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Alec Baldwin To Face Involuntary Manslaughter Charges; DA: "Absolutely" Believe That Alec Baldwin Pulled Trigger; Today: U. S. Hits $31.4T Debt Limit; Emergency Measures Begin; House GOP Moderates Reject W. H. 's "No Negotiations" On Debt Limit; Biden Still Plans To Launch 2024 Bid After State Of The Union; GOP's Santos Claimed His Mother Survived 9/11; Records Show She Was Not In U. S. At The Time; Veterans: Santos Stole $3k Raised For Dog's Life-Saving Surgery. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 13:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A case of mistaken identity under oath. Newly unsealed deposition transcripts reveal Donald Trump confused a photograph of E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her for his ex-wife, Marla Maples.

Appreciate your time today in "INSIDE POLITICS". Hope to see you tomorrow. Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Good afternoon, I'm Erica Hill in New York. And we begin with these stunning announcement for many people. Actor and producer Alec Baldwin set to face two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 fatal shooting on the set of his film "Rust." Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was, of course, killed. The set's armor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed also facing those involuntary manslaughter charges.

The New Mexico D.A. in announcing the charges, noting that, quote, no one is above the law. CNN's Josh Campbell is live in Santa Fe, CNN Entertainment Reporter Chloe Melas and CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers joining me here in New York.

Josh, let's start with you. You just spoke a short time ago with the D.A. What more did you learn about the charges and also the evidence?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told me that this didn't come down to one single piece of evidence. We know, obviously, that based on the state investigation, that cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed by a round fired from the pistol that Alec Baldwin was holding. But the D.A. is saying that she looked at the totality of the circumstances here, including what appeared to be a culture of unsafe practices on this set.

We know that there have been past complaints, there had been past accidental discharges. Take a listen to what she told me about what factored into her decision here.


MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, SANTA FE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There was such a lack of safety and safety standards on that set, that there were live rounds on set. They were mixed in with regular dummy rounds. Nobody was checking those, or at least they weren't checking them consistently.

And then they somehow got loaded into a gun, handed off to Alec Baldwin. He didn't check it. He didn't do any of the things that he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.


CAMPBELL: So, obviously, all three of the people that were involved here that have faced some type of prosecution, that includes Alec Baldwin, obviously, the armor on the set, who is responsible for safety, they've been both charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

A third person, the Assistant Director David Halls, is going to enter a plea to negligence, a misdemeanor. But, obviously, serious charges here for those other two. We just got a statement and I want to read you. This is from the family of Halyna Hutchins. And they say that, "We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that the charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life.

Our independent investigation also supports the charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges. We'll fully cooperate with this prosecution and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law."

And finally, Erica, I asked the District Attorney if through this prosecution, she's also trying to send a message to other movie production companies out there that there will be consequences for unsafe practices. She told me, absolutely.

HILL: It is a lot to take in. Chloe, I know that you also just heard from Alec Baldwin's camp as we're getting reaction here. Look, he was pretty clear with you in an interview earlier this year that he says he didn't pull the trigger. He was actually pointing the finger at other people on set. What are he and his representative saying now?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Erica, so in a statement from Alec Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, telling CNN, quote, "This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or anywhere on the movie set."

Going onto say that, "He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."

Look, I mean, Alec Baldwin's attorney has maintained and Alec Baldwin has maintained that if charges were ever brought, although Alec told me in our sit down interview in August that he had reason to believe that he would not face charges. So, obviously, he is very surprised by this today, that he will fight this. He will take this to a jury, he will take this to a trial and plead his case.

Now, back in August, Alec telling me that he did not pull the trigger, although the D.A. telling Josh Campbell today that she believes he did. Take a listen to a little bit of our interview.


ALEC BALDWIN, "RUST" ACTOR & PRODUCER: I pulled the hammer all the way back without locking it and the gun went off. I've never played with a gun. I never took a gun and pointed it at somebody and clicked the thing. I never pulled the trigger on a gun aimed at someone in my life. And you could probably find countless people that would testify to that fact.



MELAS: So in Alec Baldwin's, you know, opinion, he thinks that there is a breakdown in the chain of command on the set, that it was given to him, this prop gun, that it was declared a cold gun by the assistant director, Dave Halls, who we know has accepted a plea deal here. And that the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for making sure that the gun was safe.

And his main question to me this summer, and his main question still remains is, how did a live bullet get on set? And the D.A.'s saying, we may never know. But he has maintained that he pointed the gun where Halyna Hutchins told him to during this rehearsal on the New Mexico set.

I want to get to Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, her attorney releasing a statement today and they are saying that, "We were expecting the charges, but they are absolutely wrong as to Hannah," saying, "that we expect that she will be found not guilty by a jury and she did not commit manslaughter. She has been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime."

So pretty much everyone saying, Erica, that it wasn't me, it wasn't me, and pointing the finger at everybody else. And the D.A. is saying that, at the end of the day, I guess it doesn't really matter as to how that live bullet got on the set. Her attitude is that that trigger was pulled and that there was a breakdown in the command of safety --

HILL: Right.

MELAS: -- on the set.

HILL: Right. So she did tell, Josh, when Josh asked her. Josh, you know, I saw you asking her that live. They don't know how that live round got there. They may never know. But the other thing, Jennifer Rodgers, that she was very clear with in speaking with Josh, as she says, how do I know that Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger? Because that is the evidence that was in the FBI report. That is what we were waiting for and that's clearly what it said.

She also made the point, Jennifer, that I thought was interesting, that it wasn't just about him and his role as an actor, but that as a producer on the film, it was also his duty to keep the set safe. What does that mean in terms of these charges?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's really critical, actually, because Josh was asked that terrific question of the D.A., is this in his role as an actor or his role as a producer. Because when you look at his role as an actor, he's handed a gun, cold gun, you know, he does this cross motion that he'd been rehearsing, the gun goes off.

It's not clear to me that there's criminal liability here. I mean, you have to show --

HILL: In his role as an actor, you mean.

RODGERS: Right. Like a criminal breach of care that he owed to her. And given all the circumstances, I'm not seeing that. And maybe we'll learn more more in the preliminary hearing, but I'm not seeing it.

Then you go to the producer side and you talk about this loose culture and there weren't enough checks being done and checks that were supposed to be happening weren't and all of that, but he's not the only producer. So that kind of says to me, how are they going to prove this criminal negligence if he doesn't have it as an actor, and he's not the only one that has it as a producer? Is he a special producer because he was also there on set? I'm really looking forward to what they are going to prove because this is an aggressive charge and I'm not sure they have it.

HILL: Well, to your point then, just to follow up there, is there a change -- do you see a scenario where there would be additional charges?

RODGERS: Against another producer?

HILL: Yes.

RODGERS: I doubt it, because even that, I mean, it's criminal negligence. It's not as much as intentional homicide, but you still have to prove that he's breached a duty of care, that he's done something dangerous. I mean, the texting while driving is a good example of this kind of charge. Usually shooting a gun up in the air and it comes down and hurts someone.

You have to do something that you know is dangerous. You're very careless about this. Handling a gun that you've been told is cold and that's the way it's supposed to be. You have no reason to believe it's not that way. That's not typically what fits into that scenario. So, you know, I'm looking forward to seeing what they have. But this is an aggressive charge, Erica.

HILL: So, Josh, when we look at, you know, what we know and what you learned from the D.A. earlier in terms of how that live round did get onto the set, because so much of what we're hearing in the fingerprint of the people involved and now the people charged is basically, hey, it wasn't my fault, I was doing everything right. Nobody knows how it got there. Did she have any further insight? How important does it seem that is when it comes to this case?

CAMPBELL: This is so interesting because, you know, I've been talking with the sheriff's department as well, who they were actually in charge, obviously, of collecting the evidence, running the investigation. They finished their report and handed that over to prosecutors to actually make this decision.

And one thing that that was devoid of was any indication of how the live round actually got into that gun itself. We know that live rounds were on the set, which runs completely counter to the safety practices that should be in any workplace, let alone a movie that's using real guns on the set.

But when I asked the D.A. that question, she actually came back to me and said, I see it as a red herring. This whole idea of the live round. In her view, that doesn't actually matter. That's not the most important thing because she looks at the totality of these practices on this actual movie set.

One thing that was also really interesting, and if this does actually go to trial before a jury and evidence is laid out, is the D.A. told me that her team actually consulted with other actors, including, in her words, A-list actors, who told them that they always check the gun whenever they're filming or have someone else check the gun in their presence.


And so, you know, we heard throughout the investigative part of this, you know, a lot of people in Hollywood and Baldwin seems, you know, saying that's not the responsibility of an actor. If someone hands them a gun, they have to trust them. It will be interesting to see who these actors are that the team consulted with here that said, no, that actually runs counter to how we operate.

I also asked the D.A. because, you know, again, you just think about in the real world if you're an actor, you're handed a gun, you're told that it's cold or maybe you think it's a dummy round. Is that a crime? And she said, yes, because it doesn't have to be intentional for it to be a crime, if you come down to simple neglect.

As Jennifer mentioned, these are very rigorous charges. We'll see how they hold up in the end. But at least as at this point, she says that she not only believes she has enough evidence to make this case. In the D.A.'s word, she said she believes she has more than enough evidence and we'll see what all that entails.

HILL: Interesting to your point too about those actors, because we heard from a prop master just a little over an hour ago telling Kate Bolduan, look, itis not the actor's job to check the gun. That's why you have the armors, that's why you have everybody else on set.

Jennifer, quickly, what do you think the chances are that Alec Baldwin could actually go to jail here?

RODGERS: I don't think they're particularly high. I think this is a stretch. I think it's a fairly weak case. I don't know if he'll take a plea to a lesser offense the way the assistant director did, but I don't see him going to jail for this.

HILL: Jennifer Rodgers, Josh Campbell, Chloe Melas, appreciate it. Thank you all.

You may not have felt it, but trust me on this one, it happened. The United States just hit the debt ceiling. So why should you care? What does it mean for you? Turns out these high stakes game of chicken means a whole lot for average Americans. So buckle up.

Plus, there are so many lies. This latest one, though, well this one is interesting. Congressman George Santos, you may have heard, said his mother was at ground zero on 9/11. Turns out the facts tell a very different story.

And a 12-year-old boy went fishing off the Florida coast. He was there to catch some tuna. That's no tuna, that's a great white. And it didn't get away. The young angler is with us.



HILL: The U.S. has officially hit the debt limit. Secretary Janet Yellen telling lawmakers a short time ago, the Treasury Department is moving forward with what are known as extraordinary measures. Bottom line here, what does this mean for you? Well, simply put. This country is now one step closer to a financial disaster.

So let's start with the facts here. The money needed has already been spent. So this is about paying for existing debts, and those include things like military salaries, interest on the national debt, Social Security benefits. So now enter these extraordinary measures, which are kicking in.

So what does that do? Well, essentially, you're shifting money around. You're robbing Peter to pay Paul, deciding which bills to pay with the funds available to you. Keep in mind here, the U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. The debt limit itself has actually been raised 78 times since 1960.

So you may be saying, OK, this is an issue. We've been here before, so what's different today? May not surprise you that this has a whole lot to do with politics. Republicans, with their slim majority in the House, they want to cut future spending.

Here's the thing, though. The debt ceiling is not about future spending. Again, this is money that has already been spent. The bill is due. So you're thinking, hey, maybe there's some common ground here. Maybe lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will realize that this is about the greater good of the country, the debt standing, the standing of the United States.

Well, the White House says no negotiations, noting that this is actually Congress's job to figure it out and get it done. So where does that leave you? Luckily, it leaves you with a very smart guest. Justin Wolfers is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. And we always love talking to you because you make this so understandable.

And this is something I think that Speaker McCarthy was really looking to do. So he compared the debt limit to a family's finances, saying, look, Congress at this point can't just keep raising the government's credit card limit. That's an analogy. I think most Americans can understand it. It's when you called Q, but you also said it's wrong. Why doesn't that example work here?

JUSTIN WOLFERS, ECONOMIC & PUBLIC POLICY PROFESSOR: So it's wrong because the person who raises your credit card limit is the credit card company. It's the lender. Speaker McCarthy is part of the government. The government is the borrower. The only choice the borrower makes, and we all face it every month, is the credit card bill comes due, are you going to pay it or not?

So if Speaker McCarthy wants the U.S. government to spend less money, he needs to pass bills so that we spend less money. But right now, he's got a credit card bill in the mail and he's just stomping his feet and saying, I'm not going to pay it. This is the part actually where it's a pretty good analogy.

Most of your viewers know that's a pretty bad idea. It's a pretty good way of getting your credit cut off, raising interest rates. And what that means is if the U.S. government pays higher interest, you and I pay higher taxes.

HILL: You know, when it comes to spending, I think most Americans would say, hey, yes, maybe we should have a legitimate conversation about spending. Trying to do those two things at the same time, which, as you point out, these are different issues that need to be dealt with. Is Speaker McCarthy muddying the waters here?

WOLFERS: Absolutely, without a question. Definitely, and yes. Congress passed spending bills. Congress passed tax bills, as a matter of mathematics. That means Congress has to -- the U.S. government has to borrow. So it can't have both its spending bills that are passed and its tax bills that are passed and refused to raise the debt limit. It simply doesn't work.

HILL: Question for you, too. When we hear from the White House there will be no negotiation here, what does that do?

WOLFERS: Well, honestly, I think it's the right thing. Look, here's the bottom line of it. The politics of this are not paying our bills hurts the American people because we're going to have to pay higher taxes to pay the higher interest rate.


So effectively, congressional Republicans are saying we're going to punch the American people in the face. That's their threat. They're saying if you don't pass policies we like, we're going to punch the American people in the face. Democrats are looking on saying, you know, I think it's kind of a bad idea to punch people in the face, but it's your job not to punch people in the face.

And there's a really hard question here in our politics. The only way any of this stops is those of us getting punched in the face. That is us, the voters, say to Washington, enough. Stop threatening our livelihoods in order to get your agendas passed.

HILL: It doesn't feel like that's a message that gets through, I have to be honest, because it feel like that we keep seeing this repeated game of chicken and then that brings us to these so-called extraordinary measures. And that's not a term we made up. That's what they're actually called.

It does buy time, but it's not the answer. So when you look at how all of this is playing out, just remind us of two things. Number one, who is -- what does this actually mean when you say Americans are going to feel this in terms of, you know, it's going to cost more to pay the bills, what does that mean for the average American? Where could they feel it first? And then also, what do you think the chances are that the U.S. actually defaults?

WOLFERS: I think the real stakes here are, if we run the risk of default, even that's enough that people don't want to lend us money at good interest rates anymore, the government pays higher interest as a result. It's not you, it's probably your kids who are going to have to pay higher taxes.

More immediately, no one expects Congress to do this. We expect the grownups in the room to take over. If they don't, that could cause all sorts of financial eruptions. And so that could lead to a huge hit to business confidence, to consumer confidence. It could lead to financial markets to reveal new vulnerabilities that we simply don't know about right now.

And so, that's the sort of extra nudge that an economy that a lot of people think is near a recession just doesn't need to have. And then I just want to think about, you know, your parents or your grandparents who right now don't know if the next Social Security check is going to be coming their way or not. That's a lot of real pain that's inflicted, even if they do avert the crisis at the last moment.

HILL: Justin Wolfers, always great to have you with us. Thank you.

WOLFERS: A pleasure, Erica.

HILL: There is new CNN reporting today that President Biden's 2024 plans have not changed. In the face of the special counsel probe into his handling of classified documents, Biden is expected to announce his reelection bid sometime after the State of the Union address next month. We're also told his inner circles he has no reason to adjust that timeline. Some advisers even downplaying the scandal as the D.C. elite making noise.

On the policy side, similar approach. A top Biden economic adviser telling CNN this morning the DOJ investigation is not affecting the White House agenda, quote, at all.

New York Congressman George Santos caught in more lies just a day after the House Republican was rewarded with two committee seats. Newly uncovered immigration records completely contradict a claim that he used on the campaign trail. The claim that his mother survived the 9/11 attacks.

CNN Sunlen Serfaty is tracking all of this for us. So those immigration records show there is no way this story could be true, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. These new records show that George Santos's mother was not in New York and was not even in this country when the terror attacks of 9/11 happened. And as you noted, that directly contradicts the claims he's made repeatedly. Claims that were on his campaign website at times, that his mother was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the attack happened, and that later, or over a decade later, she died from cancer.

Now, this information comes from newly uncovered immigration records that were obtained by CNN, and it shows that his mother was actually in Brazil during the years 1999 and early 2003, of course, over the span that the 9/11 terror attacks happened. Also, just two more important points here. While in Brazil in 2003, his mother then indicated on some paperwork that she had not been in the United States since 1999.

In addition, she filled out paperwork in Brazil in 2001, and that is notably just months before September 11th happened, and she said that her green card had been stolen then in Brazil. Notably, Erica, the Santos representatives have not gone back as far as how they try to clarify this obvious contradiction.

HILL: Yes, it would be very interesting to see what the explanation, if one can even call it that, is there. You know, there's also this separate story, hard to believe, because with each one it feels like a new low point. But we also been following very closely the story of a veteran who says that George Santos has accused George Santos of stealing thousands of dollars that was raised to help the veteran's dog with a lifesaving surgery. That veteran speaking to CNN. What more are we learning now?


SERFATY: Yes, this is clearly a very painful incident for the veteran. And he told of how the back and forth happened with George Santos. George Santos offered to set up a GoFundMe account for him to pay for some veterinary bills for his Pitbull who needed an operation, a life- saving operation. And they raised $3,000.

And the owner talks about these text messages and their correspondence, how they went back and forth when it was clear that Santos was not going to turn over the money. And he says he never saw a dime of it in the end. And he spoke with Don Lemon on CNN this morning.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: George Santos refuted the claim. This is what he told me, OK? He says, "I have no clue what he is talking about. And the crazy part is that anyone that knows me knows that I'd go to hell and back for a dog and especially a veteran."


LEMON: Go on.

OSTHOFF: -- go to hell and -- he'd go to hell and back, well then go to hell, George. Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? And he probably would lie about that. I mean, I don't want you to ever hurt anybody like you hurt me again, George.

He doesn't deserve to be where he's at. He doesn't deserve a government pension.


SERFATY: And Santos does tell CNN that he has no clue what they are talking about and adding that he believes that this allegation is more just a pile on. But, Erica, of course, this is just one in a very, very long line of contradictions and false claims that Santos has made about his family --

HILL: Yes.

SERFATY: -- his background, his resume, and certainly, his finances as well.

HILL: Yes, I mean, the hits really just keep on coming. And Sunlen, we did just see this tweet too from George Santos where he writes sort of -- reiterating some of what he just said, but noting, "The reports that I would let a dog die is shocking and insane. My work in animal advocacy was the labor of love and hard work." Saying that over the past 24 hours, he's received pictures of dogs I helped rescue throughout the years, along with supportive messages, going on to end with these distractions won't stop me.

I should point out I was driving last night, but I did hear Rich Osthoff is -- his attorney last night on with Erin, and there was some conversation about his claim about people who've reached out. And what we heard from that veteran was great. We'd love to hear from them too. So we'll see if perhaps any of those accounts with George Santos claimed to have come to fruition and are shared.

Sunlen, appreciate it. Thank you.

SERFATY: Thank you.

HILL: I think it's safe to say that probably very few people look forward to the colonoscopy. Well, a new study now is suggesting some people can wait longer before the next one. Why?