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Erin Burnett Outfront
David Crosby, Legendary Singer And Songwriter, Dead At 81; Ex- Russian President Threatens Nuclear War If Russia Loses; Alec Baldwin To Be Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter; U.S. Hits Debt Limit As White House, House GOP Clash Over Raising It. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 19, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, more on the breaking news you just heard. CNN confirming that legendary singer and songwriter David Crosby has died. He was 81 years old.
Plus, a secret meeting between the director of the CIA and Ukraine's president about Russia's battle plans as we hear from a Russian official bravely speaking out against Putin tonight. His interview tonight.
And DeSantis fighting the latest culture war. Today's version is taking on an African American studies class.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And we are following some breaking news this hour. The legendary singer and songwriter, David Crosby, has died. The Grammy winner, two- time rock and roll hall of famer was a founder of both the Byrds and, of course, Crosby, Stills & Nash, hugely popular groups for so many generations of music lovers. Crosby was 81 years old and we're going to have much more ahead in just a few minutes on his life and legacy.
There is a song that they have that speaks to us all. We will be speaking to our own Bill Weir who interviewed him to mark the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, which was actually Crosby, Stills & Nash's second gig.
So, all of that coming up here as we confirm that sad news.
I want to begin with a secret meeting that we are just learning of. This is between the CIA chief Bill Burns, and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Burns briefing Zelenskyy about U.S. knowledge of Russia's upcoming battle plans.
And this sit-down is coming, as Putin's top ally, and the former president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, makes an ominous threat, today warning world leaders gathered in Davos that a nuclear war is looming. Medvedev writing on the messaging app Telegram, quote, it never occurs to any of the lowlifes to draw the following elementary conclusion of this. The loss of a nuclear power and the conventional war could provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war. Well, referencing to the possible loss, I suppose that is something.
The lowlifes there, of course, referring to the West. And the threat of nuclear war coming hours before a key meeting of western defense leaders about military aid to Ukraine. And on the day the pentagon released a full list of his latest weapons package for Ukraine, which is the second largest aid package of the war so far.
And this package, it is huge, for the first time it includes 90 striker armored personnel carriers which are fast and lethal. They will allow Ukraine to bring the fight more quickly to the front lines. The package also contained surface to air missile systems, armored vehicles, as well as artillery for Ukraine's air defenses.
The war escalating even more tonight. But as Putin's insiders are threatening nuclear war in the context of a loss, there are some brave Russians who are tonight putting their own lives on the line to speak out against Putin. Dozens of current and former Russian officials tonight are calling on Putin to release opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned by Putin's henchmen is now being held in a brutal penal colony in Russia.
Dmitry Palyuga, one courageous official from St. Petersburg who signed the letter, tells me he could no longer be silent about Navalny, even in the face of a life or death risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY PALYUGA, DEPUTY, SMOLNINSKOYE MUNICIPAL DISTRICT, ST. PETERSBURG: Putin didn't manage to kill him. He was poisoned. But he's trying to kill him right now, in custody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A bold statement that makes him a clear Kremlin target. Palyuga like many of the officials who signed the letter, he recently had to flee Russia. And he wants to return, but he tells me he will not do so while Putin is still in power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALYUGA: Everyone I know from the counselors, they all are looking forward to return to Russia. But we all understand that we need Putin's regime to fall down to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Putin's regime to fall down, powerful words coming from an official. An official from St. Petersburg, and it comes in the context of presidents aligns key up the ante on the world stage. And right now, that stage is where Zelenskyy says that the war will not end until Ukraine reclaims Crimea, which, of course, is part of Putin's identity and his regime itself.
As we speak, the U.S. is increasing the types of weapons needed to help Zelenskyy possibly strike Crimea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is our land. Our goal is to de-occupy all of our territories. Crimea is our land. Crimea is our territory. This is our sea, and our mountains. Give us heavy weapons and we will return what's ours.
(EDN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Ben Wedeman begins our coverage OUTFRONT on the ground in Ukraine tonight.
And, Ben, you know, in the context of all of the secret meeting we're just learning about, all of these defense meetings tomorrow from Western defense leaders, you have been talking to Ukrainian troops who were just returning from some of the most horrific fighting in this war and Soledar. What are they telling you?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Basically they are saying that what is going on around Soledar, it is believed that the Russians may actually control most of that town, if not all, is that the fighting is incredibly intense. And that both sides are taking heavy losses.
WEDEMAN (on camera): They have been through the valley of the shadow of death. Most, but not all, made out of the valley alive, but not unscathed. On the stretch of road overlooking the battles from Bakhmut and Soledar, it's just safe enough to deliver the wounded to medics.
Strewn along the road, a bloodstained stretcher and discarded bloody flak jackets. His troops are just back from the front at Soledar. They took wounded, they were facing fighters, they say that those fighters were attacking in waves.
Now, they are going back to safer ground. The combat the saw was intense. There were regular troops, says this soldier. And in front of them, just meat, convicts in packs, on drugs, without armor, without helmets. For them, life has no value.
Down in the killing fields, the shelling goes on without letup. For the medics, there is no rest.
Sometimes the mortars don't give us any breathing space, Anatoly, a medic, tells me. We have many casualties from shrapnel, and when the snipers come, then there are many dead and wounded.
Troops transfer a fallen comrade from their armored car to a van. Here, the shadow of death hangs heavy.
WEDEMAN (on camera): What is blaringly apparent at the front is that the Ukrainians are struggling to hold the line and they are bracing for what is expected to be a massive Russian offensive in the spring. Now, the Ukrainian officials in Kyiv were obviously eager to hear from CIA Director William Burns' expectations of the battlefield in the coming months.
But they are also hoping to hear words of reassurance that the U.S. will continue to provide Ukraine with essential support in the battle against the Russians at a time when Republican lawmakers are calling for defense, cut in defense spending -- Erin.
BURNETT: Yeah, crucial context. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much, on the ground in Ukraine tonight.
And I want to go to now longtime Putin critic and nemesis, Bill Browder. He was actually once the largest foreign investor in Russia. Now, of course, a wanted man by Putin.
Bill, I always appreciate speaking to you. I want to start with something that I know you understand better than almost anyone. That St. Petersburg official that I spoke with earlier today is now in exile in Georgia.
But he is speaking out, he signed a letter asking Putin to get free Navalny, demanding that Russians have the rights they deserve, and he told me that some who signed that letter are still in Russia. How fearful are you for all of these people's safety?
BILL BROWDER, PUTIN CRITIC: Very fearful. Basically, there is no willingness on the Putin regime to tolerate any dissent. Anybody who says anything like that will be put on a list, and those people will become targets. So I would imagine that if anyone who would sign that letter is still in Russia, then they will be a target to either be arrested or perhaps worse.
BURNETT: And you also heard Dimitry say that he and others who signed the letter, who are not in Russia, of course, any like here in countries that are very friendly to Russia, there are looking forward to returning. But they need Putin's regime to follow first. That's how he put it.
And then he told me something else about Alexei Navalny. I want to play that for you though.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALYUGA: Navalny is slowly dying in prison right now. But I hope that he is strong enough to survive until something changes in Russia, basically I think that he's in prison until Putin is in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: From what you see, Bill, do you see a day anytime soon in the context of this war and all of the failures where Putin's regime actually falls? And Navalny is free, Dmitry and others can return, is that day near?
BROWDER: Well, it's a possibility, but I hate to say that is a low possibility. You know, for example, if Ukraine could push Russia out of Crimea, Crimea was such an important thing for Putin, that might be the kind of thing that would lead to the Putin regime fracturing and falling. But you also have to understand that if, for some reason that were to happen, Putin would probably lose his life.
And Putin is such a scared little man right now, so scared for his own life that he is ready to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands. Perhaps even millions of men to keep this war going, to keep himself from being defeated. And so, that is why I say that it is a low probability event that the regime falls, because Putin will hang on for dear life, and he will put so much at stake in the meantime.
BURNETT: And, of course, assassinations inside Russia, outside Russia, using poison, it is sort of a signature to Putin's forces? Navalny not the only Putin enemy who has been poisoned.
And I actually spoke recently to the lawyer, and also to the son of the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is, of course, a foe of Putin. And they say that he has been poisoned by Putin. They did DNA testing, they said his arsenic levels were high. They found a whole lot of other things as well.
I just want to share a picture. This is him one year ago on the left, on the right, there he is recently. He is in prison in Georgia on abuse of power charges, which he says are false, and politically motivated.
But I want to share with you a letter that I got, a moving note that I got from Saakashvili after I spoke with his lawyer. I have known him for a long time. You can see from the handwriting here, and that is part of what is hard to watch here, he suffered physical repercussions. It is hard to look at that and people can read it.
He writes: I really regret that he didn't seem in Kyiv as I have already gone on my ill-fated trip.
Bill, do you have any hope that Mikheil Saakashvili will be freed and survive?
BROWDER: Well, I mean, what I see is something truly horrific, and heartbreaking. This is a politically motivated arrest. He is being tortured in prison. The images that you have shown are deeply disturbing.
I have lived through a similar situation with my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who started out healthy and ended up being tortured to death in prison, denied medical care, and dying in prison.
And so, for me, this is a deja vu. And when I saw those images of Mikheil Saakashvili, I spoke out, and since then, his team has been in touch with me, asking for my help, asking -- begging for my help to do anything that I can do to help them, get him out of prison.
And it seems to me that he is being held I believe at the behest of Russia. Vladimir Putin has hated him since he stood up to Putin in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia. And Putin, he never forgets. He is a vindictive little man who never forgets.
And what Georgia has to do right now is released Saakashvili to the west so he can be treated properly, and he doesn't die. Because if he were to die in prison, I believe that this would change the West's view of Georgia from any generation.
BURNETT: All right. Bill, thank you very much.
BROWDER: Thank you.
BURNETT: Bill Browder.
And I want to go now to the retired army lieutenant, Ben Hodges, the former commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Amy. General, we are hours away from a crucial meeting of western defense leaders on military aid to Ukraine. And the U.S. latest package is coming out. In the context of Zelenskyy saying to Davos that he is going to fight for Crimea and that there is no end to the war that does not include Crimea coming back to Ukraine.
I know you believe he can accomplish myth this. Can we look at the area so people we understand where exactly you think Zelenskyy needs to strike to accomplish this?
LT. GENERAL BEN HODGES, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY EUROPE & SEVENTH ARMY (RET.): Well, Erin, Ukraine will never be safe or secure, nor will it ever be able to rebuild its economy if Russia still occupies Crimea. And so, exactly as Bill Browder just talked about, the significance of Crimea to Russia, as well as Ukraine. It won't be a frontal attack with tanks trying to drive across that very narrow Perekop Isthmus that connects Ukraine to the mainland. I think that they can do this by making Crimea untenable for the Russians.
Sevastopol, of course, is the big navy base. Saky is the airfield that became famous last summer when it was hit by drones.
And then of course, Dzhankoy is the major logistics site in the northern part of Crimea. There are dozens of other Russian facilities in and around that peninsula. So with long range fires, like with ATACMS, for example, or if they could eventually HIMARS get close enough, and they start making the peninsula untenable. It will not be possible for them to stay there once they start getting targeted with these kinds of fires.
BURNETT: And, of course, the ATACMS, the U.S. government is now, I think, we're sort of agree to disagree position on that. I'm quoting the U.S. secretary of defense. They're just not sending them.
Can Ukraine win without those?
HODGES: That would be very difficult, frankly. And I read, Undersecretary Carl Statement a statement that they think that Ukraine can accomplish what it needs to accomplish without ATACMS -- I just disagree, because I think that too many people are thinking that Crimea can only be liberated, in a conventional sort of way with a direct attack, versus the idea of isolating it first with long range fires.
ATACMS, for example, if the Ukrainians had ATACMS right now, they could make sure that the Kerch Bridge would never be repaired. So you, know only too roads that connects Crimea to the mainland, one is Kerch Bridge, already damaged, and the other is the land bridge that runs through Mariupol and Melitopol. That's what ATACMS will do. It allows you to sever those roads and isolate Crimea from the rest. And then you can reduce it.
BURNETT: Cut off the air supply.
BURNETT: Less deadly way to start.
All right. Thank you very much, General Hodges. Thank you for your perspective, as always.
HODGES: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the breaking news. We have just confirmed the legendary singer and songwriter David Crosby has died.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
Much more on his incredible life.
Plus, I'll be joined by Bill Weir who interviewed Crosby and talked about death and life.
And sounding the alarm on America's death. The Treasury Department taking, quote, extraordinary measures to prevent an American default. The administration now in a dangerous game of chicken on raising the debt limit.
And actor Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter after the deadly shooting on the set of the movie "Rust". Tonight, Baldwin gearing up for a fight.
BURNETT: Breaking news, CNN just confirming that music icon David Crosby has died.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
Crosby was a founding member of two legendary music groups, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, which also at times included Neil Young. Crosby's music began with soundtrack for generations beginning in the 1960s.
The group had songs like "Our House", "Down by the River", "Sweet", "Judy Blue Eyes", "Southern Cross", "Teach Your Children Well". Well all go and remember them. They performed at the historic Woodstock Festival which is just their second gig together. The group won the Grammy that hear for Best New Artist.
Crosby received a total of 10 Grammy nomination was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.
Let's go to Stephanie Elam.
And, Stephanie, you know, that music -- anybody hearing this, it touches everybody in some way. There is a song over generations that everybody knows and remembers. What else you know so far about Crosby's death?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's something that the family is saying is a long time illness he had been suffering from, Erin. But still in some on this iconic passes away, you definitely see the reverberation. You see a feeling that someone just created so much through all of his music, and the writing, and his guitar playing as well. Just feeling that.
I want to read you the statement from David Crosby's family that we have received here at CNN. It says in part: It is with great sadness after a long illness that our beloved David Croz Crosby has passed away. He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django. Although he is no longer with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us. His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music.
And they go on and they wish peace, love and harmony to all the people who knew David and the people that he touched. And one of the people he touched as well was Melissa Etheridge, who was his good friend but also he was the biological father to her children. And let me just read what her tweet says here.
It says: I am grieving the loss of my friend and Bailey's biological father, David. He gave me the gift of family. I will be forever be gratefully, Django, and Jan. His music and legacy will inspire many generations to come, a true treasure.
So, there you have people who know him, knew him, not just for his music, but also knew David Crosby, the person, mourning the loss of this iconic, iconic American musician -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Stephanie, and as you point, out and iconic musician with a complicated life that so many followed it over so many years. Thank you so much.
And let's bring in now Bill Weir who interviewed Crosby for a special in Woodstock, and Jim Moret, the chief correspondent for "Inside Edition".
So, thanks so much to both of you.
Bill, you're here with me, let me start with that. You travelled to David Crosby's home. You interviewed him extensively for this documentary on Woodstock, which had been sort of their big moment, right, on the stage, I will say, for the first time.
What was that like?
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was such a thrill on so many levels. As a music fan, it was a thrill. He's one of my hands down top three interviews ever because he's so open and honest. He could be a prickly SOB, as many of his band mates will attest, but he could be the sweetest, just loving guy.
And when you're sitting in this house and he says, do you want to hear some music I've just written, and he's got his ponies there, he lives in sort of Central Valley, near Wine Country.
His cannabis plants, his lovely wife Jan, his family, but his really theme later in life was second chances. He would, joke, I can't believe Hendricks and Morrison didn't make and I'm still here because is the way he would punish himself physically. He did some time for cocaine and heroin addiction in Texas in the '80s. But then, had a liver transplant but then came back and he wasn't content just to cover song. He wrote five albums and five years later in life, even though his health was failing, and a lot of complicated feelings out there.
BURNETT: Absolutely, but an incredible personal with so many layers and why so compelling. I mean, Jim, we mention Crosby, Stills and Nash performed just their second sig in Woodstock, which was, of course, why Bill was speaking to it, originally.
When you spoke to Larry King about this, he was reflecting on the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, and that was back in 1994. I just wanted to play this one particular thing he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CROSBY, LEGENDARY SINGER: Like the rest of our generation, we had a rough road. We went through some pretty stuff tough. I was a lucky one lineup alive afterwards. I feel now, incredibly grateful to get to play music and be a part of this. I'm really awfully happy.
I had what the French called raison d'etre. I have a reason to be here. I'm lucky and I really love to play music. I got great people to do it with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jim, how big of a loss is this to someone who is such an icon and over so many decades?
JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION" ATTORNEY: First of all, and be having the opportunity to talk to this person. He had a social responsibility that he showed through his music, often his music, reflected at the time and a strike that he talked about.
I became a teenager, I became 13 in 1969 when they played Woodstock and had a tremendous influence on me and others in my generation. I think that you will remember David Crosby not just for his music but
for the beautiful harmonies that he and Crosby, Stills and Young would perform together. But as much of a harmony is they would have vocally, there was a tremendous amount of strife personally with his band mates and he had falling out with them. But the legacy of his music will endure, and I think it's -- I think it's a beautiful and long-lasting one.
BURNETT: And perhaps incredible when you think about to have such strife and, you know, sort of the band name keeps changing people in or out, yet to be able to create something so beautiful, something you all can't just ponder.
And, Bill, since you didn't have a chance to talk to him, I think what's amazing is among the things you talked about with him was death, death and legacy at a point in his life when he was able to reflect upon that, and I want to play part of the exchange he had with you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: This burst of creativity that you've had, you sing about death. Do you think about how you want to be remembered?
CROSBY: Not so much.
The songs will do that. They are the best I can do. That's a weird thing. Everybody is scared to talk about.
The question is, what are you going to do with it? How do you spend that two weeks or that 10 years? And I got that figured out -- family, music.
Because it's the only thing I can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You get the goosebumps.
WEIR: The voice gives me goosebumps, especially with Joni Mitchell in there, who they were a pair for a little while.
BURNETT: An item for a while.
WEIR: But yeah, later in life, you know, he gave a son for adoption in '60s, named Raymond who came back into his life later. He became a musician. They recorded together.
He just had such sweet, it struck me when they made three part harmony at 3:00 in the morning at Woodstock can't keep it together, what hope is there for the rest of us? He said, no, no, there's bad stuff before that happened and bad stuff after Woodstock as what we could be. We should strive towards that love. BURNETT: It's also amazing in what he said here, and you know, maybe
it's a stage of life for you think of your life and he says, how do you spend two weeks or ten years? I've got that figured out, there's something really beautiful about that.
WEIR: Absolutely. I think, you know, he would say, I've had a lucky long run I think. You could throw a party for me. But the music he made, especially the new stuff, hopefully people go back and listen to the newest stuff and honor him that way.
BURNETT: Jim, Graham Nash, who Crosby, of course, had a falling out with, he just reacted, talking. I'll quote him. It's with a deep and profound sadness that I learned my friend David Crosby has passed. I know people tend to reflect, tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times.
But always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together. The sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared overall this many long years. David was fearless in life and in music. That is a tribute.
MORET: It is. And I think that his friends hated him, but they always had the music and that was what lasted and it kept them bonded together and will endure long after they're gone, and I think it's still beautiful today.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both so very much for bringing just the pieces of him to life and, Bill, sharing your moment you had with him.
WEIR: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, prosecutors laying out their case, announcing actor Alec Baldwin will face charges after the deadly shooting on the "Rust" movie set.
Plus, a faceoff that could lead to an historic financial crisis for the world. United States officially hitting its debt ceiling and right now, there's absolutely no plans to raise it.
BURNETT: Tonight, blindsided. That's how an attorney for Alec Baldwin describes the actor's reaction to facing two counts of an involuntary manslaughter for a fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust" in 2021. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed when Baldwin fired a live round during filming.
Now, the movie's armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is also facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter. She and Baldwin could face a minimum five years in prison on one of the charges if convicted.
Chloe Melas is OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Start with the gun, yeah.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Actor and producer Alec Baldwin now facing criminal charges in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the film "Rust" in 2021.
Baldwin, as well as the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, will be charged with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are getting these guys treated.
MELAS: District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies saying a lack of safety protocols led to the tragedy.
And the charges were announced today.
MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It was the totality of the circumstance that this is a really fast and loose set and that nobody was doing their job.
MELAS: Hutchins were shot on the Western movie set outside Santa Fe, Mexico, on October 21st, 2021. After lunch break that day, the assistant director Dave Halls yelled cold gun and give the prop gun to Baldwin, who pulled it from the holster, according to an account in the search warrant and affidavit.
The scene called for Baldwin to point the gun towards a camera. At 1:50 p.m., a loud pop rang out and Hutchins fell to the floor, shot in the chest.
CARMACK-ALTWIES: He didn't check it. He didn't do anything to supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him were safe.
MELAS: Baldwin blamed the armorer and the assistant director, saying he had no reason to believe the gun was loaded. Baldwin telling CNN last year --
BALDWIN: Why didn't she check that bullet? Why? Why did he give me the gun? Why didn't he check?
MELAS: A flurry of lawsuits ensued. Attorneys for both the armorer and the assistant director have accused Baldwin of deflecting blame, maintaining they were not at fault in the shooting.
In a statement, Baldwin's attorney called the decision to file charges against him, quote, a terrible miscarriage of justice, saying he was assured the gun did not have live rounds and that he will fight the charges.
Baldwin maintains he never pulled the trigger. BALDWIN: I never once said, never, that the gun went off of my hand
automatically. I always said I pulled the hammer back. I pulled back as far as I could. I never took a gun, pointed it and click the thing.
MELAS: Gutierrez-Reed's attorney said in a statement, she has been emotional about the tragedy but has was committed no crime. The assistant director signed a plea agreement for negligent use of a deadly weapon and received six months probation and a suspended sentence in the shooting.
Hutchins family who reached an undisclosed settlement with Baldwin and the other producers of "Rust" in a separate wrongful death lawsuit saying in a statement they support the charges and will cooperate with the prosecution, adding, quote, it is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico, no one is above the law.
CARMACK-ALTWIES: This is really about justice for Halyna Hutchins. Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they're going to handle that gun, pointed at someone and pulled a trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone.
MELAS (on camera): Erin, we have heard from Alec Baldwin's attorney but we've yet to hear from him himself. I'm standing in front of his downtown Manhattan apartment. As you can see over my shoulder, there are other news outlets here, some fans are waiting to catch a glimpse of Baldwin. We know that he's upstairs his wife and his family, and like you, said feeling blindsided because he learned of these charges not from the district attorney in advance. He learned through the media today.
But like the statement from his attorney, we know that he plans to fight this, believes that he is innocent and will see this through to a trial -- Erin.
BURNETT: Chloe, thank you very much, live from outside Alec Baldwin's apartment.
OUTFRONT now, Karen Agnifilo, former prosecutor for the Manhattan DA's office. She's now a criminal defense attorney.
So, Karen, some people may look at this and will say, look, an actor is handed a gun, you know, this is -- no one expected to have real bullets in it, right? That will be a reasonable thing to think. They should be blamed it turns out there were real bullets.
So, was it negligent for Baldwin to assume he was handed an unloaded gun? Or does the context of people resigning from the set the day before because of safety concerns weigh in here?
KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, I think this is a really tough case for the prosecution. They have several different theories here with respect to Alec Baldwin. There's two different charges of involuntary manslaughter, one because he's an actor, he should've checked the gun himself. And the other because he's a producer and he should have had some sort of role on the set.
I think charging him as an actor because he pulled the trigger is a harder charge because as you said, of course he is going to rely on people who are handing him the gun, just like he relies on the person operating the crane on set somewhere, or the caterer the food isn't going to be --
BURNETT: There is an armorer there --
AGNIFILO: Correct, that's going to go towards his defense, that he did care about safety because he did have an armorer. And that person's sole job is to check the guns, check the bullets, et cetera. So, I think it's going to be tough for the prosecutor.
But these are very fact specific. The law here's criminal negligence. It's an accident, but it's an accident with more. In New Mexico, they didn't exercise due caution or circumspection, that's the language.
And there are facts that will go into that and if it turns out that the reporting is accurate, if this happens it's almost the entire camera crew resigned due to conditions on the set, including safety reasons.
And there was an email from the head of the camera crew. , again according to the reporting, saying there was accidental discharge -- two accidental discharges on set. I mean, and that they're playing fast and loose with safety, and that's why they were resigning. They also found a think four or five other live bullets on set.
I think there are facts that are going to be problematic for him as someone who is responsible for conditions on the set and as a producer said that as a producer, he had a duty. I don't think as an actor, you should check a gun --
BURNETT: Right, he was more than an actor, he was a producer.
AGNIFILO: Yeah, he was a producer because -- I mean, would he even know what a fake or double looks like versus a real bullet? I mean, this -- but as you said, there was an armorer, not just the props person. So, he will say he's trying to do things the right way. But I think the prosecutor has an uphill battle here.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Karen, thank you very much, obviously a significant development and it's one we've reported he was shocked by it but this is the charge.
And next, extraordinary measures now being taken as America hits its debt ceiling, setting up a high stakes showdown over whether America will default.
Plus, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, getting an earful tonight from the constituents of embattled Congressman George Santos. So, what do the voters in Santos' district want now?
BURNETT: Tonight, Republicans refusing to budge as the U.S. is now one step closer to an economic crisis. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announcing the U.S. has hit the debt ceiling, $31.4 trillion, a number too large to even contemplate. Yellen urging Congress to reach a deal as soon as possible to raise the debt limit. She warns extraordinary measures are being taken to prevent the country from defaulting. This is now a game of chicken.
Our Manu Raju is reporting that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised not to raise the debt ceiling without concessions in order to win over hard line Republicans spending cuts. The White House insists there's nothing to talk about on that front. And today, neither side is blinking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILIA ROUSE, CHAIR, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: This should not be up to negotiations.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): The White House strategy of, oh, we're not going to have any negotiations is insane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, who I will note represent Silicon Valley and thought economics at Stanford University.
So, Congressman, your Republican colleague, you just heard one of them, but here's what they're saying today. Congressman Andy Biggs tweeted in part, quote, we cannot raise the debt ceiling, talking about Democrats, they've made their bed so they must lie in it.
And here's a few more of your Republican colleagues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not vote for a debt ceiling increase that does not include cuts to spending.
REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): The American people are sick and tired of this endless debt increasing. Saying you're not going to negotiate I think is an untenable and unacceptable position.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I for one will not sign a clean bill raising the debt limit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Congressman, the president, you know, said he would not talk about spending cuts. That's where the White House position is. So are you going to take this to the mat? Are you going to try to call them on it and have a default or do you think, all right, maybe some pending cuts?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): We're not going to default and it's said because this is a self-inflicted manufactured crisis. America should pay the debts that we have occurred. And it's past congresses that have authorized and appropriated that spending. Much of the debt is because of Republican policies, of course, Democratic policies, too, but it was Trump's tax cuts, his overseas wars that also caused the debt. There's some of the spending that Democratic presidents undertook.
But we should pay that obligation. We can debate future spending but why are we debating whether we should pay our debts?
BURNETT: Right. Well, some of the people now said they won't vote for this did vote for a lot of spending and a lot of spending as you point out -- we're spending its, there's plenty of bipartisan support and blame, whatever word you want to use.
But even on the Democratic side, Congressman, Senator Joe Manchin says that it's a good idea for Democrats and Republicans to sit down together and to talk about this. He said, here's what he would like to see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We have to work together. That's going to take -- it's bipartisan. It's always been bipartisan as far as the debt ceiling. We're not getting rid of anything.
You can't scare the bejesus out of everybody saying we're going to get rid of Social Security. We're going to privatize. That's not going to happen.
But we should be able to solidify so the people who have worked and earned it, now they're going to get it. And that's what we're talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURENTT: So, what do you say to him? Should this be -- is the word bipartisan going to play here?
KHANNA: If we want to have bipartisan conversations about how we reduce our future deficit, let's have them. And I disagree with some of the spending cuts that the Republicans want, but that's a legitimate point of debate. But what we can't debate is whether we should be paying the past debts.
And the Democrats never do this. I mean, we may have individuals symbolically vote against the debt ceiling. But at the end of the day, whether it's Republican president, the Democrats always give the votes. We never hijack the economy saying, pass our policies or we're going to crash the United States economy. That's not bipartisan. That's not a way of governing. That's like
basically saying if you have an argument with your spouse threatening divorce every time. I mean, that's not responsible.
BURNETT: All right. So, Congressman, I want to ask you one other thing before we go. The breaking news on David Crosby's death, the music icon. I know you're a big fan, too. What was your favorite song? What does this mean to you?
KHANNA: I'm a fan. I mean, I probably -- "Mr. Tambourine Man" because I'm a Dylan fan as well, and that was their cover song.
But I tell you what strikes me about this life, like anyone, he went through ups and downs. He was so open and honest about the addictions, the struggles. He triumphed over it and it seems towards the end of his life, he was really at peace. And I think that's so relatable, so human and it shows resilience. And I think that's why so many people were drawn to him.
BURNETT: Yeah, absolutely. His words there at the end, being ready and comfortable with his choices. So powerful.
Thank you so much, Congressman.
KHANNA: Thank you. Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, Republican George Santos responding tonight to the New Jersey veteran who claimed Santos stole $3,000 that had been raised for his dying dog surgery. What does former Congressman Adam Kinzinger who's a member of the military thinks. He's next.
And more on our breaking news of legendary singer and songwriter David Crosby. What Crosby was saying about his plans for the future that just a few weeks ago.
BURNETT: Tonight, constituents of embattled Republican Congressman George Santos sending a letter to the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calling him to oust Santos over his many lies. The letter says in part, and I quote, in the history of this country, an impostor has never been seated in the House of Representatives until now. The George Santos sitting in Congress is not the George Santos the voters elected. Many layers to that statement.
McCarthy, of course, has stood by Santos, even appointing him to two committees as the congressman has faced this incredibly intense scrutiny. The latest accusation comes from a New Jersey veteran who claims Santos took funds intended for his dying dog's cancer surgery in 2016.
That veteran shared his story with us last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICH OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN: Santos decided that he did not want me to use my local vet. He would want me to use his vets in Long Island or Queens.
I even was dumb enough to give him my bank account and my routing number because he said he was going to put the money right into my account. It never happened. That is when I started smelling something fishy.
To see that somebody like that, that could do something that dastardly could raise to such high position in -- this shouldn't be right. That shouldn't happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Adam Kinzinger, the former Republican congressman and now CNN senior political commentator.
Congressman, you know, Santos today calling Rich's story a distraction. He went on twitter and he said the reports that I would let a dog die is shocking and insane. And I should note as we played that sound bite, you and I were sitting here, the red box was the ashes of the dog. He still keeps those by his bed. He said that dog saved his life, saved him from suicide at least twice.
You remember the military. You served in the National Guard. You still are doing your service. So what's your reaction to this?
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I mean, it's sickening. Dogs, for a lot of these veterans that come back with PTSD, or they feel lonely, they're struggling with depression, it's really been something that's been discovered in the last decade of being so powerful, but dogs have saved a lot of people's lives, from suicide, from reckless behavior.
And there is a special bond. I've never had a service dog, so I don't understand that. But there is a special bond there that exists. And this is especially disturbing story.
And to Representative Santos, anything you ever lied about will come out. Just know that. And so I think there is going to be a lot more.
BURNETT: And it keeps coming out.
BURNETT: I mean, now there is that story, which is disturbing and terribly sad. Now newly uncovered immigration records stating that his mother was in Brazil at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which why would that be relevant? Well, it's relevant because Santos has told a very different story. I mean, so she is in Brazil on the 9/11 attacks. Here is what he said she was doing on that day. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the south tower, and she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: She was in Brazil. There was another time he claimed she died at a different time.
Okay, 9/11 you've said was the main reason you said you chose to join the military, and you hear this.
KINZINGER: Yeah. I mean, look, it's between the dog, between this. This is somebody that has to thrust himself into whatever situation he is in and lie about it. May not even realize he is lying anymore.
But if you think of those many near us tonight that have survived 9/11, those with family members that didn't survive 9/11, to pretend to be one of those, it's like a stolen -- call it almost a stolen valor. It's like taking away the real sacrifice that fire, police, military have made as a result of 9/11.
It's sick. And it just keeps coming, more and more every day.
BURNETT: And do you think he survives?
KINZINGER: No, there's no way. I mean, he can maybe stay in Congress for these two years. I actually think Congress should expel him or at least censure him. He doesn't get reelected for sure.
KINZINGER: But there is -- people are sniffing on his heels when it comes to prosecution. So, I don't know how he survives. I don't know how the leadership doesn't say we're done with this guy. I don't know how they give him committees.
BURNETT: And what about on committees, the Oversight Committee, since you know so much about this, election denier, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Scott Perry subject to the January 6th DOJ investigation, they're all on it.
BURNETT: What do you make of that?
KINZINGER: Well, this is I think some of the things I think were promised to get votes. When you hold --
BURNETT: It's the deal.
KINZINGER: These are some of the deals. Yeah, give me this, give me that. And you're going to see some crazy investigations, which Congress has a right to investigate. Let's be very clear. But they're going to go from that legitimate responsibility to Marjorie Taylor Greene, you know, with some of the things she said. And mass shootings not being real. It's disappointing.
BURNETT: Congressman, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, as always. And great to you in person here.
KINZINGER: Great to be here.
BURNETT: And next, more on our breaking news of singer David Crosby's death. What Crosby was saying just weeks ago about his plans for this new year.
BURNETT: And before we go, some parting words from rock pioneer David Crosby, who has died at the age of 81. Crosby was an avid tweeter, 81 years old and an avid tweeter. And he was tweeting about his plans for the future just weeks ago.
He tweeted: So I played with some friends the day before yesterday and spent today singing with two really good friends, and hmm, dare I say it? I think I'm starting yet another band and going back out to play live.
So many here would have loved to hear Crosby one more time. But maybe his words are more prescient than we know. Maybe he is doing just like he said.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.