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Alec Baldwin To Be Charged After Film-Set Death Of Crew Member; U.S. Hits Debt Limit, Setting Up Standoff In Congress; Supreme Court Announces It Has Yet To Identify Who Leaked Draft Opinion Overturning Roe v. Wade; Coast Guard Tracking Suspected Russian Spy Ship Near Hawaii. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Top of the hour here on CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you along. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

The family of cinematographer - the cinematographer killed on a set of Rust says they support the criminal charges that will soon be filed against actor Alec Baldwin. Today, the District Attorney in Santa Fe announced that Baldwin and the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, will each phase two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Assistant Director David Halls cut a deal for probation and a suspended sentence.

BLACKWELL: In October 2021, Baldwin was holding a prop gun when it fired a live round hitting and killing 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins. A prosecutor say Baldwin is being charged for pulling the trigger and as a producer of the film.


MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I think it was the totality of the circumstances that this was a really fast and loose set and that nobody was doing their job. There were three people that if they had done their job that day, this tragedy wouldn't have happened. And that's David Halls, Hannah Gutierrez Reed and Alec Baldwin.

If they had just done their basic duties, this - we wouldn't be standing here.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Josh Campbell and our Entertainment Reporter, Chloe Melas, they're covering this story.

Josh, first you, you spoke with that district attorney, fantastic interview, by the way. What more did she say about what led to these charges?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I appreciate that, Victor. This essentially comes down in her view to negligence. These are very serious charges in voluntary manslaughter against both Baldwin and the set's armorer. And she says that looking at various pieces of evidence, including Alec Baldwin, in her view, pulling the trigger on that weapon. There's been debate about that.

Alec Baldwin has previously said that he never pulled the trigger on that gun, but law enforcement here actually sent that firearm to Quantico at the FBI Laboratory, they conducted a forensic exam and determined that with the gun cocked, this revolver, there's no way it could have fired without pulling the trigger. So the prosecutor noted that to me in the interview. She also talked about just this pattern of unsafe practices in her view on this set.

And there's been this question about, well, what role does an actor have in actually assuring the safety of the set and that the gun that they're handed is actually free and clear. We've heard Alec Baldwin, we've heard for that matter other actors saying that that is the role of the armorer, someone else that when an actor is handed a weapon, they trust that that is actually a cold gun.

But what we learned in my interview with the district attorney is something we didn't know before and that is they actually consulted other actors, other outside experts who had a very different view. Take a listen to that part of the interview.


CARMACK-ALTWIES: This is really about justice for Halyna Hutchins. We've talked to many actors, a-list and otherwise that have said that they always check their guns, that - or they have someone check it in front of them. So it's not - an actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor.


CAMPBELL: Now, Baldwin has obviously professed his innocence and presume he will fight these charges. The armorer on the set, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, she is doing the same. We just got a statement in from her attorney, I'll read part of that.

The attorney says that we were expecting the charges but they're absolutely wrong as to Hannah - 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.

Now finally, what happens next, the DA told me that she expects these charges would be - will be filed against those two individuals by the end of this month and then they will go through the process either coming here to New Mexico or perhaps by video conference actually appearing and we assume that they will enter not guilty pleas and then the wheels of justice will start. We'll see where this prosecution goes.

And just as importantly, these are allegations, these are not, obviously, statements of fact yet. They haven't been tested by the judicial system. We'll see what evidence prosecutors have as they lay out their case, guys. CAMEROTA: Okay. So Chloe, how is Alec Baldwin responding today?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Well, like Josh said, he says he's going to vigorously fight these charges.


He's going to go to court. He's going to go to trial. He's not going to accept a plea deal. We know Alec Baldwin is someone who is very vocal and he has maintained his innocence for the past year. I sat down with him in August and we talked in this wide ranging interview about what went wrong. And his attitude is that there was a breakdown in the chain of command and I was told that the gun was cold. Take a listen to a little bit about what Alec Baldwin told me in August.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: The business is a business which is cautious, and careful, and protects the members of the crew all the time - all the time as a rule and this is a one in a billion event. And in that one and a billion event, there are two people who didn't do what they were supposed to do - they didn't do. And I'm not sitting there saying I want them to go to prison or I want their lives to be hell. I don't want that, but I want everybody to know that those are the two people that are responsible for what happened.


MELAS: The two people that Alec Baldwin is saying in that interview from August with me that he feels are responsible are Dave Halls who took the plea deal and Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was the armorer on the set of Rust, who faces the same charges as Alec Baldwin.

And we haven't heard from Alec Baldwin specifically other than through his attorney, but I do know that this was not something that they expected. He told me in that interview over the summer that he did not believe that he would be facing charges.

CAMEROTA: All right. Josh Campbell, Chloe Melas, thank you both very much for the update here.

Joining us now is Scott Coscia. He's a stunt coordinator, armorer and a former NYPD police officer. We also have CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. He's a former federal prosecutor.

Scott, I want to start with you because you're an armorer. We still do not know the answer to how live ammo - real bullets - showed up on that set and gotten mixed in with dummy bullets. As an armorer, after a year, since this happened, do you understand how that could have happened?


So I've said before that live ammo in blank should not be in the same zip code, let alone in the same movie set. And I was reading an article how there were literally live rounds on the prop table next to the weapon. If that was the case and there were her fingerprints on at least one of these live rounds, production should have stopped. There should have been nothing happening with a firearm and an inventory of every single round, every dummy round, every blank should have been done. And live rounds should have been taken immediately offset or secured in a safe location.

So I am beyond me scratching my head how did - how'd they get there, that I have no idea.

BLACKWELL: Elie, is this as simple as someone is handed a gun, before you pointed at someone you check or at least as you were taught, you assume it's loaded.

CAMEROTA: You have to assume it's loaded.

BLACKWELL: And that is the negligence that this case comes down to or is this a difficult case to prove?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's not that simple, Victor, and I think this is a difficult case.

First of all, there are factual issues. Alisyn, you went right to it, which is the prosecution cannot answer. Josh Campbell asked the DA this question. She said I don't know how those live rounds got onto the set. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean the prosecution's case is over, but that's a major factual issue. The defense lawyer is going to stand in front of a jury someday and say they want you to convict my client, they can't even tell you how those live rounds got there.

And then the other thing that's really important is this happened on a movie set. Most normal people do not know what the norms are on a movie set, I certainly don't. So you end up in a scenario where you're going to hear from experts like Scott. And if you look at even just on our air today on CNN, we've had multiple experts, armorers, prop masters who said very different things about what the obligation of an actor is or the obligation of other professionals on a set are.

And remember, this is a criminal case, you need all 12 jurors to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So I'm not saying that there's no chance here but this is a really difficult case for the prosecution.

CAMEROTA: Scott, what's the answer to that? When you're on a set as the armorer and you hand an actor a gun and you say cold gun, does every actor you've ever worked with then take it upon himself to open it up and look and check?

COSCIA: No. So it's their job to act, okay. I'm an armorer, I'm a stunt guy, I don't expect an actor to get beat up on stage, beat up on camera, that's what I do. And I don't know if an actor understands how to how to use a weapon. I might have it set up where we're going to discharge rounds and I don't want someone playing with the weapon, if they ask I absolutely will show it to them.

I will - and before we shoot anything, I always hold the weapon up. If it's clear, I rack the slide back and I show the set. If we're going to discharge rounds, I say - and my voice carries as a foreign police officer - I say discharging two rounds and people will know exactly how many rounds we're going to shoot on that set.


So no, I don't trust an actor to be able to - not that some don't understand, but I don't trust them to be able to know when a weapon is clear and when it isn't.

BLACKWELL: Elie, on these charges as both an actor and producer, the DA says that "as a producer, he also had a duty to make sure that the set was safe." Does that muddy the case at all? And how was that reconciled with a decision not to charge the director in this case, Joel Souza.

HONIG: So I thought that was really interesting in Josh's interview, he asked the DA, "Are you charging Alec Baldwin as an actor or as a producer?" And I was stunned, frankly, that her answer was both because those are completely different factual and legal scenarios. I think with an actor, Scott just explained, if a jury hears Scott's testimony, Alec Baldwin is not going to be guilty as an actor because it's not his responsibility independently to look at the gun.

Now, the question about producer that gets into questions of what exactly was Alec Baldwin's job, what were his responsibilities as it relates to the many other directors, producers professionals on that set. And look, sometimes people are producers in name, sometimes big names like Alec Baldwin are called producers or executive producer producers, but they're not actually in charge of things in a hands-on way.

All of these are complex, factual issues and, again, people need to keep in mind this is not a civil proceeding, this is a criminal proceeding. There is the highest burden in our legal system on prosecutors. They have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and unanimously to the jury, it's never easy, and I think it's going to be particularly difficult here.

BLACKWELL: All right. Elie Honig, Scott Coscia, thank you both.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys.

COSCIA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: America's financial security hangs in the balance after the U.S. hit the debt ceiling today. If lawmakers and the President do not raise the borrowing limit by June, the country would default on its bills.

CAMEROTA: The Treasury Department is now taking so-called extraordinary measures to keep the government open, but this will not work forever. It's up to Congress to compromise on the debt crisis.

CNN Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon is here.

So explains what happens now that we've hit the debt ceiling. RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Okay. So extraordinary measures essentially means the government is shifting funds, moving money around so that we can pay our bills. So that buys us about four months, gets us into the early summer.

But what would actually happen if we defaulted on our debt?

Well, one, the rates for government debt would go up, which would mean rates for all of our consumer borrowing would also likely go up. Think about small business loans, think about student loans, auto loans, also housing, mortgage rates would likely go up. One estimate from third wave putting it at potentially an additional $130,000 to an average new 30 year mortgage and then we would also guys see a pretty significant impact to the markets. Third Way also saying the typical worker nearing retirement could lose $20,000 in their 401K. So the impacts here could be really significant.

Also important to stress, this has never happened before and many people do not expect it to happen now, but the threat of getting dangerously close is certainly there. So I spoke to Greg Valliere, a market strategist who tries to explain Washington policies and how Washington policies impact Wall Street.

And what he told me is that "this will end up being the most serious debt crisis in the nation's history. There will be a credible risk of default and it may not be resolved until the very last minute." So until we get to that last minute, well, the government will have its hands full.

But what about us, guys? Should we do anything differently?

I talked to Professor Jeremy Siegel. He's a prominent professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. And when I asked him - and I should say, by the way, he also does not expect us to default on our loans, on our on our debt - he said he would not change investments. He would not make any major money moves on this.

But also guys, the likelihood that the next few months becomes tense and potentially volatile for the markets is high.

BLACKWELL: All right. Rahel Solomon, thank you for that.

CNN's Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill. Jessica, when I spoke with Congressman Byron Donalds last hour, he said that it's the media who's calling this a standoff, that this is a negotiation, where are the negotiations stand now?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is an interesting take on everything. Look, the fact remains that we're entering into this period of deep uncertainty up here on Capitol Hill where we're going to have to see how this all plays out. Republicans, specifically House Republicans, as you just noted, are saying, look, we're not moving forward without some sort of negotiations to overspending and some sort of fiscal deal.

The White House is saying there are no negotiations. You're going to pass what's known as just a clean bill. It's just the debt - raising the debt limit and so that's where they are right now. Now, a lot of people say that's just kind of the posturing before the real negotiating does start to begin.

Again, House Republicans and Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker specifically in a very specific situation, because he's made a lot of concessions to some of these hardliners and there are some in his party who are simply a no on raising the debt limit, no matter what, no matter what negotiations take place. So he's again operating with the razor thin margin that he's got to kind of maneuver through.


And Democrats are probably going to need some help from Republicans or must need some help from Republicans to get this through the House. And when it comes to the Senate, we did hear from Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, just a couple of hours ago on this, he didn't seem too concerned, I'll let you listen to that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Periodically, the debt ceiling has to be lifted and it's always a rather contentious effort. In the end, I think the important thing to remember is that America must never default on its debt. It never has and it never will, but will end up in some kind of negotiation with the administration over what are the circumstances or conditions under which the debt ceiling are going to be raised.


DEAN: And so the big question now is just what will that look like in the weeks and months moving forward, Victor and Alisyn. We also heard from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement just a little bit ago, he really pegging this on what he calls MAGA Republicans saying that it's not complicated that if they refuse to do this, that it's going to hurt American families.

Again, not much in the way and not mentioning at all anything about negotiations, so they've still got to get to the point where Democrats and Republicans can agree to start talking. We do know that there are some bipartisan talks in the House that are just beginning. That's what we're going to keep our eye on Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Please keep us posted. Jessica Dean, thank you for the reporting.

And we're joined now by Cecilia Rouse. She's the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Cecilia, thanks so much for being here. This is about debt that has been racked up. This is our credit card, our national credit card that must be paid. So when you hear lawmakers like Congressman Andy Biggs, this week tweet, "We cannot raise the debt ceiling. Democrats have carelessly spent our taxpayer money and devalued our currency. They've made their bed so they must lie in it." What's your response to that?


President Biden understands intimately the importance of responsible legislate legislating. It's why the Inflation Reduction Act was paid for. It's why in his tenure, we have reduced the deficit by historic $1.7 trillion that - the highest on record. So he understands that we have to be paying our bills. It's why he's proposed in - making our tax code, fairer, ensuring that the Treasury Department and the IRS have the resources they need to crack down on tax sheets.

This is a different thing. This is about Congress making good on paying for the legislation, and the bills and the obligations that has already passed. Since 1960, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times, 49 times with Republican presidents, 29 times with Democratic presidents, this should not be up to negotiation.

The closer we get to what Janet - Secretary Yellen outlined as the X date, that's when these extraordinary measures no longer work, we have no more, the more costly it'll become for the U.S. taxpayer, for the federal government. In 2011, when the Obama administration and Congress got close, they were very close, we saw that the credit rating for the United States government was downgraded, and that increased borrowing costs.

So it's irresponsible to even contemplate not paying the bills, Congress should just raise the debt ceiling and we can have further conversations about the right spending packages to put forward, how to address the deficit, how to address the debt, but this is not that conversation.

CAMEROTA: But you just heard Sen. Mitch McConnell in Jessica Dean's piece there, say, we'll end up in some kind of negotiation with the administration over what the conditions are for the debt ceiling to be raised. So are you saying the White House will not negotiate?

ROUSE: The - we - our position is we should not be playing and jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the federal government and full stop, that this is Congress' responsibility to raise the debt ceiling. It has done so consistently three times under President Trump. Because, fundamentally, Congress understands that is its responsibility to the American people. So Congress should do its job.

Again, we can have conversations about the right way forward on fiscal spending. But right now, we need to make good on paying for the bills that we've already - we're obligated to pay.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I've been covering this since, I think, 2011 when it always seems that it goes to the 11th hour. So we all know that this is our credit card bill, regardless of if it's a Democratic president or Republican, but somehow Congress pushes it to the 11th hour. And then there - I mean, it's basically a game of chicken.

But as you know, there are some lawmakers right now who are in Congress who seem comfortable with the game of chicken and so what happens if we get to the 11th hour?

[15:20:01] ROUSE: Well, honestly - well, we've been to the 11th hour and we know that that can cause some, perturbations in the financial markets. Again, when the credit rating for the U.S. government is downgraded, that means our borrowing costs are higher. As you - as your - as you discussed in the opening, that can cause increases in interest rates, make borrowing costs higher for the federal government, it can make borrowing costs higher for others.

And so it will cause financial - it can generate some financial instability both here and around the globe. But we have - we don't like to get there. Really Congress should just act now, let's get past this. Why even cause in this period where we've had tremendous success in our recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, where we have inflation that is too high, but which is easing.

Our economy is on the right path. Inflation is easing. We see the unemployment is at the lowest it's been in 50 years. The Federal Reserve appears to be on track to achieve a soft-dish landing, but we know there were threats: Russia's unprovoked war on Ukraine, China's reopening, so why introduce another level of uncertainty?

Congress should just raise the debt ceiling right now and so we can continue on this path so we can get our economy back on its feet, continue the growth we've made and get onto a path where we really have more sustainable growth that is more widely shared, which is really the focus of President Biden.

CAMEROTA: I only have a few seconds left. Is there any way for President Biden to raise the ceiling without Congress?

ROUSE: This is Congress' responsibility. These are bills that were passed by Congress and it is Congress' responsibility and obligation to raise the debt ceiling.

CAMEROTA: Cecilia Rouse, thank you for your time.

ROUSE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. We're following breaking news out of the Supreme Court, which is now giving an update on the investigation into that unprecedented leak of the Roe versus Wade ruling. We have the details next.

BLACKWELL: Also ahead, the U.S. Coast Guard is tracking a Russian vessel off the coast of Hawaii that they suspect is a spy ship. We'll go live to the Pentagon next.



BLACKWELL: An update today on that now infamous Supreme Court leak, the draft document of the Dobbs versus Jackson Women's Health decision which ultimately overturned the country's federal abortion law.

CAMEROTA: The Supreme Court just issued a statement saying that after a thorough investigation, they still do not know who leaked it. Joining us now is CNN Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

So Jessica, we've just learned that dozens of people had access to this draft opinion and some employees even admitted telling their spouses about it.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They did, Alisyn and Victor. I mean, this was a wide ranging investigation, now a 20-page report. And it shows just how wide ranging this distribution of this draft was. At this point today, though, the Supreme Court is acknowledging that this leak investigation has, in fact, hit this dead end.

They've done 126 formal interviews with 97 employees. But at this point, they say they are still unable to identify the person responsible for that leak that really did rock the Supreme Court and stung the country about eight weeks before Roe v. Wade was officially overturned.

And you mentioned it, part of the reason it may be so difficult to pinpoint the person or people responsible is that this investigation specifically uncovered that it was 80 people who received digital copies of the draft. That was between February and March of last year.

When they interviewed employees, 34 of those employees who got the draft, they admitted printing out copies. Many of those people printed out more than one copy and yes, several did say that they shared the results with their spouses presumably in confidentiality.

So this draft was really widely distributed and yet despite months of forensic analysis here, interviews, they have not been able to determine who did it. Despite that, though, the marshal of the court, Gail Curley, she did say this, she said that "In time, continued investigation and analysis may produce additional leads that could identify the source of the disclosure. Whether or not any individual is ever identified as the source of the disclosure, the Court should take action to create and implement better policies to govern the handling of court-sensitive information and determine the best IT systems for security and collaboration."

And to that end, guys, the court even brought in former homeland security secretary and former federal judge and U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff and what he did, he assessed the Marshalls' investigation here. He agreed it was thorough, but that many changes still need to be made, even though they really haven't found the leaker here. That includes several changes like restricting who gets those hard copies of those drafts since we saw that it was about 80 people, restricting who's on the email distribution list for digital copies.

And crucially here, limiting access of sensitive documents on mobile devices, because this leak, of course, happened in the midst of the pandemic. So the court marshal is acknowledging here that there were in fact some gaps in security protocols that did emerge when people worked from home.

So Alisyn and Victor, this leak really has drastically changed the way that this Court operates and will continue to change the way it operates. But the takeaway today is that almost nine months after this leak, the person responsible still has not been identified. They may continue to investigate if more pops up, but it's possible we may never know the identity of this leaker, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right. Some changes likely to come. Jessica Schneider, thanks.

CAMEROTA: Well, U.S. Military officials and the Coast Guard say they are tracking a suspected Russian spy ship off the coast of Hawaii. The discovery is significant given how high tensions are between the U.S. and Moscow over Russia's war in Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon with the latest. Oren, tell us more about this ship.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Alisyn, the Coast Guard has been tracking this ship not just for a few days, but for several weeks off the coast of Hawaii in international waters. A Pentagon spokesperson a short time ago says it is in international waters where is allowed to be.