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Gun from Film Set Shooting May Have Been Used for Target Practice; Veteran Hollywood Armorer Provides Prop Gun Demonstration; Whistleblower: Zuckerberg Chose Growth Over Safety; Biden Rejects More Trump Executive Privilege Claims. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning here to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Berman, alongside Brianna Keilar. It is Tuesday, October 26.


And new revelations this morning about what was happening on the New Mexico film set of "Rust" that could possibly explain how a gun that ended up in Alec Baldwin's hands ended up fatally shooting the movie's cinematographer and wounding its director.

This is what the founder and CEO of "The Wrap," Sharon Waxman, told CNN last night.


SHARON WAXMAN, FOUNDER/CEO, "THE WRAP": We learned today and reported exclusively that the gun that Alec Baldwin used to tragically, accidentally shoot Halyna Hutchins had been used earlier in the day for target practice with -- when a number of crew members -- you know, there's a lot of down time on sets. You probably know this. And there's this pastime that crew members sometimes do. It's called plinking. And they go out into the rural areas, and they shoot at beer cans. This is with live ammunition. We learned that this happened the morning of the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We also have some new reporting about the film's assistant director, Dave Halls. He was fired from a movie set in 2019 after a crew member was injured in another gun safety incident.

In the meantime, production on "Rust" is on hold indefinitely, and quite possibly, this movie will never see the light of day.

CNN's Chloe Melas with us now. You know, it seems like perhaps some of the pieces are coming together here, even as there are so many questions to be answered.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, really disturbing to hear the report about, you know, these crew members out doing target practice, and plinking as they call it.

When we spoke to "Rust" productions, the film's production company, they pointed us to a previous statement saying that safety has been their top priority and concern, that they're still doing an investigation into this, that they still don't know the details as to what actually caused Halyna's death. Was it a projectile? Was it an actual live round of ammunition?

I do want to take a moment to listen to some of an interview from Meg James from "The L.A. Times," who actually spoke to a veteran prop master who actually turned down an opportunity to work on this movie. Take a listen.


MEG JAMES, CORPORATE MEDIA REPORTER, "L.A. TIMES": When he was talking to the production manager to try to iron out the logistics of his assignment, he felt like the -- the producers were a little bit evasive. He thought that they were trying to do too much with too small of a budget.

And the one thing that really bothered him was that, when he asked for two assistants, one to be in charge of the guns, and another to help him with the props, they said, no, they wanted that to be filled with only one person. The armorer, the gun person would have to also help out with props. And he found that that was a red flag.


MELAS: Yes. And also, as you said, filming on this movie has halted completely. Obviously, there's an internal investigation. There's also an investigation by the sheriff's office. Will this movie see the light of day? It doesn't look likely.

BERMAN: I have to say, if that gun, if it turns out that gun was used for target practice, it increases the legal liability for a whole number of people, not to mention the people who shot the gun, the people who were supposed to oversee the gun, you know, how it got off the set to begin with. A whole lot of questions there.

Chloe, there are also questions about the assistant director. What more can you tell us about that?

MELAS: Yes. Well, his name is Dave Halls, and he actually worked on a movie called "Freedom's Path" in 2019. CNN's Julia Jones got some explosive reporting, where she actually spoke to the production company from that movie, and they said that he was fired because a gun accidentally misfired. It didn't actually physically injure someone, but one of the crew members, he had some hearing loss and some hearing issues because of that. And that he was terminated that day.

Now, Dave Halls did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Neither did "Rust" productions when we asked them about that. But a crew member told CNN that Dave Halls, quote, "He was a person with enough red flags that his career should have been done with already. Yet, he was still out there, putting crew into outrageous situations. It's tough to think that Halyna could have just as well been one of our crews."

BERMAN: All right. Chloe Melas, thank you very much. Keep us posted.

MELAS: I will.

KEILAR: This morning, we're getting a show and tell from a Hollywood expert on how gunfire is supposed to be simulated on a movie or TV set, how to do it safely. No one getting hurt, obviously, except the fictional bad guys.

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.




GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Larry Zanoff is a renowned motion picture armorer, a weapons safety specialist in the entertainment industry.

(on camera): The idea is we have the cups here and this white background, because we're going to show, this is going to make a lot of noise, but there's going to be no residue and no cups knocked over, because this is not a live bullet.

ZANOFF: Exactly. It is a blank cartridge.


ZANOFF: So I'll give you a countdown here. Three, two, one.

TUCHMAN: No residue. No cups. Created the illusion that you want in Hollywood without a bullet coming out.

ZANOFF: Correct.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We're at the Independent Studio Services prop House north of Los Angeles. Props which they say include North America's largest private armory. Safety in the industry starts with a lock box for weapons.

ZANOFF: The gun that we're going to use is inside here. This is a single action revolver. You can see that, at the moment, it's empty.


TUCHMAN (on camera): And you keep turning it so we're sure it's empty?

ZANOFF: So I show you, this particular one has six cylinders. I will always click it over seven times, just to make sure that we didn't miss anything and that you're comfortable with the fact that it is, in fact, an empty firearm.

TUCHMAN: And I'm comfortable. ZANOFF: Wonderful.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is what a blank looks like.

ZANOFF: It's a cartridge case that's crimped over. You can see there's no projectile.

TUCHMAN (on camera): No bullet or projectile.

ZANOFF: No bullet or projectile.

TUCHMAN: It has gun powder.

ZANOFF: It does have gun powder. It has a primer in it. This is what's called a modern theatrical blank.

TUCHMAN (voice-over: What looks like a typical bullet is sometimes used, for example, to show a tight shot of a gun being loaded in a movie or TV show. But under safety regulations, such a bullet --

ZANOFF: Is a dummy cartridge. Empty shell case, no gun powder and a totally inert primer. It can't go bang. There is a projectile on the end of it --

TUCHMAN (on camera): A bullet.

ZANOFF: -- that you can see. There's a B.B. I can rattle it next to your ear.

TUCHMAN: Shows there's no gun powder in there.

ZANOFF: It means that cannot go bang.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): There are many other mandated precautions.

ZANOFF: So we have our single action revolver. We have our blank cartridge. You can see there's no projectile. I've measured out 20 feet for you here, which is the minimum safety distance on a film set. We have a target there. I'm going to load up the blank into the gun, and I'm going to announce that the gun is hot. So hot gun on set.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And it's a hot gun when there's something in the gun, in the chambers that will go bang?

ZANOFF: Correct. If the gun's going to go bang, it's a hot gun. If it's empty and it can't go bang, it's a cold gun.

We're going to go three, two, one.


ZANOFF: I'm going to unload the gun now. Presumably they've yelled, "Cut." And then I make, as the armorer, the announcement, "Cold weapon on set. Cold weapon on set."

TUCHMAN (voice-over): I ask the armorer, what if someone walks right in front of a person as they're firing a gun with a blank? Could you be seriously hurt?

ZANOFF: As you'll see, there's some smoke and flame coming out. You know, you might feel the effect of it a little bit. But there's no projectile.

TUCHMAN: OK. That's good to know.

ZANOFF: OK. Counting down. Three, two, one.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Los Angeles.


BERMAN: You know, based on all the experts that we hear from in Gary's piece and in the ones we've talked to, it never should have happened. Never. There were multiple layers of security in place that should have been there to prevent that gun from ever being able to go off and kill somebody.

KEILAR: As we learned, there should be no bullets on -- on set. And also, there's a difference between a prop gun and a gun that accepts bullets, right? We learned that there should be prop guns that don't even accept bullets into the chamber.

BERMAN: What a tragedy.


BERMAN: All right. It is the biggest crisis in Facebook's 17-year history. Tens of thousands of pages of damning revelations leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen, showing how Facebook profits off the spread of false information and relies on an algorithm that pushes fake news.

Among the revelations that CNN has uncovered so far, Facebook allegedly misled the public about perpetuating misinformation and extremism linked to the 2020 election and the Capitol insurrection; allowed its algorithm to promote QAnon conspiracy theories to users; did little to stop the use of its platform to incite violence in places including Ethiopia; has not fixed problems with the use of its site for human trafficking; and may have misled its own oversight board.

Here's some of Haugen's testimony yesterday.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I've seen lots of research that says that kind of ranking, engagement-based ranking, prioritizes polarizing, extreme, divisive content. It doesn't matter if you're on the left or on the right, it pushes you to the extremes, and it fans hate, right? Anger and hate is the easiest way to grow on Facebook.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Now, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is actually striking a defensive tone. He's blaming the media during his company's quarterly earnings call on Monday.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO (via phone): Good-faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company. The reality is that we have an open culture, where we encourage discussion and research about our work, so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us.


KEILAR: And Donie O'Sullivan is with us now. You know, it reminds me, in a way, of sort of like spoiled food, right? Like a worm in the food. And it's someone saying, oh, but they're focused on the worm. They're not focused on the food. Well, the food is spoiled.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think he's taking a page out of the Trump playbook there, right?


O'SULLIVAN: I think that is becoming the Facebook strategy. Go after the media now. Shoot the messenger.

We saw last week a Facebook spokesperson gave a response to the "Washington Post" about a legit story and said, "This is beneath 'The Washington Post.'" That was an on-the-record statement from a Facebook spokesperson.


Over the weekend, Nick Clegg warned the staff, saying, we're going to see more, as he called them, bad headlines in the coming days and suggested that this was because the media was jealous, essentially, of Facebook's success.

So they're no longer engaging on these issues when we're all going through their own documents, their own research. They're, instead, attacking the media.

BERMAN: Yes. It's coming from internal documents and testimony from people who worked at the company, including Frances Haugen. What else has she been saying, Donie?

O'SULLIVAN: So Haugen yesterday pinpointed a very good point. Facebook is available in 100 languages, right, and even more than that. But it's available, centrally, in 100 languages around the world.

Facebook does not have support staff, the content moderators, who can look for hate speech and harassment, especially in countries like India, and Afghanistan, and Ethiopia, where there are conflicts ongoing, where there are various different issues. They're dropping the ball, and Facebook's own researchers are pointing that out to them.

Have a listen to what Haugen had to say in London yesterday.


HAUGEN: Good actors, good publishers are already publishing all the content they can -- they can do, but bad actors have an incentive to play the algorithm. And they figure out all the ways to optimize Facebook. And so the current system is biased toward bad actors and biased towards people who push people to the extremes.


O'SULLIVAN: And I think a really important point that Haugen also made here is we'll often see these numbers from Facebook saying they catch 90 percent, 99 percent of this type of speech and that, and say they're all ahead, on top of everything.

But she's -- she made the point to say some people, their feeds, depending on who you follow, depending sometimes where Facebook brings you, it's covered in misinformation.

And they showed that with a research project internally, where they set up an account belonging to a North Carolina mom. She started off by liking Trump's page, FOX News. And within three weeks, she was recommended QAnon, but also the Three Percenter militia. The militia that went down to take part in the insurrection.

You wonder how radicalization, how extremism is happening in this country? If there's a 41-year-old mom in North Carolina who's being recommended this after three weeks on Facebook, it's not hard to see where the problem is.

KEILAR: And then they end up with a feed entirely of that kind of information. And now, they are in a siloed stream of information, cut off from other influences. And that's just what happens to the brain. That's just what happens to the mind.

So what is Congress going to do about it?

O'SULLIVAN: Exactly. And that's -- you know, when we go out in the field and we speak to a lot of Trump supporters and folks who don't believe the election was legitimate, and believe QAnon and all these other things, we wonder. People say, I wonder, how does that happen?

And you say, well, take a look at their Facebook feeds. They live in a totally different universe than the other half of the country who have it based in reality. And a lot of that is down to Facebook and these platforms.

What's Congress going to do about it? That's a really good question. They're all making a lot of noise, but are they going to make regulation? That's going to be one of the great questions, I guess, of our time.

Today, Face -- today, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat are in front of the Senate, answering questions about their harms on children, what protections they have in place for kids.

BERMAN: Right now, it is noise. They're just making noise. We'll see if they take action.

O'SULLIVAN: That's right.

KEILAR: Donie, thank you so much for that report. It's so important.

President Biden refusing to block another batch of documents related to the Capitol insurrection that Donald Trump is trying to keep private. The latest on this escalating showdown ahead.

KEILAR: Plus, Democratic leaders racing to strike a compromise on the president's domestic agenda. The critical sticking points that remain.

And the White House delaying the release of JFK's assassination records, citing national security concerns. What?



KEILAR: Developing overnight, President Biden is once again refusing to assert executive privilege over more documents that former President Trump is trying to keep out of the hands of the committee that is investigating the Capitol insurrection.

Trump has already filed a lawsuit to stop the National Archives from turning over documents. And unless a court intervenes, the National Archives will begin releasing documents November 12.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

It's so interesting that, you know, given another -- maybe not surprising, that given another whack, the Biden administration says, Yes, no, we're still not releasing these, but this is still an extraordinary move, because there's not a lot of precedent for it.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There isn't. And we're entering a gray area, right?

One of the reasons that folks around Trump say that they're proceeding with this suit, I mean, the obviously is that Donald Trump sues, right? So that's not surprising.

But there is not a ton of case law on this. There is not a ton of precedent on this and what happens to the -- the, quote unquote, rights of a former president. So their argument is, we are preserving rights for a future president.

However, because of the way in which they're doing this, because of the subject matter in which they're doing this, it's going to raise all kinds of questions about what they don't want people seeing.

And the fact that the Biden White House is saying, We're not -- we're not, you know, running cover on this, has been extraordinary, just in terms of watching one president deal with another. But it speaks to how the Biden White House has seen January 6th and how they have talked about it all along.

BERMAN: We don't know what's going to happen. We really don't.


BERMAN: This is -- this is a gray area, as you say. Are the Trump people -- what are their contingency plans for if the courts don't intervene? Are there any?

HABERMAN: No. I mean, the contingency plans are they're going to have to give up the documents. I think -- I don't think that they plan on, as far as I know, defying a court order.

And again, remember, some of what we're talking about is the National Archives, right? So I don't believe the National Archives is going to cede to what the former president and his folks are asking.


Then there's the separate question of things that are being asked to be turned over voluntarily. And there is some cooperation.

Look, there's a lot of focus on Steve Bannon, who is defying the subpoena. You know, there are -- there are people who believe that Steve Bannon is enjoying every minute of this. I think that will depend on whether there actually is an effort to charge him criminally. And we'll see if he enjoys it after that.

But he has made clear he's not cooperating.

There is some level of cooperation from some of the other aides, and I do think that that's important to note. But whether there is going to be fuller, whether there is going to be an issue on what they're coming up with, I think that's just going to depend on what leads the committee is coming up with and the material they get.

KEILAR: Trump is sort of exploiting a misconception about executive privilege, which is that anything you say to anyone as president, you know, has to remain secret. That's not the case. This isn't supposed to protect wrongdoing, right?

HABERMAN: No, it's not. In the same way that, you know, lawyers are not supposed to flout (ph) the court, right? This is not supposed to be something that allows you to have cover of darkness.

But, you know, former President Trump would not be the first president who has tried to use a rather expansive view of executive privilege, depending on what was happening.

I don't think we've ever seen it quite this expansive. And certainly, we have never seen it try to be extended to somebody who is not serving in government, which is what he has tried doing with Steve Bannon. BERMAN: Right. Extends to someone who isn't serving in government,

with conversations he had with other people who weren't serving in government.

HABERMAN: That's right. That's right.

BERMAN: That's an extraordinary claim right there. Maggie --

HABERMAN: It's an extraordinary claim but, again, it's being tested in the courts.


HABERMAN: We don't know where it's going to come out. I just think it's really important.

Again, they may get ruled against, and there are a lot of lawyers who think that that is the way it will go, but who knows with a court?

BERMAN: The Biden administration is appointing the Republican secretary of state of Washington to an important cybersecurity position inside DHS. A Republican appointee on election security matters in DHS. How do you read this?

HABERMAN: I read this as the Biden administration trying to do a couple of things here.

No. 1, this is an incredibly important position that they're filling right here. This is one that, in the last election, was filled by somebody who was very vocal that this was a safe and secure election. I believe said it was the most secure election in U.S. history.

So I think what the Biden folks are trying to do is recognize that there are going to be people that they can never reach, to try to blunt these false claims from the former president and his supporters about widespread election fraud.

But they are going to a Republican, and they're going to a Republican who was in charge of election systems to try to just do the best they can to send a message that this isn't partisan.

I think one of the things that has become very frustrating for this White House has been how basic facts set, like how an election was run, has become now a partisan football.

KEILAR: Let's check out something that we saw on the House floor, which is a Republican member of Congress wearing a mask that says, "Let's go, Brandon." This is South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan.

And for the uninitiated, this stems from a crowd at a NASCAR race yelling, "'F' Joe Biden," but it was during the speech of the winner, Brandon Brown. And a commentator thought that the crowd was saying, "Let's go, Brandon."

So this is really just a substitute for "'F' Joe Biden." And you have a member of the House wearing this on the floor. HABERMAN: I think it's a natural evolution from where we've been going

over most of this past year, which has been basically, you know, whatever comity the Biden folks hoped was going to be there in Congress, you know, hoping that the fever, quote, unquote, as they put it, was going to break after Trump was not going to break. That Trump has these die-hard supporters, and there are people who, frankly, are not in Congress at this point to legislate.

They're in Congress to troll. And they're in Congress to get attention, and they're in Congress to, you know, basically attack and not to do something that involves working with other lawmakers. And that's what you see.

I mean, this is not -- there's nothing serious about this. This is literally done so that he will get attention. And it's working. It's just that it involves being on the House floor, which once upon a time was supposed to be something more of a respected space, a space that was treated differently. And as we saw on January 6th, there are plenty of people who don't see it this way.

BERMAN: This is a single entendre, by the way. You explained it very well, what "Let's go, Brandon" means, but it's just a mask that says, "'F' Joe Biden." That's what it's doing. And that's from a U.S. congressman on the House floor.

HABERMAN: Yes. This is -- It's a huge breach of a norm that -- I don't even know how to describe this as a norm, because this is just something that I never would have even imagined somebody was going to be doing, was wearing a mask with that message.

But again, the goal is all about agitating. The goal is all about getting people upset. That's the point. I think there's that Adam Serwer column about the cruelty is the point. You know, the trolling is the point, too. And that's where we're at now. But again, as you say, we're talking about a sitting congressman.

KEILAR: And beforetimes, during the State of the Union, a South Carolina congressman yelled at Obama, and I ended up going down to South Carolina to cover it. And I just -- it strikes me, that would never happen today.


KEILAR: There is -- How many South Carolinas, how many moments could you go to? It would be a huge thing back then. It just isn't anymore.

HABERMAN: No. I mean, this has been -- These changes don't take place overnight. And the eroding of what is considered to be appropriate behavior, and the eroding of norms took place over four years of a presidency and is now continuing out of office.


And it's just an important -- what I see -- when I look at that mask, in addition to the trolling, what I see is a -- because look, I also don't want to pretend that cursing has never happened before, but it's the way in which it's being done. It's the fact that this is being done on the House floor. It's the fact that it's taking place, these chants, at events that Biden isn't even at. They're just kind of popping up. That is the big difference.

And for people who thought that was going to end after January 6th, they were very mistaken.

KEILAR: Maggie, great to see you this morning.

HABERMAN: Thank you

KEILAR: Thank you so much.

Pfizer could be getting a green light from the FDA by the end of today on its COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

BERMAN: Plus, the moment that melted the hearts of millions of football fans. Tom Brady with a 9-year-old cancer survivor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's crying. He got to meet Tom Brady.