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Democrats on Verge of Agreement on Biden Social Spending Bill; Director Says, Baldwin Was Practicing Drawing Gun When It Fired; Facebook Papers May Be Biggest Crisis in Company's History. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 10:00   ET


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The rain is going to move over and turn into snow.


In fact, I-80 over Donner Pass because there's too much snow, obviously, higher elevation is colder. It's not going to rain. It is going to snow and that snow moves to the east.

Here's the severe weather I'm talking about in this green and yellow area. Have to watch out for that. We had tornadoes yesterday in places like Illinois and that weather is just sliding to the east. Here comes the next storm system, 50 or 60-mile-per-hour winds across the northeast with heavy, heavy rainfall. That starts tomorrow.

Guys, back to you.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: a lot to keep an eye on. Chad, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Good Monday morning, top of the hour here. I'm Erica hill.


This morning, Democrats on Capitol Hill say they are moving closer to a $1.75 trillion agreement on President Biden's sweeping social safety net spending package. That number, of course, higher than we discussed in recent days.

CNN has learned that the new top-line number moderate Senator Joe Manchin says he will go to on the scaled-back spending plan has gone up, Erica. That's notable.

HILL: That is notable. Sources also telling CNN House Democratic leaders are now aiming for a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package in the next two or three days, and they want a detailed agreement on that larger social safety net package before that vote to get progressives on board, of course, for that infrastructure bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling our colleague, Jake Tapper, over the weekend, Democrats have agreed to 90 percent of what will be in that spending bill. So, of course, what about the other 10 percent? CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju joining us now from Capitol Hill. So, Manu, we're also learning some new details about the ways in which Democrats are considering paying for this spending plan.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's one of the big issues that still need to be ironed out. This, of course, in the aftermath of the opposition from Moderate Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has opposed tax rate hikes on corporations and high earners, and has just changed the calculus. Democrats had scrambled to figure out other ways to pay for the program. They said it would be fully paid for. And if this does end up about $1.75 trillion, a level that Joe Manchin has said that he is open to, that would mean they have to figure out a whole lot of revenue raisers in order to ensure that it is fully paid for.

Now, that includes a number of provisions, including one is a billionaire's tax that would affect about 700 people here in the United States. That's one issue they're talking about. Also a corporate minimum tax is something that is on the table. They're also discussing taxing companies using stock buybacks, revising some international tax provisions and also increased IRS tax enforcement.

Now, we don't have all the details yet because these are concepts. They've been floating back and forth. They have not been formally proposed. So, it's also unclear exactly how all this would work out. It's also unclear how some of the major provisions in here will ultimately be settled, including an expansion of Medicare to include dental, vision, hearing. That is something that liberals like Bernie Sanders have pushed hard to get into this bill but Manchin has resisted that. And that was an issue of discussion yesterday with the president and Joe Manchin yesterday. How that is ultimately decided is still uncertain.

Also the issue of paid leave, allowing four weeks of paid leave, that is down from 12 weeks of the Democratic leadership and the White House had initially wanted. Joe Manchin wanted no paid leave in this proposal. So, there's discussion about including four weeks.

And how do you deal with climate change? Manchin from West Virginia has pushed back on any issues that could hurt his coal-producing industry in his home state, but he is open to other issues that could help deal with the climate change problem. And it's uncertain how that also will play out and whether that's enough to satisfy progressives who want the most aggressive efforts in this country's history in dealing with global warming.

So, still some major unsettled questions. Can they reach a detailed agreement by the middle of this week? That is the goal of Democratic leaders on that larger plan because they believe that will then pave the way for the passage of that $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that's been waiting action in House for months, so leaving for 48 hours of critical negotiating. Can they get there? That's the question at the moment. Guys?

HILL: Yes, it is quite a to-do list, much lengthier than remember to pick up milk and don't forget to mail the payment to the plumber. Manu, good luck this week, my friend, I appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Yes, not confident they could get through that list either.

But, anyway, joining me now to discuss, Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania. She's a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: When I hear 90 percent, done, I say, okay, well, don't they far to go, but in that 10 percent is climate provisions, which is an area of enormous disagreement here. I've been asking Democratic congressmen and women the last several weeks, are you going to get to a deal? I've heard every week that we aim to get to a deal by the end of said week. Here we are again. Is it going to happen this week?

HOULAHAN: I have to be optimistic about this.


And you're right, there's still a lot to be done in that last 10 percent. And, in fact, one of the things that's most important to me and as Manu mentioned is the family leave or medical leave. And that is something that I really have been pushing for in my office as well and had pushed legislation giving 12 weeks of leave to federal employees, which passed two years ago.

So, a lot to be done still, a lot of negotiating, but I feel optimistic we are all I think targeting the right things, which is what the American people and the people of our community would like to see us do.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned family leave. It's been cut down, it appears, from 12 weeks to 4 weeks, basically asking new mothers, giving them a month, right, to find affordable child care before going back to work. Is four weeks sufficient?

HOULAHAN: What's interesting in that piece of legislation that I was talking about where we gave federal employees 12 weeks, we had Ivanka Trump was one of the people who helped me make that happen. And so this is a largely resoundingly popular thing across the aisle. And I would like to see four weeks being more.

I am heartened, however, to hear that the price tag seems to have gone up a little bit, to $1.75 trillion, as you mentioned, which I hope means that we've added some parental or paid medical leave.

SCIUTTO: We'll be looking. Okay. So, the pay-for is key here, how do you pay for all this. An interesting proposal has come up in the last several days, which is some are calling it a billionaire's tax, but, in effect, going after something along the lines of the 700 wealthiest people in the country, folks who make a billion dollars or $100 million for three years in a row, that's a lot of money, here. An annual tax is basically on the values of their stocks and bonds there. Is this, in your view, the key way to pay for this now, replacing perhaps a rise in corporate tax rates or on wealthy earners above $400,000 a year?

HOULAHAN: Well, I do think that we have the responsibility to make sure that we have understood and outlined the broad contours of pay- fors. This billionaire's tax is one of those. But as Manu outlined, there's a lot of other dimensions to this, in terms of tax enforcement, in terms of a domestic corporate minimum tax line. There are different ways for us to get to where we need to be.

SCIUTTO: But this one is a big slice of it. I'm just curious, are the sides coming to an agreement on this, right? Because, as you know, Kyrsten Sinema, for instance, was against any rise in corporate tax or on those high earners, as they're called, but, of course, a fraction of what the billionaires are making. Are you coming to agreement on the key pay-fors here?

HOULAHAN: My impression is that people are coming together on that. I would frankly disagree with Kyrsten, with Senator Sinema on where her red line was. I do think that there are other places that we should be looking for increases in corporate taxes as an example. But I do think we will get to it where we can avoid this $1.75 trillion and pay for it.

SCIUTTO: Given your position on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I want to ask you about a central foreign policy issue right now. President Biden, we pressed him last week on the question of whether the U.S. would come to Taiwan's defense if China were to invade. And as you know, there is increasing concern about China's threats to that independent nation.

Do you believe the U.S. should come militarily to Taiwan's defense if China were to invade?

HOULAHAN: So, I think -- and, interestingly, not only do I serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee but I also serve on the Asia Subcommittee. And so this is a conversation that we have a great deal all the time. I think it is important that Taiwan understand that we are their ally in the region, that it is important that we understand as Americans that this is probably one of the most sensitive areas in the world, this particular part of Asia.

And I think we should be worried about the rising influence of China, the rising aggression of China, and what it is that we as Americans owe to the people of Taiwan to make sure that we're protecting them. It's a complicated, complicated issue.

SCIUTTO: What would we owe them? Do we owe them putting at risk the lives of U.S. sailors and other service members in the region?

HOULAHAN: I think it's beyond that, meaning that I think it's more complicated than that. I also have an abiding interest and do a lot of work in cybersecurity, and one of the things that we need to be thinking about is all of the different ways that we can protect and defend all of that part of the country -- I'm sorry, that part of the world. And one of the things that you probably most recently saw is China becoming more aggressive and Russia becoming more aggressive in the cyberspace as well.

So, I don't think it's always just a conversation about boots on the ground, so to speak. I think it's a larger conversation about the evolution of hard power and the evolution of what it is to be under threat.

SCIUTTO: Emerging shadow war under way. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, thanks for joining us this morning.


HOULAHAN: You're welcome. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, President Biden is now on his way to New Jersey at this hour to sell his sweeping economic and social agenda.

HILL: The president faces waning poll numbers. Democrats, of course, hope to hold on to the governorship in two key off-year elections, including New Jersey. The White House emphasizing that today's trip is not a campaign stop. The president, though, will be appearing with Governor Phil Murphy.

Here now to discuss is CNN's John Harwood, who joins us from the White House, and CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. Good to have both of you with us.

So, it's not a campaign stop. He's there with the governor. How important is this though, John, as we look at what's happening today and where the president stands and his party?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, I think it's an attempt by the president to keep up outside pressure as those negotiations take place inside. The point we've reached in over the last week intensive week of negotiations with a stepped-up involvement by President Biden is there's no longer a question of whether there's going to be a deal. There is going to be a deal. And there's not much debate about the top-line number is going to be. It could be 1.75, it could be a little higher than that. It's not going to be $2 trillion.

The debate right now and the negotiation is an extremely granular one involving laying a bunch of puzzle pieces on the table on the one hand, it's the programs, and getting consensus on what Manchin and Sinema will accept that goes along with what the rest of the Democratic constituency and party wants to accept in terms of programs, and then doing the same thing on pay-fors. You were just talking with Congresswoman Houlahan about Senator Sinema's objections to raising the corporate income tax rate. So then they work on the market-to-market billionaire's tax. And there's a series of others where they're trying to get the very specific pieces. Once they do that, they will then have a deal and that will be beneficial to the president.

And the best thing it's got going for him as he goes to New Jersey this week is that impending deadline of the trip to Europe, which everyone seems to agree is an appropriate forcing mechanism for getting to yes in the end.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, we'll see if this forcing mechanism works.

Harry, as you know, the president's approval ratings have suffered in recent weeks and months. How badly does the president need this legislation right now?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: He needs something to happen, something, right? If you're going downward, you need something to happen. And you can see over the last few months, what we see is not just that the president's job approval is falling, it's also falling in tandem with his economic approval rating. And I think that's the key thing going on here.

Look at this. Overall, he was at 53 percent back on June 25th. Look where he is now, which is 43 percent. And on the economy, you can see this over the last few months, the two have gone down in tandem, not just at 42 percent approval rating on the economy.

And you can see in the numbers that Americans do not feel that Biden's concentrating enough on the economy. I think this is also key, right? If you think that his approval rating on the economy is going down and you also look at the top three issues, in which you believe that voters, Americans, are not paying attention, look at this. Biden is not doing enough on inflation, 60 percent, economy and jobs, 53 percent. Those are the only two plus the U.S.-Mexico border over 50 percent, on which he's not doing enough about.

Now, I think the key question here is whether or not the build back better agenda can actually change the numbers. I'm a little skeptical. Here's the reason why. If you look at the polling numbers, will Biden's build back better plan help or hurt you and your family? Look at that. Just 33 percent say, help. The national economy, just 41 percent, just say, help. Now, hurt is below that, but a lot of Americans just don't think that this will impact them one way or another. So, I think there has to be a real sales pitch on this. And if they can do that, then maybe passing the build back better plan can help move the numbers, but at this point, I'm skeptical.

HILL: We will be watching. I always love those numbers, Harry. Harry Enten and John Harwood, thank you both.

Still to come this hour, we are learning more about those critical moments on set with Alec Baldwin when Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed. How could a live round have made its way onto the set? We'll take look at that, and also a closer look at what investigators are asking.

Plus, a damning portrayal of Facebook, the headlines this morning, not great, to put it mildly. The latest details from the so-called Facebook papers.

SCIUTTO: And encouraging new results on a COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, what Moderna's study tells us about children's immune response, just ahead.



SCIUTTO: We've learned this morning that Actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene when his weapon, which had a live round in it, discharged, killing Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The film's director, Joel Souza, who was also injured in the shooting, says that Baldwin had pointed the weapon toward the camera lens and then he heard what sounded like, I'm quoting here, a whip and then a loud pop.

HILL: Halyna Hutchins' best friend, Rachel, said she spoke with Alec Baldwin about the shooting over the weekend.


RACHEL MASON, BEST FRIEND OF HALYNA HUTCHINS: He's kind of in a similar state of everyone else, just in deep shock and sadness and feels terrible for the family.

He was literally the center of something horrible that should have never happened ever to anyone. And film sets are going to learn from this, film production companies are going to learn from this. And I think he wants to figure out as much as anyone else does what happened.



HILL: Joining us now, Prop Master Lu Charles, who has worked on T.V. shows, including The Black List and FBI Most Wanted. Lu, it's good to have you with us this morning.

As we just heard from Rachel and I think we've heard over the last several days from a number of people, this never should have happened. How does a live round make it on to a film set in the first place?

LUCIEN CHARLES, PROP MASTER: Just negligence, I believe. That should have never happened. The guns are always checked or need to be checked and that should not have happened.

SCIUTTO: In terms of the way movie sets are set up, whose ultimate responsibility is it to check the weapon? Are there multiple gateways? I don't know, does the assistant director, the prop master -- you know, because this is, of course, a known danger. So, what practices are in place to check? And looking at this, do you see those practices weren't followed?

CHARLES: Yes, there's a lot of checks and balances. The prop master gets the gun from a vendor. If the armorer is involved, the armorers go get the gun and check it. And then when it's off set, there has to be a safety check, bring your crew around with the A.D., go over the gun with the actors and any crew members are interested in seeing the gun. And then it's handled off from the point of contact, the prop master, armorer to the actor, and that's where it ends right there. HILL: In terms of this armorer, this is, as I understand, the second movie that the armorer was in charge of and she was talking about that on a recent podcast and she was a little bit nervous about accepting the job as an armorer. Take a listen to what she said.


HANNAH GUTIERREZ, ARMORER FOR THE MOVIE, RUST (voice over): I was really nervous about it at first and I almost didn't take the job because I wasn't sure I was ready, but doing it, like it went really smoothly.


HILL: What is the training practice to be an armorer on set?

CHARLES: Just pretty much like being a gun owner. Also you have to learn about prop guns, because live bullets will not fit into a prop gun because prop guns are modified, so now that being a real gun. I just don't know what their training was or -- I just can't speak on that, but there's a lot of training involved.

HILL: But, in general, there would be, and to your point, there should -- as you said at the beginning, there never be a live round on set?


SCIUTTO: Does there need to be anything close to a real gun on set, I guess, is my question. A lot of the reporting after this has noted in a lot of movies they add in the flash and the bang afterwards in postproduction because the capabilities of postproduction are so great these days. I mean, you can show a building collapsing, right?

Is there any need to have a weapon that could conceivably pose a danger like this?

CHARLES: Well, with the prop gun, it has a bunch of safety measures in place where it's been modified. There's a plug in the front so no projectile could come out. The barrel has been changed, it only could take a blank casing, so a real bullet casing won't be able to fit in there.

But, plus, you have the realistic look, and just having a prop gun, it's safe, but there's no reason a real gun should ever be on a set.

HILL: Lu Charles, I really appreciate you joining us with your insight, with your expertise this morning. Thank you very much.

CHARLES: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HILL: Still to come this hour, a damning portrayal of Facebook in the so-called Facebook papers. You've likely seen the headlines, and there are a lot of them this morning. Those also prompting new questions about whether the company was complicit in the January 6th insurrection was being investigated, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SCIUTTO: Tens of thousands of newly leaked documents reveal allegations of lies, exploitation and violence propped up by Facebook and that leaders of the social media company knew about those issues and dangers but did little about it.

HILL: CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been tracking all of these latest developments.

So, Donie, speaking of what you're looking at, there is a real human trafficking problem on Facebook, one the company has known about since at least 2018. I feel like an idiot asking this question because I think I know the answer, but what has Facebook done about it?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know what's striking about these documents, guys, is that there are people at Facebook that research this stuff that appear to really care about this stuff, people who are even calling out their executives, saying, we're just simply not doing enough. But, really, that message doesn't seem to be breaking true.

Take a look at this part of these internal files on human trafficking. There was research internally done at how the platform was being used to facilitate human trafficking, modern-day slavery, essentially, and warnings about that over the past years. And, you know, in terms of Facebook, of course, we'll say that they are working on this issue, they are investing in trying to crack down on this, but it didn't take a terrible amount for CNN to find examples on Instagram of accounts pushing domestic servants, selling -- essentially appearing to sell people. Our colleague, Clare Duffy, found that last week on Instagram. And the company only took it down after CNN called them about it.


I mean, we see this all the time, whether it was a few weeks ago talking about eating disorders and pushing pro-anorexia accounts to kids, Facebook only acting.