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Facebook on Defensive Again; Democrats Nearing Infrastructure Deal?; New Details Emerge in Shooting Involving Alec Baldwin. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Great to see you on INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. And thanks for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We began with new firsthand details in the deadly shooting involving Alec Baldwin. Director Joel Souza, who was also injured, telling authorities the actor was practicing drawing the gun and pointing it out the camera when it fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the side of a movie being filmed in New Mexico last week.

Souza says he was looking over Hutchins shoulder when he heard a loud pop. Hutchins then grabbed her midsection. And, as she bled, a cameraman recalls Hutchins saying she couldn't feel her legs. This all happened inside a church setting for Baldwin's upcoming film "Rust."

And according to a police affidavit, the set's armorer prepared the gun, and assistant director David Halls yelled "cold gun" before handing the weapon to Baldwin, meaning the gun should not have been loaded. But we're also now learning of recent safety complaints against that assistant director.

CNN's Stephanie Elam live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where filming has been suspended.

Stephanie, so many questions now about safety on that movie set, this particular armorer, who was inexperienced, we have learned, and about what exactly was inside the gun when Baldwin fired it. What do we know?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. You're right, so many questions that we don't have answers to yet.

But we do know a few things now because of this affidavit, and specifically coming from director Joel Souza's -- his conversation with law enforcement about what he remembered transpired. And here's a couple of things that we need to keep in mind here. Baldwin was handed one of three prop guns on the set. It was handed to

him by the assistant director, Dave Halls. He's supposed to be in charge of safety over the entire production, right? And we also know that the person who's in charge of these weapons is the armorer. So that's something that we have learned from this.

Now, when he handed that prop gun to Baldwin, he yelled "cold gun," which means it should have been clear. There should have been nothing inside it. Of course, there's questions about Dave Halls. There have been questions about his previous productions, two productions in 2019 where there were complaints about how he disregarded safety. That's the allegations against him.

We have reached out to Halls and have not heard back about that, but then also questions about the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, and her really being inexperienced, according to some, for this job as an armorer, so a lot of questions swirling around those two people.

Of course, the other interesting point here is that Alec Baldwin was the one person behind this weapon. And the other photographer who was there on scene when this happened, he said that he had been very careful, that's how he described Baldwin, all throughout production, making sure that -- he was careful to make sure children weren't on set when he was shooting.

And one of the best friends of Halyna Hutchins also coming to his defense. Take a listen to what she had to say. I'm sorry. We don't have that sound for you right now.

But she did say that she did not believe that it was Alec Baldwin's fault, that she said that he was a victim in this as well, because there really should have been more on-set safety to protect and keep everyone safe here.

So, obviously, all of this playing into it. But still, like you said, Ana, so many questions outstanding. What was exactly in the gun? How did it get there? Were there even live rounds even anywhere near on this movie set? And, if so, why?

CABRERA: Such a heartbreaking, tragic situation.

Stephanie Elam, thank you for your reporting.

With us now is CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers.

And, Jennifer, the director said in an affidavit that three people had been handling the guns, as Stephanie laid out. According to the director, the firearms were checked by the armorer and the assistant director, who then gave it to the actor, Alec Baldwin.

But listen to what one expert told CNN.


DUTCH MERRICK, PROP MASTER: There's nobody else that should be in that in that chain of custody. It goes from the armorer directly to the actor only when they're about to shoot.

The ultimate arbiter of safety on a film set is the first A.D., the first assistant director. But they know that they can inspect the gun, but they can't go take the gun. There's something that strikes me as odd was, where was the armorer during this time? Was she unaware? Did she step off to the restroom for a moment?

That first A.D. should never, ever reach for a gun on a set? It's unheard of. And I have never worked with an A.D. that would even consider that. It's kind of crazy.



CABRERA: "The L.A. Times" is also reporting there were previous accidental discharges on this set.

So, if protocols weren't followed, where does that take investigators in determining culpability?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it depends on whether you're talking about criminal investigation or ultimately civil suits.

In a criminal case, you have to prove a relatively high level of culpability. In New Mexico, for involuntary manslaughter, you have to prove that someone acted recklessly without due caution or circumspection. That's a relatively high standard. So it's not just going to be regular negligence, someone should have been there and checked and wasn't. It's going to be pretty high.

That said, it can be met if it is reckless behavior. Is it reckless behavior for the armorer not to have checked, not to have made sure there was no live ammunition there? Maybe. That's what the investigators are looking into now.

Really, the million-dollar question is, was it a live round or not? That's something investigators already know, although it hasn't been made public, I'm sure. And if so, how in the world did it get there? It can't possibly have gotten there without some sort of negligence.

The question, is it criminal negligence or not?

CABRERA: We have been told that there were previous complaints against the assistant director, who was apparently among this chain of custody with this weapon.

In 2019, apparently, were these complaints, that included a disregard for safety protocols, for weapons and pyrotechnics use, among other things.

How could these previous complaints impact this investigation, do you think?

RODGERS: So those are going to be very, very helpful to people who sue under a regular civil negligence standard for the harm that happened due to this incident.

But they're not so helpful in the criminal case, because, in criminal law, you have to prove this incident was criminal. You can't charge someone because they have done similar things in the past or they have been sloppy in the past. They have to prove all of the elements related to this particular incident.

Only in very rare circumstances would evidence of prior behavior come in, even if it seems to be similar behavior. So they're not going to be focusing so much on that. They really just need to sort out what exactly happened here.

CABRERA: And we heard from Stephanie that the friend, the best friend of Halyna Hutchins, had thought Alec Baldwin was also a victim in all of this is how she perceived him.

And in the affidavit, it says Baldwin was rehearsing. He was cross- drawing his weapon for this scene that they were getting ready to film. And he's supposed to draw the weapon and point the gun toward the camera lens, apparently, when it went off.

Is there anything to suggest he did anything wrong here?

RODGERS: Well, it doesn't seem so.

We don't know everything yet. But from what's been publicly released, it doesn't appear that Baldwin will have any sort of criminal liability. Certainly, it seems like he did exactly what he's supposed to do. Now, as a producer, he may have civil liability, to the extent that it's proven that protocols were not followed, and there was certainly negligence somewhere along the line for this to have happened, but not in an individual criminal capacity.

At least, it doesn't seem so based on what we know now.

CABRERA: Jennifer Rodgers, there's still so much to learn. Thanks for your expertise in all of it.

RODGERS: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: To Washington now, where Democrats appear to be on the verge of making President Biden's sweeping social agenda a reality.

At stake, a major expansion of the country's social safety net, and the legacy of the Biden presidency. Democrats say they are close to a deal, but there are still some thorny issues unresolved.

Let's get the latest on the state of play from CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, let's start with you, because we just heard from Senator Manchin. What's his position right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I just spoke to him. He talked about his position. He believes that there could be a deal on the larger package, an outline of that package this week. That is significant, because he has said for months that there should be a pause and he has suggested that a deal couldn't be reached.

But now he believes there could be one. But he also made clear that it's not going to go nearly as far as many liberals in his party wanted. There is his concern about expanding Medicare. He's concerned about expanding Medicaid. He also raises concerns about paid leave programs, and has been clear for most weeks that he won't go as far on climate change as many want.

And he also told me just moments ago he's still at $1.5 trillion, even though he has signaled privately he's willing to go up.


RAJU: Senator, what are the chances of a deal this week?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): As far as conceptually, we should, I really believe. And just have a lot of good faith in that.

RAJU: Do you think there will be a framework agreement this week?

MANCHIN: I think framework should be, really should be.

RAJU: Are you open to expanding Medicare at this point?

MANCHIN: I -- my big concern right now is the 2026 deadline that we have insolvency. And if no one's concerned about that -- and I have got people, that's a lifeline. Medicare and Social Security is a lifeline for people back in West Virginia, and most people around the country.

And you have got to stabilize that first before you look at basically expansion. So, if we're not being fiscally responsible, that's really concerning.


Let me make one statement to you all. The best way to know who I am and I have always been politically, in my political life, I have always said that I believe that government should be your best partner. But it shouldn't be your provider.


RAJU: Is 1.75 too much for a top line? Is 1.75 too much?

MANCHIN: I'm still at 1.5, guys.


RAJU: Now, the Medicare expansion is a critical component here, because Bernie Sanders on the left has said that is a red line for him, and it should include dental vision, and hearing.

And Joe Manchin right there makes clear that he is not supportive of going that route. So how does that ultimately get resolved? There are some key questions here. Even though there's optimism there's a deal, still some key issues to resolve.

CABRERA: All indications are they want to wrap it up before the president's key trip on Thursday.

Kaitlan, how important is this to the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is certainly something they'd like to see. But the question of whether or not they're actually going to see it, it still remains to be seen.

And even the White House can't really answer that and how these negotiations are going. We know that they believe there is more momentum, at least, in these talks. You saw Senator Joe Manchin went to visit President Biden at his home in Delaware yesterday for breakfast, alongside Senator Schumer, as well to talk about this.

But, clearly, they did not emerge from that meeting with any kind of firm agreement on a top-line number, as Manchin just made clear there, given what he's still saying publicly, despite what he's saying privately.

And, also, they're still very far apart on some of these key issues here. And so I do think the White House wants to see this by the time the president is scheduled to leave Thursday morning from Washington, but whether or not they do remains to be seen.

And, of course, one of the big reasons they want that is because not only there's a momentum here, and they'd like to get an agreement on this because the president is going to be out of the country for about five or six days, but also that major global climate summit that is coming at the end of his trip.

And he'd like to be able to lay out the climate provisions there, because the White House has often found themselves in situations recently where the president has talked publicly about aspects of this bill that we know have either been cut entirely or pared back to a great amount, including the paid leave, for example, the two years of free community college that is no longer on the table in this bill.

And so those are -- that's kind of the reality of the situation that's facing the White House. That could be something that we're seeing, though, just a few moments from now, Ana, because the president is in New Jersey. He's on the road. He's going to be selling not only this agreement that they are trying to come to, but also that infrastructure deal that's kind of depending on all of this.

And so we will see how he frames it in a few moments from now.

CABRERA: That's right. We are expecting the president's remarks at the bottom of the hour. We are going to bring those to our viewers live

Kaitlan Collins and Manu Raju, thank you both. Facebook on the defensive again, after a flood of internal documents

show it new its platform forms were being used in a laundry list of disturbing ways, from human trafficking to spreading extremism, but did little to stop it.

Plus, Florida's new surgeon general, the state's top doctor, under fire for refusing to put on a mask in the office of a state senator who recently announced she has breast cancer. Republicans even calling him out.

The state senator joins us live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay right there.



CABRERA: Facebook under fire yet again.

A massive document dump shows the social media juggernaut often knew its platforms were being used in disturbing ways, but failed to respond adequately. Some of the key takeaways, Facebook did little to slow the spread of the January 6 Stop the Steal movement. In fact, it flourished right up until the violence broke out at the Capitol.

Also, for years, Facebook has struggled to crack down on human trafficking posts. What's more, in Ethiopia's civil war, Facebook reportedly new armed groups were using its platform to incite violence against ethnic minorities.

And added to all that is what we began learning last month about how much Facebook knew of Instagram's damaging effects on teenagers' mental health.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is with us now.

There's so much to digest here, Donie. I know you have been digging up more on this January 6 angle. What can you tell us?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS AND TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Yes, there's really a lot, I think, which will be of interest here to the House select committee investigating the insurrection.

Facebook did an analysis after the after on the Capitol. Take a look at what they concluded. They said that their reaction, how they tampered down on this Stop the Steal movement that helped fuel the insurrection, they said it was piecemeal.

They could also see in their analysis that there was a lot of overlap between hate groups and groups that were pushing Stop the Steal. Again, all these early warning signs, indicators, had they been known publicly, could have been quite important.

Of course, Sheryl Sandberg came out, the -- Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive, came out in the days after the insurrection trying to downplay the role her company had played in fueling Stop the Steal. But we know that essentially to be false. We know how important Facebook was.

Take a listen to people we spoke to at one of the first Stop the Steal events on the week of the election.


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


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


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: So you can hear it from the horse's mouth there, Ana.

Facebook was incredibly important not for -- just for helping these people push the big lie about the election, but for mobilizing and for organizing these events as well.

CABRERA: And those sound bites, those interviews you did were in November, so Facebook had plenty of time to take action, obviously, probably to the insurrection.


The other thing that's noteworthy here is that Facebook staff, we know, have been sent a memo just this weekend telling them to brace for more bad headlines. And this memo essentially takes aim at the media. What's that about?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, that's right.

Nick Clegg, the Facebook executive, told staff this weekend to basically prepare for some more bad headlines, as he described it. Of course, these documents coming out, initially, they were reported by "The Wall Street Journal." But now a consortium of 17 news organizations, there are tens of thousands of pages here, including CNN, are going through these.

Clegg seemed to suggest yesterday in this internal note that we obtained at CNN that media in some ways were upset with Facebook. He said: "In the past, public discourse was largely curated by established gatekeepers in the media who decided what people could read, see and digest."

And he suggested that media are hankering after the top-down controls of the past, which Facebook has taken away from them. So, really, sort of, I think, typical of Facebook, trying to deflect and distract, trying to suggest that journalists who are covering these very serious issues of what Facebook is enabling in the United States and around the world have some other intentions.

CABRERA: Donie O'Sullivan, you do great work. Thank you for your reporting.

Let's discuss now with CNN legal analyst former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.

Elliot, this crosses into so many categories. We lined up some of the different allegations in what was uncovered in these tens of thousands of pages, apparently. We have financial issues, human rights issues, war, sex trafficking.

If you're in the DOJ, where do you even begin when assessing potential investigations here?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, and, look, to be candid, Ana, most of the risk to Facebook here isn't with the Justice Department.

The Justice Department really cover criminal offenses. And you would really only have a criminal offense if someone at Facebook knew information to be true, then went to Congress or went to law enforcement and lied about it, right? That's where you would get a criminal offense.

Most other things are going to be some of these other regulatory bodies, like the Federal Trade Commission, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, that can look into how sort of Facebook acted as a corporate actor with respect to information that they had in their possession, but didn't disclose publicly.

CABRERA: But if Facebook knew these problems were occurring, but apparently wouldn't or couldn't stop some of them, doesn't that change the legal calculus? If they saw their service routinely being used for illegal activity, like trafficking or violence and did nothing about it?


You know, here's the really tricky thing, Ana. You have probably heard the term a Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I would say you have probably heard the term because it's a big political issue. Folks on the right and left sort of talk about this thing that is this boogeyman when you talk about tech and lawsuits.

For the most part, service providers are insulated from being sued or for being held liable for things that people say and do on their platforms. And so even that often applies to hate speech or other forms of conduct. So it's really hard to see how someone brings a successful suit against Facebook for a lot of these things on account of that Section 230.

CABRERA: What about founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg? What's his personal liability here? WILLIAMS: Right.

CABRERA: What if he was misleading investors?

WILLIAMS: Right. Exactly.

The Securities and Exchange Commission can sue to remove a CEO. This happened in the case of Tesla and Elon Musk just a couple of years ago, and they negotiated it. And he ended up staying on as CEO.

Look, the big question that the Securities and Exchange Commission is going to look at is, would a reasonable investor have felt misled by the information that they had? Now Facebook, like all companies, and particularly Facebook here, broadly said, we believe that in the course -- we're letting you know that, in the course of our business, we regularly face claims with respect to free speech or whatever.

So they put it out there broadly, but did not specifically disclose the kinds of information they might have had. Now, the SEC could bring a suit. And one of the penalties they could go for is removing the CEO. That's the kind of thing that would likely be negotiated and would take some time to work out.

CABRERA: Well, it's all interesting. And this is obviously a gray area, this explosion of social media and the consequences that we're now all experiencing, and holding people accountable and who should be held accountable is the next big question.


CABRERA: Elliot Williams, appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Take care, Ana.

CABRERA: Thank you.

Unprofessional and not tolerated, how one Republican is describing the actions of Florida's state surgeon general, after refusing to put on a mask while meeting with a state senator with breast cancer. That lawmaker joins us live next.



CABRERA: Florida's newly appointed surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, is facing new criticism, this time from top state Republicans as well, after he refused to wear a mask while visiting the office of a Democratic state senator who's being treated for breast cancer.

In a letter, the Republican president of the Florida state Senate calls what the doctor did unprofessional and says it will not be tolerated, adding: "The prayers of the entire Senate family are with Senator Polsky as she begins her treatment. However, it shouldn't take a cancer diagnosis for people.