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Criminal Charges Not Ruled out in "Rust" Shooting; Rachel Fiset is Interviewed about Potential Charges in the "Rust" Shooting; Subpoena for John Eastman; Dr. Paul Offit is Interviewed about Vaccine for Kids; Facebook Struggles with Misinformation. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 09:00   ET



TINA SATTER, CONCEIVED AND DIRECTS "IS THIS A ROOM": But all should get to think and talk about how this and why this went down.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It sounds like you're not trying to impose some opinion on the audience, but what are -- what are you hearing -- what are they taking away from it?

SATTER: I mean I think people still don't know who "Reality Winner" is. They don't understand necessarily how or why the Espionage Act works. I mean, you know, there's some dry stuff there, but it's like people are really fascinated to sort of see this machine of the state at work because we have this like window into a day when an FBI interrogation actually happened. And so I think people have a range of thoughts and feelings on it for sure. You know, we experience it (ph).

KEILAR: Well, I think it is a fascinating approach, Tina and Emily, and I love the idea of this. So thank you so much for talking to us about it.


SATTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: And CNN's coverage continues right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill.


Overnight, new developments in the investigation surrounding the fatal shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin's film "Rust." A district attorney in New Mexico says she has not ruled out potential criminal charges, telling "The New York Times" that the term prop gun we've been hearing is fundamentally misleading, noting that the gun that killed Halyna Hutchins was, in fact, quote, a legit gun.

HILL: We are also following this morning more fallout from that Facebook document dump. New details on how the social media giant is really struggling to manage misinformation around COVID-19, including vaccines. Documents show Facebook's systems were less equipped to moderate comments than posts and that is where a lot of that disinformation is spreading in the comments.

SCIUTTO: Plus, Senate Democrats are proposing a new way to pay for the president's spending plan, five key issues, five of them, still dividing the party. Can they draft a framework before the president heads to Europe tomorrow? Seems like a long shot. We're live on Capitol Hill this morning with all the latest details.

Let's begin with CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam, though, on the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of Baldwin's movie. She's following all the latest developments from Santa Fe.

Stephanie, so, for first time, one of the film's actors who took part in the shoot is speaking out. What are they saying?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. We're hearing from Ian A. Hudson. He said it was his first time being a principle on a movie. He was shooting scenes already. He was already done here for the set of "Rust." But he said that he did have safety concerns while he was on set and others did as well.

Take a listen to what he described his experience was like.


IAN A. HUDSON, ACTOR, "RUST": When the rounds were released, when they shot at me, I actually did feel the blanks hitting my face and my body. And I could feel the wind from the shotgun, you know, being discharged. It was heavy. It was strong. I would talk to my fellow cast members afterwards and we all agreed how intense that was, and how scary and real it was.


ELAM: He also mentioned that the cameras, as well as the crew, were behind shields, which also gave him pause.

Now, it's worth noting that the sheriff's department for the county of Santa Fe did release a list of items that they recovered from the set of "Rust," and it did include nine spent casings, three revolvers, ammunition, both in boxes and loose, and some that was inside of a fanny pack. Not clear if that was all live ammo, dummy rounds. We don't know yet.

But what is interesting here is that the district attorney for the county is saying that this is still very much an active investigation and it could take six to ten weeks before the autopsy is completed on Hutchins because what they want to focus in on here are two things, what was inside this gun that ended up taking Hutchins' live, and also looking at the ballistics to try to sort that information out as well.

We're hoping to get more information about this when there is a press conference held today with the sheriff's department, as well as the district attorney, we understand, to talk more about this. But, still, the hearts are out there, as you see what may be one of the last images of Halyna Hutchins there on set. Obviously, a lot of answers that people still want, but it will not bring back the loss of their loved one.

Jim and Erica.

SCIUTTO: Certainly not.

Stephanie Elam, appreciate it. And interesting new details from that actor.

Let's turn now to Rachel Fiset. She is a managing partner at Zweiback, Fiset and Coleman law firm.

Rachel, it's good to have you with us this morning.

There's been so much talk about what we could see in terms of charges, criminal charges here, who was liable. Based on what we just heard too, from that actor talking about what it was like on the set, and what we know, who do you think faces, you know, the most potential criminal liability here?


RACHEL FISET, MANAGING PARTNER, ZWEIBACK, FISET & COLEMAN: I see liability for various people, potentially five different people and including the entity "Rust" productions itself. I think generally this investigation is going to have to be very thorough, it's going to take a decent amount of time to figure out what the safety protocols were in place and who was enforcing them or not enforcing them. So at the top I see the production company, and whoever the lead producer is on the show that had -- that was charged with operations. I even see it down to the director, to the assistant director. And I don't think the armorer is out of the woods either.

But I think from the most general sense, it would be really taking a deep, hard look at what was going on, on set, and all of the information that continues to come out is somewhat bad for the people involved in this at "Rust." The facts keep getting worse.

SCIUTTO: So what are the potential criminal charges then? Is it criminal negligence? Does it rise as high to manslaughter? I mean what is the potential range here? And I know the D.A. has a lot of leeway here to see which avenue to pursue.

FISET: They do. I think the most likely charge is an involuntary manslaughter, which would be a criminal negligence with death in other states. But under New Mexico law, it is a death without due -- without due circumspection and that is where we are, I think, going to see the most likely charge. And I don't think it's for Alec Baldwin as the shooter. I think it's for a higher up as it relates to negligence in general across the set, including the hiring of such a novice armorer.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. So many mistakes and, of course, a horrible outcome.

Rachel Fiset, thank you so much. FISET: Thank you.

HILL: The House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection expected to hand down another subpoena today. This time, for John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who worked with former President Trump's legal team.

SCIUTTO: The committee says Eastman tried to convince then Vice President Pence that he could overturn -- overturn the election results which, of course, Pence could not legally, and ultimately decided not to do. But now, in a conversation caught on camera by a Democratic activist posing as a Trump supporter, Eastman admits -- admits on tape that was indeed the plan.

Have a watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, I mean, like, you know, just supporter to supporter, like why do you think that Mike Pence didn't do it?

JOHN EASTMAN, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER WHO WORKED FOR TRUMP: Well, because Mike pence is an establishment guy at the end of the day. And all of the establishment Republicans in D.C. brought into this very myopic view that Trump was destroying the Republican Party. And what Trump was doing is destroying the inside the beltway Republican Party and reviving the Republican Party in the hinterland, right? What they all consider to be, you know, deplorable fly over country. And this uprising that Trump got ahead of -- he didn't create the movement, the movement was there, and he saw it and got ahead of it.


SCIUTTO: CNN reached out this morning to Eastman's office for comment. We will update you if and when CNN hears back.

But let's talk about the significance of this being caught on camera, describing, it seems, Elie -- our CNN senior legal analyst, former U.S. attorney, Elie Honig.

Elie, Eastman, after the memo that he drafted describing exactly this plan as to how the president could overturn the election, he then did an interview with "The National Review" online and said, no, no, that's not -- never intended to do that. Here you have him on tape saying that's exactly what we intended to do in effect and the only reason Pence stood in the way of this is that he's, in Eastman's terms, an establishment guy. You're a lawyer. How damning is this video for -- both for the investigation or any other investigation into the 2020 election?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's completely damning for John Eastman, Jim. And let's step back and remember who John Eastman is. So he's this lawyer who Trump discovers right when he's in the process of trying to steal the election. Eastman starts telling Trump, these really lunatic legal theories, I put legal theories in scare quotes here, on which Mike Pence can reject the electoral count. He writes this two-page memo. It's full of lies, including this allegation that seven different states have put forward competing slates of electors. Not true. And gets worse from there. Eastman's memo says that at some point Mike Pence can, and I quote, gavel Trump as president, as if the vice president has the legal authority to just bang a gavel and say he's re-elected. It's crazy stuff.


Then Eastman goes and does this self-serving interview with "The National Review" where he says, no, no, no, I was trying to talk Trump down. I was just laying out a hypothetical, even though that's not the language in the actual memo. And he even says, Eastman says, I don't remember who asked me to even write this memo.

Well, this tape really brings us back to reality, which is, Eastman meant what he said in the memo. He was right there with Trump, trying to lead him down this very dangerous path.

HILL: What's interesting too is, as we look at, you know, this potential subpoena, and what could be learned from John Eastman, Jamie Raskin, who, of course, serves on the panel, told CNN, the committee needs to determine to what extent there was an organized effort against Vice President Pence.

Which would, obviously, imply more than just, right, this memo and more than just John Eastman, Elie.

HONIG: Yes, Eastman's memo really is the sort of legalistic version of what we heard those people chanting in the Capitol, hang Mike Pence. I mean Eastman is saying Mike Pence can and should do this under the Constitution. That's what it says in the memo. That's what Eastman tried to walk back.

Again, Eastman tried to talk to "The National Review" and tell them, no, I was just sort of spinning hypotheticals. That's not what the memo says and that's not what we just heard Eastman say in that tape. Eastman very much meant exactly the words he put on paper, which were, Mike Pence has the power to do this, which he does not, and that Mike Pence essentially should be blamed if he declines to do this, as thankfully he did.

SCIUTTO: Elie, can you help me understand, and maybe some of our viewers share this frustration, or lack of understanding here. You have Eastman on tape saying this. You have former President Trump taped on a phone call saying, find me the votes. In Georgia, in effect, audio and video evidence of potential crimes, in the offing. Why these many months later has this seemed to not have led anywhere legally in terms of legal consequences?

HONIG: I completely share that frustration and that mystification. I mean, look, Congress is doing its job, or trying to do its job. The January 6th committee is sending out subpoenas. They're engaging in court battles. They're trying to get some truth.

But the question that I think a lot of people have, that I have is, where's DOJ in all this? Where's Merrick Garland in all this? Because, at the end of the day, all the January 6th committee can do, it's very important, is make findings of fact, issue a report.


HONIG: We need that report. However, consequences, that can only come from prosecutors. I think we have more than enough basis on which Merrick Garland needs to be taking a very serious criminal look here.


HILL: It's interesting. That point coming up again and again, isn't it.

Elie Honig, really appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

HONIG: Thank you, guys.

HILL: Just ahead, on the heels of FDA advisers recommending the Pfizer COVID vaccine for five to 11-year-olds, now Pfizer says it may look to lower the dose for older kids.

Plus, new fallout from those Facebook papers. How people inside the company raised red flags about the inability to stop COVID disinformation.

SCIUTTO: And a possible breakthrough on how to pay for Biden's spending plan. We're going to break down the new proposals to tax billionaires as well as the country's wealthiest corporations.



HILL: Five to 11-year-olds could get their first dose of the COVID vaccine as soon as next week. This after a panel of FDA advisers recommended the shots, saying the benefits here far outweigh the risks for the 28 million children in this country who could soon be eligible.

SCIUTTO: We're joined now by a member of that panel, Dr. Paul Offit.

Dr. Offit, good to have you back this morning.


SCIUTTO: So I expect this morning we have a lot of parents watching. You have two parents here listening next to you in these boxes on the screen. For folks who are going to be considering this next week, tell us, tell them what they should know about these shots, how much they protect children and their families, what the dangers are, if any.

OFFIT: Well, I think when this virus first came into the country, children accounted for less than 3 percent of cases. Now it's more like 27 percent. And the five to 11-year-old has also suffered this disease. I mean there's been about 1.9 million cases in the five to 11-year-old, about 8,300 hospitalizations, a third of those children end up in the intensive care unit. There's been about 140 deaths in that group. So this is a virus that can seriously affect children.

In terms of the -- whether the vaccine works in that age group, the study that was done was about a 2,400 child study, where 1,600 got vaccine, 800 got placebo. There were 1,600 cases -- I'm sorry, 16 cases of disease in the placebo group and three in the vaccine group, suggesting the vaccine was about 91 percent effective. So it appears to be safe and effective and certainly we need a vaccine for children.

HILL: And as I heard from you and other folks on that independent advisory committee, that you also look at this through the lens, you know, of being parents or grandparents and you look at it as, is this something that you would recommend for your own child? So this is a -- for five to 11-year-olds, the dose that they would get if it is ultimately authorized by the FDA and the CDC weighs in is about a third of what those 12 and up are getting. And Pfizer is now saying maybe they're going to look at reducing the dosage for 12 to 15-year- olds.

I have to say, my kids fall in those two different age groups. So it has me scratching my head wondering, is there a reason now that they're talking about lowering that dosage for older kids? Is there anything to be concerned about?

OFFIT: Well, I think the thinking behind that is that one is always worried about the risk of myocarditis, this heart muscle inflammation, which, also very rare, is real.


And it was seen primarily in the 16 to 25-year-old when we did those studies in those over 16.

The good news is, is that for the 12 to 15-year-old, the incidents of myocarditis is less than in that 16 to 25-year-old, both in this country and in Israel. That's good. So the people feel better now that we're in that sort of five to 11-year-old age group, that we're going to give a lesser dose. So the question is, would a lesser dose also work in the 12 to 15-year-old. They would have to do that study. I mean the original 12 to 15-year-old study was at 2,300 child study, half got vaccine, half got placebo. There were 18 cases of COVID in that study, all in the placebo group. So the vaccine was highly effective.

You would have to also show that in lower (INAUDIBLE) before you do that.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Offit, there's, of course, a lot of reasons to get vaccinated. One is to protect the individual. One is to protect the people around the individual. And the other one is, protect your community, society at large. On that piece, what is the importance for the country of making these vaccines available to that age group, which I think is about 28, 29 million people, or, sorry, 9 million people in that age group, I think.

OFFIT: Right. So, sure, it also adds to the herd immunity that we need if we're going to really stop the spread of this virus. But that's not an argument I would ever make to a parent.


OFFIT: I mean I think the reason to get this vaccine, if you're the parent of a five to 11-year-old, is that this will protect your child from what can be a serious and occasionally fatal infection.

SCIUTTO: Yes, which is, by the way, a decision we make on a whole host of vaccines that, for instance, children are already required to go to school, right? Whether it be measles and, you know, a whole host of things.

But, Dr. Paul Offit, always good to have you on.

OFFIT: Thank you.

HILL: More damning revelations this morning about Facebook, including new documents that show how the company is struggling to contain -- as we're talking about vaccines -- to contain anti-vaccine misinformation. This despite top officials insisting otherwise.

SCIUTTO: And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures mixed after the Dow and S&P both hit more record highs yesterday. Just keeps going up. Earnings season still in full swing. Investors paying attention to how negotiations on President Biden's economic proposals are going before he travels overseas tomorrow.



HILL: This morning, yet more revelations about what is really happening at Facebook and how that compares to the company's public statements. So at issue this morning, the social media giant's response to COVID-19 misinformation.

SCIUTTO: Internal documents -- and we should emphasize, these are internal documents from Facebook -- indicate the company is having a tougher time managing the spread of disinformation than it is letting on publicly.

CNN correspondent Donie O'Sullivan is live from New York.

Donie, you've been deep into this story. You've been deep into these documents here. Explain that disconnect here, right, that the company admitting internally that they're having trouble here, while putting a rosier picture out there in public.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. And folks might remember that during this summer when Joe Biden -- President Biden had really harsh criticism that he eventually started to walk back a bit when he said that Facebook was killing people when it came to COVID misinformation, a Facebook executive hit back very strongly and would point to all the work that Facebook is doing on COVID misinformation. But take a look at this internal memo -- two internal memos from just

earlier this year, February 2021. Our internal systems are not yet identifying, demoting or removing anti-vaccine comments often enough. March 2021, our ability to detect vaccine hesitancy comments is bad in English and basically non-existent elsewhere.

Jim and Erica, I mean this is 2021. You know, these -- these are something that you might expect to see in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. This is when the company had more than a year at this point to deal with these issues.

Now, here is what a Facebook spokesperson is telling CNN. We approached the challenge of misinformation in comments through policies that help us remove or reduce the visibility of false or potentially misleading information while also promoting reliable information and giving people control over the comments in their posts.

Facebook saying that they have made a lot of improvements since those memos even earlier this year.

But just one final point here. One thing that Facebook pushed very hard publicly last year was that they were giving free ads to the World Health Organization and other health organizations to put out COVID information. Good information about the virus. One of these internal memos said that at one point the World Health Organization and UNICEF stopped running these ads because the comments under these posts were so full of anti-vaccine misinformation. Neither WHO or UNICEF coming back to us on that. Facebook saying that the ads are back running now.

HILL: Wow.


HILL: Donie, appreciate it. Thank you.

O'SULLIVAN: Thanks, guys.

HILL: Here to dig a little deeper, Siva Vaidhyanathan. He's a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. He's also the author of "Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy."

It's so good to have you with us this morning. You have been studying this. You've been, you know, raising an alarm for years at this point.

I want to pick up where Donie left off. When we look at sort of two parts of what we learned there.


So the fact that it's the comments section that is in many ways the biggest issue and Facebook can't control it.