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Criminal Investigation Underway into Deadly Crowd Surge; U.S. Reopens Borders Today to International Travelers; Dems Turn Focus to Biden Spending Bill after Infrastructure Win. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, November 8. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


Chaos, confusion, and unanswered questions about the tragedy at the Astroworld music festival in Houston. Eight people killed, dozens injured when the densely-packed crowd surged toward the stage during a performance by artist Travis Scott.

Fans were crushed against each other, some trampled on. Many begged for help over the loud music, to no avail.

An ambulance was seen trying to get through the crowd. The youngest victim just 14 years old.

Some 50,000 people were in attendance. One concertgoer told CNN it was basically a death trap.


REESE BLUDAU, ATTENDED ASTROWORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL: It was definitely chaos. And about midway through is when I really started to notice some circles forming. People giving CPR erratically. I saw a lot of distraught faces, and it was definitely a very -- a very scary time.

MADELINE ESKINS, ATTENDED ASTROWORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL: Right before I passed out, I tried to turn my head to tell my boyfriend -- I couldn't turn my head, but I tried to tell him to -- I really was going to have him tell my son that I loved him, because I honestly did not think I was going to make it out of there. I'm not trying to be dramatic. I straight-up thought I was going to die.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, a criminal investigation is underway as authorities work to determine exactly what led to the deadly crowd surge.

And rapper Travis Scott, along with Live Nation and the concert promoter, is now facing the first of what could be a wave of lawsuits.

In this video here, it is unclear what Scott saw from the stage and whether he was aware of the crowd conditions at the time.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live for us in Houston. And, Rosa, something interesting that we're learning here is that concerns about this crowd predated even the beginning of the concert.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, you're absolutely right. This is all new this morning.

New questions are surfacing about how worried Houston officials were before this concert turned deadly. "The New York Times" reporting that the Houston police chief visited Travis Scott in his trailer before his performance, because he was worried about the energy in the crowd.


FLORES (voice-over): A criminal investigation is under way in Houston, searching for reasons why the Astroworld festival turned deadly Friday night.

Those attending the concert, headlined by Travis Scott, describing how the event devolved into chaos.

VALENCIA WHITE, ATTENDED ASTROWORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL: I've never been in such chaos. Like, so unorganized and just so many people, like, slamming into me. Like, there was -- it was just -- It was really hell. It was really hell.

FLORES: At least eight people died and scores more were injured. Videos posted on social media showing the crowd of about 50,000 surging toward the stage.

This clip showing two people even trying to flag a cameraman to help stop the concert.

ESKINS: I could feel, you know, myself losing the ability to breathe. It was really hard with the amount of people around me.

FLORES Hours before the deadly surge, a crowd rushed through a VIP entry gate, breaking through barricades. Along with the trampling at the concert, Houston police saying they are looking into a report saying a security guard was pricked with a needle.

TROY FINNER, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF: He went unconscious. They administered Narcan. He was revived. And the medical staff did notice a prick that was similar to a prick that you would get if somebody is trying to inject.

FLORES: Scott indicating he was not aware of what was happening in the audience.


SCOTT: Then continuing his performance. The rapper posted a video to his Instagram page Saturday night.

SCOTT: Any time I can make out, you know, anything that's going on, you know, I -- you know, I'd stop the show and, you know, help them get the help they need.

FLORES: Some attendees telling me what unfolded at the event will be difficult to forget.

(on camera): So you've been to many concerts, you told me. Will you go to another Travis Scott concert?





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I won't go to anything. Not just -- despite -- not just Travis Scott. I'm really scared to even be around people.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And to be around a full-capacity situation.

FLORES: Meanwhile, a memorial growing outside the NRG Park honoring the eight people who died in the tragedy. Among the victims, Brianna Rodriguez, a 16-year-old high school junior who loved to dance.

Jacob Jurinek studied journalism at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He was 20 years old.

Twenty-one-year-old Franco Patino also lost his life that night. His family describing him as "loved by so many because of the loyal, loving, selfless, protective, funny and caring person he was."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will always celebrate you. You're in heaven, mijo.

FLORES: As the community mourns the lives lost, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner saying it could take investigators weeks to analyze what went wrong.


MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: We don't want to leave any detail unreviewed. We owe it to the families and everyone else to have all of the details as it relates to this incident.


FLORES: A lawsuit has been filed by a concert goer against Live Nation, Travis Scott, and the promoter, ScoreMore, alleging gross negligence, in essence, saying that this concert organized, and it was not organized in a safe manner.

CNN has reached out to the defendants and has not heard back -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Rosa. Thank you so much for the latest from Houston.

BERMAN: All right. Joining me now is CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers.

Jennifer, thank you so much for being with us.

As Rosa just noted there, there's now a civil lawsuit against Scott and the promoters of this concert. And we know there's a criminal investigation. Let's start with the criminal investigation. What's the standard here that needs to be met?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So in Texas for criminal negligence, you don't just have to violate a duty of care, but you have to substantially deviate from that duty of care, grossly deviate. So it's more than the standard for civil negligence.

So while they're doing an investigation, and of course, they'll make their decisions based on that. It's quite a high standard. It would be surprising to me if it was.

BERMAN: Travis Scott, "The New York Times" reports, was warned by the police chief, Troy Finner, that the crowd was already very energetic. The crowd was already riled up. So Scott, according to "The Times," knew this about the crowd when he stepped on that stage. How will that play in?

RODGERS: One of the keys is whether what happened was reasonably foreseeable. If you're told about a risk in advance, that makes it much more foreseeable, right? So that tends to say he might have some liability here.

The problem is, it's likely not his job to keep an eye on those sorts of things. If he saw something that was happening, he had a duty to stop the show. But the question is, you know, if it wasn't his job to keep an eye on things, then probably that duty won't rise to the level.

BERMAN: So it sounds like what he saw and what he knew while he was on stage will be key here?

RODGERS: Correct.

BERMAN: What about the people who put this concert on in terms of the civil liability, especially, especially given the age of the victims?

RODGERS: Yes. There's a lot of liability here, John. Because all you have to have for negligence to attach in a civil sense is violation of an ordinary duty of care. There's no question the concern promoters, the folks that run the venue have a duty of care to the people who are there and that they are the ones who are supposed to keep an eye on the security situation.

When things start to happen, people are falling down and getting hurt, they're the ones who needed to step in and solve that problem. There's going to be liability here, especially, as you say, big damages for young victims.

BERMAN: Now Scott, a lot of performers, when they're onstage, want the crowd to be very active. Scott in the past has been accused in the past of very much riling up the crowd and perhaps even putting them in dangerous situations. One of the things he said, I think even in this concert, was make the ground shake.

How much does that matter?

RODGERS: Well, it won't matter here if he didn't say anything that harm would be caused.

It's one thing to say let's get excited, let's dance, let's jump, let's make the ground shake, that sort of thing. But if he wasn't actively encouraging them to push forward, to push each other, to do anything that would actually tend to cause harm, then it's not going to lead to liability.

BERMAN: All right. Jennifer Rodgers, appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you very much.

RODGERS: Thanks.

KEILAR: The U.S. is reopening its borders for international travel, ending a ban that lasted for 20 months. Starting today, restrictions on travel from specific countries are over.

The U.S. will allow in foreign travelers, but they have to be vaccinated, fully vaccinated, with a few exceptions.

CNN's Pete Muntean is live a Dulles International Airport. Tell us about this. It's a big move, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a really big move, Brianna. A huge day for air travel, not only around the world but especially here at Dulles, where passengers from 33 countries will begin clearing customs through the doors behind me later on today.

The end of a 600-day-long wait for some. A cause for huge celebration, not only by individuals, in some cases separated by oceans because of these restrictions that have been in place since March of 2020.

But also cause for celebration from this entire industry, which has been missing out on billions in economic impact.

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways just did synchronized, symbolic takeoffs from London's Heathrow Airport, bound to New York's JFK. It's a huge deal to see that, because we have not seen that in a long, long time.

United Airlines says 30,000 international passengers will arrive in the U.S. today, a 50 percent increase compared to last Monday.

Delta Airlines says it has seen a 450 percent increase in international bookings. But Delta's CEO, Ed Bastian, says while this is welcome news, this will not be perfectly smooth with these new procedures. Here's what he said.


ED BASTIAN, CEO, DELTA AIRLINES: It's going to be a bit sloppy at first, I can -- I can assure you. There will be lines, unfortunately. Because people -- because it's going to be hit with an onslaught of travel all at once, I think, November 8. Just like we saw this summer, you know, in the U.S. domestic system. But we'll get -- we'll get it sorted out. But people really want to come here, and that's a great sign.



MUNTEAN: Customs agents here and at airports across the country will be checking to make sure passengers are fully vaccinated. That means their second shot at least two weeks ago.

They will be checking those records, either paper or digital, or through an app. They do not have to be in English, according to the CDC.

Also, customs agents here will be looking to see if you have a negative coronavirus test within three days of your departure, even if you are fully vaccinated.

This is only the start of a resumption of this huge economic boom for the country. Three hundred billion dollars, according to the U.S. Travel Association. But it says it may not be until 2024 that we see international travel resume back to 2019 levels -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Well, that is a ways off. Pete, thank you so much for that report.

Coming up, President Biden may have gotten a win on his infrastructure bill, but he now faces an uphill battle with his social spending package.

And the defense attorneys for the man who shot Ahmaud Arbery portraying the shooting as self-defense, saying that their client acted lawfully. Arbery's mother's emotional reaction.

BERMAN: Huge Aaron Rodgers backlash. Accused of misleading the public about his vaccination status. You won't believe who spoke out against him this weekend.




REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): I think what's most important for people to understand is that the responsible thing to do when you get a piece of legislation like this is to do a full analysis and to understand the impact on your district and the families in your district. And that's what I'm looking at, to make sure that when we vote for this and -- and give the country this win, that we deliver the way we should deliver.


KEILAR: Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer there, a moderate, saying he wants to wait for an official estimate from the Congressional Budget Office before he moves ahead with President Biden's social spending bill.

This despite the passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that garnered some bipartisan support.

Let's talk about the path ahead here with "Washington Post" political reporter Amber Phillips. She was the author of the "Five-Minute Fix" newsletter.

Amber, thank you for waking up early this morning with us. But you know, he's talking about wanting to know the cost. This CBO score is a pretty perfunctory thing. It's like this is the official quote, right?

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. This Congressional Budget Office is the closest thing Congress has as a neutral arbiter of a fiscal impact of their legislation. That's what Congress does. They create laws to spend money. So it's important to know the fiscal impact of that.

KEILAR: I think it would be odd for them to proceed without having this, right, when you look at past legislation.

PHILLIPS: Exactly. You and I were talking about Obamacare. It did not pass, a major legislation without a CBO score. And CBO scores, the reason we're talking about this so much is it can sink legislation.

You know, I looked back when Republicans were trying to repeal Obamacare in 2017. The CBO came out and said this could leave 22 million Americans uninsured, more than the current law. That bill didn't pass as a result.

KEILAR: They will really take it to the bank when they get the CBO estimate. And then the other thing here is, there's not going to be Republican help on the Build Back Better plan. There was on this infrastructure plan.

PHILLIPS: Yes. One of the reasons this infrastructure plan passed was because there were Republicans there to mitigate Democratic no votes. If this bill had just -- excuse me, this social safety net spending plan had just gone for a vote now and it got the votes it got, that the infrastructure package got, it would have sunk. The division of votes.

So Democrats mathematically are trying to pass this bigger, more complicated piece of legislation with less votes. They have three votes in the House they can lose. They lost six on Friday with this infrastructure package. And zero in the Senate.

So President Biden has said, listen, every senator right now is president, because they can essentially veto this legislation.

KEILAR: They couldn't have passed it without Republicans, which is -- you know, that's essential to note here.

Next stop here -- well, one of the next stops, assuming this gets through the House, is the Senate. And the Senate creates some major obstacles for the Build Back Better plan.

PHILLIPS: Yes. House liberals have been holding up this infrastructure package that passed Friday for months, because they wanted a guarantee from moderate senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia that they're going to at least have a structure they want to vote on. They didn't get that. And so now they lost all their leverage, arguably, for the Senate to go head and vote on this big social safety net plan.

And the Senate, in particular, is dealing with a lot of other problems. Let's say lawmakers don't pass this big, big bill, which as we talked about, they still don't have a CBO score, so they might not, in the next couple of weeks.

Suddenly it's Thanksgiving. Suddenly, it's December. And Congress has to set this aside to deal with a bunch of fiscal cliff issues. Is the government going to shut down again? Maybe. Could the debt -- excuse me, do they raise the debt ceiling so that there's not a default. And then, all of a sudden, it's the holidays, and then it's the new year, and then it's basically the midterms, in Congress speak.

KEILAR: They're really up against a wall here, time-wise. They don't have a lot of time to spare. They don't have a lot of votes to spare. Amber, thank you so much for laying out the gauntlet for us.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Brianna.


BERMAN: All right. Joining me now is contributing writer at "The Atlantic," Tom Nichols. Tom, thank you for waking up for us this morning. I know you're in California, and we were tweeting since two hours ago, so you haven't slept much.

I want to talk about the significance of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, as it will be which Joe Biden signs it. What is the potential for this to turn some things around for him?

TOM NICHOLS, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think it depends -- some of that depends on how soon people see the benefits of it.


I think, you know, the process dominated the news cycle more than the substance, which I think the White House has an opportunity to turn around by actually talking about what dominated the news cycle more dominated the news cycle more than the

substance, which I think the White House has an opportunity to turn around by actually talking about what people will see from this. And I think that was a problem, is that the -- the internal drama of the infighting over kind swamped what was actually in the bill.

But to paraphrase President Biden, it's a big deal. And it's something that two presidents before him have wanted to get. So it could turn some things around, especially if other things improve along with it, including pandemic conditions, which are going to be really uppermost -- one of the things that's going to be uppermost in people's minds.

BERMAN: Charlie Sykes writes in "The Bulwark" that he wonders if people can handle optimism anymore, that the public might have lost the capacity to process what might be good news. And my colleague, Jim Acosta, speculated over the weekend. He said, look, if this had passed under President Trump, there would have been stealth bombers flyer over the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate, and there would be Trump bridges being named in swing districts across the country. Truth to that?

NICHOLS: Yes. I mean, it's -- you know, last week was -- there was a lot of really good economic news last week. And people were acting like, you know, it was 1929 and stock brokers were falling out of windows, somehow. And it just wasn't true.

And I think, you know, this is part of the way people just get attached to a narrative. Things are bad. They're always going to be bad. You know, and they just can't -- it's very hard to let that go, in part because you don't want to jinx it. I think that's just the way the human mind works.

But also, because there's a lag between good economic news and people seeing that as an impact in their lives. But I think we are.

I mean, there is a problem that we're kind of inherently a pessimistic nation. That, you know, we get a lot of good economic news, and millions of people say, Yes, I don't know. That doesn't sound right to me. Even though their own situation is probably improving and getting better. But that's -- that's kind of a typically American thing.

And I agree, I wonder if we can really handle good news anymore without immediately thinking there's a disaster lurking behind it.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about something that just crossed the presses, crossed the wire, as it were. So I'm surprising you with this. My friend, Jonathan Karl over at ABC News has a new book coming out called "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."

And for the first time, he reports on January 20, when he was flying out of Washington, D.C., former President Trump told RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, "I'm done. Basically, I'm leaving the Republican Party. I'm starting my own party," he told the RNC chair.

Apparently, she warned of the consequences. She said we'd lose forever. Trump said he didn't care. And it was only after the RNC threatened to take control of Trump's email list, among other potential legal actions, that Trump backed down. The significance there?

NICHOLS: I was one of the people saying that the Republicans back in 2015, 2016 should have dared him to run third party, because he wasn't a Republican. And Trump kept edging toward that. And of course, you may remember, back then they made him sign a loyalty pledge and promise not to run against the party.

You know, I think that's classic Trump. If things don't go my own way, I'm going to take my toys, and I'm going to go home. I don't think he'll do it. I think the infrastructure of the party is too much under his control, and that's simply too tempting for him to hold onto.

But I think that's a classic Trump threat, that, you know, unless everybody does things my way, I'm going to go, and I'm going to go start another party and do it better; and it will be the best party anybody has ever seen.

But it would be disaster for the Republicans. And I think, you know, he should have done it in 2016. I think that would have changed history.

BERMAN: There is an extension to what's been going on over the last week and a half for the Republican Party, as they're trying to figure out how to navigate their future.

Glenn Youngkin won in Virginia by keeping Trump at arm's length, let's say. So there is a question whether or not Republicans are better off keeping Trump at arm's length in 2022. This is what Chris Christie had to say about it over the weekend.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: We can no longer talk about the past and the past elections. No matter -- no matter where you stand on that issue. No matter where you stand. It is over.


Berman: No, again, I'm not really sure Chris Christie felt brave enough to use Trump's name at great length there. But the point he was making is we've got to look forward. Your thoughts?

NICHOLS: Well, you know, John, you -- you hit something really important there. If we really were -- if the Republicans were really saying, We really are past it, they would use Trump's name.


But they won't, which shows that they aren't. The problem is that the Republican Party has become a cult of personality. It's been captured by one person.

And what you're seeing here, and I think you saw this, as well, with Nikki Haley taking a kind of veiled swipe at Trump about competence and tax returns and things like that, you have a lot of ambitious Republicans who want this guy to get off the stage and stop costing them elections.

But the problem is the party has become fused to him personally. And, you know, any Republican who says that in front of a group of loyal Republicans is -- does so at his or her own political peril.

So, you know, I'm sure that people like Christie and others want Trump to get off the stage so that other Republicans can have their moment in the sun. But, you know, it's the nature of Donald Trump to suck the oxygen out of the room. And I don't think he's going anywhere, at least for a while.

So, you know, the fact that no one dares speak the name while arguing for this tells you everything you need to know.

BERMAN: Tom Nichols, again, I appreciate you getting up with us. Don't go back to sleep. My advice, grab the espresso and power through.

NICHOLS: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. Happening today, testimony resumes in the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. What new body cam video reveals from moments after the police arrive.

KEILAR: Plus, a Kenosha police officer now explaining why he did not arrest Kyle Rittenhouse but instead ignored him after he had shot three men.