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Actor Alec Baldwin Accidentally Shoots and Kills One Person and Injures Another with Prop Gun on Filming Set; FDA Report Finds Benefits of Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Outweigh Risks to Children Ages Five to 11; CDC Approves COVID-19 Booster Shots; Remains of Gabby Petito's Fiance Brian Laundrie Found; President Biden Says He May Support Amending Senate Filibuster on Voting Rights Legislation. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 23, 2021 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the Newsroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This accident happened, and people are very upset and also heartbroken.

PAUL: New details released in the fatal on-set shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin. An affidavit sheds new light on how the incident unfolded and raises new questions about safety on the set.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever was handling the weapons was not handling it safely.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We now have booster recommendations for all three authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

PAUL: Millions more people across the country are eligible for booster shots this weekend following a flurry of approvals by the CDC, and just days before the FDA takes up the issue of vaccinating kids as young as five. There's new data on how safe they are for children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many unanswered questions following the news of Brian Laundrie's death.

PAUL: Many of those questions focus on Laundrie's family and what they knew the night he disappeared. What their attorney is telling CNN.

And a shift in tone. President Biden is signaling he's prepared to alter the filibuster to protect voting rights, but only after his infrastructure bill is passed. We're joined by the president of the NAACP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I travel light, so if they say evacuations, I'll just get the hell out of dodge.

PAUL: And cities across the west are getting ready for waves of torrential rain and the threat flooding.

Newsroom starts right now.


PAUL (on camera): Good morning to you on this Saturday, October 23rd. It is so good to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Ryan Nobles in this morning for Boris Sanchez. And you are in the CNN Newsroom. We begin with the tragic accident on the set of Alec Baldwin's latest movie. Court documents obtained by our affiliate KOAT reveal that before Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the film's assistant director handed the actor the prop firearm and yelled "cold gun," meaning it was safe to use and had no live rounds.

PAUL: Also, three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment tell the "L.A. Times" that several crew members quit days before the incident due to concerns over COVID protocol and safety issues, including gun safety procedures. Here's CNN' Nick Watt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had two people accidentally shot on a movie set by a prop gun. We need help immediately.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the set. The director Joel Souza was injured, the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, was killed. Two individuals were shot on the set of "Rust," according to the Santa Fe, New Mexico's sheriff's office, when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin. Baldwin distraught in the sheriff's parking lot after questioning. The investigation remains open and active. No charges have been filed. A prop firearm should shoot only blanks.

BEN SIMMONS, FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR FOR ACTORS: With a blank round you have everything that you would normally have in a real round, but you don't have a bullet on the end of it. So that when it fires, you do get the flash, you do get the bang, you get the recoil, you get the exposure, but you don't get the bullet flying out of the end of the gun. And that doesn't mean that blanks rounds are safe.

WATT: Hutchins posted this video the day before she died, horse riding on the day off, one of the perks of shooting a western, she wrote. Born in Ukraine, Hutchins started as a journalist, then moved to the U.S. to study and work in the movies, named a rising star in 2019 by "American Cinematographer" magazine. She was 42.

JIM HEMPHILL, FILMMAKER AND JOURNALIST: She brought that eye that she had from documentaries and nonfiction filmmaking to, again, action movies and horror movies. So they had this immediacy and realism, as well as this eye for beauty that she had. And it was a really unique look.

WATT: A death on set like this rare but not unique. Brandon Lee was shot and killed on the set of "The Crow" in 93. A blank was fired but dislodged part of a live round stuck in the barrel. In 84 on the set of the show "Cover Up," actor Jon Erik-Hexum jokingly put a prop gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The pressure and wadding from the blank killed him. "Rust," starring and produced by Baldwin, hinges on the accidental killing of a rancher in 1880s Kansas.


This morning Baldwin tweeted, "There are no words to convey my shock and sadness. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna."


PAUL: So our thanks to Nick Watt there of CNN. And in a statement obtained by "Deadline," I want to tell you what Rust Productions said. Their statement reads "The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We'll continue to support," or "to cooperate," rather, "with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this time."

I want to point out that CNN has reached out to the production company. They have yet to -- we have yet to receive a response. But I want to talk to Philip Schneider. He's a movie set property master. Philip, thank you so much for taking time to talk to us. I have to believe that this has been emotional for you. Bring us into that moment when you first heard about this.

PHILIP SCHNEIDER, MOVIE SET PROPERTY MASTER: Well, first of all, I would like to express my condolences to the Hutchins family. And I would also like to add that I was on set yesterday and that the entire industry mourns this horrible accident. But it's especially hard on people like me, my fellow prop masters, and armorer in which this is a worst case scenario.

PAUL: So talk to us about that. You're a prop master and an armorer, what does that entail?

SCHNEIDER: Well, to be a prop master is to bring everything and anything that an actor touches. It can be anything from a pen to the cell phone, and in this particular case, a firearm. Sometimes if the job is big enough and has a lot of firearms or different kinds of firearms, we can hire an armorer to supplement myself in that position.

PAUL: So when you hear that there were people who were feeling uncomfortable and they quit, have you ever been in an atmosphere where that has happened, and can you understand it?

SCHNEIDER: Well, thank God no. I mean, I can understand situations where people feel uncomfortable. And this particular job didn't sound like it was being run particularly well. The people handling the weapons, I'm unsure they were correctly vetted or not, or qualified to be handling that.

And I think the most egregious of all things that happened as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that an assistant director was to pick up a weapon, declare it being cold, which it obviously wasn't, and then handing it to an actor. When we -- the professionals -- train, generally unionized armorers and prop masters, our job is to present, bring a cold weapon to set to show it to the assistant director, to show it the actor, and then we can proceed with the shot.

PAUL: Part of the confusion, I think, is the fact that the gun was shooting blanks, as we understand it, and to those of us who aren't on TV and movie sets as you are, we question how could something that was not shooting an actual piece of ammunition, how could it kill someone? Has there ever been a point where you've been uncomfortable handling any of this? Because we know they are real guns, right, that have been modified?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's the unfortunate -- not unfortunate. That's the truth about firearms is that what their intended use is to be weapons. And often we tend to take very seriously the making sure that the weapon is clear. I personally have never been in a situation such as this, and from my understanding, there obviously was some sort of projectile, be it a live round or a bullet, or something lodged within the barrel of the gun that was projected out, and unfortunately into the director of photography and director, which again, goes against all the things we're taught, which is to never point these weapons at anybody regardless.

PAUL: OK. So when you hear that Rust Movie Productions is making mental health services available to the cast and crew, how would you be dealing with this if you had been on the set and you witnessed it?


Because if you are like many of us in all of our careers, whatever your career is, your team is your family for a while.

SCHNEIDER: This is absolutely the worst-case scenario, and the death of anybody on a movie set is ultimately avoidable. It is a dangerous business. I can understand people who would need health counseling. And I just -- I can't imagine ever being in this scenario quite honestly. It's got to be -- it's got to be incredibly hard. And my thoughts go out to Mr. Baldwin because I wouldn't want to have been on the other end of that firearm.

PAUL: Philip Schneider, we appreciate you taking time to talk with us. Best of everything to you and all of your teammates, as well. Thank you.

SCHNEIDER: More than glad to be here. Thank you so much.

NOBLES: Now to the coronavirus. A new report from the FDA finds the benefits of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks to children ages five to 11. While cases have been trending downward recently, this week alone, last week alone, I should say, about 131,000 children were diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 637 children have died from the COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

PAUL: The FDA will debate next week whether to approve the Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11. If it's approved, vaccinations could begin in early November, and the first children to receive those shots could be fully protected by Christmas.

CNN's Nadia Romero has been looking into this. Nadia, talk to us about what you're learning here.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Ryan, this is a really big development for a lot of parents who have been looking for an extra way to protect their children from this virus. Up until this point it was up to adults to get vaccinated, masks, social distancing. But this could mean that kids themselves could get the vaccine. There are some concerns. The FDA says the vaccine does carry a theoretical risk of heart inflammation, but they say that the benefits of this vaccine far outweigh the risks. Listen to one FDA vaccine adviser talking about their process and why Dr. Anthony Fauci says he supports the vaccine. He says they are safe for kids. Listen.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We will consider it. I can promise you that when we have this discussion that if we do end up recommending this vaccine, we would only do it if we would give it to our own children.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The outreach to the parents with trusted messengers, particularly some of the most trusted messengers, are the family pediatrician, who most parents have a good deal of confidence in. And we're trying to get people to realize it is for the benefit of the children as well as for the entire family unit to get the child vaccinated.


ROMERO: So when we look at this Pfizer vaccine that's possibly being eligible for children in the coming months, they would only get about a third of the dose that you would normally give to an adult. They're talking about ages five through 11. So kindergarten through fourth or fifth grade. So these are tiny little humans, right. So they need a smaller dose. They would also use much smaller needles, as well, as they administer that vaccine. Christi, Ryan?

PAUL: So we know millions of Americans are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Are there some guidelines that we need to be aware of beyond what we already know?

ROMERO: So we just saw this week Moderna and Johnson & Johnson getting emergency use authorization from the FDA to have a booster. So now you can get a booster shot for Pfizer, Moderna, and the J&J, and you can mix and match those vaccines. So let's say your first round was the Moderna and you're going to your doctor's office now and they only have the J&J available. The FDA, the CDC says it's OK to mix and match those vaccines for extra protection. But really all health experts will tell you that they're having a challenge still getting people to take the first shot. So their concern are the people who still remain unvaccinated, and that's where our focus should be.

NOBLES: All right, Nadia Romero, this case is going down, but still more people need to be vaccinated. We appreciate that.

PAUL: Thank you, Nadia.

Listen, there are so many questions that have yet to be answered after the remains found in the 25,000-acre Florida nature reserve have been confirmed to be Gabby Petito's fiance Brian Laundrie. Authorities say items including a notebook, a backpack discovered near Laundrie's body, are key factors that may shed some light on the circumstances around his disappearance and on Petito's death.

NOBLES: All of this as Laundrie's parents are still silent. But experts say their recollections of key moments during these critical days may be vital to unraveling what really happened. CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in North Port, Florida. So Polo, give us the latest on the investigation.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi and Ryan, let's first reminder our viewers that this week marked the end of the Brian Laundrie manhunt. But as you mentioned a little while ago, the search for so many answers, that is still far from over. Of course, one of them is exactly how did Brian Laundrie die. We heard from the Laundrie family attorney just yesterday, in fact, that his skeletal remains were recovered here in Florida this week. Those will soon be in the hands of a forensic anthropologist. The goal there will be to analyze them and to try to see if that perhaps provides some clues here.

We had also heard from the attorneys say that in his conversations with the Laundrie family that they had feared he was perhaps contemplating suicide before they found him, of course, after Gabby Petito was reported missing, and of course just last month when he was last seen leaving this house here. The parents said that he seemed upset. Now why? They wouldn't go into detail there.

But you mentioned the backpack, clothing, and a notebook. Authorities certainly hoping to be able to look through that to see if that could provide any crucial clues given the terrain. We understand that that was heavily damaged. So a spokesperson here in Florida for the police saying that they have to take great care in terms of opening that notebook up to see if that could potentially provide some clues.

And then finally, of course, another big question here, what if anything that Brian Laundrie's parents actually know. We saw Mr. Laundrie actually about three times this morning during one of those moments. He actually came out to his front lawn and posted some "no trespassing" signs, would not answer publicly any questions. But his attorney maintains that he and his wife and others, they have been cooperating with the FBI since day one. Guys?

NOBLES: All right, Polo Sandoval live in North Port, Florida. Polo, thank you so much.

President Biden makes clear that he's willing to support a change to the filibuster to guarantee voting rights, but only after his infrastructure bill passes. We'll get reaction from the president of the NAACP.

PAUL: Also, new details to share about just how many people, American citizens, are still trying to get out of Afghanistan. And that number is higher than we first were told.



NOBLES: Senate Republicans blocked yet another voting rights bill this week, drawing outrage from Democrats who have been trying to pass legislation to expand access to the ballot box while Republican-led states continue to back restrictive election laws. Many Democrats want to change the Senate rules so they could go it alone on voting bills. This is what President Biden told CNN's Anderson Cooper about that this week.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you saying once you get this current agenda passed on spending and social programs, that you would be open to fundamentally altering the filibuster or doing away with -- or doing away with it?

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally altering it, whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.

COOPER: 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.


NOBLES: Well, the president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, joins us to talk more about there. Mr. Johnson, this was the farthest that President Biden has ever gone in saying that he could support a filibuster carve-out for voting rights and perhaps more. The problem, though, and I cover Capitol Hill every day, is that we haven't seen this same shift from two key senators, Joe Manchin, whose vote would be needed to change the rule, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, perhaps others. Do you have confidence that perhaps that this could actually happen, that the filibuster could be avoided in order to get voting rights legislation passed?

DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO: Well, I've said all along we need substantive change. I am not interested in entertaining a procedural argument of a process that have been used in the past to impede progress in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. And at the end of the day, African Americans want to see outcomes. And

that's what our focus is. We need voting rights protections. We need quality of life improvements. And so whether it is administration or the Senate, we need outcomes. But we also need the Senate to do their job. These policy issues are in their hands, and if they want to have a successful 2022 election outcome, they must adopt measures to protect the rights of voters.

NOBLES: All right, let's talk more about what President Biden said. He also said this about why he's been so resistant to push further on the filibuster issue. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If, in fact, I get myself into at this moment the debate on the filibuster, I lose 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.


NOBLES: So I know you don't want to talk about the process or the legislative maneuvering here, but clearly the president making a political calculation here. Do you think he's weighing his priorities correctly? Bipartisan police reform talks, they completely fell apart on Capitol Hill last month. You were involved in the process. You've heard from lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Is there any movement on these issues? Is the president correctly prioritizing the issues of importance?

JOHNSON: So let's set the table. We have an evenly divided Senate. You have a president and a vice president who served in the Senate, and a president who was one of the masters of the Senate. I can't second guess his strategy. That's why I talk about outcome, not the roads how we get there.


And I think it's too premature to project what he should or should not be doing. For African Americans, we're going to measure on did you -- were you able to accomplish what was necessary for us to operate as full citizens? Are you able to improve the quality of life? And are you listening to the concerns that we're having and producing outcomes? But that's for members in the Senate, that's for the president, that's for members of the House. The House of Representatives have done their job. Now it's up to the Senate to do their job.

NOBLES: All right, so one voter at the CNN town hall told President Biden that the lack of progress under his administration on issues like police reform and voting rights have been disheartening to the black community. He said black voters like himself overwhelmingly voted for Biden last fall hoping for change. I know you said you want to let the process play out and that you trust the president in his legislative strategy -- JOHNSON: Don't put words in my mouth. I don't say I trust anyone. I

say we're looking for outcomes.

NOBLES: Exactly.

JOHNSON: That's most important. And African American voters, we are on edge that our communities are being tagged by individuals who are rogue cops. We are concerned with the redistricting process that's taking place and the outcome that's going to present. This is the first time since 1960 that we're doing redistricting without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. We have a midterm election that's coming up, both state legislative races, U.S. Senate, and congressional races. That map could determine the future of America and whether or not African Americans will be attacked by domestic terrorists who still have not been held accountable for January 6th.

We are more focused on the outcome. This is not about trust. This is about verifying that we as a community will be treated as equal citizens and our democracy will be protected.

NOBLES: I see. OK, so the question I was going ask is, do you feel let down? I think your answer is you're on edge now. You do want to see those outcomes that just haven't been delivered at this point. Is that fair?

JOHNSON: It is absolutely fair. We have much hope in May and June that the Senate could sit down and have a level of civility and negotiate police reform. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. We are looking at the infrastructure bill, and equity in the infrastructure bill that remains to be seen. But the big issue for African Americans is will the right, our franchise, be protected so we can participate in elections in Georgia and it not be stolen, so we can see outcomes that are not overturned because of political maneuverings.

Our job as NAACP is to protect and work in the interests of African American communities, and paramount to that is to ensure that access to voting is always afforded equally and uninterrupted. That's what's important to us. And I'm looking at the president, we're looking at the Senate to deliver on what's necessary to protect our democracy.

NOBLES: All right, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, thank you so much for being here this morning. We appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, the Justice Department will now decide whether to prosecute Steve Bannon for defying a House subpoena on the January 6th riots. What are the chances President Trump's former adviser will be charged?



PAUL: A possible criminal contempt charge against Trump loyalist Steve Bannon is in the hands of the Justice Department now. The contempt referral from Congress came in response to Bannon's defiance of a subpoena from the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.

NOBLES: Bannon has refused to testify or provide documents to the committee claiming executive privilege under then President Trump. CNN's Marshall Cohen joins us now live. So Marshall, what is likely to happen next in this process?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, good morning, guys. There is a lot that could happen, but the truth is that we don't know exactly how it's going to play out. We've got some ideas, but it is totally up to the Justice Department. They could choose to go down this process, or, honestly, they could choose not to indict Bannon, and that would be case over right there.

But here's how it might play out over the next days, weeks. We do think it should be relatively quick until they come to a decision. The first step would be that prosecutors here in D.C. at the U.S. attorney's office in D.C. would analyze the case. They'd look through the facts, the law. They need to figure out if they can prove to a jury that Bannon knew he was breaking the law when he defied that subpoena, not just that he defied the subpoena, but that he knew he was breaking the law, committing a crime.

The next step would be if they think they have a case, they'd have to go to the senior leaders of the DOJ. This is incredibly sensitive. I think it's fair to presume that Merrick Garland, the attorney general, would have a say. And if everybody is on the same page, they could go to a grand jury. They have other options to charge him, but they could go to a grand jury, present evidence, get subpoenas for some testimony or documents. And if they think they have a case at that point, they would ask the grand jury to hand up that indictment for Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress.

To be clear, guys, if they do get all the way to that last step, it's just a misdemeanor. Nobody wants to be charged. It's not fun to be charged, but it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to just one year in jail. Guys?

NOBLES: All right, Marshall Cohen, thank you so much for that.

Let's talk more now about the Bannon contempt referral and other political headlines. Let's bring in Susan Page, the Washington Bureau Chief for "USA Today." So Susan, let's first talk about this contempt vote that was sent down by the House in the January 6th select committee. How big of a message do you think this is for other potential witnesses?


SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Marshall pointed out the long road ahead for Steve Bannon. But this was intended as a show of hardball by Democrats to other witnesses they're trying to get. And it may be working. We now know that Jeffrey Clark, who was a Trump administration Justice Department official, now apparently going to testify before the committee. They're in talks with Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff for President Trump, who they say is being cooperative in trying to come to some arrangement with the subpoena that he's faced.

So it's a long road with Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon may be trying to run out the clock on the theory that Republicans will gain control of the House in next year's midterms. But it may be having an effect with Democrats' efforts to force testimony that they've had trouble getting in the past from Trump administration officials.

NOBLES: Yes. I think you're right to point out Jeffrey Clark. This is someone that they tried to negotiate with. He refused. They offer up that subpoena, and now they think he'll be in to testify in front of them next Friday. That's such a great point.

Let's talk now about President Biden and what he said during the CNN town hall, that he's actually open to altering the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, raise the debt limit, and other things. He doesn't want to do it now, though. He wants the negotiations over a spending plan to kind of run the course here.

Susan, you know Joe Biden's history. He is a Senate institutionalist. The fact that he's even entertaining this, how significant is it?

PAGE: Well, it's a gesture to progressives, I think, who are frustrated by the failure to get this voting rights bill through the Congress. But Joe Biden knows as well as anyone that he does not have the votes -- Democrats do not have the votes to get rid of the filibuster. Some Democrats, they've got a 50-50 split. Several Democratic senators have said they would not support eliminating the filibuster. You know from being on Capitol Hill that some moderate Democratic Senators who won't say that out loud say that in private. So it seems to me this is more a talking point rather than a realistic prospect that the Senate is going to get rid of the filibuster in the foreseeable future.

NOBLES: I think you're so right about that. We know that the Joe Manchins will say that publicly, but there might be three, four, maybe even five Democratic senators who wouldn't actually take that step and force the vote on the future of the filibuster.

Let's shift now to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, someone you wrote an incredible book about I highly recommend. And now President Biden using words like "hopeful" and "optimistic" when asked whether they can reach a deal on the president's social spending plan. Is this just happy talk here, or do you think they actually are on the precipice of getting something over the finish line?

PAGE: Well, you're always safe betting on the pessimistic side when it comes to congressional action, but I actually think they are very close to actually having a deal that could pass next week on infrastructure, maybe have a framework on a reconciliation bill. One of the biggest pieces -- taken together, one of the biggest sets of legislation that we've had in decades. Nancy Pelosi, who has been around for a while, says it would be bigger than passage of the Affordable Care Act which had previously been kind of the crown jewel of her legislative career. I think that that optimism -- they're down to talking about -- they've

reached a rough agreement on the amount of money to spend. They're down to brass tacks and talking about what the content of that reconciliation bill would be. They're making compromises. I thought it was significant that Joe Biden said that they would not include free community college. That's been a cause of his since he was vice president. But if he's willing to give that up, that's a signal to other Democrats to make compromises, as well.

NOBLES: I want to bring you back to your book again about Nancy Pelosi, because you talk so artfully about how she's able to pull off these big legislative victories, the Affordable Care Act being one of them. She, of course, did that even though the margins were tight, they were much bigger then than they are now. Talk to me just about how difficult it is for her to thread this needle. Only about three or four vote that she has to play with in the House. And of course, there's no room for error in the Senate. Can she pull this off? Would this be her biggest legislative victory?

Susan, did we -- I think we lost Susan. Yes, it sounds like we lost Susan's -- well, anyway, just based on the book that I read that Susan wrote, I would tell you that this would be one of Nancy Pelosi's biggest legislative victories if she's able to put this over the finish line. Susan Page, we do appreciate you being there. Sorry about that technical difficulty.

It has been nearly two months since the chaotic exit from Afghanistan, and we're learning there are still hundreds of Americans trying to leave. Next, the story of one family's escape from Taliban rule.



PAUL: It's 44 minutes past the hour, and the State Department told congressional staff this week more than 360 U.S. citizens are still in Afghanistan. Now in all, total, more than 5,000 Americans have left since the official withdrawal of U.S. troops more than two months ago. The number of Americans who are attempting to leave Afghanistan still in the range of 100 to 200 people.

NOBLES: Yes, and according to the State Department, many are dual citizens facing a difficult decision on whether to leave. In addition to the Americans, there are an untold number of Afghans, many of whom worked for the U.S. military, who are also trying to leave. We're still learning just how frantic and dangerous the escape was for Afghan allies and their family members.


PAUL: CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt talked to an Afghan interpreter turned U.S. citizen and service member about what it took to help his family get out of Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It was from this quiet Virginia cul-de-sac that Fahim Masoud, a lieutenant in the National Guard, orchestrated a dangerous evacuation halfway around the world in Afghanistan.

SECOND LIEUTENANT FAHIM MASOUD, ILLINOIS NATIONAL GUARD INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: It was incredibly difficult. It was -- I cannot tell you how many challenges, security challenges you had to go through.

MARQUARDT: The mission could not have been more personal. Masoud's family was desperately trying to get out. Lieutenant Masoud is an intelligence officer in the Illinois National Guard. He became a U.S. citizen after serving as an interpreter for American troops and then moving to the U.S.

His family stayed in Afghanistan as the Taliban took over, his parents and siblings needed to escape, their connection to him making them targets for the Taliban. Masoud's family headed to the Kabul Airport, like thousands of others, just as an ISIS suicide bomber attacked, killing almost 200 people, including U.S. troops.

MASOUD: I saw they had definitely been kill. Immediately I went into a panic, started calling my sisters.

MARQUARDT: They were OK, nearby on a bus sent by the CIA. They waited at a gas station as Masoud, helped by a CIA contact inside, tried to find another way for them into the airport.

MASOUD: A lot of my family members have worked for the U.S. government in the last 20 years in Afghanistan. I thought the process would be a lot easier than it was.

MARQUARDT: Masoud was desperate. He was cold calling everyone he could think of.

MASOUD: I reached out to very, very senior government officials, senators, Congressmen and women, a number of U.S. military generals including General Milley, including General McConville --

MARQUARDT: Who you didn't know.

MASOUD: Who I did not know. And here is the most junior officer in the United States Army reaching out to these senior, senior government officials.

MARQUARDT: His efforts underscoring the chaos and now the widespread criticism that the Biden administration has not done enough to evacuate the families of Afghan American troops.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R-TX) RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: If you look at prioritizing, of course any American citizen, but certainly family members of the United States military, should be of the highest priority.

MARQUARDT: Congressman Michael McCaul believes there are around 100 family members of Afghan American troops like Masoud still in Afghanistan.

MCCAUL: Our embassy is not there anymore. We have no military on the ground. And if we have to rely on the Taliban to get them out, that's not a good assurance.

MARQUARDT: Masoud's calls worked. His family was directed to a secret CIA-controlled gate at the airport. But a State Department official refused to let them pass, as Masoud, a former CIA official, and a National Guard colonel all pleaded on the phone.

MASOUD: I told him, look, this family's a special -- a special case. When he said, everybody's special. I said, you have to hear me. You have to know who I am and where I come from.

MARQUARDT: Masoud managed to convince the official. His family was through, escorted to a waiting C-17. His sister's worried face turned to joy. They were on their way to the United States.

MASOUD: I broke down. I said I just can't believe that so many people came together for so many hours, for so many -- essentially for so many days to make this happen.

MARQUARDT: Masoud told us that he will never be the same again after going through that ordeal to get his family out. Really the message that he was driving home was that the official channels were not working, they were overwhelmed. He had to do this himself with his own connections like so many others.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: Alex, thank you. What a story.

So parts of country getting ready for serious threat of torrential rain and flooding that is on the way. We'll tell you where it's going.

NOBLES: I want to remind you that an all-new episode of CNN series "Diana" will air tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. You're not going to want to miss it. It's right here on CNN.



PAUL: Pretty stormy weekend across much of the pacific southwest.

NOBLES: Yes. CNN's Allison Chinchar joins us now. Allison, what is causing this extreme weather?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's something called an atmospheric river which is basically a very narrow corridor that funnels intense moisture towards a particular target. And in this case we're talking California and a lot of the surrounding states. That's all that yellow and green that you can see here pushing all of that moisture inland. Now, again, the main focus is going to be on the northern half of the

state of California, but a lot of the surrounding states are likely going to get some pretty intense moisture, as well. Here you can see a lot of these waves of rain starting to filter in today, and they will continue over the next couple of days because we have several waves bringing in showers and even some thunderstorms.

Overall, when you look at these yellow and orange areas here, you're talking widespread about four to six inches of rain, but some locations could pick up in excess of eight inches. Some rain is a good thing, especially for California. One-hundred percent of the state is in some level of drought. The concern is the burn scar areas from where all of the wildfires have been because they are much more prone to flash flooding, as well as mudslides as we go through the next couple of days. The red areas here are moderate, level three out of four flood risk. The pink area you see here, that's a high risk. High- risk dates are very rare. On average you only get about 16 of them per year, but they account for more than 85 percent of U.S. flood damages. So these are pretty significant events when they take place.


We also have winter storm watches because when you get into those higher elevations, now you're talking, guys, two to four feet of snow.

PAUL: Well, skiers will be happy.

NOBLES: I'm not ready to start talking about snow yet.


NOBLES: Allison Chinchar, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

PAUL: Yes, you're going to be in it.

Are you ready to do this again tomorrow, Ryan?

NOBLES: Let's do it. If you will have me back, I'll be here.

PAUL: Always. Always. Thank you so much.

And thank you for being with us. We hope you make good memories today.

NOBLES: And there's much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield.