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D.A. Not Ruling Out Criminal Charges in Fatal Shooting on Rust Set; January 6 Committee to Subpoena Lawyer Who Told Pence to Overturn Election; Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Speaks as Democrats Race to Reach Budget Deal. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Soon, we are expecting an update on the investigation into the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of an Alec Baldwin movie in New Mexico. Now, the Sante Fe Sheriff's Office set to hold a news conference just a couple hours from now.

Meantime, new this morning, a spokesperson for the movie Rust says none of the producers have been contacted at this point by the district attorney's office, this as the D.A. says criminal charges are possible here.

SCIUTTO: In an interview with The New York Times, that district attorney says that the term prop gun that we've been hearing is actually misleading, noting that the gun that killed Halyna Hutchins was, in fact, in the words of the D.A., a legit gun. All of this as an actor who worked on that movie says that there were safety concerns.


IAN HUDSON, RUST ACTO: Brandon Lee, having died in '93, that conversation came up a couple times.

We're doing this the same way they did it then, 30 years ago. Got to double-check, got to make sure.

I think the armorer, having been pressed for time, as much as she was, was doing a fantastic job.


HILL: Let's begin this morning with CNN Correspondent Stephanie Elam, who is following all of these latest developments for us from Sante Fe, New Mexico.

So, we are starting to hear, we heard from that actor there, other crew members now speaking out as well, Steph. What are they saying?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. What's noteworthy about what this actor, Ian Hudson, is saying, Erica, is that he's saying that the armorer was doing a good job. Now, we've had other people questioning whether or not she was prepared. We know that this was her second time as the lead armorer on a film.

And just to that point on the contrarian side, Serge Svetnoy posted on Facebook about the experience level and this is what he wrote. I understand that you always fight for the budget, but you cannot allow this to happen. There should always be at least one professional in each department who knows the job. It's an absolute must to avoid such a tragedy like the tragedy with Halyna.

Now, obviously, we don't have all the answers and we're hoping to get more of those answers when we hear from the district attorney today and from the sheriff's department from Santa Fe County. But what we do know is that this may not give us all of the answers that we want. The district attorney telling CNN that the forensics could take six to ten weeks before we get any answers there, because what they want to find out is what was it that was inside this gun that led to Hutchins' death.

And they're saying there was an exorbitant amount of ammunition found on the set. What's not clear is whether it was dummy, whether it was live ammunition or not. But, still, they're trying to get to the bottom of that. So, they want to know also the ballistics, what was inside the gun and who was the last person to handle the gun and who put whatever ammunition was in there in that gun as well. Very much a key part of this, and also the fact that the district attorney telling The New York Times that this was, quote, a legit gun, that it was an antique-era gun, but it shouldn't be prescribed as a prop gun, because it was a true weapon there. That gives us some idea of what they were up against.

It's also worth noting too that they're saying that these allegations that have come out that some of the crew members may have been using the guns for target practice and using live rounds, they're saying that that is unconfirmed, we're learning from The New York Times reporting from the district attorney. Erica and Jim?

HILL: Interesting, still so much to learn here. But all those updates are so important. Stephanie Elam, thank you.

Joining us now is retired FBI Special Agent Bobby Chacon. Bobby, good to have you with us this morning.

Look, you've spent a lot of time as a technical adviser on sets. I know you know this world really well. I want to play a little bit more of what that actor, Ian Hudson, told TMZ about the set itself. Take a listen.


HUDSON: Everyone on the camera crew was protected by shields. And the camera was protected by shield. So, that made me question, me being in front of the camera and sort of in between all that fire.


HILL: In terms of that fire, he actually talked about feeling the wind from the shotgun, he talked was, in his words, intense, scary and real.


The scene that he sets up there of what this was like on set, is that something that you've seen before when you're dealing with firearms on set, whether they're loaded or not, the picture that he paints doesn't seem to gel with what we've heard from other folks.

BOBBY CHACON, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, that's a problem for investigators, right? They're going to have to wade through all these different statements and see who is telling the closest version to the truth that they can get and that's also supported by the physical evidence that they've seized in the search warrant. But that has been my experience in that --

HILL: I'm just going to stop for one second because I just want to make sure that my question didn't come off the wrong way. What I meant is that not that he's telling a different story from other cast or crew members, but simply that we've had a lot of conversations over the last several days with prop masters, with folks who are on set, maybe it's in a technical adviser role, like yourself, and sort of that picture that's painted, there were a lot of questions about how that set was being run and how it was set up. Is there anything in his description that would give you pause based on your experience?

CHACON: Well, his description of the Plexiglass windows between the camera operator and the gun operator, the actor that has the gun, that's been my experience. They have Lexan, which is very strong, clear, Plexiglas-type stuff. Yes, once a gun comes out on set, every time I've been on a set with a gun, and that's been numerous times, everything stops and the primary safety considerations are, where is the gun, who has the gun, where is it being pointed.

So, those considerations all have to carry through. I mean, everybody -- it's everybody's responsibility on the set for safety once a weapon is out, whether it's loaded or not. One of the main tenets of gun safety is treat every gun as if it's loaded. If you do that, you can avoid a lot of different problems and mistakes and so-called accidents. So, you always treat every weapon as if it's loaded and you do as best you can to keep those safety things place.

Now, remember, look at the primetime schedule of T.V. There are police shows and cop shows and FBI shows on every night. There are productions going all the time with guns. There're many, many productions in movies and T.V. that handle guns. And so these incidents are extremely rare. So, the rules are in place, it seems that this production wasn't always following the rules.

SCIUTTO: Bobby, here is a basic rule, no live ammunition on a set. What is the purpose of it? What in God's name -- I mean, first of all, you can make an argument you don't even need blanks anymore, right, because you can put all this stuff into post-production as many things are. We understand that many producers do that these days as a preference. But let's say you use blanks. Why would you have live ammunition under any circumstances?

CHACON: You're absolutely right, Jim. And, in fact, some of the sets I've been on, it's been absolutely prohibited to have live ammunition on set. Now, as a retired FBI agent, I carry a weapon every day, but I wouldn't carry it on set. I check it in a locked container before I went on set, because my weapon has live ammunition, and it's a real gun that I use to protect myself.

So, I've been on sets where, absolutely, live ammunition is prohibited to avoid just this kind of thing that happened. It's should be prohibited, that I can't think of -- I'm like you. I can't think of any reason why a live round of ammunition would ever be on a set where there were guns who could also fire that live round.

HILL: In terms of the gun too, the fact that the D.A. is saying they shouldn't be referred to as a prop gun, this was a live gun. I mean, what is it typically like on a set? Is there a, quote/unquote, prop gun? So, for those of us who are not in the industry, this would be something that looks exactly like a real firearm but isn't one, or is it a real firearm that's modified?

CHACON: Well, I've been onsets where there are prop guns that are used during rehearsals and things like that. Now, you say they don't look exact lie like a real gun, and that's what some directors, particularly movie directors, want it to look and feel and an actor wants it to feel heavy and wants it to feel real. That's one less thing they have to act about, right, if it's light, if it's too light. That's why they also have blanks. Because the recoil that a blank kind of gives off is also something that the actor wants to feel so they have that feeling of acting in the scene.

So, a prop gun is used normally, a plastic gun, that doesn't really look like it. But that's all you need for rehearsal. You don't need the real thing for rehearsal. The real thing comes out from the armorer, should always be given directly to the actor. The armorer checks it, the actor checks it and then the technical adviser walks the actor over to the scene and is very in control of what's going to happen.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Let's hope there's a review of existing rules to prevent this kind of thing from happening ever again. But, Bobby Chacon, thanks so much for sharing your experience.

CHACON: Thanks for having me.

HILL: Some major news this morning on the COVID front when it comes to getting younger children vaccinated. A panel of independent FDA vaccine advisers recommending emergency use authorization of Pfizer's vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. That panel saying the benefits here, two doses for kids, three weeks apart, those benefits far outweigh any risk.


SCIUTTO: It's a big portion of the population. If authorized, about 28 million children would be eligible to be vaccinated.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. So, Elizabeth, this seems to be coming at an important time as the number of Americans getting vaccinated tumbles to a new low. But also we're seeing the incidents of new infections among children in this age group growing.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that's why it's so crucial that people -- that if this is approved by the FDA and by the CDC, which is thought that it will be, that people get their children vaccinated. Children have become sort of real spreaders of this virus, even if they don't get very sick, as most don't, they can still spread the virus. Study after study has shown that.

So, let's take a look at where we're at at this point with the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, according to a Pfizer clinical trial that was presented to the FDA advisers yesterday. The vaccine is 90.7 percent effective at keeping children from getting sick with COVID-19.

So now that the FDA advisers have given the thumbs up, the FDA itself and then an advisory group to the panel and the CDC, and then the CDC will have to review it. That could all happen between now and the end of next week. If they all give their okay, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is optimistic that children could get shots as early as next week.

And, interestingly, these children ages 5 to 11, they're not getting the same dose that adults and adolescents have been getting. They're getting one-third the dose. Jim, Erica?

HILL: Elizabeth Cohen with the good news this morning, we like that good news, thank you.

Still to come, one of President Trump's former lawyers on tape now talking about trying to convince then-Vice President Pence to overturn the election results. New evidence of this ongoing attack on democracy, that's next.

Plus, there are new details about Facebook's struggle to manage the spread of misinformation. Despite things being pretty bad in the U.S., it's actually far worse abroad. We'll look at why.

SCIUTTO: Courtroom drama looms in Wisconsin after a judge decided that three men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse, two of them shot dead, can be called a looters and rioters but not victims. Why and what this means for the trial, coming up.



HILL: Today, lawmakers investigating the Capitol insurrection are expected to issue another subpoena, this time the subpoena is for John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who worked with then-President Trump's legal team. He, of course, wrote the now infamous memo that falsely claimed then-Vice President Mike Pence had the power to overturn the election results.

SCIUTTO: So, despite that memo in writing, Eastman recently claimed that he wasn't trying to stage a coup, saying he never pushed Pence to follow through on the plan he laid out in the memo. But now, a new video has surfaced where he confirmed in so many words, that was the plan. It was caught on camera by a Democratic activist posing as a Trump supporter. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All your legal reasoning is totally solid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, there's no question. But --

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because Mike Pence is an establishment guy at the end of the day. And all of the establishment Republicans in D.C. fought into this very myopic view that Trump was destroying the Republican Party.


SCIUTTO: Pence didn't do it because he's an establishment, he said. CNN reached out this morning to Eastman's office for comment. We will update you if and when we hear back.

Let's bring in CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild. I mean, he seems like an obvious witness into an investigation of the roots of January 6. Are they going to subpoena him and when? and does he listen, I suppose, is the next question.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, it is very likely at this point that he will be subpoenaed. The House select committee investigating this Capitol insurrection, again, does plan to subpoena him, although we don't know when. Just as a reminder, he -- again, this conservative lawyer who had worked with then-President Donald Trump's legal time and tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence he could overturn the election results on January 6th.

A committee aide told CNN Tuesday that a subpoena would possibly be avoidable if Eastman voluntarily chooses to cooperate with the committee's inquiry. The Washington Post first reported the news of the expected subpoena. Earlier Tuesday, Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who serves on the panel, told CNN that the committee needs to, quote, determine to what extent there was an organized effort against Vice President Pence. And, again, Raskin saying we believe some of the actors' names have become known, including John Eastman, who laid it all out in a memo, Jim.

But, yes, you raise a good point about what's actually going to happen and is he going to abide by the subpoena.

SCIUTTO: So, Steve Bannon, of course, was subpoenaed. The House voted largely along party lines to hold him in contempt, still waiting from the Justice Department to determine whether they follow through. Is there any update? Because this comes to a question as to whether these subpoenas have any real power.

WILD: Right. And it remains at this point an open question. And I think it's reasonable to believe that there are several people who have been subpoenaed who are reluctant to abide by that subpoena, who are looking to the Bannon case to lay out, really, roadmap for their own case.

However, Jim, I think it's important to note, we know of several other people who were subpoenaed who felt very obligated to abide by those and have been cooperating with the committee.


So, it's an open question for some of these people who maybe have the means or the power to fight these subpoenas in a different way. A big question mark over John Eastman about when that subpoena comes out and what he's going to do.

SCIUTTO: And we'll see what the Justice Department does. Whitney Wild, thanks very much. Erica?

HILL: Still ahead this morning, more damning internal reports released about Facebook. The impact the site has had on everything from human trafficking to vaccinations, next.



SCIUTTO: Just moments ago, Senator Joe Manchin, of course, a key figure in these budget negotiations on Capitol Hill, he's set to meet with White House advisers today after a meeting with the president last night, meeting in the Oval Office. Here he is now weighing in this morning. Let's take a listen to where things stand.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, you met at the White House last night, talked to the president. After your discussion with him, how realistic is it that a deal can be reached imminently, even as early as today, including on a billionaire's tax?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, which one do you want to speak about first, the taxes or --

RAJU: Both, overall and --

MANCHIN: Okay. Overall, absolutely. We need to move forward. The president has made that very clear. He wants to move forward. And we owe it to the president to move forward, take a vote on the infrastructure bill that was the only thing we have that's bipartisan, take a vote on that because the president is doing everything. He's working 24/7. I guarantee you, I've been with him most of 24/7. And he's working as hard as he possibly can to get a good, solid deal. And he believes 100 percent of nothing is nothing. And he understands that. He's been here 36 years. He understands how the Senate works. So, we had very good, very direct, very frank, very honest conversations.

On the taxes, people talking about tax this and tax that, we'll change this and the wealth tax first. Well, I said this. Everybody in this country that has been blessed and prospered should pay a patriotic tax. If you're to the point where you're able to use all of the tax forms, if you can, to your advantage and you end up with a zero tax liability but have had a very, very good life and you had a lot of opportunities, there should be a 15 percent patriotic tax. That's me speaking. I'm not speaking for anybody else. But we've said and we've all agreed on a 15 percent corporate tax.

People in the stratosphere, (INAUDIBLE) trying to penalize them, we ought to be pleased that this country is able to produce the wealth. But with that, there's a patriotic duty that you should be paying something to this great country to gives you the protection and the support and the opportunities. That's called a patriot. A patriotic tax would be nothing that we should be scorned about. It doesn't harm anybody.

RAJU: So, are you supportive of the billionaire's tax? Are you supporting the billionaire's tax?

MANCHIN: I'm supporting basically that everyone should pay their fair share, not just try to think of it. I don't like it -- I don't like the connotation that we're targeting different people. There're people that basically they've contributed to society, created a lot of jobs and invested a lot of money, and gave a lot to philanthropic pursuits. But it's time we all pull together and row together.

REPORTER: As that bill is written right now on the billionaire's tax --

MANCHIN: There's a lot going on, there's a lot going on with that. It's very convoluted. So, I believe there's going to be -- everyone is going to pay. I believe that we will end up where everyone must participate.

REPORTER: All these taxes, like the billionaire's tax, are coming in very last minute. It seems to be a rush. How confident are you that you can either pay for the whole package?

MANCHIN: We're not going to do everything today. We're not going to have it -- the Senate is going to take time. You think it's going to happen today in the Senate. We're basically trying to agree to a framework. And the president has been very clear, he'll go over to the House and he basically explain to the House, that I have a framework, but there's still an awful lot of work to be done. And we're going to have something happen.

You have to trust -- the president is giving everything he has to make this happen. He's trying to meet everybody halfway. And I appreciate that because I've been through negotiations, I can tell he has given everything he has to this. People have to respect that. The only thing we're asking for is vote on a piece of legislation that's already been bipartisan. I'll guarantee I'm dealing in good faith, I'm meeting with people that I really enjoy and never had the opportunity to know them before. We can sit down and work something out. Give us a chance.

I'm sorry, there's --

REPORTER: Senator, Senator Sanders has said that Medicare expansion is not going to come out of this bill. Do you still disagree with that?

MANCHIN: Let me just say about expansions, we're negotiating and talking about that. I am truly absolutely concerned about the deficit of our country at almost $29 trillion. I am concerned about the insolvency of the trust funds. In good conscience, I have a hard time increasing basically benefits. All of us can agree, love to have this, love to have that, when you can't even take care of what you have. So, that's the difference and that's the discussions we're having. Those are honest, open discussions.

And how am I going to tell people in West Virginia that Medicare and social security is your lifeline, is your lifeline and you're going to be in trouble by 2026. They've all heard that, what's that mean to me?


Am I going to be pay more or am I going to be cut back on services I'm getting? But yet we're adding more to it. That's the problem. And that's basically a good dialogue that we're having.