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Democrats Expected To Drop Paid Leave In Desperate Bid For Agenda Deal; 1/6 Committee To Subpoena Lawyer Who Pushed Pence To Overturn Election; Assistant Director Admits Failure To Fully Check Baldwin's Gun; Charlottesville Civil Trial Will Explore Where Free Speech Becomes Conspiracy To Commit Violence; Biden Heading Overseas Amid Tension With Key U.S. Allies. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage now continues with Wolf Blitzer who is right next door in the place I'd like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, divided Democrats appear ready to scrap a cornerstone of the Biden agenda, dropping paid leave as part of their desperate scramble to reach a deal in the coming hours before the president heads overseas. We're following the 11th hour wrangling, the chaos and the uncertainty.

Also tonight, a new subpoena is in the works for a key January 6th witness, the Trump lawyer who tried to convince Vice President Pence he could overturn the election. This as President Trump has found a surprising new platform to spread the big lie.

And a chilling admission in the fatal movie set shooting. The assistant director telling authorities that he failed to fully check Alec Baldwin's gun before he handed it to the actor. How and why was it loaded with live ammunition?

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 the breaking news on the latest Hail Mary by the Democrats in their frantic and so far failed efforts to reach a deal to advance the president's agenda.

Let's go right to our White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz. Arlette, there's a real sense of urgency by the White House to reach a deal before the president departs for overseas tomorrow morning. But tonight, we're learning about another major concession to the president's spending package. Give us all the late-breaking developments.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a very big deal. Paid family and medical leave was a key part of President Biden's economic agenda and now appears likely that it will not be included in the plan. The Democrats had originally hoped for 12 weeks of paid family leave, but then last week in our own CNN town hall, President Biden said that had been whittled down to four weeks and now sources have said it is likely out of the plan completely, and what appears to be a concession to Senator Joe Manchin who had expressed some concerns about that proposal.

Now, this comes as Democrats are scrambling to put together and hammer out the final details of this plan. And President Biden and his top negotiators here at the White House have really zeroed in on those two key holdout senators, Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, meeting with both of them over the course of the past 24 hours to listen to their concerns.

But also at the same time, the White House is still talking to those progressives. Case in point, Senator Bernie Sanders was here at the White House this afternoon meeting with President Biden for a little over an hour. He said that it was a good discussion but he ultimately does not believe a deal will be reached this evening.

Now, as these details are still being negotiated, House Democratic leaders are hoping to potentially hold a vote on that bipartisan infrastructure as soon as tomorrow. But progressives are still insisting that they want to see that bipartisan plan tied with a larger economic package. Take a listen.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I don't think the speaker has ever brought a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes. And right now, there are over three dozen members and that number is only increasing who feel strongly that these two bills need to move together.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the president couldn't convince you to change your mind?

JAYAPAL: I don't think so.


SAENZ: Now, even as there are still more details to be worked out, one of those involves how exactly to pay for this plan. There has been some coalescing among Democrats about that corporate minimum tax, a 15 percent tax on those companies with profits over a billion dollars but that billionaire tax for individuals still appears to be up in the air.

So many things still need to be ironed out in order to reach an agreement. Tomorrow, the House Democratic Caucus set a meeting for 9:00 A.M., which could be a key test for the fate of the president's agenda.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz at the White House for us, Arlette, thank you very much. Let's get more on all of this. Joining us now, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, our Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, a Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.

Dana, paid family leave is certainly a cornerstone of the president's overall domestic agenda. How big of a blow is this if this is out, completely out of the plan?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a huge blow. You are going to see, as the dust begins to settle and as Democrats start to kind of get their messaging across that you're going to start to hear them talk about the, yes, but there are a lot of other things that they hope will still be in this very large package that they are going to tout which is legitimate.

But the reality is that that will mask very real disappointment, that something that is wildly popular among the Democratic base and more broadly beyond the Democratic base, that every -- almost everybody on the campaign trail running for president for the Democratic nomination, running for Congress and the House and Senate say that they want it in some way, shape or form.


And it is no longer in the cornerstone of what the president was hoping would be a real change, a sea change in the way things like paid family leave are approached in America.

BLITZER: You know, Maggie, I want you to watch how passionately President Biden spoke about this issue at CNN's Town Hall just last week. Listen.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How much time off would parents get under your proposal? Because at one point you talked about 12 weeks, now there's reports it's down to maybe four weeks.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. It is down to four weeks. And the reason it's down to four weeks, they can't get 12 weeks. And -- but look. Here's the deal, guys. How many people do you know, not a joke, or maybe yourself, have had a circumstance where you are working like a devil, you're making $7 an hour, $15 an hour, $20 an hour and you have a child that's sick at home or you have a mother or father, husband or wife, son or daughter, and you need to stay home to help them? We're one of the few industrial countries in the world that does not have paid leave.


BLITZER: So, Maggie, how hard is it going to be for Democrats to accept the idea that paid family leave is being cut?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is going to be difficult, Wolf. I just want to add to what Dana was saying. This isn't just popular among the Democratic base and certainly we saw Democrats campaigning for it extensively during the presidential race but this is broadly popular, paid family leave. And we have seen this in one poll after another over the last several years.

So, this is going to be disappointing to a number of people. There will be independent voters who are also going to be disappointed to see a key cornerstone of Joe Biden's plan come out. It will be hard for Democrats to accept. It will be frustrating for them to accept. You are going to see, I think, a lot more frustration, particularly about Senator Manchin, you know, who at the moment has been very successful in trying to push back elements of this plan that he objects to despite the fact that it has more support more broadly in the Democratic caucus.

This is not going to go down easily but, again, I just was stressing this is going to be really critical, or would have been really critical to millions of families. And it is not just Democratic lawmakers who are going to be upset. It's going to be voters.

BLITZER: Yes. It seems, Lauren, like Democrats are gutting these key issues to try to simply get Senators Manchin and Sinema on board. What's the latest? What are you hearing on Capitol Hill?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, trying to attract both Senators Manchin and Sinema to support this bill has been the ball game from the beginning. And it's become clear that it's exasperated a lot of progressives who have told us as soon as today that they feel like this entire negotiation is moving to the center, to a more moderate position only because they have two members, sometimes just one member in the case of that billionaire's tax, it's senator Joe Manchin, who doesn't support it. And that is becoming infuriating.

You've heard Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Budget Committee, say multiple times today that he thinks it is crazy that the entire Democratic Senate is together on most of this proposal except for one or two members and, therefore, they continue to just have to change and water down this bill.

We should note, however, that there's really no recourse for the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, who has to hold his entire caucus together to try to get Manchin or Sinema in line. Yes, they can try to convince them. Yes, they can try behind the scenes to work these negotiations. They have been. They've been doing that at every turn. Obviously, the president has been involved here but that doesn't necessarily change the calculation of the fact that Manchin won in a state that President Trump also won. And that is a very real calculation for someone like Manchin.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, both sides of the Democratic Party, the progressives, the moderates seem to have thought the other side would compromise when this finally came down to the wire. Did they miscalculate?

BASH: I don't necessarily think so because both sides have compromised. But Lauren is exactly right, and you see her up there. She walks the halls and talks to these progressives every turn that she makes. And the progressives very much feel like they compromised a lot more than Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on a whole host of issues.

The most vivid and the most stark example is what we learned tonight, which is the paid family leave being gone. But there are lots of other things. I mean just the idea of tuition-free community college, tuition free community college. That's another thing that is like Maggie was saying on the other issue is popular, not just among Democrats but independents, and even some Republicans. That is true for that. That is gone. And so there is -- if you talk -- that is sort of the feeling on the progressive side.


If you talk to Joe Manchin, what he will say is, I went from zero on this social safety net proposal to at least $1.5 trillion. So, he feels like he came up in a tremendous way. And he's right about that. So, there has been compromise, but when you -- this is what happens when you look at it not just with numbers but with real proposals. And when you start to see them fall away as the compromise starts to gel, that's when it becomes clear, you know, who has gotten what and who has given what.

BLITZER: Maggie, how will it reflect on President Biden and the country, for that matter, if this all falls apart right before the president's high-profile international trip? He's scheduled to go to Rome tomorrow for the G20 summit and then to Scotland for the climate summit.

HABERMAN: I think actually too much is made, Wolf, of what this means for him as he goes on this foreign trip. I think that there are a number of concerns that foreign leaders have that don't relate to what's happening domestically in the U.S. But I do think that it would be helpful for this president certainly as he's trying to convey a message, and has been this whole year, of a different course for the country in the post-Donald Trump era or at least the current post- Donald Trump era despite the fact that Donald Trump has not really left the political scene, suggesting that the country wanted to go in a different direction and that everything that Biden said about sort of a, quote/unquote, fever breaking that at least some of that was true. That really hasn't proven true. And so I think to that end it is frustrating to him.

But I think more broadly, I think the concerns that he's going to face on this foreign trip are going to relate to alliances and relate to China's growing position in the world and I think that the White House is aware of that. But I don't think this helps him certainly.

BLITZER: Yes, your absolute right. And, Dana, Democrats are also struggling right now with how to combat ongoing election lies. You have a brand-new special airing later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN entitled, Stop the Vote, The Big Lie's Assault on Democracy. I want to play a portion for our viewers. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BASH: You understand how it looks from the outside in that the secretary of state, who prevented President Trump from meddling here, is now losing the power that he used to do just that.

STATE REP. DAVID RALSTON (R-GA): His relationship with the president did not factor into my approach to this bill.

BASH: Do you believe that the 2020 election here in Georgia was free and fair?

RALSTON: I believe that a lot of Georgians have concerns that there were issues with it. And I believe that we as a legislature have a duty to respond to those people that had concerns.


BASH: So you --

BLITZER: The special report, specifically that exchange you had with the Georgia house speaker.

BASH: Yes. And you notice there that he said that people who he represents and who his fellow Republican lawmakers in Georgia represent don't necessarily believe that the election was free or fair. He didn't say that he doesn't believe so. In fact, he believes, just like other Republican lawmakers in Georgia, in Texas and in Arizona, we spoke to, believe that Joe Biden is the duly elected president. But the pressure they're feeling from Republican -- from the Republican base because of the lies that the former president continues to tell, that is helping to change and shape election laws that will have a real impact in the next elections starting next year.

BLITZER: Yes. This is a really important special. Dana, thanks so much for doing it. And to our viewers, you can watch Dana's special report, Stop the Vote, The Big Lie's Assault on Democracy. It airs later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN. Guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the house committee investigating the Capitol insurrection sets its sights on a potentially key witness, the lawyer who tried to convince Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the presidential election.



BLITZER: The lawyer who helped convince former President Trump he could reverse the 2020 presidential election results could be the next target of a subpoena from lawmakers investigating the January 6th insurrection.

CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The house select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection plans to subpoena John Eastman, a conservative law professor who tried to convince former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election.

ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think he's a very pertinent witness.

REID: A committee aide tells CNN that Eastman could still avoid a subpoena if he voluntarily cooperates with the investigation.

On Tuesday, Representative Jamie Raskin said the committee wants to know more about the pressure Pence faced.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We need to determine to what extent there was an organized effort against Vice President Pence. And we believe that, you know, some of the actors' names have become known including John Eastman who laid it out in a memo.

REID: Eastman authored a two-page memo laying out what experts have called a nonsense legal theory for Republican officials to subvert the Constitution and throw out President Biden's victory when Congress convened to count Electoral College votes on January 6th.

Eastman first tried to convince Pence of the plan to kick election results back to the states during a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on January 4th. But Eastman didn't succeed. He tried again on January 6th.

JOHN EASTMAN, LAWYER FOR TRUMP IN LAWSUIT TO BLOCK ELECTION RESULTS: And all we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00, he let the legislatures of the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it.


REID: New video released Tuesday shows Eastman criticizing Pence for not following his plan.

REPORTER: Supporter to supporter, like why do you think that Mike Pence didn't do it?

EASTMAN: Well, because Mike Pence is an establishment guy at the end of the day. And all the establishment Republicans in D.C. bought into this very myopic view that Trump was destroying the Republican Party.

REID: The video was captured by a Democratic Activist Lauren Windsor who posed as a supporter of Eastman's to get him to talk.

EASTMAN: And what Trump was doing is throwing the inside the Beltway Republican Party and reviving the Republican Party in the hinterland, right, what they are consider the, you know, deplorable fly-over country.

REID: Just last week, Eastman told the National Review the strategy of having Pence reject the results was not viable and would have been crazy to pursue. SCHIFF: Mr. Eastman and his public remarks has been all over the map in terms of whether he stands by that memo or doesn't stand by that memo.


REID (on camera): CNN has reached out to Mr. Eastman but he has not responded to the video or the possibility of a subpoena. Now, the list of witnesses is growing by the day but some interviews have been postponed, as have some records requests. Wolf, it appears the committee may be paring back the number of documents they're asking for, anticipating a lengthy court battle with former President Trump over executive privilege.

BLITZER: Yes. They want to move relatively quickly as well. All right, thanks very much, Paula, I appreciated very much, Paula Reid reporting.

Let's get some more on this. Joining us now, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, the former deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, he's also the author of the book, The Threat, How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.

Andrew, John Eastman was clearly influential in the fight to try to overturn the presidential election. What could he reveal to the select committee investigators?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there are all kinds of details and facts that I would be interested as an investigator in getting from Mr. Eastman. He is someone who appeared at a number of different meetings or events that we know are instrumental to the attack that took place on January 6th.

So he's in the war room. He's in the Oval Office meeting with the president and the vice president. He shows up at the rally and delivers a speech. So, there are all kinds of very detailed facts that I'm sure the committee wants to get from Mr. Eastman. Who is he there with, what were they talking about, what sort of things they agree upon, what sort of assignments may he have been given, all sorts of things like that.

BLITZER: Preet, would Eastman have any legal grounds to fight a subpoena if the subpoena comes forward?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think so. But remember that this is an individual who is associated with the former president who, for whom is doesn't matter if there's a viable or plausible legal basis to make an argument, whether it's a privilege or anything else related to the election.

That said, I think the main basis on which Steve Bannon and others have said they don't want to testify is executive privilege, this individual John Eastman was not part of the executive branch, not in the government at the time. So I don't think that flies. I suppose he can try and would make an argument of attorney/client privilege but I think there's a powerful argument in response that that's been waived depending who else was in the room, how many other people the information and communications were disseminated to. The memo is widely disseminated. We're talking about it on television. That probably fails.

And there also happens to be -- it also happens to be the case that even if you have a lawyer who is giving some portion of his communications qualifies attorney/client privilege, there's a whole hell of a lot of other stuff, including logistics on the day, things that were said publicly, things that don't relate to legal advice at all that I think would be very illuminating and he should be compelled to be able testify about.

BLITZER: What did you make, Preet, of that video showing Eastman boasting about his role in all of this?

BHARARA: Well, I'm with Congressman Schiff on that. Eastman is all over the map. You have these people who didn't do the right thing, some of them with respect to the pandemic, some with respect to the 1/6 insurrection. And some of them are deciding to keep quiet and defend what they did. Some of them are deciding they need to distance themselves, and it sounds like Mr. Eastman is doing a little bit of both.

BLITZER: Interesting. And that video, once again, was taken by a Democratic activist who posed as a Trump supporter, if you will.

You know, Andrew, the former president actually just wrote a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal and they published it, spreading his big lie. He writes, among other things, he says this. Well, actually the election was rigged, which you unfortunately still haven't figured out. He's making it very clear his big lie isn't going away any time soon. What does that say to you?

MCCABE: I think it says that it remains a very powerful political tool for the former president.


He knows that the election wasn't stolen. He tried to steal it. He tried to do that with John Eastman and others and it didn't work. But it's still a very powerful rallying cry to the people who support him. He has managed to convince millions of Americans that that's the truth. It's incredibly sorrowful that he's gone out on that campaign and now he's gotten a number of Republican elected representatives and senators and others kind of lining up behind him. So, this is clearly the horse he's going to ride into the next series of election.

BLITZER: Andrew McCabe, Preet Bharara, guys thank you very much.

Coming up, the man who handed Alec Baldwin the gun that killed a cinematographer makes a disturbing admission to authorities. Stand by for new details from a just-released search warrant.



BLITZER: Tonight, we have new information about fatal mistakes made on the set of the movie Rust. The film's assistant director now acknowledging to authorities that he failed to fully check the gun he handed to the actor, Alec Baldwin.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in New Mexico covering the investigation.


SHERIFF ADAN MENDOZA, SANTA FE COUNTY, NEW MEXICO: The facts are clear. A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional and fired a live round killing Ms. Hutchins and injuring Mr. Souza.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, as a Santa Fe County sheriff reveals new details about what killed 42-year-old Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured Director Joel Souza --

MENDOZA: This is the firearm we believe this charge the bullet.

KAFANOV: -- a chilling admission from the man who handed Alec Baldwin that gun, assistant Director Dave Halls, who told investigators he failed to fully check it.

In a newly released search warrant, Halls told detectives, I checked the barrel for obstructions. Most of the time there's no live fire. She, Hannah, opens the hatch a spins the drum and I say cold gun on set. David advice when Hannah showed him the firearm before continuing rehearsal he could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them but didn't and couldn't recall if she spun the drum.

Hannah Gutierrez was the armorer in charge of prop weapons. According to the search warrant, Gutierrez told investigators she handed the gun to Alec Baldwin a couple of times and also handed it to Dave Halls. When asked about live ammo, she responded, no live ammo is ever kept on set.

The sheriff contradicted Gutierrez today, saying a suspected live round is what killed Hutchins and wounded Souza.

MENDOZA: We suspect that there were other live rounds that were found on the set. I won't comment further on how they got there.

I think there was some complacency on this set, and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico.

KAFANOV: The weapon used by Baldwin was the only working gun of the three seized by police from the movie set. Other items included 500 rounds of ammo.

MENDOZA: That's a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what we are suspecting live rounds. ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: How did a live round wind up in that gun? That is the question I want to know as a D.A. Who is responsible for that? Did someone fail to do their job? That's where you're going to see potential criminal negligence.

KAFANOV: A spokesperson for Rust movie productions tell CNN none of the film's productions have been contacted by the Santa Fe County D.A., adding, we will continue to fully cooperate with any and all law enforcement investigations as they work through the details of this heartbreaking tragedy.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We don't know how those live rounds got there. And I think that that will probably end up being kind of the linchpin for whether a decision is made about charges.

KAFANOV: No charges have been filed as the investigation continues.


KAFANOV (on camera): So, you heard the district attorney there. She told my colleague, Josh Campbell, that involuntary manslaughter charges could be considered in this case pending the outcome of the investigation, although involuntary manslaughter cases are simply not common in the state of New Mexico. She also said that all options are on the table at this point and no one has been ruled out just yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lucy, thank you very much, Lucy Kafanov reporting.

Let's bring in our CNN Legal Analyst, the criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson, along with CNN Contributor and Entertainment Tonight co- Host, Nischelle Turner.

Joey, this is significant new information we received. The assistant director acknowledged he didn't properly check the rounds loaded into the weapon. Could we see charges stemming from that admission?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, that's a stunning admission and the answer is, yes, we could very well see those charges. Why? The reality is that everyone has a duty and a responsibility to act reasonably, to act responsibly, to not act carelessly, particularly in circumstances such as this.

There are internal protocols, which provide for the safety of others, right? There's a chain of custody with respect to where that gun is, when it gets from one cabinet to another to an actual set. Did you look at it? Did you evaluate it? Is it your job to do so? Well, if it is your job and you failed to do that, then it rises or could rise to the level of criminality.

Last point, Wolf, and that's this. When you look at the involuntary manslaughter statute, right, we know that there's nothing here that anyone did with intent as well as we could see at this point, right? Alec Baldwin certainly thought it was a cold gun, meaning it didn't have a live round, but the statute, the law speaks to whether you act in such a grossly unreasonable and careless way as to constitute a crime. And if this isn't gross carelessness, then we have to question what actually would be.

And so, yes, this could potentially -- if the D.A. went that way, district attorney, expose him to criminal liability.

BLITZER: Nischelle, is this admission from the assistant director the first public accountability we've seen in this case?


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. You know, I think so. We've heard public apologies. We saw Alec Baldwin do that. We've seen statements by the production company. But in this -- in their search warrant, what we saw there from the assistant director, yes, this is the first time that we've heard someone say, I did this, I did not check. we should have checked and I don't know what happened. So, yes, like Joey said, that's a stunning admission.

I also think hearing from the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, saying we don't keep live ammunition on set and then authorities seizing two boxes of ammunition, 500 rounds, in which they believe there's actual live ammunition there. That's a huge contradiction. When I heard that, I said, why would anyone even say that? It's wild.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. Where is this heading, Joey?

JACKSON: I think it heads to a further investigation. I think the sheriff will evaluate whether or not, with the district attorney, it rises to the level of a crime. And if it does, that's what we'll see. Obviously we'll see internal protocols evaluated on this particular set which, of course, it's on pause indefinitely.

I think the movie industry itself will look at their protocols and I would not be at all surprised, Wolf, if around the country, you had state legislators who are looking at activity around legislation to make this safer.

So this -- it ends in a major place, but more microscopically as it relates to this particular incident, I think potential prosecution could very well be likely.

BLITZER: This is going to have a huge impact on the film industry, Nischelle, isn't it?

TURNER: You know, we've already seen some reverb from this, Wolf. We've seen it in the television space. The ABC drama, The Rookie, announced last week that they will no longer be using any sort of live, you know, guns or anything on their set. They just said, any risk is too much risk, and they just won't do it anymore. We've seen celebrities passing around a petition in order to take those things off of the set. Julianne Moore is one of the people spearheading that. So I do think that we're going to see more changes going forward in television and movies. BLITZER: I suspect you're absolutely right. Nischelle Turner, thank you. Joey Jackson, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, an expert answers parents' questions about COVID-19 vaccines for younger children as health officials are getting closer and closer to authorizing shots for 28 million kids.



BLITZER: We're awaiting the FDA's decision on whether to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for young children after it was endorsed by the agency's advisers yesterday. The CDC will weigh in next week and shots could be in kids' arms as soon as early next week.

Let's discuss with Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha, as usual, thanks for joining us.

Now that kids, what, ages 5 to 11 could start getting vaccinated as soon as next Wednesday, a week from today, parents understandably still have a lot of questions first. Some parents are concerned about the size of Pfizer's vaccine trial. There were 2,268 participants ages 5 to 11. Is that enough data to demonstrate safety?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. Good evening, Wolf. Thanks for having me here. That is very good amount of data but also we have to remember in a broader context. There have been 15 million kids ages 12 to 17 who also have gotten the vaccine. And while that's a slightly different group, their experience matters a lot as well.

And so actually we know a lot about these vaccines. They are the most tested and most carefully examined vaccines in the history of humanity. I think the 2,000 on the 5 to 11-year-olds really adds a lot to that and I think gives me confidence as a dad of a nine-year-old that these vaccines are quite safe and very effective.

BLITZER: And many adults experienced as you know experience the mild side effects after vaccination, including fever, body aches or sore arm. Do families need to be prepared for the kids 5 to 11 to experience those types of side effects as well?

JHA: Yes, they do. I mean, you know, again, we saw in the clinical trials about 20 to 30 percent of kids, so a minority, having kind of fever, malaise, headaches, things that lasted about 24 hours. So, I wouldn't give it to an 11-year-old before a big test the next day. I probably just spend it out in a day that if they have a day with their kind of miserable that they can be at home and get better and then it lasts about 24 hours and gets better.

BLITZER: If a child already had or recovered from coronavirus, should that child still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

JHA: You know, that's a very good question. What we know about people with infections is that you get very high levels of protection for about three months. Three to six months it begins to wane. So I think the child recently had an infection, it's reasonable to wait. If that infection was 9, 12 months ago, we just don't know how good that natural immunity is anymore and I would go ahead and vaccinate that child.

BLITZER: Just to be on the side of caution. Some parents are wondering if their children will still need to wear masks in schools and elsewhere once they're vaccinated. What do you think?

JHA: Yes. I see as kids get vaccinated and as vaccination numbers go up in those kids, infection numbers come down, I do see the masks coming off. You know, we're not going to have kids masked up forever. The real challenge is with masking for long periods of time. But as soon as more and more kids get vaccinated, I absolutely see the school districts are going to start pulling those masks off and I think that's pretty reasonable.

BLITZER: Do you want your nine-year-old to get vaccinated, right?

JHA: Absolutely. And I have looked at the data very carefully as a dad. And for me, it's absolutely clear, Wolf. I think my son benefits from getting the vaccine.

BLITZER: All right. Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, anti-white supremacist protesters seek justice for the violence at the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, Unite the Right rally. We have details of the trial that's about to begin.



BLITZER: Truly shocking scenes are about to be revisited in the trial seeking to hold some of the country's most notorious white supremacists accountable for the violence at their 2017 Charlottesville rally.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Charlottesville for us.

Brian, this is a civil trial, I understand, not a criminal trial.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed a civil trial, Wolf, a lawsuit seeking to make the organizers of that rally and others who took part pay a steep financial price.

Tonight, we have new information on the case and some of the key players in court.


TODD (voice-over): A horrific weekend of violence, which further exposed America's racial divisions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our town now!

TODD: Tonight, people injured at the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, are seeking justice. The jury is now chosen, setting the stage for a civil trial to begin tomorrow, targeting the organizers of the 2017 gathering for white supremacists.

The claim? That they knowingly planned for violence and should be held liable.

With its Nazi slogans, like blood and soil, a torchlight march the night before and vicious battles in the streets, the rally shocked America with its brazen racism and anti-Semitism.

MARCHERS: Jews will not replace us!

TODD: And the equivocation from then-President Trump poured fuel on the controversy, seemingly legitimizing the alt right, white supremacists, and white nationalism in America.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

TODD: Dozens were injured in street brawls. The violence culminated with a white nationalist, James Fields, plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protestors. One of them, 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer was killed.

Several others were injured. One of the nine plaintiffs is Liz Sines, who says Field's car almost hit her.

LIZ SINES, PLAINTIFF AGAINST "UNITE THE RIGHT" ORGANIZERS: I will never forget watching them attack my fellow students or the feeling of running for my life.

TODD: Another plaintiff is Natalie Romero, the lawsuit says she was hit by Fields's car, causing a skull fracture and a concussion. And Marcus Martin seen here in mid-air who said his leg was broken and he couldn't work for nine months. The lawsuit says social media posts and imagery by organizers suggested violence. Discussions in their chat rooms of bringing guns, quote, cracking skulls, even running over protestors.

AMY SPITALNICK, INTEGRITY FIRST FOR AMERICA: The lawsuit is replete with example after example after example of how these defendants and their co-conspirators intended to commit violence. Comments like: next stop Charlottesville. Final stop Auschwitz.

TODD: But the defendants who include some of America's most notorious white supremacists have several potential arguments against liability. That free speech is protected, that they are not responsible for the actions of others. And that the police failed to keep order. To win a court judgment under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, the plaintiffs have to prove there was a conspiracy to engage in racially motivated violence. PROF. MICAH SCHWARTZMAN, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: It's a

demanding standard but there is an enormous amount of evidence. The plaintiffs are going to put on quite lengthy case with lots of testimony and lots of evidence, especially from online discussions that anticipated the Unite the Right rally.


TODD (on camera): The plaintiffs say one of their goals is to bankrupt white supremacist organizations and members, even before this trial began, at least one defendant claimed that he was financially crippled.

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, alt-right leader who is representing himself in this case without a lawyer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd in Charlottesville for us.

Coming up, a closer look at what's at stake as President Biden heads overseas tomorrow morning at a truly critical moment for his domestic and international agenda.



BLITZER: President Biden is about to set off on a high-stakes international trip amid tension with some key U.S. allies and his domestic agenda right now on the brink.

Let's bring in our CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. He is already in Rome for us.

President leaving the United States tomorrow morning for Rome.

What's at stake? Set the scene for us, Nic, on the Biden visit.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, think about it this way, if you like, wolf. Earlier this year, when President Biden -- President Biden made his big first foreign policy moves to the -- to summits in the summer, the G7 and then on to -- on to Geneva and Switzerland, it was really the message, I am President Biden, I am the reset for former President Trump.

But now, his message really has to be for his allies, I'm President Biden and I'm coming with the reset for the foreign policy problems I had over the summer. I am talking here, of course, about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan which didn't please many of the allies he'll meet -- he'll meet here.

And also, the diplomatic rift he opened with France by striking a nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the U.K., replacing and removing France from a nuclear -- from a submarine deal with Australia. He will meet President Emmanuel Macron of France, so there will be a chance of sort of patch up that diplomatic rift. But remember, again, when the leaders are all -- all in a room on

Saturday, it will be Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison, and President Biden all in the room with Emmanuel macron. That -- that, too, could be awkward.

People who won't be in the room? President xi of China. President Putin of Russia, they are staying at home because of COVID problems there. So perhaps, that eases tensions a little bit.

President Biden will have a meeting with Pope Francis. They are likely to see eye to eye on a lot of issues, so that will be a good meeting likely for President Biden. They see eye to eye on climate issues, on income equality, on migration. So that's a positive for President Biden.

But he is really got to make up a lot of ground. And the one -- the one way he might have been able to do that would be to come with some strong climate commitments. But absent his big spending agreement at the moment back home, that's going to be difficult for him to sort of set a global standard leading. So this -- there's a lot to achieve here and a lot at stake, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is, Nic Robertson in Rome for us. Thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.