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Dems on Verge of Agreement on Biden Social Spending Bill; Alec Baldwin Rehearsal Resulting in Fatal Accident; Facebook Papers May be Biggest Crisis in Company's History; House May Pass Infrastructure Package Soon. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Erica Hill. This is Monday of what is shaping up to be a very important weekend. Perhaps before we can even get to the end of the week it's these next few days that could be critical. So important here for President Biden's agenda, of course. So what's the latest? What do we know out of Washington?

Major developments in where we could stand at this point. So sources telling CNN House Democratic leaders now aiming for a vote on that bipartisan infrastructure deal in the next two to three days, but what they also want to see is an agreement here - a detailed agreement on that larger social safety net package, of course. That needs to be in place before to help, of course, Jim, convince progressives to vote for the infrastructure bill.

SCIUTTO: Yes, always heads in to put (ph) a shorter deadline here given how many deadlines we busted through. Also we do have new reporting on how high moderate Senator Joe Manchin now says he is willing to go on the overall price tag for all these pieces of a spending package as well as new details on Democrats' plan to pay for it all, including an interesting tax proposal.

Joining us now, CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond and CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill. Jeremy, we'll being with you. President Biden, he's going to be heading to New Jersey soon in part to sell his economic agenda. This comes after yet another meeting yesterday with Delaware - in Delaware rather with Senator Manchin and Majority Leader Schumer. Tell us where they are. I mean, we ask you this question practically daily, but is it close?




SCIUTTO: Is it really close at this point or a sticking point? Is the list of sticking points still on? DIAMOND: Look, whether you listen to folks at the White House here or on Capitol Hill, it does appear that these Democratic leaders are on the precipice of a deal. How long that precipice is, how many days it actually is is still and open question, but White House officials certainly want to get to a deal and also get a vote on this infrastructure bill before President Biden leaves for his European trip, and that is just three days away as the president heads to Rome for the G20 and then to Scotland for the COP26 summit, but President Biden and Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, they had a critical meeting yesterday at President Biden's Delaware home, and during that meeting we're told that they made some progress in reaching towards a deal.

We're also told separately - our Manu Raju on Capitol Hill is told that Senator Joe Manchin has signaled that he is open to a $1.75 trillion topline. That is up from the $1.5 trillion top line that he had previously set.

So here are some of the outlines of what we do know appears to be in, appears to be out of this bill. That has been revealed in recent days, including by President Biden during that town hall last week, but there are still major sticking points including this climate change provision, the climate change provisions that are in this reconciliation package.

For example, it's not clear how much progress was exactly made yesterday during that meeting with Senator Joe Manchin. He is the main person holding out on some of those climate provisions. A big question over that, and then, of course, a question over how to pay for this package. That is because of Senator Kyrsten Sinema's opposition to raising the corporate tax rate. Those questions still need to be worked out in the coming days.

Hill: Just a - just a few minor things we need to work out in the coming days. Lauren, as we look at where we stand based on what Jeremy, right, just went through as the list for us, Speaker Pelosi sounding very optimistic over the weekend. Realistically how much of that is going to get hashed out? What more are we going to know today?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well her job really is to make sure that she has both her progressives and her moderates on board for not one but two major pieces of the president's agenda, one of those, of course, the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate already passed but that the House has really struggled to get through their chamber of Congress. Excuse me.

One of the things that they have made very clear is that if they are going to pass this bipartisan infrastructure bill they are going to need to make sure they have a detailed framework of that larger spending package. The Speaker saying that she thinks it's possible. Here's what she said yesterday.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have 90 percent of the bill agreed to and written. We just have some of the last decisions to be made. It is less than we had - was projected to begin with, but it's still bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of addressing the needs of America's working families.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Are you saying in the next week the framework will be agreed to or there will be a deal on the social safety net bill -


PELOSI: Let's call it an agreement.

TAPPER: An agreement. There will be an agreement on that, and you will also vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, both of those things will happen in the next week?

PELOSI: That's the plan.


FOX: And the expectation is that vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill could come as soon as Wednesday of this week, but again, there's a lot to work through on that bigger social safety net package. Issues about how to pay for that bill, issues about whether or not you're going to include prescription drug pricing negotiations in that bill, questions about whether or not there's going to be means testing for key programs that families depend on.

All of those items are up for discussion, and they are key sticking points for both Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

SCIUTTO: Yes. There have been lots of plans, lots of timelines, lots of deadlines. Let's see if this one holds. Jeremy Diamond, Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

Another story we're following. New details this morning about what happened in the moments before actor Alec Baldwin discharged a weapon with it appears a live round on a movie set leading to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

According to a newly-released affidavit the movie's director, who was also injured in the incident, told investigators the shooting happened while Baldwin was rehearsing a scene.

HILL: We've also learned that the film's assistant director, who told Baldwin the gun was safe before handing it to him, was the subject (ph) of complaints about safety in 2019. This according to two of his former colleagues.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live this morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So what else are we learning from this affidavit this morning?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica and Jim, when you look at the details around this we've learned so much more because of this affidavit, and we do know that the director, Joel Souza, he said that he was standing director behind Halyna Hutchinson - Hutchins looking over her shoulder as they were rehearsing the scene.

We know that they were practicing this cross draw that Alec Baldwin was rehearsing, sitting in a pew where he'd reach across his body to pull the firearm from the opposite side of his body to point it toward the camera. We know that when this went off it hit Hutchins in the torso and it also hit the director in the shoulder. Those are a couple of things that we've learned.

We've also learned from the director that some of the camera department had walked out earlier in the day, so they only had one camera available. Now they had walked out because there were concerns about pay and about housing. It wasn't necessarily about safety, but they had left. So they only had one operating camera, so this particular camera was not rolling at the time that this happened.

Just little details that we're learning here. Also you mentioned the assistant director, David Halls. He's become the focus here because he's the one according to the affidavit that handed the firearm to Alec Baldwin and yelled out "cold gun" meaning that it did not have any live rounds inside of it.

So the question is when was this gun last checked? Souza saying that three people were responsible - the assistant director, the armorer, and then also, obviously, the actor would handle this weapon as well, but will you take a listen to some of the pain and how people were looking at this. One man who was standing right there, another cameraman saying that he had been so careful, Alec Baldwin had.

And take a listen to what one of the best friends of Hutchins had to say earlier today on NEW DAY.


RACHEL MASON, BEST FRIEND OF HALYNA HUTCHINS: I wanted to reach out because I wanted him to know that even though I am so devastated about what happened and I'm so like deeply saddened, I just don't think any person who was in that position as an actor no matter where their responsibility ends up lying on people to pull it all apart, he is so not responsible for this tragic, horrific nightmare of taking the life of my friend.


ELAM: And I just should, too, we were talking a bit about Halls, the assistant director, and how there were those two complaints against him from productions in 2019. Should let you know that CNN has reached out to him but he has not responded to our request for comment. Jim and Erica -

HILL: Stephanie Elam with the latest for us this morning. Stephanie, appreciate it. Thank you.

Also joining us, Entertainment and Sports Litigation Attorney, Joseph Costa. It's good to have you with us this morning. I want it pick up actually where Stephanie just let off. So we just heard from Halyna Hutchins' best friend saying, you know, she really wanted to reach out to Alec Baldwin. In her estimation he does not bear the responsibility here because there is this chain of what is supposed to happen with a firearm on set. In your view, is she right?

JOSEPH COSTA, ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS LITIGATION ATTORNEY: Well good morning. Is she correct? It's a sliding scale is what it really is, and Alec Baldwin faces liability on two fronts. He is responsible for what happens on the set, and he also happens to be the person who's holding the firearm at the time that the accident occurs.


So the good news is for Alec Baldwin is when you hear about and affidavit like the one and you hear statements that have just been read, it certainly appears that there have been a lot of protocols that have been followed and it wasn't a reckless situation which someone just picks up a gun and it goes off.

However, that does not necessarily relieve him from liability. If the set itself is unsafe or if someone doesn't follow a protocol and the company was negligent in hiring that person, then the producer, which Alec Baldwin is, ultimately will share some liability.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear, you're talking about civil liability, not criminal, correct?

COSTA: I'm talking about both. I think the civil liability is a foregone conclusion, Jim, but I think that when you're talking about criminal liability if you look at some of the history of how others in charge have been held accountable, I certainly think that's a possibility as well.

SCIUTTO: Vic Morrow, right? I mean, if you target (ph) John Landis going back to the 80s, right, there was a deadly accident on set. He was ultimately acquitted, but are there other cases that are informative here?

COSTA: Yes. There's the case of Midnight Rider in which Randall Miller was the directed of Midnight Rider and he plead guilty and he plead guilty because he effectively allowed a dangerous situation to occur.

He did a year in time - a year of time, and it was a felony and voluntary manslaughter plea that he had entered into.

HILL: When we look at what we do know, we've learned so much from that affidavit, which Stephanie was just reporting out for us. The role of the A.D. here, just in the chain of command, and you know, Jim and I spoke with a prop master on Friday about this, too, talking about how it really is the assistant director who's the last line of defense there, that after it goes through all the checks it's the A.D. who hands over the gun as we know from the affidavit. He apparently yelled "cold gun". It was not. There was a live bullet in there. How much does all of that come into play at this point in terms of responsibility and what may have been missed? COSTA: Well it all comes into play in terms of minimizing the responsibility for the person who actually ends up receiving the gun. Again, Alec Baldwin is facing a situation in which he's the person who has the weapon in his hand at the time it discharges and he's also a producer on the set who is responsible for everyone on the set.

So it certainly is good news in terms of minimizing his culpability as the person holding the gun from a criminal standpoint and to some extent from a civil standpoint, but it doesn't seem to me to be conclusive of how this case is going to turn out.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, some weighty questions to be answered. Joseph Costa, thanks so much.

COSTA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next this hour, damning new documents about the internal workings of Facebook, how the company failed to stop human trafficking on its platform and took direction even from dictators. Plus there is breaking news this morning from Sudan where the military is staging a coup. There are mass protests on the streets. Country's prime minister under arrest.

HILL: Also ahead, new details this morning about how quickly the COVID vaccine for younger children, kids age 5 to 11 could be available if it is soon granted that emergency use authorization. That's ahead.



SCIUTTO: Well Facebook warned its employees over the weekend to brace themselves for more damaging news, and those headlines, they're here.

HILL: Yes, tens of thousands of newly-leaked documents from inside the company are revealing how Facebook helped to fuel the January 6 insurrection, turned a blind eye to human trafficking, and caved to the demands of dictators.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joining us now. Donie, I mean, the headlines are coming fast and furious this morning. This may be, and I think that's saying something, one of the biggest crises that Facebook has seen. Let's start first with human trafficking, which, you know, I guess they've known about, right? It's been on there since at least 2018. The big question is what has Facebook done?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I mean I think this is so important to point out for as much focus and as many of the yields (ph) we know Facebook has in problems in this country really outside of the U.S. is where the platform is extremely chaotic.

I want to show you this post from one of the leaked internal Facebook documents. It's an ad basically or what purports to be an ad for domestic workers, for slaves. This is something that Facebook's own staff were researching and said we have a real problem with us here. Our colleague at CNN, Clare Duffy, was digging into these files a bit over the past few weeks, and she actually found on Instagram just last week - just last week an account purporting to offer domestic workers for sale. She flagged it to Facebook. Facebook eventually took it down, but look. It's just one example of dozens and eventually hundreds I think that we're going to hear about from these files of how this platform is out of control.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, I mean, and you imagine the platform as so tech, right, do high tech that it could monitor. You'd expect it could monitor some of these things. Let's focus for a moment internally here. Tell us how Facebook failed to stop the use of its platform for the January 6 insurrection.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, and look. The days after the insurrection Sheryl Sandberg actually came out in an interview and she was trying to downplay Facebook's role in the insurrection, but I mean, we all knew.


I saw in the days after the election how Stop the Steal was exploding on Facebook, and Facebook's own internal researchers found that to take a look at this document where they describe that how Stop the Steal spread rapidly after the election but Facebook's own enforcement was piecemeal. And they document in that how in this research that Facebook conducted internally after the insurrection how Stop the Steal spread on the platform, how there was so much overlap importantly between hate groups and groups like the Proud Boys and other militias with Stop the Steal.

And look, we don't even need these internal documents to know that we know it from the ground. Have a listen to one of the first Stop the Steal events that took place during the week of the election. Excuse me. Have a listen.


O'SULLIVAN: How did you guys hear about this even today?


O'SULLIVAN: Facebook events, Instagram? How have you been promoting this?

SCOTT PRESLER, ORGANIZED "STOP THE STEAL" EVENTS ON Facebook: Yes. Well I created a Facebook event for yesterday's event, and I posted after the fact that we were, again, coming today. I will be, again, making another event in regards to tomorrow.


O'SULLIVAN: Yes, Scott Presler there, one of the organizers of that Stop the Steal event. Of course, he was saying it was peaceful at the time back in November, but we saw then what it all led to on January 6. So look, I mean, this company, it's in trouble. Facebook is denying, of course, and pushing back on the central premise of these documents and the whistleblowers' allegations, but it is very hard when they're trying to dismiss their own research.

HILL: It is hard when they're trying to dismiss their own research. There's also just so much, right, as we've said that's coming out. So in "The Washington Post" according to "The Post" Mark Zuckerberg actually agreed to ramp up censorship, Donie, of antigovernment posts in Vietnam following demands from that country's leaders. So essentially bowing, right, to - there's been concern about bowing to dictators.

O'SULLIVAN: And while at the same time then placating Trump here in the Untied States, allowing him to post things that say looting will lead to shooting even though it's a violation of Facebook's own rules.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, the digital track record here just alarming. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much for following it for us. Well Nina Jankowicz joins us now. She's an expert on disinformation, a global fellow at The Wilson Center. She also testified about her research on Facebook in front of the British Parliament last month.

So Nina, let's begin with what we just learned about Vietnam here. Basically bowing, right to the requests, the demands of dictators. Is that part of a pattern that you've seen with Facebook?

NINA JANKOWICZ, GLOBAL FELLOW, THE WILSON CENTER: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I wrote an op-ed in 2018 - back in 2018 during Mark Zuckerberg's first testimony before Congress that was called "Why Dictators Love Facebook". This is part of a pattern. Mark Zuckerberg loves to talk about how Facebook is, you know, free speech absolutists here in the United States, but when it comes to places like Russia, like India, like Vietnam Facebook is all too happy to protect its market share by quashing free speech that is critical of those authoritarian regimes in those countries.

HILL: So Nina, you talk about the fact that you wrote about this in 2018. Here we are in 2021. It doesn't seem like much has changed. Based on everything we've learned since then, do you see there every being real change if the leadership remains in place?

JANKOWICZ: You know, I think there's certainly a lot of culpability for Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg among other Facebook executives, and to them I would say, you know, time's up. It is leaving the world less democratic and less safe if Facebook continues to operate that way, but frankly we also have some culpability here in the United States Congress, right?

We knew about these problems for many, many years. Basically since 2016 we've known that there are algorithmic amplification problems, hate speech problems, that Facebook has been coddling dictators. And we are the home of this company. We birthed this company, so the regulation that we put into place here really matters.

And it's a little frustrating for me and other researchers who have been talking about these issues for so many years because in all of our work all of these issues have been confirmed over and over. Now we have the documents to prove that Facebook knew these were problems and did nothing about it.

So I say let's scrape our jaws off the floor, right? Let's get to work and really start to protect people and protect our society and democracies not just here but around the world.

SCIUTTO: OK, so how? I mean, what's the fix because this is not the first time we've heard about this, right? It's not the first difficult week that we have reported on for Facebook in terms of revelations of this kind of thing. You do have Congress talking about some sort of regulation, but does that actually get through this Congress? I mean, what needs to be done, right, to prevent this from happening again?


JANKOWICZ: Right, well there's a whole host of things that need to be done, Jim, and I think there's a couple different approaches that countries could take. In the U.K. right now what Frances Haugen will be testifying about is this kind of overarching online safety bill. That country is looking at a myriad of harms that are being done to individuals of all sorts of backgrounds by Facebook and other social media platforms.

I don't think a bill like that would have a lot of purchase here in the United States. I think we're going to see a much more piecemeal approach, probably focusing on children and potentially privacy first.

Another thing that I think is key that we need to get out in front of is election manipulation, right?


JANKOWICZ: We still don't have regulations related to how social media and Facebook in particular are used during elections while, you know, there are so many rules governing how candidates and campaigns use print, TV, and radio during their campaign. So those are the two things that I think we'll see happen first. Whether they'll get through this Congress I'm pretty doubtful as, you know, there is bipartisan support here, but we have seen a lot of stuff move from the House into the Senate and out of - out of committee onto a full floor vote.

HILL: No, we certainly have not. Nina Jankowicz, really appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

A potential breakthrough this morning when it comes to President Biden's spending bill. We're going to speak with a progressive Democrat just ahead.

SCIUTTO: And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Strong earnings reports from corporate America have overshadowed worries about rising inflation as well as the possibility of interest rates going up. Futures barely moving higher after the Dow closed higher Friday. Hit another record high. Worth noting that stocks are higher for the month after what was a terrible September.