear there, Eva?

MCKEND: Had to lay things out in as plain terms as possible. He felt as though he had to offer that honesty.

But I also think that it's important that he wasn't -- he knows that he still needs Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema. And so he made every effort not to demonize them. He said, Senator Manchin is not a bad guy, recognizing that these are key players, but also recognizing that patience among his constituents, the millions of people that elected him, are -- is wearing thin.

And so he had to just lay it out all there. I also want to say one quick thing about the filibuster. That was such a remarkable moment there. President Biden's evolution on filibuster reform has been huge. I remember last year, when former President Barack Obama said that this was a Jim Crow relic and Biden wanted nothing to do with that conversation.

And so that really illustrates the pressure on him to address this issue of voting rights that he's even entertaining a carve-out.

CAMEROTA: John Harwood, Eva McKend, thank you.

We have some breaking news. We have a verdict in the case of Lev Parnas. That's that former associate of Rudy Giuliani's, you will remember.

And CNN's Kara Scannell is outside of the courthouse in New York.

So, what just happened, Kara?


So after five hours of deliberation today, the jury returned a unanimous verdict, guilty on all six counts against Lev Parnas. As you mentioned, Parnas was that associate of Rudy Giuliani's. He was arrested on a one-way ticket out of the country two years ago. And the trial just wrapped up this week. It was four-and-a-half days

of testimony, 14 witnesses by the government, and the government really put a lot of emphasis on their case on text messages, WhatsApp encrypted chats, and that is the evidence that the jury saw.

And this was a case that, even though we all know of Lev Parnas from his association with Giuliani, this case was about foreign money coming into U.S. elections. It was about him and his co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, who was also convicted on the two counts he was facing.

They were accused of funneling more than $100,000 from a Russian tycoon into the U.S. elections to try to curry and buy political favor for launching a cannabis business.

The jury had heard the testimony. We're waiting to see if Parnas is going to come outside now. I mean, he didn't have any reaction when the jury reached the verdict. The judge polled the jurors. They all confirmed that they unanimously had agreed to guilty on all counts against Parnas.

He faces as much as five years in prison on most of these counts. One has a 20-year prison cap, but the judge will determine sentencing at a future date -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kara Scannell, thank you for the breaking news.

OK, now to this. Pfizer says that their COVID vaccine is 90 percent effective in children as young as 5. So, I will speak with the CDC's former acting director on what this means for parents.