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Director Says, Alec Baldwin Practicing Drawing Gun Before Shooting; CNN Reports, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Ok With $1.75 for spending bill after Biden meeting; Facebook's Future Uncertain as Giant Faces Biggest Crisis Yet. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 07:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: I'm John Berman alongside Brianna Keilar on this New Day.

Chilling new revelations in the shooting death involving Alec Baldwin, including some of the victim's last words and what Baldwin was doing when he pulled the trigger.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: And a potential breakthrough on the talks over President Biden's spending bill approximate what could make for a historic week.

BERMAN: Plus, explosive new revelations just in from Facebook papers, why they allowed politicians to keep lying.

KEILAR: As a Fox host with COVID pleads with unvaccinated Americans to stop being asses, his words, one of his colleagues says her refusal to get the vaccine is a middle finger.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, October 25th. New detailed eyewitness accounts of the deadly shooting involving Alec Baldwin, including some of the last words spoken by the cinematographer who was killed.

Director Joel Souza, who was also injured, tells investigators that Baldwin was rehearsing cross drawing his gun and pointing it at the camera lens when he fatally shot Halyna Hutchins. Cameraman Reid Russell told investigators that after the firearm was discharged, he remembered Joel having blood on his person and Halyna speaking and saying she doesn't feel her legs.

We're told this accident unfolded during a rehearsal in a church. Baldwin was sitting on a pew. The director says he was looking over Hutchins' shoulder and he heard a loud pop and then Hutchins grabbed her stomach.

KEILAR: And affidavit states that Assistant Director Halls had yelled, cold gun, before handing the firearm to Baldwin for the scene. That means that the gun should not have been loaded. Two sources tell CNN Halls, the assistance director on the film set of Rust, was the subject of complaints about and his behavior during two productions back in 2019, which included a disregard for protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics.

BERMAN: Joining me now is Steve Wolf. He's a special effects coordinator and theatrical firearms safety expert with more than 30 years of experience.

Steve, I just want to ask you about one of the revelations we learned overnight first. This comes from the affidavit. The director, Joel Souza, saying the rehearsal entailed Actor Alec Baldwin cross-drawing his weapon and pointing the revolver toward the camera lens, that last part, pointing the revolver toward the camera lens. Is that something that should ever happen on a set?

STEVE WOLF, THEATRICAL FIREARMS SAFETY EXPERT: Well, if the scene says camera is -- firearm is pointed towards camera, yes, that can happen. But no one should be behind the camera. No one should be anywhere within the arc of the direction of the gun from its cross- draw position all the way across through to camera.

So, anything in that area should be clear. Crew should be offside in a safe place. So, this type of shot would be called a lock-off shot. You set the camera up, you frame it, you hit record and you walk away so that nobody is in the range of the camera's direction of fire.

BERMAN: That is very interesting. You say that's just one of the things that was wrong here. Everything was. Explain.

WOLF: Well, at least three things went wrong. The first thing that went wrong is that they used a gun that was capable of having live ammo put in it. So, this is a regular revolver here. This is live ammo. The live ammo can go in there, and the gun can close. So, now this gun would be capable of firing live ammo. So, they should have used a gun that was not capable of having live ammo introduced to it, if they are working with an old western piece that worked with a gun like this.

But this is actually a prop gun. So, everyone is saying, you know, killed with a prop gun. It was not a prop gun. That was a real gun in all likelihood because it accepted live ammo. If I tried to take live ammo and put it into a prop gun, it goes in that far. It can't load and therefore you can't hurt anybody. The only thing that actually does fit in here are blank rounds, which are distinctly identifiable, quite different from live ammo. If you look at the two of those things, they have nothing in common.


So, this is actually the blank. And a blank does fit into the chamber of the cylinder. And it can be removed just as easily. So, this is what is designed to take this and will not accept this. So, that's critical.

So, the wrong gun, because the gun could take live ammo, the wrong ammo, because there was live ammo in there when there should have just been a blank and finally that the gun was pointed at a person. There's no reason on a movie set to ever point a gun at a person. And you have to not break one of those rules, two of those rules, but all three of those rules in order to create a fatal accident.

BERMAN: That is very interesting and instructive, Steve. I appreciate you laying that all out. So, I guess one of the things you're saying is that a gun that could take bullets, just to use layman's terms that I think maybe I and our audience understand here. There shouldn't been anywhere near the set. There shouldn't even have been a gun there that could use bullets?

WOLF: That's right. There's no reason to have a gun that can accept live ammo and introduce that possibility of error when you could and should be using a firearm that can only accept blanks. So, if you have a gun can take ammo and then you have live ammo on the set and then you point the gun at somebody, if you end up with a hole in someone, well, that is exactly what the equipment that they used was designed to do.

So, it shouldn't have been a surprise that they had an accident when they put all the ingredients together that would be necessary to make one.

BERMAN: Is there ever a reason to have live ammunition on a set like that?

WOLF: There are occasions. You are shooting a science show and you want to shoot close-ups of bullets leaving muzzles or bullets impacting something, then you are set up for that, you have a safe backstop, you have safe direction of fire, you have a crew that knows that there is live ammo and all the precautions are taken for it. But in the context of a drama, no, there is no reason to have live ammo on set.

BERMAN: What about the chain of custody here with the weapon itself? Who handed it to Alex Baldwin? We understand in this case it was the assistant director. Is that something that's part of a normal protocol?

WOLF: That really crosses the line. When you dilute the chain of command, you lose responsibility and accountability. The armorer is responsible for loading the gun, making sure that it's safe, making sure the correct loads are in there and then handing it to the actor with specific directions. I've loaded one blank. It's in the first cylinder up. You're going to keep this gun in your holster. On cue, you are going to raise the gun, you're going to point it at this flag that we have set here, you're going to press the trigger one time. You will then lower the gun. After cut, I will come take the gun from you, I will secure it.

Do you have any questions about how we're doing this? No? Okay. Repeat back to me what we are doing. I'm taking the gun, I'm pointing at here, I'm pressing one time, I'm putting it down. Great, thank you. If you do anything other than that, someone may get injured or killed. Do you understand that? Yes, I do. Okay. So you set up very clear instructions, very clear chain of command, and you follow it and then nobody gets hurt. And when you depart from that, you are opening yourselves up for injuries.

BERMAN: You were outlining what is a very rigorous process here. And I understand why it has to be such. But is that the way it always is on a film set?

WOLF: It depends who's running the set. It depends who the producer is, who they hired to handle the firearms, who is acting. So there are some actors that they know are unreliable for handling firearms. And then they have a stunt double do it. And then there are some people who are absolutely meticulous about safety. And you know that whatever you ask them to do, they're going to do exactly that because they understand the serious repercussions of departing from that.

BERMAN: What is finally an actor's responsibility in this process?

WOLF: Well, there are two views on that. One would be that, you know, an actor's job is just to act and they rely on the people around them to make things safe. And the other point of view is that if you have a firearm in your hand, you are responsible for what happens with that firearm and therefore you must understand the safety protocols and the equipment itself. And given that there's only four very simple firearm safety rules, you know, the first of which is all guns are always loaded and the second of which is never point a gun at anything you don't want to destroy.


Then given that actors are very good at learning lines, delivering them, incorporating content, there's no reason that an actor shouldn't be taught the safety guidelines and then be held accountable for them.

BERMAN: Steve Wolf, I do understand it is possible you will be brought down to assist with all your knowledge and expertise, and I can understand why. This has been an education. Thank you so much for helping us understand this morning.

WOLF: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me, John.

KEILAR: Major developments this morning in negotiations over President Biden's sweeping social spending package. A source telling CNN that while it's unclear what the final price tag will be, Senator Joe Manchin has informed Democratic leaders that he will accept a spending bill up to $1.75 trillion, this after Biden hosted Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at his home in Delaware yesterday.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is joining us now on this. Mel, this was a big meeting, yielded some big results here.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: That's right. Almost there, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the state of negotiations to our Jake Tapper Yesterday. Democrats are returning to Washington with a renewed sense of optimism that they can finally advance key pieces of their agenda. As you mentioned, Senator Joe Manchin huddled with President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday in Delaware. And Manchin is showing some signs of flexibility. He said he could support a price tag of up to $1.75 trillion, that is up for his $1.5 trillion price tag that he initially said he was comfortable with.

And now, Democratic leaders are hopeful that they can reach an agreement by the middle of this week on their economic agenda. They hope that will be enough to unlock the votes for an infrastructure bill, which they want to put on the floor as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.

Now, of course, the big question here is where is Kyrsten Sinema. She's been a lot less public about where she stands on all these issues. And the other big question is, is this enough to convince progressives? They previously said they wanted to see the reconciliation economic bill passed. So now, it is a question of whether they see enough of a framework and that is enough to convince them to vote for infrastructure.

But, look, Democrats are working with a renewed sense of urgency. They want to put some points on the board before Biden leaves for this key climate summit in Europe at the end of this week, and before the upcoming Virginia governor's race. That's another big issue Democrats are watching. But they have blown by self-imposed deadlines before, so it's definitely going to be a busy and frantic week on Capitol Hill. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, and potentially a very, very, very big one for President Biden. Mel, thank you for that.

ZANONA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Joining us now is CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox. Lauren, the things in this major legislation specifically, where do things stand right now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are still a lot of outstanding issues that Democrats are going to have to work through this week. There are some areas of agreement. One of those has been universal pre-K. This has been something that the president and Democrats, both on the progressive and the moderate side of the aisle, have argued is imperative for American families. And nothing has made that more clear than the pandemic.

There are also however debates about child care and who should qualify for assistance in child care in this country. Is there going to be some kind of wealth cap on how much money you make and whether or not you get access to a program like affordable child care. That is something that Democrats are still trying to work through.

There is also a similar debate about who should qualify for expanded child tax credit. Joe Manchin, a moderate from the state of West Virginia, has made it clear that he thinks this current cap is too high. There are also progressives who are pretty upset that the president and the White House is looking at just extending this for one year. In part, that is because it is such an expensive provision to continue. But progressives have argued they want this to continue. So that's something that is still up for debate.

And paid family leave, this is another area where Joe Manchin has expressed concerns behind the scenes. And the president acknowledged last week that this program, which used to be 12 weeks, is now down to four weeks.

Now, I'm told by sources that there is a concern about even a four- week paid family leave policy. So, a lot in this area of helping families across the country deal with their children and what time they have off, still a lot up for debate here.

KEILAR: Yes, there's a lot clearly for kids, for people with children in this bill. What about for the elderly and for health care, maybe even specifically for the elderly as well?

FOX: I think it's important to point out to people back home that even passing Obamacare was a huge accomplishment for Democrats. Now, they are going to be touching so many other health care provisions. One of them, and this has been a key highlight for Bernie Sanders, the budget chairman in the Senate, he wants to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing coverage.

Now, the problem with that is those programs are very expensive, and specifically the dental provision is going to take time to get up and running.


So, there is major debate right now whether or not Democrats are actually going to be able to afford to do all of that expanding.

There is also debate about how long and how big to make Obamacare subsidy expansion in this bill. That is another key talking point that Democrats have campaigned on and something that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to shore up. This is a legacy item for her. And yet there is still debate on how much work you can do here.

The other big sticking point that has happened behind the scenes is what to do about prescription drug costs. There has been a debate in the Democratic Party for a long time about whether or not you try to curb the cost of those prescription drugs. It would help raise a lot of money for Democrats to pay for their bill, and yet this has been a key sticking point for Arizona Senator Kirsten Sinema. There is some discussion about whether or not you could try and reduce the cost of some drugs that the U.S. government negotiates with prescription and pharmaceutical companies, but that is still something that is up for debate.

BERMAN: What about the climate, Lauren?

FOX: This has been the sticking point for Senator Joe Manchin. He's from a state that -- obviously, coal is a main economic driver back home. And this has been a main sticking point for him. This is still something that is very much being negotiated at this point given the fact that one of the key climate provisions had to be dropped last week from these negotiations.

At this point Democrats on the progressive side of things are saying they have to have strong climate provisions in this bill not just because the president is going abroad and needs these in hand before he gets to Europe but also because they say this has been the promise of the Democratic Party for more than a decade now and it's time for the party to deliver.

KEILAR: And, finally, the trillion dollar question, how much is the bill going to cost because, obviously, progressives will have a say in this?

FOX: A huge debate right now about how much the top line of this bill is going to be. Maybe more importantly is how do you cover the cost of such a massive piece of legislation that is going to touch every aspect of American life.

Right now, Kyrsten Sinema has been negotiating with the White House. She was opposed to an increase in the corporate tax rate but has expressed some openness to other taxes on businesses as well as billionaires. That problem is however the fact that the finance committee has been working on this billionaire's tax for years. They don't have legislative text. The expectation is perhaps, according to sources I'm talking to, that they could have something in the middle of the week. But it is a very complicated policy provision and it's something that they're going to have to educate all of their members on before taking a vote as soon as next week. Brianna, John?

KEILAR: Yes, no doubt a lot of work going on behind the scenes to get that done. Lauren, thank you for that wonderful explainer. I'm so much more clear on everything that's in the bill and the price tag there.

So, coming up, damning new allegations against Facebook for reportedly choosing not to block the lies about the election that led to the Capitol insurrection.

BERMAN: Plus, a close ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy actively trying to undermine fellow Republican Liz Cheney.

And Russia reportedly launched a new cyber attack against the United States, the details ahead.



BERMAN: Developing this morning, Facebook staffers warned to brace themselves for more damaging headlines. News outlets, including CNN, now reporting on tens of thousands of leaked documents from the country. Facebook papers they're being called, are painting this damning picture of Facebook's role in the January 6 insurrection.

Donie O'Sullivan has been knee-deep in the Facebook papers. And, Donie, the bottom line is Facebook right at the middle of the insurrection.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And it's something they really don't want to talk about. We know the January 6 select is very, very interested in what Facebook knows about how their platform was used in fueling the insurrection and many damaging revelations in these documents. Have a look.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): On January 6th, as the U.S. Capitol was being attacked, some Facebook staffers began to consider what role their company might have played in fueling the lies that led to the insurrection. One employee suggested Facebook had placated then- President Donald Trump for too long, as back as 2015.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

Never forget the day Trump called for a ban of Muslims entering the U.S., a Facebook staffer wrote in response to a Facebook executive on January 6th. We determine that it violated our policies and yet we explicitly overrode the policy and didn't take the video down. There is a straight line that can be drawn from that day to today. History will not judge us kindly.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We don't fact check political ads and we don't do this to help politicians but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced intense criticism from Democrats in 2019 when he said Facebook would not fact check politicians allowing people like Trump to pay to spread targeted lies on the platform. Leaked internal Facebook documents reveal the company's own research show that people trust information shared by politicians more than regular users, making politician shared misinformation especially believable.

Facebook even ran a focus group of users in Chicago, according to the leaked documents, during which people told us Facebook has a greater responsibility for labeling false content shared by political leaders than they do for ordinary users. But still, the company's executive stand by their decision not to fact-check politicians.

And last summer, when Zuckerberg refused to act on a Trump post that trended, looting in Minneapolis would lead to shooting, employees pushed back, at least one person even left the company.


So why did you quit?

TIM AVENI, FORMER FACEBOOK EMPLOYEES: I've seen a couple times now that Mark doesn't uphold his principles. Zuck has told us over and over that calls to violence would not be tolerated on the platform even if they were by the president of the United States. O'SULLIVAN: Internal Facebook memo in August 2020 noted Facebook's decision-making on content policy is routinely influenced by political considerations. The documents were leaked by Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen, who first began providing documents to The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. Haugen has filed a complaint about the company to the SEC.

Part of one of this whistleblower's disclosures to the SEC is about this idea that the team at Facebook that works with governments essentially has to keep governments on side, get involved in the content moderation decisions. And from one of Facebook's own internal documents, an employee wrote, Facebook's decision-making on content policy is routinely influenced by political considerations. If you could just explain to this to us a little bit.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, ADVISER TO FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN: This is an incredibly important issue. Facebook has engineers who are focused on how to keep the platform safe. And the public policy team will evaluate that and decide, is this going to upset certain political forces. And are they going to complain that we are trying to censor them? And so this incredible sensitivity to the political perspective builds enormous frustration inside of the company. That's what the documents reveal. These engineers saying, let us do our job. Stop manipulating what we're doing to keep a couple politicians happy. And what's astonishing here is to see the way Facebook has been played like a fiddle, especially by the conservative right.


O'SULLIVAN (on camera): And Facebook pointing out that it did crack down on Trump occasionally and ultimately has banned it from its platform. Have look at the statement here from Facebook Spokesperson Andy Stone. He said, we don't believe Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or any technology company should determine what arguments are true or not true from elected leaders in a democracy.

But, guys, there is so much in these documents. This set here is only related to January 6th in a pile about political violence and things like that, tens of thousands of files.

BERMAN: And that's double-sided.

O'SULLIVAN: This is double-sided. And we printed in color for some reason.

BERMAN: This mound of paper is only on one part of it, and it is double-sided. That shows you how much is out there. What else have you learned from going through these papers?

O'SULLIVAN: So, we're going to be hearing so much in the coming days. This leak is part of a -- this reporting is part of a consortium. 17 U.S. news organizations, including CNN, starting to publish a lot of stories over the weekend, but especially today, we have been hearing this goes so much beyond January 6th. We've been hearing about how Facebook has been used to fuel sectarian violence and tensions in India. That's actually Facebook's biggest market. And one thing I do want to point out is when it comes to human trafficking on Facebook, humans being advertised for sale, my colleague, Clare Duffy, went through some of these documents, saw that Facebook's own researchers were pointing out that we have accounts in this platform that are claiming to sell people, sell domestic workers, sell slaves. Clare went through the platform last week herself on Instagram, found some of these accounts claiming to be selling people. She brought it to Facebook's attention. They took it down. But, again, it took CNN to bring it to the company's attention.

KEILAR: That's disgusting.

BERMAN: And it's still there.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. You can go on the platform now, you'll find it.

BERMAN: All right, Donie. We know you're going to be all over this all week. I expect we will be seeing you again very soon.

So, former President Barack Obama stirring things up on the campaign trail, what he calls the obsession driving Republicans.

KEILAR: And refusing a life-saving vaccine as a way to give Biden the middle finger. The dangerous new way to own the libs, next.