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Alec Baldwin Meets With Family Of Cinematographer Killed In Shooting; FDA Set To Meet Tuesday On Approving Vaccines For Younger Kids; Questions Remain After Brian Laundrie's Death Confirmed. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired October 24, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right, new questions are emerging in that deadly shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin's film, "Rust," that killed cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.
CNN has now learned about past allegations involving the movies assistant director, Dave Halls. Two people who worked closely with halls tell CNN that he was accused of several safety complaints on two productions back in 2019. This, as we're seeing new photos of Baldwin meeting with Hutchins' husband and son in New Mexico.
In a statement, the actor said his heart was broken for them and is fully cooperating as police investigate. CNN correspondent Lucy Kafanov is in Santa Fe for us. So Lucy, where does the investigation stand?
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation we know that authorities have combed through every inch of that movie set property. We actually talked off the record to one of the Sheriffs here who said they basically have gotten everything they've needed to get from that location.
We now have to piece together exactly what happened on that set, what negligence may have taken place on that set. And to that point, the first time that we heard about this assistant director was in the affidavit. We know that David Hall was actually outside of the structure where the team was practicing, doing their rehearsals or shooting -- film shooting on that fateful Thursday afternoon.
We know that the head armorer left three prop weapons on a cart outside of that building. David Halls, the assistant director grabbed one of the weapons. He walked in into the structure, handed it to Mr. Baldwin, shouting "cold gun" which should have meant no live rounds. We all know the tragedy that took place afterwards.
Well, sources do tell CNN that David Halls had been the subject of several complaints on at least two productions back in 2019. They include things like disregard for safety protocols for guns and pyrotechnics, things like fire lanes, for example, and exit being consistently blocked. That's the word used by one of the sources.
Instances also of inappropriate sexual behavior. One pyro technician who worked with Halls on Hulu's "Into the Dark" series said that he neglected to hold safety meetings and has consistently failed to announce the presence of a firearm on set to the crew. That's usually standard procedure for safety on sets like this.
She tells CNN, and I quote: "The only reason the crew was made aware of the weapon's presence was because the assistant prop master demanded that Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day."
Now another crew member told CNN that when Halls did have these safety meetings, he was quite dismissive and short. He questioned the need to have them in the first place.
Now, we have reached out to Mr. Halls to try to get a reaction to some of these allegations. We have not yet heard back, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And then Lucy, everyone is still mourning the loss of Halyna. There was a vigil last night. How are people reacting?
KAFANOV: There were a lot of hugs, a lot of tears, a lot of processing of how this could have happened, Fred. You know, this vigil took place in downtown Albuquerque. Most of the folks in attendance were part of the industry. It was organized by the union representing television and film workers.
So a lot of people, you know, may have experienced working on similar sets, they may have known some of the people who were on that set. And as several people told us, this is, you know, a brotherhood and a sisterhood. The death of one impacts all.
We spoke to one woman who is the location coordinator in the industry. She wasn't a part of the "Rust" film production, but she told us that she knew, quote, "everyone in the room," and she got emotional when thinking about this tragic killing of Halyna Hutchins and also the lack of safety precautions on set. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REBECCA STAIR, LOCATION MANAGER, IATSE LOCAL 480 MEMBER: I just hope all this talking does something. I hope that my talking with you gets amplified and we get the changes that we need for a safe set.
I'm sure you know we were about to strike this past Monday for safer conditions, and if the world didn't believe us about what's going on, maybe they believe us now.
KAFANOV: People should be able to go home after performing their job.
STAIR: Yes. The child should have a mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAFANOV: "The child should have a mother." She is, of course, referring to Halyna Hutchins who was killed, she was the mother of a young boy living there in LA with her husband and young son.
Now, several of the people at the vigil expressed concern about the lack of safety measures on this particular production. In fact, I interviewed a hairdresser who was hired to work as a hairstylist on the production of "Rust." She said that she backed out over negotiations in part because of rate compensation, but also in part because of safety concerns.
She said that the crew or the team told her that it was a non- negotiable on housing and the concern about housing was that the crew members were being housed in Albuquerque, 50 miles away from the set. That meant very long hours, a lot of drive time. A lot of safety concerns -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Lucy Kafanov. Thank you so much. Still so many questions.
I want to bring in now Dutch Merrick, I'll ask him a few questions. Maybe he can help us out. He is a former President of the entertainment union, IATSE Local 44, property craft persons and a prop master who has worked in the film and television industry for decades.
He is currently working on the HBO series "Euphoria." And HBO is of course owned by WarnerMedia, the same parent company as CNN.
So, good to see you, Dutch.
DUTCH MERRICK, FORMER PRESIDENT, IATSE LOCAL 44: Hi, Fredricka, thank you very much for having me at this really hard time.
WHITFIELD: It is a hard time, I know for -- especially for Halyna Hutchins' family and of course, the whole family of the moviemaking industry and so many of us don't really know all the intricacies of what it is to make a movie, a film.
And so we hope you can help us out here. So much does go into the making of a film, so much time, so much care, and so much preparation. So how could something like this happen, in your view, where a gun is fired for a scene, for a rehearsal, and then someone dies?
MERRICK: Well, and I just want to preface it by saying that Hollywood is -- it really is a family and the shockwaves of this have reverberated throughout the industry.
You know, Hollywood sets the standard and worldwide, people watch us. We haven't had a gun death in Hollywood in 28 years and that is for a good reason because we are a very, very safe industry.
Everything we do is checked and checked and checked, and we do -- we deal with very actually dangerous things. You see the car crashes in the movies that are real, people standing on a mountaintop is real, kayakers, motorcycle riders, and firearms are real, and it is that level of real that gives the authenticity to the show. It is -- we have so many safety checks in place for firearms in particular, safety bulletins, that come down through the industry, and the armorers are very cautious about handling the ammunition and the guns. We block out each scene very carefully before they film.
My understanding from the situation as this was during a rehearsal. So, we rehearse often again and again when you're dealing with firearms before you load the gun before you actually go hot as we call it. And it is unconscionable that that gun, one, was hot at all with a blank, but much less with a live round. That's the question on everyone's mind right now, is why was there live ammunition on a film set because that is absolute taboo.
We've been filming for a hundred years, a hundred years using blank ammunition, and it has been proven safe again and again and again. The show that I work on right now, Euphoria," Sam Levinson, the show director and he demands authenticity, down to the every -- every T is crossed and I is dotted, and so we use real firearms whenever possible.
And whenever there is a firearm brought out on set, he makes sure there's an actual armorer, not just a prop person or crew person, but our armorer with the gun to make sure that we are the utmost of safety. And we block every scene and we know in advance where the actors are pointing, when they're going to pull the trigger, where the cameras are placed, and the safety procedures also extend to the camera department.
It used to be you had to have an operator on the eyepiece, on the lens, and a focus puller next to the lens. That's two people right next to the camera. But with the current technology, when we film scenes, oftentimes we can put a camera on a remote control and have an operator 10, 20, or 30 feet away, who is looking at a monitor and a focus puller working on a remote head, and there is nobody next to the camera when it is being fired.
WHITFIELD: And I know, Dutch, you were not on the set of "Rust" when this happened on Thursday, but can you give us an idea, when you have a rehearsal involving a firearm, and again, we don't know all the details about the weapon, or whether indeed there were live rounds or if this is an accident as a result of blanks, and we just don't have that concrete information.
But can you give us an idea at this juncture, generally when there is going to be a rehearsal, because I have seen repeatedly that this was a rehearsal for this scene, too. What are the steps that might take place before the gun is even handed to the actor?
I mean, you mentioned the armorer, but there are quite a few people involved, is that the case, to handle this weapon, to double check, triple check before the actor gets it even for a rehearsal.
MERRICK: Generally speaking, the process is, the actors will rehearse dialogue, and they won't even find their marks and then, they'll walk through and do what we call a blocking rehearsal. So, the actor will find their marks here. They'll figure out where they maybe want to put the camera and they'll rehearse that a number of times with no guns at all.
And if they need something because the scene requires it, we can give them a dummy gun if need be, or a cold gun, an empty gun if we have to.
MERRICK: But generally, we rehearse without a gun or with a dummy gun and then, then we'll block it out with the entire crew. Then the crew gets a chance to look at -- the department heads will watch the blocking and see where the actor is standing, where the camera is going, and then they can come in and do the lighting and shape the light and figure out where the microphones are going.
Then, when everyone is absolutely ready, the very last thing we do is the armorer will go in, make the gun hot, meaning load the blanks into the gun, offer it to the actor. The actor has an opportunity to inspect it, the first AD who runs the set has an opportunity to inspect it, and then we will -- we'll say "We've gone hot," they will roll camera, we will film.
They'll finish the scene and then the very first thing that happens after that is the armorer will go in and take the weapon and clear it and call it out before anybody moves and make sure it's entirely safe. Then the first AD calls the set clear, then everybody can go in and do whatever job they need to do.
This -- the information that we're hearing that's come through the affidavits is that the first AD himself picked a gun up off a cart without supervision of an armorer, handed it to Alec Baldwin, didn't check it. It turned out to be the worst case scenario, a loaded gun with a real bullet, which is the biggest mystery of all, but a first AD has no business taking anything off an armorer's cart and handing to an actor.
That has armorers just beside themselves why an AD would feel compelled to do that. And my guess is that they're crunched for time and trying to get things done quickly and they're cutting corners.
When you're working 16 to 18 hours a day, and a lot of the crew walked off that morning. The entire camera crew walked off that morning citing gun safety.
WHITFIELD: Yes, hours before -- probably six hours. And in fact, that was --
MERRICK: And they had been having extremely long days.
WHITFIELD: Oh I apologize for interrupting, I was about to ask you that, about the -- you know, the assistant director you mentioned, the AD, their armorer. I mean, the sequence of events of handling the weapon, and then what about the prop master? Or is that interchangeable with the armorer?
I mean, because there seemed to be a lot of roles, different people who might have their hands on the weapon and then, I mean, we still don't know if this was a live round. What was in this gun?
MERRICK: Well, the chain of the -- the chain of command is such that the prop master is the head of the department. They are ultimately in charge for the entire department. And many prop masters have their firearms permits and will run the guns on set and they're perfectly entitled to do it. And on a larger show or if a prop master is not set up to do guns or not comfortable with guns, they'll hire an armorer, who that's their entire job, it is only to deal with the guns.
And definitely on a larger show, you specifically have an armorer to that, and they stay next to the cart. They keep the guns in their charge at all times.
You know the cardinal sin is having live ammunition anywhere on a film studio or near a film set. It's hard to -- everything would be speculation at this point.
WHITFIELD: Yes, why would that ever be appropriate? Sure.
MERRICK: My understanding is that the armorer, the young gal that was running the show was her second or third show as --
WHITFIELD: Hannah Gutierrez?
MERRICK: Yes. It was her second or third show as a sort of key, a department head for the armorer. She may have assisted in the past. I don't know exactly what her history was. But this was one of her first shows to really be the bottom line, the department head, and her father was a sort of a trick shooter, a Wild West trick shooter and he would work with actors and teaching them that sort of stuff.
You know, and you're out in the desert in New Mexico. Everyone this -- we're thinking of a hundred scenarios, maybe she showed some trick shooting with live rounds. We don't know. Why was there live rounds? Were the guns unattended and someone put a live round? That is the mystery.
We are waiting with bated breath for the investigators to find out why in God's name a real round -- I did bring some blank rounds to show you if it's something you want to see.
WHITFIELD: Show us real quick because we are right up against a break.
MERRICK: Yes. This is called a five in one round. It's designed most -- western shoots use this. It works in a lot of Western rifles and pistols. And you'll notice, the front of it is crimped, there's a little pinch in the brass and it's entirely inert.
So there's -- I should say there's gunpowder, there is a primer. It will spark in a fire and cause flame, but nothing is supposed to come out of the barrel.
So, it's very obvious to an armorer or a prop person that there was a bullet and a blank. It's -- again, when you're working the kind of long hours that they were, people are tired, they're stressed. The crew wasn't paid for three weeks and a lot of them walked. The conditions were a perfect storm. But in Hollywood, we literally expend millions of rounds of blank ammunition. I say millions, I mean millions with an M -- that is safe every single day and we do it day in and day out without an injury and that's what I do for a living.
MERRICK: We block it out, we're careful, we check and double check and it's a very safe industry. This instance is an anomaly that we should not compare -- it doesn't compare to with what the standard checks are. We do it every single day all over LA and all over the country.
WHITFIELD: It's extraordinarily sad. You made reference to, you know, Hannah Gutierrez's dad. I mean, he is legendary, Thell Reed, but again, we don't know exactly what happened yet involving anybody, whatever decisions or anything just yet. The investigation is still in its infancy. Dutch Merrick, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
MERRICK: Thank you for having me.
WHITFIELD: All right, still to come, a Halloween treat as parents anxiously await vaccines for their young children, the C.D.C. Director says go ahead and put on those costumes and enjoy the day, safely and everything.
Plus, Princess Diana's popularity reaches new heights, but her public success makes her private life a lot more difficult.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: You go and get Harry.
JULIE MONTAGU, VISCOUNTESS HINCHINGBROOKE, BROADCASTER: Here we are in 1985 and Diana has the family that she has always wanted. She is mother to three-year-old William and one-year-old Harry.
Diana was literally night and day to previous Royal mothers. Diana ripped up that rulebook and said, right, I'm going to be a very hands on mother.
RICHARD KAY, JOURNALIST AND FRIEND: She worshipped her sons, William and Harry. She felt that her number one job was being a mum.
PENNY JUNOR, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: She was very demonstrative towards them. Big kisses, big hugs, which we were really not used to because in previous generations of Royal mothers, didn't display their emotions in public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Watch a new episode of the CNN Original Series "Diana." That's tonight at nine.
[15:21:02] WHITFIELD: As soon as Tuesday, parents could have an answer on whether their younger children will be able to get vaccinated against COVID, and that is when the F.D.A. meets on authorizing shots for kids between the ages of five and 11. The C.D.C. makes its recommendation the following week.
Dr. Carlos del Rio is joining me right now. So good to see you. So, a lot of parents are at the edge of their seat waiting to see, and if the F.D.A. and C.D.C. all give it the greenlight for kids to get their vaccines, are pediatricians ready?
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN OF THE EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE - ATLANTA: Well, you know, the White House issued a statement saying that they're working to get the vaccine out as soon as possible, and as you know, we didn't really have a system to vaccinate adults, but we have a system to vaccinate kids. Pediatrician's office have been at the forefront of vaccination for many years, not only kids during COVID, they've been vaccinating also adults, you know.
So pediatricians are ready to receive the vaccine and start vaccinating. They are also going to have it available, you know, primary care centers and they have it available at pharmacies and grocery stores and other places. But I suspect pediatricians are going to be a major place where people are going to take their kids to get vaccinated.
WHITFIELD: So what does the data show thus far about how young people are reacting to this vaccine? How their bodies are reacting?
DEL RIO: Well, what we're learning is that the vaccine is highly effective and very immunogenic and very safe. So in young kids, the data that we've seen from Pfizer shows over 90 percent efficacy and incredible immunogenicity and safety.
So, I think it's going to be very protective and it is going to be very useful to have kids vaccinated because as you know, kids are less likely than adults to get critically ill or end up in the hospital or die from COVID, but the risk is not zero. We still have you know, some of our pediatric hospitals that were pretty overwhelmed with pediatric patients over the last delta surge.
But the other component is that if your kid is vaccinated, when you go for the Holidays with the older parents, with your grandparents, they are much safer because then the kid is not likely to infect them.
WHITFIELD: So you're talking about you know, Thanksgiving -- the November and December holidays, but a lot of families want to know how do they handle Halloween? It's right around the corner. This is what the C.D.C. Director Walensky has to say.
DEL RIO: You know, my feeling with Halloween, Halloween is next weekend.
WHITFIELD: Yes. DEL RIO: It's outdoors. And guess what? We're masked, right? We've been mask all along. I feel like we've been doing Halloween for two years, right? So kids are going to be masked. They're going to be outside. I think Halloween is totally safe.
WHITFIELD: All right. Well, it sounds like your point of view mirrors that of the C.D.C. Director, Dr. Walensky. Let's listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Whether people are vaccinated or not, as long as you're outside, you're -- you're safe.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Yes. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't gather in large settings outside and do screaming like you're seeing in those football games. If you're unvaccinated, those kids that are unvaccinated, but if you're spread out doing your trick or treating, that should be very safe for your children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Okay, well, that's pretty optimistic. And as it pertains to the vaccine, we're talking about a third of the dose that adults might get, that kids would get. But we're still talking about two doses.
DEL RIO: We're still talking about two doses. Yes, yes.
WHITFIELD: There are still going to be quite a few people who are reluctant.
DEL RIO: Yes.
WHITFIELD: Who are nervous -- what do you say?
DEL RIO: Yes, well, you know, the best estimate, there are about 28 million kids that could potentially be vaccinated. People estimate that maybe 18 to 20 percent may not get vaccinated because the parents are reluctant.
Some recent data is really interesting. You know, mothers are much more reluctant than parents to get the COVID vaccine for their kids. I think we need to, you know, as healthcare providers, we need to talk to people, we need to explain to them. We need to hear about their concerns.
I have learned that by one by one answering concerns and dealing with questions -- legitimate questions that people have, you're likely to convince them and you're likely to get them to understand the importance of getting vaccinated.
WHITFIELD: And do you think that schools will get to a point where they are treating COVID shots similar to other immunizations that are required before they attend school?
[15:25:08] DEL RIO: You know, it's very possible. I think, it is unlikely to happen until there's a full F.D.A. approval of the vaccine, and be unlikely to happen during an emergency use authorization. But I do think that that's maybe what's going to happen, especially if we continue to have surges.
I mean, at the end of the day, right now, we're moving in a good direction. We are not where we would like to be. I mean -- this morning, we still have 50,000 people in the hospital with COVID. And we are -- you know, over 1,500 Americans are dying every day from COVID. We've got to bring those numbers down, but if those numbers really come down, it may be a very different situation.
WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Carlos Del Rio, always good to see you. Thank you so much for coming in.
DEL RIO: Delighted to be with you.
WHITFIELD: All right, with the national attention on the Gabby Petito case, many families of color with missing loved ones are left wondering, what about their cases? We'll talk about that, next.
WHITFIELD: The search for answers continue now that the remains of Brian Laundrie have been found in a nature reserve in Florida. A forensic anthropologist is now examining those remains. Let's bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval.
Polo, what more are you learning about this investigation?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, remember, it was last week that investigators actually recovered various personal items along with the remains of Brian Laundrie. They include a backpack and also a notebook that was heavily damaged by water.
A source close to the investigation telling my colleague Randi Kaye that that is being described as possibly salvageable. So there is certainly hope here in Florida that that could provide some clues here.
The F.B.I. former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also adding a little bit more insight that is important here saying that they do have F.B.I. technicians that are able to actually recover some of that paper evidence. So, it is very possible that that is in an F.B.I. lab right now and investigators obviously trying to extract evidence from that including fingerprints and perhaps even anchor writings that could shed more light on Brian Laundrie's feelings toward Gabby Petito.
And as we've heard from experts though, that there are still so many pieces that are still missing in this puzzle, and with Brian Laundrie now confirmed dead, all of this evidences left behind certainly going to be crucial pieces of this investigation as they try to put all this together.
But certainly finding those answers, Fred, is not going to be easy, and these answers now, the investigators have been able to -- have been trying to find, but two families, one here in North Port Florida, and one in New York and really coming to terms with the reality that this may possibly remain an open case for some time until investigators can definitively say who killed Gabby Petito.
WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for the update.
So, all the national attention on the Gabby Petito case has many families of color with missing loved ones, frustrated by the lack of attention paid to their cases, including the loved ones of Jelani Day. The 25-year-old college grad student was reported missing in Bloomington, Illinois in mid-August. His body was found a week later, but he wasn't identified until nearly a month later. His family is upset that law enforcement didn't do more when he first disappeared.
And then in Arizona, 23-year-old geologist, Daniel Robinson, well, he's been missing now for four months. He hasn't been seen since leaving a worksite in the Arizona desert rather in June. His family hired a private investigator to search for him after their disappointment with the efforts of local law enforcement.
Nicquel Terry Ellis is a CNN senior writer on race and equality. So, good to see you, Niquel, and particularly during the Gabby Petito case, we heard from a number of families of color who expressed their frustration.
In the time that they have helped to raise the awareness of this kind of disparity of attention, has anyone said that they are seeing any difference now, any movement in their cases? Any greater attention now?
NICQUEL TERRY ELLIS, CNN SENIOR WRITER ON RACE AND EQUALITY: Fredricka, no, and I think that that's part of the issue here. The families of black and brown -- of missing black and brown people tell me that they remain concerned that they're missing loved one is not getting the fair attention or the spotlight placed on them.
They are also concerned about police and the level of attention that police are giving their missing loved one as far as the investigations go.
The mother of Jelani Day, she came out last week pleading for the F.B.I. to get involved in the investigation of her son's death. We know that Jelani Day's body was found in a river and it remains clear exactly how his body got there. The cause of death remains a mystery. There are just so many unanswered questions in his case, and his mother just simply does not feel that police in Illinois are doing enough within their investigation of her son's death.
Also, the case of Daniel Robinson that you just mentioned, Fredricka. His father remains very concerned with the level of attention that police are giving the disappearance of his son who remains missing. He has assembled his own search team in Arizona, volunteers that are going out weekly, even daily to search for his son because he just does not feel like police are being aggressive enough in searching for his son.
WHITFIELD: And is there some disparity between people of color who are -- men who are missing versus people of color who are women or girls who are missing in terms of a disparity in the interest, or you know, pouring resources into looking for them.
ELLIS: Yes, so we have learned that there is a racial disparity in the number of missing black men who have gone missing. I spoke with the CEO of an organization called the Black and Missing Foundation, who tells me that she has seen a 50 percent increase in cases of missing black men just since August. That accounted for about 24 cases of missing black men.
Now, she is seeing some similarities in those cases where the abandoned car of the missing black man is found, while his whereabouts remain a mystery. And it's unclear why black men are being targeted in these cases, which I think is frustrating. As a matter of fact, the CEO, she said to me, I quote, "It's very frustrating, and very sickening to see this trend right now."
WHITFIELD: It is indeed, and so what are, you know, advocates -- these advocates able to say about what is it going to take to change this? To make it more fair and equitable in terms of looking for people -- an equal interest in looking for people who are missing.
ELLIS: So advocates and experts and families, they all tell me that they simply just want missing people of color to get the same level of attention in the media as missing white people.
I think that just seeing in the last couple of months, the level of attention that was placed on Gabby Petito, they want that attention. They want the same resources devoted to finding their loved one. They want their stories to be highlighted in the media as well.
I've heard from some families who say that they've actually gone to the police, to have the police only label their loved one as a runaway or even criminalize them, not even taking the case seriously. And I think that's just -- the concern for them is that, you know, they are concerned about this term that was coined by Gwen Ifill called missing white woman syndrome, where white women are just simply given more attention and there is just more attention placed on their investigations and their stories. But the lives in the cases of missing people of color matter, too, and the families simply just want that equality.
WHITFIELD: Nicquel Terry Ellis, thank you so much for bringing this to everyone's attention and talking to us about it today.
ELLIS: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And we're right back after this.
WHITFIELD: All right, it's a major sticking point in moving some of President Biden's key agenda items forward, the filibuster. Here is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on "State of the Union" today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want you to take a listen to a key moment in which President Biden was talking about voting rights in the CNN Town Hall with Anderson Cooper the other night. Take a listen.
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?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And maybe more.
TAPPER: So that is President Biden saying that he is willing to entertain the notion of getting rid of the filibuster for Voting Rights Act, and maybe for other things as well. Do you agree with him on that one issue, that at the end of the day, having some sort of voting rights bill is more important than preserving the filibuster, at least for that one vote?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The most important vote right now in the Congress of the United States is that vote to respect the sanctity of the vote, the fundamental basis of our democracy, that the one vote that the filibuster could enable to go forward that would be the vote, and enable so much more because we're talking about stopping the suppression of the vote and the nullification of the elections.
We're talking about right redistricting in a way that is fair and may not benefit Democrats, but it might open up some of these Republican seats. It talks about stopping the big dark crushing special interest money and empowers the grassroots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, Norm Eisen, he served as counsel to House Democrats during the first Trump impeachment trial. He was also White House Ethics Czar during the Obama administration and a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. Good to see you. And Yohuru Williams, he is a Professor of History at the University of St. Thomas. Good to see you as well.
So Professor Williams, to you first, you know, House Speaker Pelosi says voting rights is the most important issue in front of Congress right now, and if it is going to be up to Congress, it seems to be solely because the U.S. Supreme Court is not going to be able to tackle this.
How critical is it in your view that action be taken by Congress?
YOHURU WILLIAMS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS: It's absolutely critical, Fredricka, in fact, this is high time for Congress to take this issue on with regard to voting rights.
We saw this failure this summer, the expectation that Senator Manchin will be able to put together a bipartisan bill. That now has failed and it's clear that without dealing with the issue of the filibuster, it's going to be impossible for the Democrats to move this forward.
But there is a larger issue here about frustrating the will of the American democratic process. And so, I think that's the bigger piece. People should be concerned about looking at this issue, taking this issue on because it fundamentally restricts and pushes back the ability of the Senate to do its job.
WHITFIELD: Ambassador Eisen, Biden says, you know, he sees room to end the filibuster to get voting rights legislation through and maybe others. Does he have a lot of influence particularly from Republicans? I mean, they have to acquiesce.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Fredricka, thanks for having me back. I think Biden does have influence, and this can be done as changes. We're talking about changing, modifying, not eliminating the filibuster to allow voting rights to pass.
Changes have been done repeatedly, including by the then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. So, it can be done on 50 votes plus one for voting rights. And as you Yohuru says, it is a must. The filibuster is not more important than our democracy and our democracy is under attack. A voting rights bill will address that.
WHITFIELD: The issue is the majority versus the filibuster 60. So Professor Williams, you know, two pivotal things did happen in this past week. Republicans did not vote in favor of holding Steve Bannon in contempt for defying a subpoena by the House Judiciary -- the House Select Committee, the January 6th Select Committee and the failure to secure new voting rights legislation.
So in your view, is democracy as we know it in danger?
WILLIAMS: I think Ambassador Eisen stated it very eloquently. I think it's under assault and we are looking at a moment where we need to decide as a society and culture if we are going to fight back against this.
American democracy really has reached a critical juncture. The shadow of January 6 looms large. When we talk about white supremacy and voting rights, we know that this is a major problem in communities of color. And so we have to see these issues is inextricably tied, and we have to see action now from legislators and leadership from the President on this issue.
So you're hearing some of that this week. I just hope there's follow through because I don't think that our democracy can survive more big lies or even the pretense toward another January 6th.
WHITFIELD: And Ambassador, how do you see it? I mean, the big lie has not gone away. If anything, it seems to be -- the momentum seems to be gaining.
EISEN: Fredricka, it represents a terrible threat, and one of the things that the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the two big voting rights bills that the filibuster must be modified to allow to pass, one of the things that they would do is stop these terrible pieces of legislation around the country that literally, the worst of them, Fredricka, they literally take the final choice for elected offices out of the hands of the voters and put them in the hands of the partisan state legislatures.
That's what Trump and his coup lawyers wanted to do last time they were blocked, that must not be allowed. It won't be America as we know it. So we've got to modify the filibuster to prevent that.
WHITFIELD: And Professor Williams, how concerned are you about the urgency?
WILLIAMS: You know, Dr. King talked about the fierce urgency of now. I think that language applies to this moment with the midterms coming up, with so much concern about what is happening in Georgia and Texas with regard to restrictive voting laws.
We really need action now. I think this really is the ground zero in a lot of ways. And what we saw this week signals the need for immediate action on this issue, particularly with regard to the filibuster.
WHITFIELD: And Ambassador, last word on urgency?
EISEN: Fredricka, this is the moment, the coming weeks and I do believe there will be a showdown on the floor of the Senate on the filibuster. Our very democracy is at stake.
The American experiment is being threatened by this vocal minority, the MAGA faction around the country. We must not let them proceed unchecked. That's why the filibuster has to be modified, not ended, to allow voting rights legislation to pass.
WHITFIELD: Ambassador Norm Eisen, Professor Yohuru Williams, thanks to both of you, gentlemen. Appreciate it.
EISEN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right, here we go. The World Series is set, and for the first time in 22 years, the Atlanta Braves are back in the game. Here is CNN's Carolyn Manno.
CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, Atlanta is on an incredible run, especially when you consider that the team lost its entire opening day outfield mid-season and that included MVP candidate Ronald Acuna, Jr. So, they are thrilled to be here.
The Braves traded for four new outfielders at the deadline, and that has sparked a second half rally that has taken them all the way to the World Series. One of those acquisitions I mentioned was Eddie Rosario, who came up so big for the Braves.
Once again, the Dodgers could not figure out the Series MVP. He broke a one-one tie in the fourth with a line drive shot down the right field line. He was the most dynamic player of the series. Rosario, 14 hits in the NLCS alone, that home run they're giving Atlanta a three- run lead to the delight of the hometown crowd.
Atlanta's bullpen took over from there. They struck out 10 over the final five innings. AJ Pollock rounding out to end the Dodgers chances for a World Series repeat. But the Braves clinching the NL pennant, their first since the team's glory days back in the 90s.
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BRIAN SNITKER, ATLANTA BRAVES MANAGER: I can't say enough about this group. I was proud of them when we won the division. And to get here, what they've been through this year, how they've hung in there. They've allowed themselves to be right here right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANNO: The Braves and Astros meet for game one on Tuesday night in Houston. The Astros back in the fall classic for the third time in five years, but the two teams haven't faced each other since 2017, and Fredricka, this year, squads had some ties to each other as well. Houston manager Dusty Baker made his major league debut as a player for the Braves, spent nearly 10 years there. Baseball fans might remember that.
MANNO: And then Braves' manager, Brian Snitker's son, Troy, is actually a hitting coach for the Astros, so some friendly faces behind enemy lines, but everybody in the Atlanta area and also in Houston very excited about this matchup.
WHITFIELD: Oh, I love all that history. Love all that enthusiasm. Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.
And thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The CNN NEWSROOM with Jim Acosta continues right after this.