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The Situation Room
Facebook In Crisis After Damning Evidence Of Its Role In January 6th Riot; Biden Sells Agenda, Faces Critical Week At Home And Abroad; Rust Pauses Production Amid New Details Of Fatal Prop Gun Shooting; Biden White House Rejects More Executive Privilege Claims From Former President Trump; Putin's Army Of Hackers Hits U.S. With New Wave Of Cyberattacks. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 25, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST:
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, damning new evidence of Facebook's role in the January 6th insurrection revealing in thousands of pages of leaked internal documents, the company in crisis and under fire for helping to put democracy in peril.
Also tonight, the stakes keep rising for President Biden as Democrats claim to finally be closing in on a deal to advance his agenda, the president facing two potentially transformative tests this week at home and on the world stage.
And the Alec Baldwin movie, Rust, is pausing production indefinitely as new details emerge about the fatal prop gun shooting onset. Tonight, we're learning more about the crew member who handed Baldwin the gun and growing questions about who's to blame.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
We begin with Facebook's role in the January 6th insurrection, what the company knew in real-time and what it allegedly tried to hide.
CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is putting it all together for us. Donie, we heard new testimony from a Facebook whistleblower today as CNN dug into a trove of documents she leaked. Update our viewers.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This whistleblower making headlines around the world, and in the past hour, we have heard from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the first time since all of this breaking.
Here what he said. He said good faith criticism, help us get better but my view is that we are seeing a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company. We sure learned a lot about his company today. Have a look.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): We need to steal ourselves from more bad headlines in the coming days, Facebook Executive Nick Clegg wrote in an internal memo to colleagues over the weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Facebook didn't invent (ph) hate but do you think it's making hate worse?
FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: : Unquestionably, it's making hate hate worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
O'SULLIVAN: On Monday, as Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before the British parliament, a consortium of 17 U.S. news organizations, including CNN, began publishing a series of stories base on tens of thousands of pages of documents Haugen leaked from the company.
HAUGEN: I think there is a view inside the company that safety is a cost center. It's not a growth center, which I think is very short- term in thinking.
O'SULLIVAN: Facebook's response to Stop the Steal movement that fueled the insurrection was piecemeal, according to an internal analysis.
How did you guys hear about this event today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through Facebook.
O'SULLIVAN: Internally, comments from Facebook staff after the insurrection suggested the company was at least partially culpable. All due respect, but haven't we had enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without enabling violence? We've been fueling this fire for a long time and we shouldn't be surprised it's now out of control.
But Facebook's issues extend far beyond the United States. The leaked documents showed the platform being used by militias and Ethiopia, fanning the flame of sectarianism in India and weaponized in Myanmar.
HAUGEN: I have no doubt that the chat -- like the events were seen around the world, things like Myanmar and Ethiopia, those are the opening chapters. Facebook comes back and says only a tiny sliver on content on our platform is hate. Only a tiny sliver is violence, one that can't detect it very well, so I don't know if I trust those numbers. But, two, it gets hyper-concentrated in, you know, 5 percent of the population and you only need 3 percent of the population on the streets to have a revolution, and that's dangerous.
O'SULLIVAN: And the documents show how for years the company has struggled to crack down on how its platforms are used to promote human trafficking. CNN last week identifying multiple Instagram accounts reporting to offer domestic workers for sale, including photos and descriptions of women like age, height and weight. Facebook taking the accounts down only after being asked about them by CNN, confirming the accounts broke its rules.
LAWRENCE LESSIG, ADVISER TO FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN: What Frances has given us is an extraordinary archive of material that helps us see exactly what's going on and what they know is going on. And it is the biggest and most important contribution to understanding this incredibly important problem that we've ever had.
O'SULLIVAN (on camera): So, so many revelations and problems with Facebook, frankly, around the world in these leaked documents, Wolf. But here in the United States, a lot of focus, particularly, I would imagine, focus of the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is going to be on those documents about Stop the Steal, what Facebook knew about the hate groups, about the people who are involved in pushing this movement that eventually helped fuel the insurrection.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Donie O'Sullivan reporting, thank you very much.
Let's turn to the broader investigation of January 6th by the House select committee. Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paul Reid is here in The Situation Room joining me with the very latest. This is going to be a very significant week for the committee, isn't it?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is expected to be a really big week for the house select committee investigating January 6th. Lawmakers may hear from the first Trump administration official to comply with a subpoena and sit for an interview with the panel. Former Justice Department Official Jeffrey Clark is expected to appear Friday to answer questions behind closed doors.
Now, Clark is a key witness. He was a central player in Trump's months-long effort to overturn election results in key states and he was directly in contact with Trump during this critical time. But the extent of his talks with Trump and what they discussed are not yet publicly known. So, this testimony could be a big step for the committee as it attempts to determine what Trump, his advisers and some Republicans in Congress said about trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election before January 6th.
Now, this week is also the deadline for depositions from several witnesses connected to organizing the January 6th Stop the Steal rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. And over the weekend, the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, he confirmed CNN's reporting that the committee is targeting the money trail behind that rally.
Now, CNN has learned that the committee has a team whose sole purpose is to look at the financing of the event. Now, the chairman notes that people came by bus and by plane, stayed in hotels, and he says, look, somebody has to pay for that. Who?
Records reviewed by CNN show that the committee has asked for specific financial records, including any that identified funding for the rally, travel or accommodations. And they are specifically looking at whether any election law violations or financial crimes took place.
Now, the panel has been talking to an ever widening circle of witnesses, including former Trump White House Director of Communications Alyssa Farah, who has voluntarily met with the Republicans on the committee several times. And all of this comes as longtime Trump Adviser Steve Bannon, he is waiting to see if the Justice Department will prosecute him after he was referred for criminal contempt last week.
BLITZER: And we are just getting word now of this new report on the Capitol police, how they dealt with the January 6th insurrection and, apparently, there were major blunders.
REID: There were blunders. And this is one of a series of reports reviewing how the events of January 6th were handled. And in this watchdog report, they determined that the Capitol police division tasked with protecting lawmakers that they didn't have the right equipment and they lack of comprehensive plan. The report also goes on to say they would need at least 50 more agents to handle all the demands they currently have.
BLITZER: Lot's going on. This is going to be a big week, indeed. Paula, thank you very much, Paula Reid reporting for us.
Let's discuss this and more with Congressman Fred Upton. He's one of nine Republicans who broke party ranks and voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. This is his first interview since that vote. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
I also want to get your thoughts on Facebook, the role that may have played in the January 6th insurrection. But you were one of these nine Republicans who voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt. Explain that vote for us, if you will, Congressman, because I understand you actually voted against creating the select committee in the first place.
REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): Well, virtually, all the Republicans but two voted against the select committee at the end of the day, but there were 35 of us that actually voted for the bipartisan commission that John Katko helped orchestrate with Bennie Thompson way back in February, an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, subpoena power had to be shared, had to have at least one Republican and one Democrat and onboard, equal staffing, had to be done by the end of the calendar year.
That bill passed the House. I voted for it. The Senate didn't get the 60 votes to get it done. Speaker Pelosi then came back with a committee, the select committee that's there now of which there are two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger that serve on it.
But at the end of the day, last week, when we had this issue, you know, I'm a former committee chair, I'm chair of the Oversight Subcommittee as well, subpoena power is pretty important and it needs to be respected. And the only way that you're going to get sometimes the answers to those investigations are if you use either the threat of a subpoena or actually you put it into place so that you get the answers that the committee wants. No one's above the law. At the end of the day, this did pass in the House. Nine of us Republicans had voted for it, and let's move forward.
And as we see now with the Facebook news today, let's get to the bottom of this. There are a lot of good questions. They need to be resolved. And people need to fess up and tell what they knew and when they knew it.
BLITZER: Well, bottom line, Congressman, if other witnesses like say Mark Meadows or Dan Scavino or Kash Patel also end up defying their subpoenas, would you support a criminal contempt referral for them as well?
UPTON: Well, we'll see. And, actually, that's one of the arguments that was -- a number of us used to vote this last week because they, in fact, are communicating. I wouldn't say necessarily they're complying. Remember I'm not on that select committee. But they're at least negotiating. They're discussing. They're talking with the committee and the committee didn't feel like they needed to issue a criminal subpoena even though I think they were issued all on the same day, but, in fact, they're cooperating and that, to me, is a good thing.
BLITZER: What if they subpoena the former president, Donald Trump?
UPTON: We'll see where all this takes us. I think you've got to do one step at a time. Let's see what evidence comes in, what evidence they have to share with members that are not on the select committee.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what's going on with Facebook and the January 6th insurrection. The company was unprepared to deal with extremist groups using platforms to organize ahead of January 6th. How much responsibility, Congressman, does Facebook bear for the violence that occurred on that day?
UPTON: Well, I don't know that they need to share the responsibility of it. It was pretty bad. I mean, I was in this corridor multiple times on that day. I actually picked up some broken glass just a few feet from here. I was not in the chamber itself when the events that were happening. I was there earlier in the morning. But it's important that we know what they knew. Who was communicating with each other? Did they have some organization? Were they funded? And I think a lot of that, because social media is so prevalent today, it will lead to some answers that we might not have otherwise had before. So I think it's important that we get to the bottom of it, that they share the information that they have and we'll see what the select committee does with it.
BLITZER: Is Facebook, you believe, actually capable of managing all these potential, real world harms on its various platforms or has the social media giant simply become too big to deal with this?
UPTON: It is awfully big. You can't imagine someone looking through all those different accounts, but you've got to find some algorithms that are going to connect the dots and go back to January 6th and find out what people knew and what they were doing and how they used that network.
BLITZER: Because if we don't learn from the mistakes that occurred, we're bound to repeat them, as we often say.
UPTON: That's right.
BLITZER: Congressman Fred Upton, I hope you come back and visit us. Thank you so much for joining us.
UPTON: You bet. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. Just ahead, a critical week for President Biden, his ambitious agenda and his global leadership. A closer look at the very high stakes, that's next.
BLITZER: It's a start of a truly critical week for President Biden that could make or break his agenda as Democrats inch closer and closer to an agreement on his sweeping spending plan.
Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president is doing everything he can to try to sell to the America people his top legislative priorities. Tell us what's going on right now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf, but his biggest challenge right now might be selling it to lawmakers, given, of course, there are still those two centrist holdouts when it comes to the president's economic agenda. And as it stands right now at 6:17 P.M. on a Monday, there is still no agreement on a price tag for this bill or how to pay for it, Wolf, of course, after you saw the Arizona senator's opposition last week to their key plan on how to do so.
And, of course, all this comes as the president is set to leave Washington on Thursday to travel to Europe, which is creating a deadline that lawmakers are now trying to meet.
COLLINS (voice over): A decisive week for the Biden presidency.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Let's get this done. Let's move.
COLLINS: President Biden making a public sales pitch in New Jersey while still trying to convince key holdouts in Washington to get behind his social spending and climate change agenda.
BIDEN: These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits one American against another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency.
COLLINS: Biden huddled with one of those holdouts, Senator Joe Manchin, at his Delaware home Sunday. And today, Manchin expressed optimism about reaching an agreement this week.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): As far as conceptual (ph), we should, I really believe it.
COLLINS: But a number of outstanding issues remain, including on paid leave, healthcare benefits and how to pay for the plan.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have 90 percent of the bill agreed to and written. We just have some of the last decisions to be made.
COLLINS: Manchin says publicly he hasn't budged from his $1.5 trillion price tag, as Biden argues the number ultimately doesn't matter.
MANCHIN: Still 1.5, guys.
BIDEN: 3.5 trillion, 1.75 trillion, we pay for it all. It doesn't increase the deficit one single cent.
COLLINS: Manchin, who opposes key climate provisions in the deal, also has reservations about the push by Senator Bernie Sanders to expand Medicare coverage to include dental, vision, and hearing.
MANCHIN: I'm concerned about an awful lot of things, expands programs that we don't have a program for paying for properly.
COLLINS: Democrats also still finalizing how to finance the plan after Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema ruled out raising taxes on corporations and high earners, frustrating others in her party.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): She voted against the Trump tax cuts and I just don't understand why she's not willing then to raise some of the rates back to where they were before the bill she voted against was and she hasn't explained it to anyone.
COLLINS: Biden making clear he wants a deal in his hands before he leaves for Europe on Thursday to meet with world leaders and attend a global climate summit. BIDEN: It'd be very, very positive to get it done before the trip.
COLLINS: Democrats at home also counting on a deal ahead of a tight governor's race in Virginia next Tuesday.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): We got to win. The nation is watching Virginia.
COLLINS (on camera): And, Wolf, we also just got some breaking news into CNN, and that is a new move by the Biden administration to put a Republican secretary of state in charge of the new effort at the Department of Homeland Security to protect future elections here in the United States from foreign and domestic interference. That's Kim Wyman. She's from, of course, Washington State.
You might recognize her. She has been on CNN several times over the last several months and out in public pushing back on the former president's claims of election fraud which, of course, we know did not happen. It was affirmed by his own administration. She was someone who weighed in several months ago saying that that particular audit that was happening in Arizona she found unnerving given, of course, that it prompted several others like it in other states in the wake of that election, pushing back on those claims from Donald Trump, of course.
BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins, over at the White House.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, our Senior Political Analyst Kirsten Powers and our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, the president is facing a lot of deadlines right now. Is this -- this is major crunch time right now. He's got to get it done this week, right?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no, but they're hoping that the deadline that is on the calendar, the fact that the president is going abroad for a foreign trip, will help, because you've seen this time and time again. Very few things happen here in Washington without a deadline. Few things happen without that kind of time pressure and they are much further along by all accounts than they were even at the end of last week.
So, just the fact that Joe Manchin, who had been talking about taking a pause, about waiting for months and months, is now even saying that it's possible that it could happen, something could happen, at least a framework could happen by the end of this week. That's a really big deal.
BLITZER: They really want to get it done this week because there are critically important elections next week in Virginia and New Jersey if the Democrats lose those gubernatorial contests, that would be hugely embarrassing, especially looking towards the midterm elections next year.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well. I mean there's so much focus on this governor's race because we don't really have anything else to focus on. And so this is our one thing for everybody to look at and say what can this tell us about the future. So that, this one aspect that I think Democrats would like to give Terry McAuliffe a little bit of boost in that election. And then Joe Biden wants to have this done before he goes off to this climate conference.
So, I think the keyword is framework. So, it looks like they're going to get some sort of agreement on a framework and then probably be able to vote on the infrastructure bill and then finalize this over the next month.
BLITZER: Is that going to be acceptable if progressives have a framework for the comprehensive reconciliation bill, all the social programs that it supports and not a final vote on that, but meanwhile go ahead and vote on the infrastructure $1.2 trillion package? Will the progressives go along with that?
BASH: That's a really good question. It's actually the question right now. Because one of the movements afoot by Democratic leaders, particularly in the House, along with the White House, is to try to get that traditional brick and mortar infrastructure bill, which did pass in a very big bipartisan way in the Senate a long time ago.
BLITZER: 19 Republican senators including Mitch McConnell voted for it.
BASH: Including Mitch McConnell, exactly. And that has been held up by progressives using their leverage to say we're not going to vote for that until we get the social safety net bill.
My impression is that if Pramila Jayapal, who has really been leading the progressives in the House, feels confident that they do have this framework, which is the buzz word for sure that we're going to hear all week this week, that she'll likely allow it to go, but she has to feel confident enough and she has to be able to sell it to the progressives that she has been holding at bay saying you are not going to vote for anything until we get this sort of totality of what we're looking for, at least as much as we can.
BLITZER: Whether it's $1.5 trillion or $1.75 trillion, they insist they're going to have it fully paid for in various ways, but that's not a done deal by any means.
POWERS: It's not a done deal and a lot of this is being blocked by Senator Sinema because two of the key provisions that would pay for all of this are the things that she won't support. She's not going to support negotiating on prescription drugs. She doesn't want to raise taxes on the wealthy. However, she seems to maybe be open to the so- called billionaire's tax.
And so that along with more IRS enforcement are two things that could potentially fund most of this, along with a couple other things that a little wonky.
BLITZER: Kirsten, Dana, guys, thank you very, very much.
An important note to our viewers, the CNN special report, Dana explores how the big lie is becoming a bigger threat.
Stop the Vote premiers Wednesday night, 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up, new revelations about the fatal onset shooting by the Actor, Alec Baldwin. We're going to tell you what we're learning right now about a past safety issue involving a crew member who handed Baldwin the prop gun.
BLITZER: Tonight, another very disturbing red flag has emerged in connection with the fatal shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie, Rust. CNN has learned that the assistant director who handed the prop gun to Baldwin was actually fired from a previous movie after a crew member was injured in a gun incident.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is following all the new developments in the investigation.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, accusations of negligence and unprofessionalism from a crew member of the set of Rust. Alec Baldwin thought he was firing a cold gun during rehearsal. Instead it was a shot that proved fatal, a newly released affidavit shows.
Director Joel Souza told investigators Baldwin was sitting on a wooding pew cross drawing his weapon and pointing the revolver toward the camera lens when he heard what sounding like a whip and then loud pop, according to the search warrant affidavit. Souza was shot in the shoulder and Hutchins was killed. This is all raising question about on set gun safety.
STEVE WOLF, THEATRICAL FIREARMS SAFETY EXPERT: The first thing that went wrong is that they used a gun that was capable of having live ammo put in it.
ELAM: On the Rust set, there were concerns the armorer or person responsible for prop weapons was 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez. On a podcast last month, Gutierrez said she recently finished her first job as head armorer on the film titled, The Old Way, with Nicholas Cage, and that her father, an industry vet, had been teaching her about guns since she was 16.
HANNAH GUTIERREZ, ARMORER FOR RUST: I was really nervous about it at first and I almost didn't take the job because I wasn't sure if I was ready, but doing it, like, it went really smoothly.
ELAM: A crew member on the set of Rust, Serge Svetnoy, calls out the armorer's level of experience and made claims of the producer's cost cutting in a public Facebook post writing, there is no way a 24-year- old woman can be a professional with armory. To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job.
The affidavit says Baldwin was handed the weapon from a cart from the Assistant Director Dave Halls, who did not know there were live rounds in the gun. Souza told investigators that he heard Halls yelled, cold gun, on set, meaning the fire arms should have been empty.
DUTCH MERRICK, PROP MASTER FOR FILM AND TELEVISION: The ultimate arbiter of safety on a film set is the first A.D., the first assistant director, but they know that they can inspect the gun, but they can't go take the gun.
ELAM: Halls had been the subject of safety and behavior complaints during two different 2019 productions and was fired from a previous movie after a gun incident, CNN has learned. A prop maker on a 2019 film said Halls neglected to hold safety meetings or announce the presence of fire arms on set.
And the Los Angeles Times reports there were accidental prop gun discharges on the Rust set before Thursday's shooting. On October 16th, Baldwin's stunt double fired two rounds after being told the gun was cold, witnesses said. No charges have been filed, but as a producer on the film, Baldwin may have some civil liability.
WOLF: There are two views on that. One would be that 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.
ELAM (on camera): It's worth noting that neither Gutierrez or Halls has responded to CNN's request for comment about what we are hearing here now. It's also worth noting that the production company behind Rust has sent a letter to crew members saying that they are conducting their own investigation of safety protocols while they were also cooperating with law enforcement investigations going on here.
It's also noteworthy, Wolf, that they are wrapping this production for now while the investigation continues. They are calling it a pause rather than an end at this point. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Stephanie Elam in Santa Fe, New Mexico for us. Thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us, our Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson.
I want to begin, Joey, with your reaction to the news that the assistant director on this film was actually fired from a previous movie after a crew member was injured by a gun incident. What legal issues potentially does that raise?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's very troubling, Wolf, to say the least because now what you have the production company being on notice. You're on notice to the extent that you know of a past issue involving this person, which involved something that is very negligent, and so you have a duty or responsibility in keeping people safe to assess that, to determine what job they're going to hold with your production company and should it be the very job that they were just fired for this purpose, and also, what, if any, training did you give them to acclimate them to this new environment.
And so, yes, when you learn about the past history here, it raises serious questions as to what this production company was doing and whether they were vetting or doing their due diligence with regard to the people that were surrounding this production to make it as safe as it could potentially be.
BLITZER: And beyond that, Joey, according to multiple reports, there were at least two accidental gun discharges on the set in the days leading up to the shooting.
Does this look like a pattern?
JACKSON: Well, it certainly would in the event that you have that. I just spoke to the issue, Wolf, of notice, right, in the event that you have that. I just spoke to the issue, Wolf, of notice, right? In the event that you have these discharges, which are occurring, then certainly you have to take the appropriate steps and measures to ensure that everyone is safe.
Does that require now that you have internal protocols? Yes. Do those internal protocols lead to acting reasonably and responsibly to keep everyone safe, actors, producers, anyone around the set? Yes. Were you doing that? I don't know. And that's the issue, apparently not.
BLITZER: Obviously, the shooting was accidental, but Alec Baldwin was also a producer, beyond being actor, a producer on this film. Could he potentially face liability?
JACKSON: I think the liability could be there for him from a civil context. It's important having this discussion to single out civil versus criminal. When you look at civil, you're looking at negligence, Wolf, right? Were you careless? Did that carelessness rise to the level of not acting reasonably, responsibly to keep everyone safe?
I think civil exposure, you can argue, is absolutely there from the items we just talked about, hiring someone who had this background, in addition to having discharges that occurred. Certainly, you have to take responsibility.
From a criminal perspective, I don't see that because it raises the specter higher and you need a lot more for criminality.
BLITZER: What a sad, sad story indeed. Joey Jackson, thanks very much for joining us.
BLITZER: Just ahead, parents may soon be facing a choice about vaccinating their young children. Does it matter which COVID shot they get?
BLITZER: The first COVID-19 vaccinations for young children here in United States are expected to be authorized soon. FDA advisers are preparing to review Pfizer's data tomorrow and Moderna just revealed that its vaccine produces a robust immune response in kids ages 6 to 11.
Let's discuss with the former Acting Director of the CDC, Dr. Richard Besser. Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us.
With Pfizer on the verge on vaccinating the young kids and Moderna releasing promising data on kids six to 11, there soon could be two vaccines available for younger kids. Will parents be able to choose between them and if so, should they choose one over the other?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, you know, it's exciting. I'm a general pediatrician and having safe and effective vaccines for children will be wonderful. It's going to be important that they're distributed in ways that all children have access to them and I've been pleased with the plans that have been laid out.
There may very well be choice, however, only the Pfizer vaccine has been submitted to the FDA for consideration for authorization. So my thinking is that if the FDA views it favorably, and the CDC views it favorably, the Pfizer vaccine will be available much before the Moderna vaccine, but there may be a time where there's two and in that case, you'll have the opportunity to talk to your child's doctor about which way to go.
BLITZER: Why does Moderna's data only pertain to kids 6 to 11. Pfizer's data pertains to kids 5 to 11. What's going on?
BESSER: Yes, it's simply that the companies took a different approach to their vaccine trials. Both companies are also in the process of studying the vaccines in even younger children. But they've broken them down in different ways. Just like we saw with the adult vaccines, one was available for people as young as 6 and the other only at age 18. It's just a matter of the approach they took.
BLITZER: All right, we'll watch it together with you. Dr. Besser, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up, will Democrats finally unite behind President Biden's sweeping plan? This could be the week we find out and talk about what's at stake with a key moderate Democrat. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: This could be a make-or-break week for President Biden's plan to overhaul the U.S. social safety net have huge amount of money into the country's infrastructure.
Let's discuss that and more with Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. He's the co-chair of the Problem Solver's Caucus.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Hi, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, the last time we spoke on September 30th, you told me and I'm quoting you know, you said you were 1,000 percent certain that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would pass that night.
How sure are you that Democrats are going to have a deal this week?
GOTTHEIMER: Well, I won't use that stat again, but based on what I knew then and what leadership was saying, I felt very optimistic about it. And frankly, what our leadership is saying this week is I'm continuing to be optimistic that we're going to bring that infrastructure bill, that bipartisan that passed at the beginning of August out of the Senate with 69 senators finally get us to the floor here so we can get a vote and get the shovels in the ground and 2 million people a year to work.
I was with the president this morning, Wolf, as you know, in northern New Jersey, right -- feet from where the gateway tunnel will get built as the train tunnel between New York and New Jersey and it just reiterated, reinforced, the importance of getting this bill passed.
BLITZER: The latest price tag for the social spending bill, not the traditional infrastructure bill, the social spending bill is hovering around $1.75 trillion but Senator Joe Manchin says he's sticking with his offer of $1.5 trillion.
Would you like them to see him -- would like to have him to get closer? You think there's a chance the president will get closer to Manchin's price tag?
GOTTHEIMER: We're very close. I mean, literally back and forth now. Just a few yards from the finish line on the reconciliation package, the social infrastructure package, which, as you know, Wolf, has things for Jersey like reinstating the state local tax reduction and investing in child care and universal pre-K, many important things that I believe are critical to the country.
We'll get it done. You know, we've been going back and forth now for months on this. And I think everyone agrees that we've got to get these things voted on. We got to get them done now. Both bills are critically important. There's no reason we should wait any more on the physical
infrastructure bill given that it invests in climate resiliency and making sure we get roads, bridges, tunnels, fixed, obviously things like getting lead out of the drinking water.
There's so much in there that I think every member of Congress recognizes we've got to make progress. But the other bill is also so important. So, you're feeling the momentum here.
I'll tell you, I'm hearing from our leadership, that, you know, votes could be any day now. So I'm hoping that's what happens.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens.
Congressman Gottheimer, I know you really want this passed. We'll see what happened. Thanks so much for joining us.
GOTTHEIMER: It's great to see you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
We're getting some breaking news out of the White House right now. I want to go back to our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, what are you learning?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDDENT: Yeah, Wolf, we have just gotten a letter CNN has obtained from the White House counsel, of course, the top attorney here at the White House to the National Archives informing them, once again, that they are rejecting a claim, attempted claim by the former president of executive privilege over some documents that the committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol would like to get their hands on.
Of course, this is the second time this has happened where the White House has said they are not going to assert privilege, that the former president would like to assert privilege over some documents that the January 6th committee is trying to look at. These are documents, of course, they say are related to what happened inside the West Wing on that day. And that's why they like to get a hold of them.
But the Biden White House says they are not going to assert privilege over this, and they have said it's because the extraordinary events that happened that day is the reason why they are not going do assert privilege over these documents but they have said every time the former president has said here is a certain subset of documents that I'd like to assert privilege over, they would review those every time.
And in a new letter from Dana Remus, the White House counsel, to the National Archives, she says she has reviewed these documents, including reviewing then with President Biden and also had consultations with the office of legal counsel, that's at the Department of Justice, and they have decided, Wolf, not to assert privilege over these documents.
Of course, this is likely to only add to the legal battle we know the former president is undertaking right now after he filed a lawsuit against the January 6th committee and against the national archives trying to keep these documents out of their hands. One big question, Wolf, we still have of course is what is actually in these documents and why the former president doesn't want the January 6th committee to see or get their hands on them.
He has said, of course, executive privilege is the reason he would like that. Of course, this White House doesn't degree with that. They said they looked at these documents. They don't believe that there's a verifiable claim there, and so, they said that they're going to assert that privilege.
That doesn't mean necessarily the January 6th committee is getting these documents. They have got to see how this plays out in the court battle, of course, but they have said if there is not any court order intervening in this, that they believe the National Archives should turn them over to the committee, Wolf, within 30 days.
BLITZER: A legal battle I suspect is going to happen. We'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Kaitlan Collins, breaking this story for us.
Coming up, Vladimir Putin's army of hackers now challenging President Biden's red line with a new wave of cyberattacks targeting the United States.
BLITZER: There is growing concern tonight about a new wave of attacks by Russian hackers targeting U.S. institutions.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
So, Brian, it's -- everybody seems to believe these attacks couldn't be happening without Vladimir Putin's blessing.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very, very likely they are happening with his blessing, Wolf, because Microsoft says the U.S. government has identified the hackers as being part of Russia's foreign intelligence service.
Tonight, we have new information on the breach and the targets.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, new reports that Vladimir Putin's army of hackers is, again, targeting America. Microsoft announcing that the same hackers behind the massive SolarWinds attack last year are at it, again. Microsoft says the U.S. government has identified the perpetrators as being from Russia's top-foreign intelligence service, the SVR. This time, Microsoft says they breached as many as 14 IT providers, seeking access to their cloud customers, government, think tanks and other companies.
ANTHONY FERRANTE, FORMER FBI CYBER COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT: Maybe it's information they can operationalize, and use for blackmail or exploitation. Maybe, it's information that could give them a competitive edge in -- in economic negotiations or in research and development.
TODD: It's not clear how successful this latest attack has been but David Sanger of the "New York Times," which first reported the story, says it presents a new level of threat from Russian hackers.
DAVID SANGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: What the Russians have consistently tried to do with the SolarWinds attack back at the end of last year, and with this one, is to get into the supply chain, the infrastructure that supports all these systems. Rather than try to break into your account and my account and everybody else's. Rather, get into some system that will allow them to do it en masse.
TODD: Earlier this year, the White House blamed that same Russian spy agency for the SolarWinds attack, which breached thousands of users and sought to alter software used by the U.S. government and large companies.
At a summit in June, President Biden warned Putin to stop.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn't know exactly what it is but it's significant.
And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond, cyberly. He knows, in the cyber way.
TODD: But since then, despite more U.S. sanctions and expulsions this year and another Biden warning to Putin by phone in July, not only has there been this latest hack, but also more election misinformation efforts.
BIDEN: Look what Russia is doing, already, about the 2022 elections and misinformation. It's a pure violation of our sovereignty.
TODD: Putin keeps crossing Biden's red lines on cyberattacks, and is flexing his muscle ahead of this week's G20 summit in Rome, even though he won't be there in person.
PROF. KEITH DARDEN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Putin's an intelligence officer. He -- he was in the agency that is currently being accused of having infiltrated our networks. I don't think we are ever going to persuade Vladimir Putin to stop engaging in intelligence gathering. He's been doing it since he was a teenager.
TODD (on camera): The Kremlin has consistently denied any involvement in these cyberattacks. As for any possible U.S. response this time, U.S. officials have not publicly discussed retaliation and analysts say they likely wouldn't discuss it, but cybersecurity experts say American cyber warriors almost certainly are going to be targeting the Russians in response to this one -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Significant development.
Brian Todd reporting, thank you very, very much.
And to our viewers, thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.