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Alec Baldwin: "I Cocked the Gun," But Did Not Pull the Trigger; Congress Averts Shutdown, GOP Vaccine Mandate Standoff Resolved; Michigan School Shooting Suspect May Have Had Weapon in Backpack During School Meeting. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 03, 2021 - 05:00   ET


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Friday, December 3rd. Happy Friday. It is 5:00 a.m. here in New York.


Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It took a long time to get to Friday this week.

JARRETT: But we made it.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States around the world. We have reports this morning from Chicago, Washington, Ukraine and Berlin.

But we begin in New Mexico with a tragedy on the set of the movie "Rust," and star Alec Baldwin telling his side of the story. The actor emotionally describing the moments last October leading up to the discharge of the gun he was holding, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin told ABC News he did not pull the trigger but he did cock the hammer to rehearse a moment, so Hutchins could set up her shot.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I said to her, in this scene I'm going to cock the gun. I said, do you want do see that? She said yes. So I take the gun and I started to cock the gun. I'm not going to pull the trigger. Just tilt it down a little bit like that. And I cock the gun. Can you see that, can you see that? Now, I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer, the gun goes off.


ROMANS: More now from CNN's Lucy Kafanov in Denver.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, good morning. This was an emotional, raw interview. Actor Alec Baldwin describing what happened before as well as the moment in which cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed.

He described rehearsing a scene in which he draws a weapon and said he pointed it just to the side of the camera as Hutchins instructed him to do. He said he cocked the gun asking whether she could see it and then let go of the hammer when the weapon discharged. Baldwin insisting he never pulled the trigger.

BALDWIN: Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So, you never pulled the trigger?

BALDWIN: No, no, no. I would never point a gun and pull the trigger. I'd never -- that was my training that I had. You don't point a gun at somebody and pull the trigger. On day one of my instruction in this business, people said to me, never take a gun and go click, click, click, because even though it's incremental, you damage the firing pin of the gun if you do that. Don't do that.

KAFANOV: Baldwin also made clear that he does not blame himself for what happened. He said he believed the weapon was safe, that he did not typically check the guns for safety himself, saying, quote, an actor's responsibility is to do what the prop armorer tells them to do.

He stressed multiple times he once answered how a live round ended up on the set. Take a listen.

BALDWIN: There's only one question to be resolved, only one, that is where did the live round come from? Someone put a live bullet in the gun, a bullet that wasn't even supposed to be on the property. Where did that bullet come from? Somebody brought live rounds, plural, onto the set of the film, and one of them ended up in that gun.

KAFANOV: Now, Baldwin also attacked the two people who have filed civil lawsuits so far. Those are script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and the chief lighting technician Serge Svetnoy. He said he found it unsettling that they filed lawsuits before Hutchins' husband Matthew Hutchins did. Baldwin went on to say he believed it's highly unlikely that he himself would be charged with anything criminally.

Svetnoy's attorney speaking to CNN disputing the notion that Baldwin didn't pull the trigger saying in a statement, quote, guns only fire when someone pulls the trigger, or if someone pulls the hammer back and lets it go. Either way, the gun was in Mr. Baldwin's hands when it fired the bullet and he bears responsibility for the harm that was done.

The investigation is still ongoing. The focus is very much on how those live rounds ended up on set. At this stage in the game, more questions than answers.

Christine, Laura, back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Lucy, thank you for that.

No response yet from attorneys for the two crew members who have filed civil suits in response to Baldwin's comments from that interview

JARRETT: Breaking overnight, government shutdown averted. Both chambers of Congress passing a stopgap bill last night to extend funding for the federal government through mid-February, but there was plenty of drama along the way. Party leaders forced to broker a deal in order to overcome Republican brinksmanship over vaccine mandates.

A standoff of sorts threaten to trigger a shutdown when a small number of Republican senators who object to President Biden's vaccine requirements tried to hold up the vote on the funding bill, but did not prevail.

ROMANS: New details about the critical moments leading up to that deadly school shooting in Michigan this week. Despite the fact that two -- two Oxford high teachers reported concerns about the shooter's behavior, the school claims punishment was not warranted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of talk about the student that was apprehended, that he was, you know, called up to the office and all that kind of stuff. No discipline was warranted. There are no discipline records at the high school.


Yes, this student did have contact with our front office. And, yes, his parents were on campus November 30th.


ROMANS: And now, we are learning Ethan Crumbly may have had that gun in his backpack during a meeting with school officials and his parents on the morning of the shooting.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on the ground in Oxford, Michigan, with the latest on the investigation now.


POLICE: We have an active shooter incident. So far, we do have confirmed injuries.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New details, including some of the emergency dispatched calls from Tuesday's school shooting in Oxford, Michigan.

POLICE: I've got one with a neck wound, one with a head wound.

PROKUPECZ: Police saying today they are confident the suspect acted alone. SHERIFF MICHAEL BOUCHARD, OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We have

seen no evidence that there was anyone else involved in this situation with him, or anything to follow on.

PROKUPECZ: The investigation now focuses on events leading up to the moment when 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley allegedly started shooting that day.

BOUCHARD: On the day prior to the tragedy, a teacher in the classroom where he was a student saw and heard something that she felt was disturbing in terms of his behavior.

PROKUPECZ: In fact, two separate teachers had reported disturbing behavior before the deadly shootings began.

BOUCHARD: They had a counseling session about it with school officials and a phone call was left with the parents.

PROKUPECZ: Just hours before the shootings, the second teacher brought the suspect's behavior to the attention of school authorities.

BOUCHARD: The day of the shooting, a different teacher in a different classroom saw some behavior that they felt was concerning, and they brought the child down to an office, had a meeting with school officials, called in the parents, and ultimately it was determined that he could go back into class.

PROKUPECZ: The prosecutor saying there is more evidence to come.

KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY, MI PROSECUTOR: There is an additional piece of evidence that hasn't been released yet, but I can assure you it was troubling, it was disturbing, and unfortunately he was allowed to go back to class.

PROKUPECZ: Then just before 1:00 p.m., emergency calls began.

POLICE: Medical emergency, Oxford High School. Scene is not secure. Possible multiple injuries. Put it out as a mass casualty please.

PROKUPECZ: Prosecutors say school surveillance video shows the suspect left a bathroom, gun in hand, and began shooting from the hallway at a methodical pace, firing at least 30 shots at fellow students in hallways, and in classrooms. First responders called for advance life support units, helicopters and hospital support for trauma patients.

POLICE: Two patients at door 4, two patients door 7, one at door 6 with a head injury.

PROKUPECZ: Crumbley now in jail awaiting trial is charged as an adult with first degree murder, terrorism causing death and assault charges in connection with shooting 11 people, killing four of them. He pleaded not guilty to the charges through his attorney at his arraignment Wednesday. Prosecutors are now saying an announcement may be coming soon about potential charges for the suspect's parents related to the gun allegedly used in the shooting. MCDONALD: We are reviewing potential charges and hope to have an

announcement about that in the next 24 hours.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): An attorney for the alleged shooter would not comment on the possibility of charges against the parents. Meanwhile, all of this still continuing to cause fear here in the community, some 60 schools have been forced to close because of unverified threats. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Shimon in Michigan for us.

To the COVID economic recovery now. In a matter of hours, important new evidence of how strongly the American economic machine is humming. A key jobs report expected to show 550,000 jobs added back in November, the most since July. Hiring roared in October.

It turns out the summer lull because of the delta variant wasn't as bad as feared. The job market is improving, but it's not quite back to normal. 5.8 million jobs added back this year. But considering the 22 million lost at the start of the pandemic, the labor market you can see is still in a hole.

And a big challenge for companies, something that's called the great resignation. Back do normal is not at all what millions of workers necessarily want or can do right now. And workers have the upper hand, quitting their job in record numbers for better pay, for better jobs, and hundreds of thousands of people this year starting their own businesses instead of going back to their old jobs.

I think you're seeing a real dynamic labor market right now. It's going to be interesting.

JARRETT: What are you watching for this morning?

ROMANS: I'm watching to see what the unemployment rate does. I think it's going to tick down. Some people have left the labor market and don't want to come back, the labor pool is this variable that I think is going to mean that the jobless rate is low again.

JARRETT: All right. Busy morning for you.

ROMANS : Yeah, it is.

JARRETT: All right. Up next, high drama in the Jussie Smollett courtroom.


The tense exchange that left a defense attorney sobbing.

ROMANS: And the Trump lawyers who have been ordered to pay up for filing bogus election fraud lawsuits.


At Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial in New York, Jeffrey Epstein's longtime house manager outlined this disturbing scene for jurors, with scores of women coming through the Palm Beach home. Reading Thursday from an instruction manual that Maxwell game him, Juan Alessi said the staff was directed to use extreme discretion, you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.


Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to charges that she lured young women and girls into Epstein's web of abuse for years.

ROMANS: Some real-life courtroom drama in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett. Aggressive cross-examination of a key prosecution witness leading to a confrontation between a defense lawyer and the judge. The lawyer claims it got physical. The judge denies that.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has more from Chicago.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, there was crying, there were accusations of physical intimidation by a judge toward an attorney. There was a call for a mistrial. All of it was happening during the cross-examination of Ola Osundairo, one of two brothers Jussie Smollett allegedly paid to stage a fake hate crime.

Specifically the defense was asking about potential homophobia, in the form of texts where he described someone as a fruit. When the defense attorney asked if he would use those terms to describe a woman, the judge chimed in and called that line of questioning collateral. Well, the defense called for a sidebar. The jury was sent out of the room.

When they came back, the defense said they would be calling for a mistrial. Things escalated. That specific defense attorney began sobbing as she paced around the defense table and said that the judge chimed in on a line of questioning that was very critical to their case and believed it was inappropriate in the face of the jury. Not only that, that same attorney claimed that the judge at one point physically lunged at her during a sidebar.

Now, the judge denied that along with the request for a mistrial, but not long after, a separate defense attorney stood up and accused the judge of making facial objections at them every time they made an objection during the case, to which the judge shot back, you're great at making facial expressions while denied making some of his own.

Things eventually calmed down and cross-examination continued. It all came on a day we heard not just from Ola Osundairo, but also Bola Osundairo. And specifically Ola during questioning, prosecutors tried to paint a crucial bottom line. Mr. Smollett asked you to fake attack him so he could post it on social media? Ola answered yes to all of those. With Bola, the defense brought up that Bola may have been in a sexual relationship with Smollett which he denied. The defense also accused him of having a desire to work with security for Smollett which Bola didn't remember, but that was a growing point of tension. The defense posited which Bola denied.

With both the brothers, prosecutors pointed to a significant threshold, that they did not know the police would be involved at any point in this, and that at least with Ola, if he had known, he testified, he would not have agreed to do it.

It was quite the day. The judge agreed, and he expanded to it being quite a week, and it is why he gave jurors the day off today, and we don't expect to see them until Monday where court will resume, and potentially be in the hands of the jury by the end of the day as the judge mentioned Thursday -- Laura, Christine.


JARRETT: Omar, thank you.

What a mess.

ROMANS: So in a sidebar like that, there would be other people -- not the jury, but other people who would be able to corroborate if that defense says she was lunged at.

JARRETT: Absolutely. The prosecutor would be there. Potentially, the court reporter would be there. Somebody is going to know what exactly happened. There is a record of what happened for sure.

All right. Still ahead for you, Florida's Ron DeSantis proposing his own civilian military force. You will hear him say why.

ROMANS: And the stadium fly-over that raises the question, how low is too low?



ROMANS: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to hand out taxpayer dollars to businesses that defy vaccine mandates. DeSantis said his state may pay the fines that snubbed the mandates and do it with coronavirus relief aid signed into law by President Biden.

Another DeSantis idea that is raising eyebrows, he wants a new civilian military force in Florida that he, not the Pentagon, would control.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We also want to make sure that we have the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible. And some of that will require us to be able to have access and be able to use support in ways that are not encumbered by the federal government or don't require federal government. So I'm going to be recommending in the budget $3.5 million to re-establish the Florida state guard.


ROMANS: The move comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned National Guard members who refused to get the shot will have their pay withheld, and they will not be allowed to be in training.

JARRETT: Now to an exclusive interview with CNN, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema says she can't commit to voting for President Biden's sweeping social safety net legislation.

The Arizona senator has often been a thorn in the side of progressives who claim they can't figure out what she really wants here.

But Sinema told CNN's Lauren Fox, her priorities are clear.


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Schumer has said he wants to vote on Build Back Better, that broader social safety net bill before Christmas break. Are you prepared to vote yes when that comes to the floor?

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): Well, I don't set the schedule for the Senate floor, and I'm always prepared to vote. And to vote for what's right for the interests of Arizona.


I personally believe that the best way to create legislation is to be thoughtful and careful so that we're crafting legislation that truly represents the interests that we want to achieve, and that creates a benefit and helps people all across Arizona and the country. So that's what I'm working on right now.

FOX: So it doesn't sound like you're quite a yes yet on the version that just passed the House of Representatives. What changes do you want to make?

SINEMA: Well, folks know I don't negotiate in the press. I'm not going to do that with you.


JARRETT: Senator Sinema along with another holdout, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, now have significant influence to shape the legislation as Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote from their 50-member caucus to pass this social safety net expansion.

Great exclusive there from Lauren Fox.

ROMANS: Yeah, great job, Lauren.

Reminds you how narrow the majority is for the Democrats. All right. New rules at the airport starting Monday. More on President

Biden's COVID plan ahead.

JARRETT: And the archbishop quitting and asking for forgiveness now over his relationship, a consensual one, with a woman.