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Chaos at ATL Airport after Passenger's Gun Accidentally Goes Off; Rittenhouse Speaks Out on Verdict in Fox News Documentary Clip; Ahmaud Arbery Trial; House Passes $1.9 Trillion Spending Bill. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 17:00   ET





I'm Jim Acosta in New York.

And we begin this hour with brand-new details about the gunfire that caused chaos at the Atlanta International Airport a short time ago. The frightening scene triggered by what authorities say was an accidental discharge of a weapon at the airport's main security gate.

We now know that the shot or shots came from a passenger's gun and that the passenger has since fled.

Here is what the spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson told me just in the past hour.


ANDREW GOBEIL, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, ATLANTA AIRPORT: What happened is as he was walking through then saw that there was a weapon there and he made his way out of the airport. And again it was in the process of being screened, we had all of his information.

ACOSTA: Ok. So just to button that up -- that aspect up. This passenger, you found the weapon, your officers had a conversation with him. And then he was allowed to go about his business and he has now left the airport?

GOBEIL: No, he was not allowed to go. As the weapon discharged, he took off and was able to make it outside of the airport.

ACOSTA: Oh, he did take off. Ok. So that --

GOBEIL: That's correct.


ACOSTA: What followed was a frantic rush. Peopling pouring on to tarmacs, travelers being evacuated, one witness saying people were so scared they were pushing to get on to planes that weren't even their flights.

So, as law enforcement determines next steps regarding the person who set off this chain of events, airport officials have hundreds of passengers to re-screen on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year at one of the biggest airports in the world.

CNN'S Nadia Romero is live on the scene for us. Also with us is CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd. We're grateful for you, Phil, for coming on this afternoon.

Let me get to you first, Nadia. Just give us the latest on the situation on the ground right now.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, things are starting to feel like they're back to normal here at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson airport.

What we're seeing and hearing behind me are planes that are finally starting to take off on regularity, right. Much more to the rhythm that we're used at this airport, the busiest airport in the nation.

We're still seeing a bit of a traffic jam with cars going in and out trying to drop off and pick up passengers because there was so much confusion that people who were dropped off here at about 1:30, around that time, when the incident happened, so many came to the airport to get their loved ones, others turned back around to pick people up where they had dropped off.

So there was quite a traffic jam that happened here at the airport. Cars moving at a snail's pace.

Inside of the airport though, things also getting back to normal. People being able to leave the airport if this was their final destination, to get to the baggage claim areas, grabbed their bags and go.

The train is now back up and running. The elevators and escalators are back up and running again and people are able to move about.

There were people who self-evacuated, right? They heard the gun shots or they learned that there was an emergency and they left the airport on their own.

Well, if they still want to catch a flight and get out of town, they have to go back through the screening process again, the TSA pre-check and we know that the clear screening process, those expedited lanes have been shut down at least for a portion of the day, slowing everything down again because there's just so much confusion that happened earlier today.

Now you mentioned, Jim, talking to the spokesperson from the airport. I spoke with him as well and he said you know, at this point, we're trying to get things back to normal. If you have a flight delay or cancellation, really that's up to your airline.

We're just learning that Delta Airlines, a major hub here at the airport, is offering a travel waiver for any of those passengers who had any kind of delay or disruption in their travel plans.

And TSA already told us before the incident that this has been the busiest time for them since the pandemic. So we know that so many people are coming through.

But a big issue the TSA is dealing with is guns. People bringing guns in their checked baggage. TSA reports some 4,650 firearms that they caught going through the security check points in the first ten months of this year, the majority of them loaded.

And that number surpasses the record that we set back in 2019. About 4,400 firearms that were discovered through the check baggage area.


ROMERO: So that is such a concern, not just here in Atlanta, but all over the country because of things like this.

Either an active shooter situation where people -- many people could lose their lives or even just a scare. Even if it was just an accidental discharge, just think of the ripple effect, the domino effect that happens here.

There's a saying at this airport that if somebody sneezes at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, needs here, somebody else in the world catches a cold because we're all so connected and this is such a major hub, a major artery for our air travel across the country.

This is something that is still under investigation because, Jim as you mentioned, the man who -- the passenger who had that gun, fled after it was discharged. During all the chaos, was able to escape or leave the airport.

We were told that the authorities are trying to track him down to ask him more questions. There are penalties for bringing guns, loaded and unloaded, through the TSA checkpoint. That is something that so many people are eyeing right now, Jim.

ACOSTA: No question about it. Especially during the busy holiday season. I mean, my goodness. Thank goodness that the TSA worker, whoever the officer was who detected this, did just that.

Nadia Romero, thanks so much for that report.

I want to go to Phil, a former FBI senior intelligence adviser. Phil, as Nadia just reported, it's not uncommon for passengers to have loaded guns at security checks.

My goodness, that number is staggering, the one that she mentioned 4,650 detected just in the last year. I mean, it's just mind-boggling.

But what do you make of the fact that this passenger ran? When we were talking to the airport spokesman in the last hour, you know, I do think they were a bit uncomfortable with that piece of this.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Not me. I mean, I would call this felony stupidity. How many times, Jim, do you hear a story of somebody who gets in a car accident and leaves their vehicle there. Like you can't find out who's driving the vehicle.

My guess about him, it's just a guess about what happened here, is that somebody realized either they made a mistake or they anticipated -- and I don't think this is uncommon -- they anticipated that they could get through with a gun when they realized not only the gun was confiscated, but the weapon went off. Felony stupidity.

They'll get caught. I mean obviously, you've got the weapon. You've got cameras. They've checked him with a ticket, but I think somebody just got scared, Jim.

ACOSTA: I mean let's hope that that's the case and that this wasn't a situation where the person fled because he didn't want that gun detected.

Of course, we're waiting for all of that information to come in. Don't want to speculate as to what the, you know, the exact course of events was.

But you're right, Phil. It could be just as simple as that.

MUDD: Yes. ACOSTA: But Phil, the airport says it's re-screening the passengers who evacuated on to the tarmac, but they're not evacuating the entire airport and re-screening everyone and rescreening everyone.

We don't want everything to meltdown at Hartsfield right before the holidays, but is this the right move?

MUDD: Yes. You look at the numbers game. I know this looks like an alarming incident. I go through airports all the time. I was just in Hartsfield in Atlanta about a week ago. It's extremely busy for those who weren't traveling during COVID. I'm telling you, the airports are busy.

ACOSTA: Right.

MUDD: But the numbers you heard before, TSA talking about 4,600 weapons confiscated this year. Let's do another few numbers. Atlanta Hartsfield before COVID, you're talking about 100 million plus passengers a year -- 100 million plus.

11 of a million are going to have a weapon. So if you start to do those numbers, Jim, if you want to stop the airport every time somebody gets a weapon confiscated, Hartsfield with 100 million plus passengers a year is not going to be operational. This is just too common.

ACOSTA: And that is a sad commentary. We obtained video of a plane that was held at the tarmac back when people thought it was an active shooter. Again, we know it was not an active shooter, that's according to airport officials.

But let's listen to what the pilot told the passengers at the time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, we have an active shooter situation in the airport. We're not parking at the terminal out of abundance of safety for yourselves. We'll keep you advised when we know more.


ACOSTA: What do you think, Phil? I mean it's good when these pilots pass on information. More information is always helpful. Do you think the pilot did the right thing?

MUDD: Had to do the right thing. Every single person on that plane is on their smartphone. Those smartphones aren't shut off in my experience until you pull away from the tarmac.

So people are going to start getting information, including disinformation. If the pilot doesn't speak, in the absence of the pilot speaking, people are going to create all kinds of stories.

I think they did exactly the right thing by explaining it and by staying at the airport. Because at that point, you also don't know whether this is a broader conspiracy and you sure don't want an aircraft in the air with another shooter. So I think it was the right move.

ACOSTA: Right.

Absolutely and our thanks to that pilot. Our thanks to all the people at the airport, at all the airports this time of year. They have to deal with so much stuff on top of, you know, people not wanting to wear the masks and so on.



ACOSTA: They're the folks really working hard these days as we know.

And we do want to point out the White House is monitoring this accidental weapon discharge at the airport.

We're just getting this word in from our Arlette Saenz over at the White House. A White House official telling Arlette that.

And so Phil Mudd, thanks so much for that report.

MUDD: Thank you.

ACOSTA: But we want to pass along -- yes -- that the White House is monitoring that situation at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.

Of course, the latest information that comes in as this develops, we're going to bring that information to you. Coming up, Kyle Rittenhouse is speaking out in a made-for-TV moment, just hours after the jury found him not guilty on all charges. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Just moments after his acquittal, Kyle Rittenhouse speaks out.


KYLE RITTENHOUSE, ACQUITTED: The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defense is not illegal. I believe they came to the correct verdict. And I'm glad that everything went well.

It's been a rough journey, but we made it through it.


ACOSTA: Turns out this is no ordinary video. Tucker Carlson of Fox had a camera crew embedded with Rittenhouse for the entire trial and it's all part of an upcoming Fox News documentary.

Carlson debuted the trailer on his show last night.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You have dreams about 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 day, like what could have happened. Like I'm alive, but what could have happened?


ACOSTA: The country kept close tabs on this politically-divisive trail and watched Rittenhouse collapse in tears learning he had been acquitted of all charges in the shooting of three people. Two of them died during civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on the scene in Kenosha right now. Shimon, one of the Rittenhouse defense attorneys says he was not pleased by the presence of this Fox news TV crew for this documentary. It's just remarkable.

As he's on trial, he's being filmed. It's just, I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, I've certainly not seen anything like it. I mean look, you have camera crews that follow prosecutors that are trying to gain support or attention for investigations. But certainly when you have to think about the attorney-client privilege, to have someone present filming all of that, you would see why the defense attorney would be so concerned, right? He had to prepare his client to testify.

They did all kinds of work with Kyle Rittenhouse to prepare him so you will see why this attorney would not be happy, but he explains in an interview why he had to do it and take a listen.


MARK RICHARDS, ATTORNEY FOR KYLE RITTENHOUSE: I did not approve of that. I threw him 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: And that's really interesting, right? It's like who was paying for it and who was raising the money to do this? To do this filming. Who was behind all that? We don't know.

But clearly, it was something that needed to be done, the attorney said, because how else were they going to pay for the attorney fees, the experts? You know, we heard yesterday that they had two mock juries, they had a jury consultant. There was a lot of money poured into the defense of Kyle Rittenhouse. So this is one way that they raised money.

The film crew was inside the courthouse. They were on the third floor. Kyle Rittenhouse had a room in the courthouse where he had his own security. You know, he was out. He wasn't in jail as he was awaiting trial, so he had all this security and all this extra resources here while at the courthouse.

ACOSTA: And Shimon, do we know whether the judge was aware of this arrangement with Fox? Perhaps we don't know that.

PROKUPECZ: We don't know, but it's interesting. The court staff knew. The security, the sheriff's deputies -- all who protect the courthouse, they knew because you could see the filming of Kyle Rittenhouse who was in the courthouse. So they must have known. Whether the judge knew, I don't know, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Shimon, thank you so much. Appreciate that report.

Joining us now is former federal prosecutor and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. Elie, first, should anyone who watched this trial have been surprised by the verdict?

You know, I'm reading a lot of legal analysis, you know, the next day, the day after this stunning verdict and what you hear from a lot of legal experts such as yourself is that the prosecution, and I know you were saying this, others were saying this during the run up to the verdict, they had a very high bar to clear because of this murky nature of self-defense. The self-defense defense I guess you could say.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim. That's exactly right. I'm not surprised. I don't think anybody should be surprised.

The whole purpose of our jury trial system is to take 12 civilians, 12 stranger, put them together in the courtroom and as the judge instructed them over and over again the other day and as every judge instructs every jury, you are to decide this case solely on the law of this state and the facts in this case. All emotion, all politics, all outside influences you are to shut that out.

And the reality is the law was favorable for the defense here. The prosecution had to not just prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. That's really difficult.


HONIG: And the facts, I think, as the jury chose to apply them, justified a not guilty verdict. If the jurors were, to put it simply, if the jurors were back in that jury room and they looked at each other and said this is a really close call, that's reasonable doubt and that justifies a not guilty verdict.

ACOSTA: So it can be infuriating and understandable at the same time.

Let me play what Rittenhouse's attorney, Mark Richards, said on CNN last night about gun ownership.


RICHARDS: I think too many people run around with guns in our society. And I represent a lot of people who have legal conceal-carry permits who get into it, they pull a gun and there's problems from there. Whether they're, you know, under the influence of alcohol or they use it to threaten somebody.


ACOSTA: That's a lawyer who just successfully defended a client in a deadly shooting saying that there's too many people running around with guns. That was, you know, that was one of my thoughts watching this trial is that if the country's just going to be awash in guns and you're going to have episodes like this where numerous people are walking around during unrest with guns, it almost creates like a wild west situation where how do the police and prosecutors, our justice system, sort that stuff out?

HONIG: Jim well, It was one of the interesting elements of this trial. If you look at the videos of Kyle Rittenhouse at the demonstrations, there's many people walking around with guns. One of the people he shot, Gaige Grosskreutz, had a gun. And so what the jury is told to do is you have to put yourself in the shoes of Kyle Rittenhouse that night to determine what he felt was reasonable or not reasonable.

One thing I think is really important here. It is important that we do not draw too broad of a lesson from this verdict. People should not be concluding that now it's somehow open season and people can go out there and vigilante justice is on and there's no way to punish it.

That is absolutely not the lesson to draw from this case.

This case is confined to the law of Wisconsin and the very specific facts of this case and if anyone tries to draw some sort of broader license, that is wrong and potentially dangerous.

ACOSTA: Elie, that is such an important point. And you just hit it so eloquently.

Let me turn to a completely different case. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, another very charged trial -- emotionally-charged case. Three men on trial in Georgia right now for chasing down and killing Arbery, a black man who was out jogging.

The defendants say they suspected Arbery of theft and were trying to conduct a citizen's arrest. Closing arguments are set for Monday. Why are these cases so different? I know a lot of people are putting them together. Tell us why they're so different.

HONIG: Yes, Jim. That is a real mistake. To conflate these cases or to argue that they're the same thing. We just spent two weeks watching the Rittenhouse trial and we saw how every split second, every freeze frame of those videos was crucial to the jury's verdict.

And we're going to do the same analysis, the jury is going to if they do their jobs right, do the same analysis in the Arbery case, but virtually all of the relevant facts are different.

You have an unarmed person in one case. An armed person in the other case. You have three on one in one case, one on four in the other case. I mean these are crucial differences.

Now, the core of the defense in the Arbery case is self-defense. Now I think it's a much weaker argument for self-defense in the Arbery case than what we saw in the Rittenhouse case because among other things, Ahmaud Arbery was completely unarmed and as the evidence showed tried to get away. He ran away. He tried to avoid confrontation at every turn. So watch for the prosecution to stress that in their closing.

ACOSTA: All right. Elie, we're all going to be watching. And I suspect the emotions are going to be running just as high as we've seen in the last 24 hours.

Eli, thank -- thanks for dispassionately and very clinically sorting this all out for us. We appreciate it. Excellent work, as always.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim. ACOSTA: Thanks for your time, Elie.

HONIG: Appreciate it.

ACOSTA: Up next, an unedited video is raising questions about the fatal police shooting of a 19-year-old experiencing a mental health emergency. Why the family is asking for an independent investigation. That's next. You've live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: And we just got brand new video in from the Atlanta airport. This video taken moments after a passenger's gun accidentally fired at a security check point there.

Let's watch.


ACOSTA: One weapon discharging at a security check point caused all of that -- chaos outside the airport and inside. Travelers ran on to the tarmac. One passenger tells CNN, people have tried to climb aboard her flight just trying to get away from what they thought was an active shooter.

The airport spokesman tells us, they know the identity of the passenger whose gun went off, but that the man ran out of the airport after his gun discharged.

The White House says it is monitoring the incident. We're told both the ATF and the FBI are assisting Atlanta police. And we'll keep you updated as we learn more about a very disturbing incident at the Atlanta Airport earlier today. We'll stay on top of it.

In the meantime, President Biden's agenda is back on track. At least for now, after being delayed by a historically-long speech by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a speech that lasted more than eight hours.

The House finally passed the president's Build Back Better bill on Friday. The vote was met with cheers and celebration from Democrats and crickets from Republicans who all voted against it. But now comes the hard part -- getting it through the Senate.


ACOSTA: CNN's Eva McKend joins us now from Capitol Hill. Eva, how is the president reacting to the bill getting one step closer to reaching his desk?

EVA MCKEND, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well Jim, President Biden is describing it as just that. A giant step forward toward creating jobs.

[17:30:00] Jim, President Biden is describing it as just that, a giant step forward toward creating jobs.

You know, it's no surprise that we heard that jubilee from House Democrats on the floor on Friday morning because many of the policy priorities in this bill, they've been advocating for, for decades.

Now, let's talk about what is actually in the bill. It includes the greatest investment in childcare policy priorities in this bill they've been advocating for, for decades, free pre-K for children 3 to 4. New Medicare benefits.

Provisions to address the warming globe with new perks for Americans who decide to drive electric vehicles. It also promotes new, affordable housing and extends the child tax credit for a year.

Now, let's take a listen to President Biden, how he's describing the timeline for this becoming law.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Build Back Better plan, now that it's passed the House, when do you expect it on your desk?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. It's going the take a while to get through the Senate, I think. Probably after Thanksgiving.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you sign it without paid family leave?

BIDEN: I will sign it. Period.


MCKEND: Now, you heard President Biden there asked about paid family leave, indicating that he will sign a bill both with it or without it.

And that is going to be the key issue in the next couple of weeks here on the Hill. It's in the House version of the bill.

But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has expressed discomfort with both the content of this bill and also the optics of signing a large spending plan when this country is currently dealing with inflation.

So it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

But certainly Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, hoping to have the bill done and completed through the Senate by the end of the year -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: All right, Eva McKend, we know you'll be watching.

Thanks so much. I appreciate that. Joining me now is the chair of the progressive congressional caucus, Democratic Congressman Pramila Jayapal.

Congresswoman, you've been very busy lately and I suspect you're getting to catch a little bit of a breath this weekend. So thanks for coming on. We appreciate it.

You just heard President Biden say he will sign this bill, period, even if the Senate removes the provision for paid family leave. Will you accept that?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Jim, it's great to see you.

And we are absolutely thrilled that House Democrats passed this transformational bill with all the things that were just described.

Remember, Jim, in terms of the Senate, the vast majority of this bill is pre-conferenced. Negotiated with Senators Manchin and Sinema and the White House and progressive Democrats.

And that is what we were holding out for is for those negotiations to happen and for us to really be able to put together a bill that could pass the Senate.

Now the House did add a few provisions to it and I'm glad we did. Paid family leave was one of them. We understand that Senator Manchin is not yet on board with that provision.

But there are many strong Democratic Senators over there that I hope will be able to convince him that this is something that is necessary for us to do.

That said, Jim, we are looking forward to getting it through the Senate with these one or two things remaining needing to be decided.

But the vast majority of it done, ready to deliver to President Biden's desk.

ACOSTA: What is the message you want some of the women in the Senate, to send to Senator Manchin? Paid family leave is enormously popular.

I guess there's the option that you could take that out of the bill and force Republicans to vote against it in the stand-alone bill.

What about that option?

JAYAPAL: Well, look, we'll consider everything we can to get this done.

Because let's just remember this. America is one of six countries in the world that does not offer paid family leave.

It is absolutely crazy when you think about the fact that we are so behind the rest of the world.

And I think there are so many families across the country that are waiting for this to be delivered. So I am hoping that there are you know, some of our persuasive colleagues over there who can convince Senator Manchin this is the thing to do.

If for some reason, it does not make it into the package and I absolutely hope it does, we're going to do everything we can to get there, then we still have to work to get it across the finish line.

It's outrageous to me that the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, can be one of only six that doesn't provide paid family leave.

ACOSTA: And how long do you think it would take, Congresswoman, for Americans to feel the effects of the Build Back Better package if it were to be signed into law before the end of the year?

Isn't there. Isn't there some deadline pressure for Democrats to get this done as we're heading into the midterm cycle?

You don't want a situation that we saw with the infrastructure bill where that got delayed and there was some political ramifications as a result of that.

You have some deadline pressure, do you not, when it comes to the Build Back Better bill and getting that done?


JAYAPAL: That's exactly right. We have to get it done. We need to get it done very quickly. I'm hoping that by the first or second week of December, it will be through the Senate and over to the president to sign.

And then, of course, there's the question of implementation. Now, all of the things that are in this bill have an immediate component that people will feel in 2022.

So you know, universal childcare. We will not be able to get every family to have childcare in the first year because we have to build up the infrastructure.

But a substantial number of families will see that. Universal pre-K is something we can get going very, very quickly.

The investments in housing can start to happen immediately. And that includes both repairs in public housing backlog. But also housing choice vouchers so that people can get affordable housing.

And of course, the climate provisions are going to be critical and they will start immediately.

So I think there's a lot in this bill that people will see and that was one of our criteria when the progressive caucus was itemizing what were our top priorities and they all made it in here.

To get things that people would feel immediately. For senior, prescription drug pricing, Jim. This is absolutely essential. We are finally going to begin this necessary process to cap the cost

of insulin to $35 instead of paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars for insulin and for other drugs. So the benefits will accrue to people quickly.

And most importantly, I think people will be able to start to see that they have just a little bit of breathing room, as the president has said, to be able to know that their family will be taken care of and that government's got their back.

ACOSTA: Yes. And you led the initial movement by progressives to delay the infrastructure bill, to build up that leverage for the Build Back Better bill.

In the end, the two pieces of legislation were passed separately in the House. They weren't tied together.

Do you think that, going back, if you had to do it all over again, would you have pursued the same strategy? Was it necessary to attach Build Back Better to the infrastructure bill or should you have just gotten that out of the way months ago?

Maybe helped out Terry McAuliffe in Virginia and perhaps helped the president's approval numbers in the process.

JAYAPAL: Well, look, I think we did exactly the right thing. And I'd do it all over again.

Because the only reason, let's be very clear, six weeks ago, there was no negotiations started on the Build Back Better ct. There hadn't been conversations between the two Senators and the White House and the House.

There was no framework that was agreed to by the president negotiated with his tremendous leadership skills. There was no text, Jim. There was no bill at all.

And we were in a position where this could have dragged out for months and months. And what we got finally and what we agreed to was the Build Back Better Act would pass, excuse me, the infrastructure bill would pass.

And then, essentially, 12 days later, we would pass the Build Back Better Act through the House and that's what we did. So we got what we were pushing for.

I believe that the fact that we have the Build Back Better Act today, as good as it is, passed with all but one Democrat in the House, a very strong vote to send to the Senate.

Because the progressive caucus refused to leave anybody behind. We held the line, but also brought a creative strategy to the table in the end to get the infrastructure bill signed and the Build Back Better Act passed through the House.

So I feel great about it. Now we just have to get the Senate to act quickly. And I believe they will.

ACOSTA: And progressives would argue it's time to move on to voting rights and other critical issues.

Congresswoman Jayapal, thanks so much for your time this evening. We know you're probably getting caught up on some rest. I see you're back in Seattle. Safe travels over this holiday season. Appreciate it.

JAYAPAL: Thank you so much, Jim.


ACOSTA: All right.

And we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: And we have more breaking news. CNN is now learning that at least three people were injured at the Atlanta airport after a passenger's gun discharged setting off mass panic there this afternoon.

We don't know the extent of those injuries, what the nature of those injuries might be at this point.

We're also told the gun was found during an x-ray screening and went off after the passenger quote, "lunged for his bag, lunged for his bag." That's according to TSA officials.

I want to go to Pete Muntean who is joining me on the phone.

Pete, thank you for bringing this information to us.

So quickly, this is startling, that this went down this way.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It is super startling, Jim. The fact remains that guns are being caught at TSA checkpoints at an alarming rate. And I've done a lot of reporting on this.

In 10 months, as of October 14th, the TSA recovered about 4,650 guns at airport checkpoints across the country. And that number is higher than the all-time record set back in 2019.

And what's also interesting is that the TSA has found 450 guns at the Atlanta airport TSA checkpoints alone. This one is now just the latest one.

The passenger, according to the TSA statement, came to the checkpoint. The machine there was able to detect there was a firearm in this person's bag.

[17:45:04] And then the transportation security officer, according to the TSA, began inspecting the bag and that's when this passenger lunged at the gun and set it off.

We also know that this passenger ran out of the airport. It is not necessarily clear if this passenger was apprehended or not.

What's also not clear is the severity of the three people injured. The TSA sites early reports as the source of these three injuries.

So we're getting some answers here. But there's still some questions about just exactly how this went

down. What type of gun this was?

You know, the TSA has told me that the big challenge when it comes to keeping guns out of carryon bags, illegal, by the way.

You can bring a gun in a checked bag pending certain circumstances and criteria, but the issue they say is that there are just so many gun laws across the country. Varies state by state.

Georgia, I believe, is a open carry and a conceal-carry state so long as you have the proper permits. When you get to an airport checkpoint though, you can't bring a gun.

The worst has happened and this is why the TSA has been sort of tooting this horn saying people cannot bring guns on board a commercial airliner.

And we've seen these numbers go up as the pandemic subsides and people come back to travel.

Again, they may have either forgotten or they had a gun in their bag or they may have simply forgotten the rules. This may be an indicator of first-time traveler.

A pretty interesting case here and we still have questions to answer.

ACOSTA: Pete, I want to just make sure we highlight this for our viewers.

The three people that the TSA are saying that were initially injured or believe may have been injured in this gun discharge ins debit incident, we don't know the extent of those injuries.

We don't believe they were shot. I guess we don't know that. Or whether there might have a scuffle and bruises. That part is just vague in this statement.

MUNTEAN: And who knows. You know, we don't want to speculate. Maybe it was an injury from people being bumped into one another, right, a scuffle.

We have some questions and so we will see as this unfolds. We just need to get a bit more clarity here from this first early statement we're getting from the TSA. Very much under their purview. But it's also the Atlanta police that

are investigating, too.

ACOSTA: Pete Muntean, thanks for that breaking information. We appreciate it. Thanks for that report.

Coming up, a new twist from the disappearance of a Chinese tennis star. Reporters are now releasing new videos claiming to be her. But are they legit? That's next.



ACOSTA: Chinese state media has now released what it claims is video of that tennis star, Peng Shuai, having dinner today with her coach and friends.

CNN has not been able to independently verify these new video clips or where they were filmed.

Chinese state media is also saying the tennis star is expected to appear in public soon.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me now.

Paula, it's such a bizarre case, my goodness. The whole world is watching this. People are following it here in the U.S.

She hasn't been seen in public since she accused one of China's most powerful former officials of sexually assaulting her nearly three years ago.

But pressure is building on China, including here in the United States. What's the latest?

PAULA HANCOCK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, these two short videos that were tweeted out by a "Global Times" editor, so part of the Chinese state media mechanism. have raised more questions than answers at this point.

He claims that they clearly show that this was filmed on Saturday, Beijing time.

Within the video itself. it is a fairly clumsy effort to verify the date.

One of the individuals there, we believe is one of the directors of the China Open tournament says tomorrow is November 20th and someone corrects him and says, no, it's November 21st.

So really trying to show that this is current. We don't hear Peng speak at all. She is just listening to the others at the table.

Now we've had a reaction from the women's Tennis Association chief, Steve Simon. He has been very skeptical about what we have heard from Peng in the

past that he's glad to see the videos while it's possible to see her, it does remain unclear if she is free to make her own decisions to do this or whether she's being coerced.

And also pointing out that our relationship with China is at a crossroads.

Simon has been very outspoken. And the fact that he has reached out to Peng himself and has not heard directly from her.

So it's important to point out, Jim, everything that we are seeing and hearing from her at this point is through Chinese state-run media. They have also said that she will be seen in public at some point.

It is very unclear whether or not she is free in her actions or whether this is part of the Chinese state media trying to show that she is fine.

But as you say, the calls for more information, the calls for support for one of China's top sporting stars are really increasing.

We've heard from the United Nations, from the White House, from the tennis associations around the world. and from old tennis stars.

There really is more pressure as to whether or not he was free to make these videos.

ACOSTA: No question about it. It is something the entire world is clamoring to get more information about. Just an unbelievable situation.

Paula Hancocks, thanks so much for that report. We appreciate it.

Since the start of the pandemic, people of color have been devastated at COVID-19, dying at a much greater rate than white Americans.

This top-10 "CNN Hero" saw what was happening in her hometown of Philadelphia and jumped in it help. She's a pediatric surgeon who is bringing testing and vaccinations to those in need.


DR. ALA STANFORD, CNN HERO: African-Americans were dying at a rate greater than any other group in Philadelphia, so I jumped in.

We were intentional about getting black and brown communities the access and care they needed. Those who are most vulnerable, they need to have the support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm done. I feel great!

STANFORD: Just seeing folks come out, day in and day out, their presence says everything.


STANFORD: It was all this narrative, black people don't want the vaccine, but they were lined up.

We had to earn the trust of the people.

You know it's saving lives. The data shows it.

I could not allow one additional life to be lost when I knew that I could do something about it.

Everything we did was for them, to make sure they can get the care they deserve.



ACOSTA: And go to right now to vote for her for "CNN Hero of the Year" or any of your favorite top-10 heroes.

That's the news. Reporting from the great city of New York, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.

Have a good night, everybody.