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Panic At Atlanta Airport After Accidental Discharge Of Weapon; Kyle Rittenhouse To Appear In A FOX News Documentary After Not Guilty Verdict; Interview With Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Trump Praises McCarthy Eight-Hour Speech To Stall Biden Bill; Sen. Kennedy Says Biden Nominee For Comptroller Of Currency Supports Communist Policies Because She Grew Up In Soviet Union; New NASA Satellite To Search For Life In Space. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 15:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta reporting from New York.

Breaking news. We begin with moments of panic at one of the world's busiest airports. This was the scene in Atlanta just a short while ago. The sound of gunfire breaks out sending passengers ducking for cover in the security line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get over here. Get over here.




ACOSTA: Minutes late authorities determined thankfully it was an accidental discharge and there are no injuries. The Atlanta Airport tweeting just a short while ago, "There is not an active shooter," the airport says. "There was an accidental discharge at the airport. There is no danger to passengers or employees. An investigation is ongoing. More information will be published on this channel."

That from the Atlanta Airport. Let's go right to CNN's Nadia Romero on the phone.

Nadia, we're looking at a live picture of Hartsfield Airport right now but a frightening few minutes there in Atlanta at, you know, a very, very busy airport as we all know. What are you learning about the situation about this accidental discharge as the airport is calling it?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, Jim. Well, we're learning a lot know with some of the information finally coming through. The Atlanta Airport, as you mentioned, saying that this was an accidental discharge, but that information did not get to the passengers soon enough. There was plenty of people who panicked and still plenty of confusion right now with people trying to figure out exactly what happened and how it affects them.

So there are people who are still inside, passengers, who are not being able to move. They're trying to figure out where they can go. Can they leave the airport? Can they connect to their flight? Will their flight be canceled? So many unanswered questions for many of those passengers.

What I can tell you is that that ground-stop has been lifted which is a great sign here at the nation's busiest airport. Finally, now flights are starting to take off again. We saw a standstill, really, traffic just inching along as people were trying to pick up and drop off passengers.

That is now starting to move again. But cell phone lot was completely full of people. People are parking in the right lane on the side of the road trying to get word as to what they should do next. That is all starting to move.

You probably hear a plane taking off behind me. Another good sign here. But still plenty of confusion because I was speaking with people inside. My in-laws were in town to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday and they told us that they weren't able to get really any information from airport employees. Their number one goal was to keep everyone safe and calm. But doing so meant not giving them a lot of information.

So people started finding out what was going on on social media, and, Jim, as you know as well as anyone else, social media isn't always accurate. So there was a lot of incorrect, inaccurate information on social media that spurred some of that confusion inside the airport -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. No question about it, Nadia. But this is -- I mean, this is the busiest travel time of the year. We're heading into the Thanksgiving Day holiday coming up in just a few days from now. And so obviously the airport is going to be packed with people and to have something like this happen, you know, it is obviously going to grind things to a halt for a little while.

Even though there's no active threat to the public right now, this is going to have, I would assume, a huge impact on travel in and out of that airport for the remainder of the day. And I suppose if they had a ground stop at Hartsfield that is going to impact flights and airlines potentially around the country a little while now.


ACOSTA: Nadia, can you hear me?

ROSALES: Hi. This is Isabel. Hi, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. We lost Nadia there on the phone, but I've got CNN Newsource reporter Isabel Rosales. She is joining me now on the phone. Let's pick up on the conversation we just left off there with Nadia. [15:05:04]

Obviously, a chaotic situation there at the airport that they're finally getting back to normal, but Isabel, you were on a plane when you heard an announcement by the pilot on your plane. Tell us what happened.

ROSALES: Yes. The pilot out of the blue just said, hey, folks, you might be noticing that we're not going anywhere. The reason for that is that there was an active shooter, and for your safety and everyone's safety we're not going to let you off of this plane until we figured it out what is going on. And obviously, thank God it didn't turn out to be an active shooter whatsoever but the damage is pretty much done, Jim.

There is massive panic and massive confusion. I'm at the T terminal right now where this happened and they're essentially herding everyone out of the terminal. It's a massively packed crowd in the middle of a pandemic, mind you. They're telling everyone to leave the airport and go right through security again so that they can make sure that the area is safe. We're seeing people elbow to elbow, children crying.

Some people cursing, emotions are certainly getting hot. People elbowing their way through trying to figure out what's going on and they're not getting much of any sort of answer on here. So right now it's just a wait-and-see, and I understand that, you know, they're allowing planes to go again. But from what I'm seeing here on the ground, I don't see how. There's people all over the outside of the airport.

There's no baggage that's operating. People are just waiting, confused, trying to log on to the news to figure out what the heck is going on.

ACOSTA: Yes. Isabel, it sounds like Hartsfield, or at least a portion of Hartsfield has just come to a screeching halt. Much of their operations there. And if they are rescreening passengers through security, that means that they cannot, I guess, get a handle on whether or not during this panic some folks might have gone through the security line or mixed in with people who weren't all the way through the security line and they've got to rescreen everybody to make sure that everything is safe in the terminal.


ACOSTA: What can you tell us about the flights? Are you starting to see, you know, delays show up on these flight, you know, boards around the terminal? What's happening on that front?

ROSALES: I am seeing no flights whatsoever going out. I didn't manage to catch the board through all the massive confusion. Again, it's like a big crowd of people just being pushed forward almost like a concert. Just massive confusion.

You're being carried by the crowd and now a lot of people are just outside here smoking, talking to each other, trying to figure out what they're going to do. How they can get home. What's going on with their flight.

But tight now I just don't see in all of this massive confusion how people are going to get anywhere, Jim. And obviously this is a major artery, this airport, so who can imagine the domino effect that this is going to have on other flights and other millions of passengers around the States.

ACOSTA: That's exactly right, Isabel. As we know, Hartsfield is a major hub for Delta Airlines. Lots of flights going in and out of there. And if things are coming to a halt for a while as they sort this out that will is going to have an impact on flights all across the country.

Isabel, thanks so much for that report. We'll stay on top of it.

And joining us now for more on this is CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.

Juliette, we're looking at a live picture right now, a tower cam of Hartsfield. We're showing that to our viewers. It looks like some of the planes are moving around. I saw one take off just a moments ago.


ACOSTA: So perhaps things are getting back to normal there.


ACOSTA: But I mean, you know, this weekend has already broken the record for holiday travel since the pandemic began. The Atlanta Airport says there's not an active shooter. This was an accidental discharge. We don't know what that means at this point. So when you watch the video, what do you see and what do you think happened here?

KAYYEM: They're going to -- well, a couple of things. So first of all this was an accidental discharge at the security screening area, as I've been saying the last hour. This is not a question of gun rights. You have no right to come to the other side of a TSA screening with any gun. It has to be disclosed, it has to be in a separate container and it has to be checked. So someone either forgot that they had a gun -- that does -- that seems surprising or we don't know if someone tried to get a loaded gun through.

The accidental discharge, we don't know if that happened from the passenger or a TSA clearance. But (INAUDIBLE) loaded gun got past security. So this kind of thing, people like me look at this as good news. The system --

ACOSTA: Yes. And Juliette --

KAYYEM: This one seems to work.

ACOSTA: You're breaking up just a little bit there. Sorry. I didn't mean to cut you off. Keep going and we'll see if the signal clears up there. KAYYEM: OK. So the other thing I guess I could say and I should turn

off my phone is I have been in touch with security personnel in Atlanta. They expect they're going to return normal operations within the next hour. That's how these things work. You have a blip.

You have to respond. And then you quickly get these systems back up and running. So maybe they're ambitious to think it's going to be the next hour but the fact that you're seeing airplanes beginning to take off suggests that they're able to limit this investigation to a certain area.


This is a kind of thing that happens when you have disruptions. You need to close systems down. You need to have a review. We call them no regrets review. So it's probably that they are putting people through security again. You just want to be careful. There's no harm in delays at this stage. And then get people moving out.

ACOSTA: All right, Juliette, thanks for those insights. We're going to iron out the wrinkles in your signal there, come back to you. Stand by.

I want to go back to CNN's Nadia Romero who joins me now from the airport.

Nadia, we should point out to our viewers, we're not exactly sure how this accidental discharge occurred just yet unless you have brand new information. We don't exactly have that at this point. That is how the airport is describing what occurred before this panic broke out in the terminal, but now that we've gotten you in front of the camera, give us the latest. What do you know?

ROMERO: Yes, Jim, and that is going to be the big question. Right? How did someone get a gun inside of the airport that seemed to have been loaded, if it was an accidental discharge, and what does Georgia law say in regards to that? And so that is one of the big issues when we look back at the situation, but we're still in the middle of the situation of all of these people at the airport trying to come and go as normal.

You mentioned TSA says that this has been the busiest travel period since the pandemic began. And now you have people who are trying to connect to their flights, they're trying to take off on flights and they're just trying to land and move, and go about safely if they're final destination was, in fact, here in Atlanta.

So behind me I've been able to see some of those planes, those flights, taking off which is a great sign because during that ground stop, we didn't see any movement in the air or on the ground. And there are so many people who are trying to pick up and drop off passengers, that was at a standstill.

I mean, think of the worst traffic you could possibly see around this airport. And that's what we experienced just 20 minutes ago. The cell phone lot was completely full. You had people on the right lane parking their cars, not sure what to do.

And we know that the airport employees inside of the terminals were given very limited information to passengers trying their best not to scare them, but that let's people's minds wander. And so this idea, this rumor there was an active shooter happening.

ACOSTA: Right.

ROMERO: That went like wildfire through the airport especially because everyone has a cell phone. And everyone just log on social media where misinformation can quickly travel as we know in this case and in many others, Jim. That's what happened here in Atlanta. So you had people who were frantic, who were so afraid, who were trying to figure out what was going on and then calling their loved ones.

They hopped in their cars and then headed towards the airport so that caused even more of a traffic congestion. We're still right in the middle of this trying to figure out all of the details. But that domino effect is still ongoing -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. Absolutely. And as we're showing our viewers some of the latest video coming in, I mean, you can see right outside the security checkpoint, you know, some of those security rope lines have been toppled over. I suppose people were just running at one point. We have some other pictures that show folks out on the tarmac next to where the airplanes are parked at the, at the sky bridges.

And then on top of that, we have pictures that show just empty corridors inside the Hartsfield terminal. I mean, it sounds like this just really knocked this airport on its knees for a little while there -- Nadia.

ROMERO: It absolutely did, Jim. And you had different groups people, right? You had some people who were told to shelter in place. They hit the ground, they were hiding, because they heard gunshots and they were afraid of an active shooter situation. Unfortunately, it's happened too many times in this country so people reacted with fear and trying to protect themselves.

Then you had another group of people who were getting off flights, who were getting on to the train system. So if you're not familiar with the Atlanta Airport, there is a well thought out very convenient train system to get you from one concourse to the other. Otherwise you're walking about a half an hour to get from one gate to the next group of gates. Right?

So you take the train. People who were on the train were told there is an emergency. You have to get off the train. Go upstairs to the escalator and just wait. So they were just waiting with hundreds of other people with airport staff holding them back, preventing them from moving or leaving. And whenever people's movement gets restricted that's going to cause a lot of question. So people hopped in social media and that spurred a lot of the rumors about what was going on.

That's still happening right now. Very few people are able to move about the airport because there's just so much confusion. And you have so many people that have different plans. Some people need to connect to their flights. Some people are trying to get to the baggage area to get their bags and enjoy their time somewhere in Atlanta. Other people just arrived at the airport.


There's also this question of how many of them will be rescreened and what will happen to release people and to move about freely within the airport -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. Such a chaotic situation. But the good news is airport authorities are telling us that this was an accidental discharge. They're calling it an accidental discharge. Obviously, we're going to keep asking questions, try to get to bottom of that but that there is no active shooter at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Busiest airport in the nation. Causing just so much confusion, so much chaos for people there.

We're going to stay on top of it. We're going to move on to other stories. But, Nadia Romero, thanks so much for that sequencing and as we follow this major breaking news of that accidental discharge at Atlanta's airport and we'll have more news in just a moment. We'll be right back.


ACOSTA: Chaos unfolded at the Atlanta Airport this afternoon after gunfire rang out at the main security checkpoint.


Some passengers ran on to the tarmac under the impression there was an active shooter. The woman who took these pictures that you're looking at right now, Erika Zeidler, she joins me on the phone right now.

Erika, thanks so much for being with us. You were in the terminal. And I'm told you hid inside a TGI Friday's or a restaurant or something like that? What was going on? What did you see?

ERIKA ZEIDLER, TRAVELER AT ATLANTA AIRPORT (via phone): Yes. We were just sitting at the restaurant and all of a sudden we saw a bunch of people start running down the main hallway of the T Terminal and we just thought they were late for a flight. And then more and more people started running, there was just screaming, and then somebody stopped said there's a shooter, you need to go. 1

We were in the restaurant didn't have easy access to get out. We actually went with the staff into the back of the restaurant and that's where we hunkered down with their staff and, you know, a couple other patrons as well for the whole time.

ACOSTA: And were you told at some point that there was an active shooter?

ZEIDLER: Yes. Somebody Another passenger. Nobody official. Never saw or heard anything official, just chaos and responded to it. So while we were back there I literally hop on social media and started to see what I could find. You know, what people were able to see from the outside, but, I mean, it was pretty much information blackout. We didn't know anything.

ACOSTA: And what's the airline saying? Are you hearing from anybody at your airline about what happened?

ZEIDLER: No. Now. We were fortunate. One of the other patrons at the restaurant was a Delta employee and so she did share with us that, you know, the intent was for flights to resume when possible but other than our departure time being updated via the app, we haven't heard anything.

ACOSTA: I can't imagine what that was like. You know, going through what everybody went through at that time. You know, when you were taking those pictures of those folks out on the tarmac next to where the jet bridges are from, you know, that lead you from the terminal and the gates into the planes, I mean that is a pretty stunning image right there.

Do you know what you were looking at? I suppose just telling people not just, not to go back into the airport, but to go down those staircases next to the jet bridges? But I can only guess that because --

ZEIDLER: Right. Yes.

ACOSTA: Looking at the picture here. What can you tell us?

ZEIDLER: When we were in the restaurant, like I said, we didn't have a direct path out of it, it's the main hallway, but we saw people being ushered out. Whether it was, you know, officials or just people taking it upon themselves, I'm not sure. But since we never had to leave terminal, we were the first ones to really back out on it so we're able to see everybody sitting out there like, you know, I guess being directed.

ACOSTA: All right. Well, Erica Zeidler, thanks for getting those pictures for us. Glad everybody is OK and we're going to stay on top of this story. Appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

ZEIDLER: All right. Thank you so much, bye-bye.

ACOSTA: All right. And we'll take another quick break. We'll be right back in just a moment.



ACOSTA: All right. And this just in. You're looking at live pictures of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where there was an accidental discharge of a firearm within the last hour or so. That's according to airport officials.

We're learning in just the last few minutes that an all-clear has been given by authorities at the airport, and so we're obviously going to stay on top of it, but we're told by airport officials that they're trying to get back to normal operations in just a few minutes. And so passengers there who are wondering what's happening with their flights and so they should obviously seek out airline officials to figure out what is happening with those flights.

But in the meantime to other news, fresh off his acquittal Kyle Rittenhouse is speaking out, yes, already. The 18-year-old is at center of an upcoming FOX News documentary the trailer of which debuted on Tucker Carlson's show last night.


KYLE RITTENHOUSE, DEFENDANT ACQUITTED OF SHOOTING THREE PEOPLE: The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defense is not illegal. And I believe they came to the correct verdict and I'm glad that everything went well. And it's been a rough journey but we made it through it.


ACOSTA: Turns out the FOX News had a camera crew embedded with Rittenhouse for the entire trial, something Rittenhouse's own lawyer didn't approve of because this was such a highly divisive case. The country watched as Rittenhouse learned he had been acquitted of all charges in the shootings of three people. Two of whom died during civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Overnight police in Portland declared a riot following the verdict, saying demonstrators forced open the gates to the country's downtown jail and threw objects at police in New York. Protesters marched to the streets and shut down traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge. And tonight the National Guard is on standby in Kenosha.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on the scene in Kenosha right now.

Shimon, what can you tell us? What is the Rittenhouse defense team saying about this bizarre Tucker Carlson documentary that I guess is coming out?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Look, you could tell from Mark Richards, the attorney, look, I spent a lot of time with him covering this trial. He's a straight shooter. This guy is just all about doing the law, trying cases and defending his clients.

And so he wasn't ultimately happy that they were there but he explains that he had to do it because the people who are funding the defense wanted it so that is ultimately why they did it and of course Rittenhouse also in this interview with the Tucker Carlson folks talks about the nights that he had thinking about what had happened here. Take a listen.


RITTENHOUSE: Once you finally do get to sleep your dreams about what happened and you're waking up in a dark, cold sweat. You know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had dreams about it, what happened?


RITTENHOUSE: Every single night. It's quite scary, actually, because the dreams feel so real.

And they're not the same at all. They're all different. They're the different scenarios that run through your head during the daylight. What could have happened. Like, I'm alive, but what could have happened.


PROKUPECZ: Should I toss to it?

Then, obviously, we also heard from Kyle Rittenhouse's attorney, Mark Richards, yesterday talking about the decision to allow these cameras. Take a listen.


MARK RICHARDS, ATTORNEY FOR KYLE RITTENHOUSE: I did not approve of that. I threw them out of the room several times. I don't think a film crew is appropriate for something like this.

But the people who were raising the money to pay for the experts and to pay for the attorneys were trying to raise money and that was part of it.


PROKUPECZ: Some of these, Jim, some of the crews and people doing this were inside the courthouse.

And there's footage of them on the third floor where Kyle Rittenhouse was kept for security reasons.. He had a security team kept away from the public. He was kept away from the public.

They were given access through the back area. They would go upstairs. So they captured some of that footage as well in this documentary.

ACOSTA: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much for that. We appreciate it.

President Biden weighing in on the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse and urging the nation to abide by the verdict.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any reaction?

BIDEN: I didn't watch the trial. So I, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you stand by your past comments painting him as a white supremacist?

BIDEN: Look, I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it.


ACOSTA: But others on both sides of the aisle, who were watching, were making feelings known loud and clear.

Here's Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn in a video posted on Instagram.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Kyle Rittenhouse is not guilty, my friends. You have a right to defend yourselves. Be armed, be dangerous and be moral.


ACOSTA: Be armed and be dangerous.

Notice, on the screen, he also offers Kyle Rittenhouse an internship.

On the Democratic side, Congressman Eric Swalwell tweeted, "Be pissed about the laws/bias that led to the Rittenhouse verdict. And we can partly blame the filibuster for allowing red legislatures to write those laws.

Congressman Swalwell joins me now.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

Obviously, emotions were running high after the verdict was read. But I have to say, a lot of legal experts are actually not surprised by this verdict.

Apparently, the burden for the prosecution to prove that there wasn't self-defense, that is a very difficult case to make for prosecutors in these kinds of cases.

As a lawmaker, what are your thoughts on this? And what are you going to do to try to change the system you were talking about in that tweet?


You know, two people are still dead. Somebody, who provocatively drove across state lines with an assault weapon as a minor, walks free. That should upset people.

President Biden's absolutely right that we have to respect the jury system.

But that doesn't mean we can't do all we can to try and change the laws that allowed a provocative self-defense to be read to the jury away for Mr. Rittenhouse to go free and to have a biased judge essentially steer the outcome, in part.

When I connect the filibuster, Jim, I mean it's state legislatures that decide the laws in each state, and states like Wisconsin had almost unrestricted weaponry, just as many states around them.

So if we want to make sure we don't have laws like this that would allow someone to act so provocatively as Mr. Rittenhouse did, we have to care at every level, not just the presidency, Senate and House.

We also need to make sure that the Senate reforms the filibuster so that state legislatures can't rig outcomes where they have very partisan gerrymandering.

That's the straight line between the filibuster and seeing in many states many watered-down gun laws.

ACOSTA: What did you make of -- just ask you one more question on the Rittenhouse case.

What do you make of Tucker Carlson embedding a documentary or film crew with Rittenhouse throughout this trial? What did you think of that when you heard about that?

SWALWELL: I agree with Rittenhouse's lawyer. This was a murder trial. Two people are dead. It's not entertainment.

And Tucker Carlson is entirely about entertainment that incites violence. Tucker Carlson is like the Republican Party. More comfortable with violence than voting.

So you see Tucker Carlson promoting a mass shooter. You see Paul Gosar in the House, you know, promoting a video that takes on President Biden with a threat and kills my colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, defended by Kevin McCarthy.


The Republican Party today is a vigilante, violent party. And we have to make sure, going into the midterms, voters understand what going with them would look like in the next comes years.

ACOSTA: Let's play with Gosar and McCarthy said, House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said about all this and we'll get your reaction.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): I voluntarily took the cartoon down, not because itself was a threat but some thought it was.

If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to the censured by this House, so be it.

Under the Pelosi president, all members mentioned earlier will need the approval of a majority to keep those positions in the future.


ACOSTA: What did you think when you heard that?

SWALWELL: Again, I didn't hear an apology from Mr. Gosar or Kevin McCarthy condemning it, saying we shouldn't have violence in the House.

Instead I heard, well, if you're going to remove our members for acting violently, we'll use retribution to remove yours.

Americans detest chaos and want law and order. Without that, we are lost.

And again, we see one party embracing violence and another party trying to embrace and expand access to voting rights.

ACOSTA: Are you worried about losing any of your assignments if Kevin McCarthy become the next speaker?

And what did you think of, you know, this news that came out in the middle of this past week where he made it sound as though Marjorie Taylor Greene, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, could get their committee assignments back.

SWALWELL: McCarthy said probably promoted and have better committee assignments.

No. I'm not worried, Jim. I'm going to keep doing my job.

And Kevin McCarthy and Tucker Carlson smeared me for many years with falsities. And my constituents, my family, the American people know the truth.

That's why we have to make a clear. We delivered on Build Back Better, the president signed the law this week and Republicans are divided.

At the end of the day, that's a pretty winning message.

ACOSTA: I want to ask you about January 6th. This man, QAnon shaman, Jacob Chansley, was sentenced to 41 months in prison in connection with the attack at the capitol.

His lawyer offered this message to former President Trump. Pretty salty but we'll play it for viewers.


ALBERT WATKINS, ATTORNEY FOR QANON SHAMAN JACOB CHANSLEY: I would say probably far more effective over, with former President Trump. And I'd tell him, you know what, you've got a few (EXPLETIVE DELETED) things to do, let me clear this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mess up and taking care of the jackasses you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.


ACOSTA: Will we ever see accountability for Donald Trump? We're seeing accountable for people like the QAnon shaman? That's not preventing another insurrection from happening?

SWALWELL: Right. I'm doing my part. I have a lawsuit against Donald Trump in D.C. court for inciting and aiming the mob at the capitol.

And in the House, you're seeing accountability in that his enabler, Steve Bannon, has been held in contempt, was arrested earlier this week. And I imagine any others that refuse to show up will meet the same outcome.

The important while Republicans want to use violence that we really make sure that the rule of law works.

And that there's this cascade effect of the rule of law and rulings will come down on Donald Trump, because that's the best shot we have at saving our democracy.

ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Eric Swalwell. We had to delay you a little with breaking news top of the show but thanks for hanging in there and dropping by. Appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks.

I want to update you on the breaking story we're following this hour. An accidental discharge at the Atlanta airport causing panic and chaos. How the Atlanta airport is describing it.

We're still trying to get the latest information on that to bring to you. But moments ago, the all-clear was given and normal operations have begun again. We're monitoring all this. We'll bring you the very latest on this.


And we'll be back in just a moment.


ACOSTA: We want to take you back to Atlanta for a brief moment to get you up to speed what's happening at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Earlier this afternoon, there was an accidental discharge of a firearm of some sort. According to airport officials, it caused this panic obviously in one of the security checkpoints.

We understand the main security checkpoint. You can see the rope lines just knocked over there as passengers were scrambling at that moment.

Airport official it's assuring people this is not an active shooter situation. The situation is over. That an all-clear has been given and they are trying resume normal flight operations at the airport.

Meantime, we're waiting to see if those flight operations get back up and running, the way they should be, on a Saturday right before Thanksgiving.

They assure us at the airport they're doing everything possible to get passengers on those planes and off to their destinations to see their loved ones for the holidays. We'll stay on top of it.


An airport official joins us top of the hour. We'll press for new details on all of this in just a little bit. Stay tuned for that.

Meantime, former President Trump is praising House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, for giving the longest House speech on the floor temporarily delaying it -- it was not going to post it, it just temporarily delayed it -- Democrats from passing President Biden's sweeping social, economic and climate bill.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You know, when I look at this bill, it angers me. We are so better than this! You are spending so much money. Never before.

We spent less defeating Hitler, Mussolini and Japan than you're spending tonight. We spent less but it cost us lives. And you're celebrating it.


ACOSTA: And that went on for eight hours and 32 minutes. McCarthy rifted on everything from baby carrots and sandwiches to School House Rock and Abraham Lincoln.

To the delight of the former president, saying in a statement - here's what it says: "Great job by Kevin McCarthy, setting a record, going over eight hours on the House floor in order to properly oppose Communism."

It's how the former president described it. It's not Communism, obviously.

"We must never forget what the Democrats have done at the highest level of evil. If Mitch McConnell had fought, you would have a different Republican president."

When Trump says that, he means, if McConnell helped him overturn the election results and carry out some sort of coup, which thankfully did not occur.

Joining me now, former Republican Congressman from Florida, Francis Rooney.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

We know the former president loves a spectacle.

Do you think it was a mistake, though, for Republicans to vote almost in lockstep, basically in lockstep altogether against this legislation that includes a lot of popular things like paid family leave, university, pre-K, billions to fight climate change?

What are your thoughts on that?

FRANCIS ROONEY, (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN FOR FLORIDA: Well, there are several things I think.

First of all, the economy is really doing well. We have millions of unfilled jobs. So you've got to say, how many money do we really need to spend on safety net programs, given the situation that we face?

On the other hand, I'm really glad to see early childhood development money, because I think the studies show what happens to a child in the first six to 10 years is critical to the outcomes we'll see later from the child. That's a good thing.

I would also rather see included some focus on fraud and earned-income tax credit program, which has been documented to have massive amounts of fraud. No one wants to talk about that. Just want to throw more money at it.

ACOSTA: And we're showing some of the items in that Build Back Better bill on the screen right now. It is sweeping legislation.

Back to Kevin McCarthy. Everybody knows how much he wants to be speaker of the House, still wanted to be when you were still in House of Representatives. Yet, he bends over backwards to please Trump.

And then Trump's allies, former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, float ideas like Donald Trump becoming speaker of the House.

Let's listen.


MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I would love to see the gavel go from Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump as -- talking about melting down. People would go crazy.

As you know, you don't have to be an elected member of Congress to be the speaker. Wouldn't you see -- she would go from tearing up a speech to having to give the gavel to Donald Trump? Oh, she would go crazy.


ACOSTA: Congressman, what's your response to that?

ROONEY: I read that this morning and couldn't believe it. Our entire party is suffering from what I would call a Trump domination syndrome.

The leaders of our party sycophantically going to see Trump and soliciting his views.

The inability to be reasonable about people like Paul Gosar and about the 13 that voted for the infrastructure bill, I think that damages us in the long run. You know?

For the time being, OK. Looks like we're doing pretty well. Largely because of the radical left. Not because of what we're doing.

But long run, we have serious problems in our party. We need to focus on the things that our party's supposed to stand for, like free enterprise and capitalists. Like limited government. Not excessive expending.

Which we did before the Democrats took over just as much as they have now. So we can't blame them as much as we can also blame ourselves.

ACOSTA: And I want to play something we talk about, language right out of the Trump playbook.

I want to play a moment for you from a contentious confirmation hearing in which Senator John Kennedy, of Louisiana, suggested that Biden's nominee to be the comptroller of the currency might still support Communist policies because she grew up in the Soviet Union. She fled the Soviet Union.


This is how it went down.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't mean any disrespect. I don't know whether to call you, professor or comrade.


Senator, I'm not a Communist. I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born.


ACOSTA: What did you think when you saw that? I mean, it's just, it was just an awful moment, I thought.

ROONEY: Yes. You know, I think that she's written some pretty incendiary things and she's said some pretty incendiary things about free enterprise.

And how she'd like the federal government to control -- I've been to Kazakhstan many times. I was there when the sultan took over. He was wandering around the halls trying to find his office.

They were reeling from the years of Soviet domination and they've turned around to create a reasonably capitalist country, which is also a strong ally of the U.S. now.

ACOSTA: Congressman, as you know, my father is a Cuban refugee. If you flee a Communist country and come to the United States, I mean, that is the ultimate American story. People come here, they want to make a better life for themselves.

Their families. And of course, they're going to reject Communism totalitarianism if they're fleeing those countries.

Doesn't make any sense.

ROONEY: No, I agree with that. I think this lady's story of moving to the United States, for people who have moved to the United States, just as you described.

But she has written some incendiary things about the role of the public and private sector in the banking system. And those, I think, should be questioned and she should clarify where she stands on that.

I believe a private-sector banking system is better than a state- controlled one.

ACOSTA: Yes, but I mean, I guess, you know, this is where I have a little bit of a problem.

Because you know, somebody writes something in their past, does that make them a Communist and you're calling them comrade in the congressional - I mean --

ROONEY: I agree. That's going way too far. That's not what I'm insinuating at all.

I'm saying she should be held accountable for what she wrote and explain it in non-incendiary terms. I don't think she's a Communist. If she were, she'd still be over there where she was.

ACOSTA: To me, when you come from a country like the Soviet Union or Cuba or China, you're coming here for a better life.

And I mean, 99.9 times out of 100, you are not at all interested in adopting those views and bringing those to the United States.

It's just, it's an atrocious comment, but a sign of the times. We appreciate you calling some of this out for us.

Former Congressman Francis Rooney, thanks for coming on this afternoon. Appreciate it.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me.

ACOSTA: All right. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: NASA is about to launch a new telescope that it hopes will answer humanity's most compelling questions about the universe and whether there's life on other planets.

The new CNN film, "THE HUNT FOR PLANET B," will provide an inside look at this groundbreaking mission and the controversy around it.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to enter a completely new part of observation in space.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The next generation in science's effort to peek at galaxies far away is the James Webb Space Telescope, JWTS for short.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hundred times more powerful than Hubble.

CARROLL: Once launched next month, it will turn its eyes to distant stars in search of earth-like planets.

While scientists are excited about what is to come, they're also divided over the telescope's name.

HAKEEM OLUSEYI, PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: We have something new now. It's the woke leading the blind.


CARROLL: At issue, whether or not James Webb deserves to have his name on the telescope.


CARROLL: Webb ran NASA in the '60s and is credited for his role in building the Apollo Program.

But some are calling out Webb's tenure during the so-called Lavender Scare. It started in the late '40s when the U.S. government rooted out gay civil servants and fired them.

Webb served as Undersecretary of State during that time, and his critics say he didn't do his part to stop it.

(on camera): Do you think you'll ever get to the point where you'll use the name Webb and not think about the history behind it?


CARROLL (voice-over): Astrophysicist Sarah Tuttle is one of four scientists who penned an op-ed titled, "The James Webb Space Telescope Needs to be Renamed."

TUTTLE: He was still the administrator while his head of security, picked up someone from jail, interrogated him for hours, and that's the headquarters, and then fired him because he had been picked up for being gay.

CARROLL: Supporters of Webb say the history is murky, and those opposed in naming the telescope after him should take another look.

OLUSEYI: In this case, they're completely wrong.

CARROLL: Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist says after researching Webb's history, he found a man of tolerance.

OLUSEYI: James Webb lauded the intellectual power of an openly gay woman. He went out of his way to help use massive facilities to desegregate the south.

CARROLL: More than 1,700 people at last count in the scientific community signed a petition, asking NASA to change the name to Harriet Tubman, a former slave who used stars to guide black people to freedom.

OLUSEYI: I love Harriet Tubman, but that's not appropriate for this.

CARROLL: NASA declined our repeat of a request for an interview.

Saying in a statement, "The Lavender Scare was a painful time in American history. NASA's historian conducted exhaustive research. He also talked to experts. NASA found no evidence at this time that warrants changing the name."

Some astronomers say NASA needed to be transparent about how it conducted its investigation.

GAUDI: People like me that have worked with NASA extensively, done a lot of prop on our work, and are queer, and feel like this is a decision that was made without really understanding where it came from.

CARROLL: As the countdown to launch draws closer, there is one point of agreement --


TUTTLE: What I'll say is, whatever we call it, we're going to use JWST to do excellent science.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could there possibly be life out there?

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


ACOSTA: And be sure to tune in. The all-new CNN film, "THE HUNT FOR PLANET B," premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m.