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U.S. Hits Debt Limit Raising Fears Of Economically Disastrous Default; Washington Post Reports, CIA Chief Secretly Briefed Zelenskyy On Russia's Next War Moves; Alec Baldwin To Be Charged In Fatal Movie Set Shooting; Singer & Songwriter David Crosby Dies At 81. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 19, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a high-stakes political standoff over raising the debt ceiling after the U.S. hits its $31 trillion limit. The threat of an economically disastrous default is now hanging over Congress, the White House and every American.
Also this hour, a new report that CIA Director William Burns made a secret trip to Ukraine to brief President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and share U.S. intelligence on Russia's next moves in the war.
And Actor and Producer Alec Baldwin now faces criminal charges in the fatal shooting of a crew member on the set of the film, Rust. Our legal experts are weighing the evidence and whether the involuntary manslaughter charges will stick.
Welcome to 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 partisan showdown over raising the debt ceiling and fears of an unprecedented default by the United States. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju explains where this critical fight stands tonight.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, Congress and the White House engaged in a risky standoff as the U.S. reaches its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit. The White House and congressional Democrats say no negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and no conditions attached. Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the opposite.
Is a clean debt ceiling off the table?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't see why you would continue the past behavior.
RAJU: Just raising the debt ceiling without any conditions, would you be open to that? MCCARTHY: Well, no, I mean -- well, we're six months away. Why wouldn't you sit down now and change this behavior that we would put ourselves on a more fiscally strong position.
RAJU: Congress likely has until June to avoid default and allow the U.S. to pay bills already incurred. That has happened 61 times since 1978 including three times under President Trump with little GOP pushback.
But to win the speakership on the 15th ballot, McCarthy cut a deal with the hard right that the House would not raise the debt ceiling without commensurate fiscal reforms, also agreeing to allow any one member to call a vote for his ouster, a dilemma that could grow real as the prospect of default nears.
Do you think you may pull to vacate the chair if he doesn't follow those concessions?
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I mean, that's what vacate is for but I don't anticipate using it. I hope I never have to.
RAJU: A first ever default could be railed the world's largest economy.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): We've seen this movie before. I've been here 12 years. I don't think it ended well for them before. I don't think it will end well for them now.
RAJU: In 2011 when the GOP House battled a Democratic president, the U.S. saw its credit rating downgraded and some cuts enacted (ph) in a deal to raise a debt limit were later reverse.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There will not be any negotiations over the debt ceiling. We will not do that. It is their constitutional duty.
RAJU: Yet swing GOP votes reject the White House's position.
REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): But what in the world are we doing here if we're not willing to have a serious conversation about spending?
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I've made a commitment that I'm not personally -- I'm just one person not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling if we don't have a plan to either cut spending or balance the budget.
RAJU: Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, who hails from a blue district, told CNN, I don't think a clean debt ceiling is in order. He said he's now trying to find a bipartisan deal. That may require Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell who's engineered ways out of a debt crisis in the past.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): In the end, I think the important thing to remember is that America must never default on its debt. It never has and never will.
RAJU (on camera): Now, there's some expectation in the Capitol that perhaps the Senate could cut a deal and essentially jam the House, and there is a process in which they could actually force a vote on the House floor without the support of Republican leadership. That would require 218 members to sign on to that effort, like the 212 Democrats at least six Republicans.
But the Republicans swing votes who might sign-on to that effort tell me, Wolf, tonight that they're not ready to go that far. They are calling for the White House to sit down and talk. And Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska told me that he wants, quote, good faith negotiations with the White House before he considers that approach and some commitment to fiscal restraint. Wolf?
BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
The showdown over the debt limit comes as Americans already are very anxious about the U.S. economy. The jitters showing on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrials were down more than 250 points at the closing bell today, investors wary about a possible recession and new interest rate hikes as well as the debt drama.
CNN Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon is joining us right now. Rahel, how could this fight over the debt impact the public and the economy?
RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the reality is it would impact all of us in one way or another. Currently, U.S. debt is considered virtually risk free. It is a safe haven investment. But suddenly if investors start to feel like, well, maybe the government can't be trusted to make its obligations to pay its debts, well, you're likely going to see its rating or the rate on interest rates for government debt go up. And that will have all sorts of impacts, Wolf, for consumer loans, anything essentially with a variable interest rate, you could see that go up if in fact we defaulted.
So, let's use mortgages as one example. So, if the average 30-year bounces about 1.5 percent, which is one of the figures floating around today, Wolf, you could see potentially an extra $130,000 added to the life of the loan. We're talking about real money here. Let's talk about the markets. You were talking about the Dow, Wolf. The average retirement account could see a loss of about $20,000, so real dollars and cents here.
And yet, Wolf it is hard to fully quantify the impact of a default here, because, as you pointed out, it has never happened before. But every economist, every strategist that I have spoken to today say that it would be devastating if in fact this would happen. We're talking about potential layoffs. We're talking about a potential credit rating threat as, Manu, was just talking about and as I said, market mayhem.
One economist, Mark Zandi, he's the Chief Economist at Moody's, he told me a little earlier, Wolf, the closer we get to not being able to pay our debts, the closer we get to a recession.
BLITZER: Very worrisome indeed. Rahel Solomon, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our CNN Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman.
Phil, let's start with you over at the White House. The White House has been very, very clear that there will be, in their words, no negotiations. So, what happens now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Settle in, I think, to some degree. And I think when you look at the two sides of things right now with the White House stands and where House Republicans stands is very clear there's going to be no near-term agreement. And to some degree, that's part of the reason why White House officials have been so unequivocal in laying down their red lines this early in the process.
They know, even thought, we're now in the midst of extraordinary measures, once again, that they have several months to work through that process, and that work is what I'm told is not going to be done publicly. Much of it will be done behind the scenes as they try and navigate some type of pathway out of this.
I think one thing that has been made clear to me repeatedly by White House officials is this isn't a negotiating tactic, because, as you noted, Wolf, they don't believe there would be negotiation. This is responsibility for lawmakers. They understand where House Republicans stand on things, but after 10, 11, 12 years of these type of negotiations, this type of effort to use this issue as leverage, they plan to hold firm on where they stand and try to put a stop to something that, as one official said earlier today, is essentially like negotiating with a gun to your head.
BLITZER: Yes. The stakes clearly are enormous.
Maggie, what do you see as viable options here for the House speaker, McCarthy? Is there a world where he tries to work with Democrats on a debt ceiling deal?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That world is not obvious right now, Wolf. I think it's possible as we get closer down the road to potentially disastrous consequences that his hand is forced. But given the concessions that he made with these Republican hardliners in his own conference in order to become speaker, it's hard to see that happening. And what we heard him say today does not suggest that.
Now, does he end up getting squeezed by the Senate in some fashion or another? That's certainly possible. The other problem for McCarthy, Wolf, is that any one member can call for a vote, a snap vote to get rid of him as the speaker. So, his hands are fairly tied. And as bad as Phil said, there have been so many of these rough negotiations over the last 12 years about the debt ceiling, I can't remember one that was like this. BLITZER: Yes, I can't either. David, politicians seem to be playing what a lot of people think is a game of chicken right now with the national debt. But if they don't figure this out and figure it out quickly, is the real loser going to be the American public?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. One party will suffer in the beginning if they're recalcitrant, refuse to sit down. I think that could be a White House. But Republicans also don't really negotiate in good faith and there's a catastrophic close down of the government, then Republicans could pay a huge price.
So, this is very dangerous for both sides and more so dangerous for the country. You know, we just never had a default. We don't know how bad it could be. But if you don't like driving your car on the side of the cliff at 75 miles an hour in the middle of the night with your lights out, you're not going to enjoy the next few months. This is going to be a tumultuous time.
BLITZER: Phil, just moments ago, President Biden spoke about the ongoing debacle over his handling of classified documents. Listen to what he said. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: As we found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place, we immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department.
We're fully cooperating in looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no there, there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He clearly was reading from a prepared statement. What do you make of that response, Phil?
MATTINGLY: Yes, obviously very careful in what he was saying and the preparation that led to that statement. But I think it underscores something you hear from senior White House officials here. They understand that last week was a very uneven week, one in which they were repeatedly surprised by the disclosure of new documents being discovered.
However, there is a sense inside the White House, and I think the president's trip to California underscores this, that they need to stick to the idea that things need to be business as usual. They need to keep working on the agenda that they've laid out. They need to keep talking about the things that they believe people care about. And what they don't think people care about generally is the classified documents issue.
Now, it is not minimizing the issue they currently face, particularly now that a special counsel is investigating. But when the president says there's no there, there, that is what you hear from White House officials as they look through a process, that they know is uncertain, they know they can't control but they feel confident will land in a place that, to some degree, vindicates them.
BLITZER: Maggie, what do you think?
HABERMAN: I think Phil is right. I mean, look, there has been frustration both inside the White House and outside the White House among Democratic allies of President Biden that this has not gone smoother. There are some things that some of their allies wish they had been saying or had addressed differently or more completely or that there had been an acknowledgement that you don't want to have classified documents turn up in a private residence.
But Phil is correct, that they don't think that this is something that the general public is focusing on. They did very well in the 2020 campaign sticking to what they wanted to talk about and focus on and not getting drag into other issues. Even if this issue is one that involves them, they have decided that they will basically wait out the questions on it, and at the end of the day, as Phil said, that they will ultimately be cleared.
BLITZER: David Gergen, how do you see it unfold?
GERGEN: Well, last night, the folks we're meeting in Davos this week, the World Economic Forum, again and again what you hear from the people there from around the world, they're looking at the United States and worrying about what they call now a polycrisis, polycrisis, that's the latest buzzword. And what it means is there are so many overlapping crises taking place at the same time.
This one with the documents, it seems to me that they have to be extremely transparent, they shouldn't hold anything back, they should be transparent about the debt, they should by trying to hustle along on the debt, they can show no complacency. I think at the very moment when Joe Biden is about to announce whether he's going to run again or not, this is a time when he wants to be seen as being effective, on top of things and open and transparent. Then on the documents it's still not clear some of what why this happened and how this happened.
BLITZER: David Gergen, thanks very much. Maggie Haberman, thanks to you and, Phil Mattingly, appreciated very, very much.
Just ahead, embattled Republican Congressman George Santos apparently caught in yet another lie, this one about his mother and where she was on 9/11.
And why prosecutors decided to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin in the shooting death of a film crew member.
BLITZER: The web of lies surrounding Congressman George Santos is growing more and more outlandish by the day. The Long Island Republican now facing very serious questions over a claim his own mother died as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
CNN's Eva McKenD has the latest.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice over): Embattled New York Republican George Santos has long claimed his mother was present at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) (voice over): She was in the south tower, and she made it out. She got caught in the ash. My mom fought cancer until her death.
MCKEND: But newly uncovered immigration records obtained by CNN appear to contradict his repeated claim. The records indicate Santos' mother, Fatima Devolder, said she was in Brazil between 1999 and 2003 and not in New York City during the terrorist attacks in 2001.
Santos has refused calls to step down from Congress even as he faces mounting legal issues and a steady stream of revelations that contradict claims he's made about his personal background. Santos is also facing accusations he promised to raise funds for lifesaving surgery for a veterans dog only to take off with the money.
RICHARD OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN CLAIMING SANTOS TOOK MONEY RAISED FOR DYING DOG: I was even gullible enough to give him my bank account routing number and my bank account number because he said he was going to directly put that money for the trip right into my account and it never happened.
MCKEND: Richard Osthoff says he was connected with Santos in 2016 who he and another veterans say setup a GoFundMe for Osthoff's dog Sapphire to raise money for treatment for the dog's tumor. But Osthoff says when he trying to access the funds, some $3,000, Santos became uncooperative.
JOHN LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: George Santos refuted the claim. This is what he told me, okay? He says I have no clue what he is talking about and the crazy part is that anyone that knows me knows that I'd go to hell and back for a dog and especially a veteran.
OSTHOFF: Well, then go to hell. He said he'd go to hell and back, well, then go to hell, George.
And nobody should have to go through that. I almost killed myself when that dog died. That's why I'm here. I don't want him to be able to do this again.
MCKEND (on camera): And new today, a group calling themselves the concerned citizens of New York 03 has issued an open letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calling on him to pressure Santos to resign. McCarthy has long suggested Santos will be treated like any other member of the House and should be afforded due process, noting he's not been charged with any crime. Santos will likely continue to face questions when lawmakers return to Washington next week.
BLITZER: Eva, thank you very, very much. You can't make this kind of stuff up.
Let's get some reaction now from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
As the lies mount, it certainly looks like top House Republicans still aren't budging on Congressman Santos. Do you see any way to get him out of Congress?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, you know, they're not going to be shamed into doing it because, of course, this is a party and a leadership still of Donald Trump who spread, you know, thousands and thousands of lies as president.
So, Santos is very emblematic of that anti-truth trend within the GOP. But because McCarthy is so dependent on every vote, including Santos, they're going to treat him like any other member. And to a sad degree, he is like many of their members, just more extreme.
Wolf, I do want to just -- you showed some images of the president in California. I want to thank the president for being in California, surveying the damage we suffered from these storms and for the emergency declarations that are going to help so many residents and business owners get through this natural disaster. We're greatly appreciative that he is here today.
BLITZER: Yes. He wants to reassure the people of California that the federal government will help.
I want to turn to the looming crisis over the debt ceiling, Congressman. As you know, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace says insisting on more debt without budget reform isn't serious. Can Democrats sustain the position of refusing to negotiate.
SCHIFF: Well, what I think is not serious is a party saying they're going to take us over the fiscal cliff to try to attack the deficit when their first act in the majority was to defund part of the IRS so that more people could -- more wealthy people could cheat on their taxes, something that's estimated to increase the deficit by $100 billion or more.
So, they're not serious about the deficit. They are serious about basically creating this fiscal crisis in order to exact cuts to social security and Medicare. That's their goal. And I think the Biden administration is exactly right to say you're not going to take the country's fiscal health hostage here. We're not going to negotiate over this. This is something that is -- the debt ceiling applies to debts that are already incurred and we pay our bills. And I think that's exactly the position they should take. BLITZER: Let me also get your thoughts on a different issues while I have you, Congressman. President Biden, I don't know if you heard it, he just spoke while out in California on the classified documents found in his home and office saying there's no there, there, and he has no regrets. He's been following his lawyers' advice. He's saying that as well. Is that the right tone when this relates to highly sensitive top secret SCI documents? I ask you the question, you're the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, I think whenever classified documents are found somewhere they shouldn't be, it's an issue. And we need to find out how the documents ended up there and is there any risk that they were exposed to people that didn't or shouldn't have had access.
The intelligence community does those kind of damage assessments, mitigation assessments. They should do so here. I think what the president is alluding to is, you know, he's very confident that in his case this was completely unintentional, and I believe that's exactly right.
And I think that when they do the investigation, they'll find that there was no intention to hold onto these documents and indeed when they were discovered, they were immediately turned over. That is, of course, a sharp distinction from what Donald Trump did with a far greater number of classified documents. There, there's every evidence that Donald Trump tried to obstruct the investigation and his lawyers may have lied to the FBI about the continued possession of those documents.
So, I understand the president -- President Biden feeling I've got nothing to hide here, this is completely inadvertent. I think he's right. At the same time we need to assess just in case any by the I.C. and take any potential mitigation that might be necessary.
BLITZER: The IC, the Intelligence Community. Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up the Biden administration just officially announced $2.5 billion in new aid to Ukraine. We're going to tell you what's in the package and what's not. That's next.
BLITZER: All right. Just into CNN, the Pentagon has just unveiled $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine. The package includes many of the items on Kyiv's wish list including Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles.
CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is joining us now. He's got more details. Oren, what are you learning?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they announced this package just a few minutes ago. And as CNN reported before this announcement, this is $2.5 billion package and that makes it the second largest package ever given to Ukraine.
Take a look at what's in this, and these capabilities are crucial. 90 Stryker combat vehicles, those are designed to move infantry quickly and armored vehicle across the battlefield, 59 Bradley fighting vehicles, the Pentagon described those as not tanks but tank killers. 53 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles or MRAPs, and then air defense systems and a tremendous amount of artillery that will be going to Ukraine.
What's not in here, tanks and long-range missiles, both of which Ukraine has requested. We'll come back to that point in just a moment. But in terms of what's in here, you can look at this list and see the U.S. preparing Ukraine for not only a potential Russian offensive in the spring but arming Ukraine for its own efforts to retake territory.
And on that front, CNN has learned that CIA Director Bill Burns was in Kyiv last week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian leadership.
CNN has learned from both U.S. and Ukrainian officials that the purpose of this visit was to make sure that the U.S. told Ukraine about how it viewed Russia's potential offensive actions coming up in the spring. The intelligence sharing that goes on a daily basis at a much higher level preparing both the U.S. and Ukraine for what lies ahead.
After this meeting last week, rather it's not the first time Bill Burns had been to Ukraine. He's traveled a couple times before in the past, this one more trip from somebody who's very trusted by Ukrainian leadership.
In terms of what to expect going forward here, tomorrow in Germany, the U.S. will host what's known as the Ukraine defense contact group, a group of 50 countries from around the world that will organize, find, ship and send in a tremendous amount of weaponry to Ukraine.
We've already seen a number of countries make their announcements. A key sticking point here is tanks, and this is what we want to focus on for just a moment here. That's because there's a growing standoff between the U.S. and other countries and Germany, its Leopard tank, that use by a number of European countries, Poland, Finland and perhaps other countries want to send. Germany has not yet given approval.
Some of the German leadership, including Olaf Scholz, have said they won't send it unless the U.S. sends its own tanks, which the U.S. has not yet given a green light for, the M1 Abrams, because of how difficulty it is to keep this running. The U.S. trying to find some sort of way to work around this, but a U.S. official tells CNN they have ever a barrel. This is an impasse, Wolf, in what will be a critical meeting of trying to arm Ukraine that we will certainly be watching tomorrow. BLITZER: We certainly will be. Oren Leibermann reporting from the Pentagon, thank you very much.
Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA.
BLITZER: What message does it send for the United States to press allies to provide tanks to Ukraine when it won't do the same?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: An unhelpful message I think at this point, Wolf. Look, there are understandable reasons for not wanting to give the M1 Abrams tank, the U.S. main battle tank. It's much heavier than the others. It's a good ten times heavier than the Leopard 2 to the German tank.
It's much more difficult to maintain. It's a jet engine basically a turbine 1,500 horse power, turbine surrounded by armor. The spare parts and all the rest of that, the diagnostics are very, very challenging.
That said if giving 14 tanks, say armored company's worth of tanks to Ukraine allows the Germans to provide Leopard 2 and as importantly to approved the transfer of Leopard 2 that other countries have Poland, Baltic States, Finland, some other in NATO that have those, then I think it's very much worth it.
And I think it's time to get on with this, frankly. This is another one of those pivotal moments in Ukraine. The battle lines have been pretty static. Russia has been making incremental gains at great cost, but they're on the offensive.
We know that Ukraine has said that they're planning an offensive for the spring. If they're going to have competent and capable combined arm capabilities, so not just tanks but also infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, motors, air defense, engineers, closer support et cetera, you've got to training for that.
Some of that is ongoing right now in our training base in Germany. Tomorrow is a hugely important gathering of the coalition that comes together of NATO and western countries to provide arms ammunition and assistance to Ukraine.
I think it would send a very important message for us to say, look, if giving, again, 14 tanks of ours to free up the Leopard 2s and other countries want to give, Poland is eager to do that, and by the way many of those will be replaced by the M1 Abrams tank, ultimately, let's get on with it.
In addition to what are reportedly going to be very important other announcement by the U.S., which of course has done an incredible job of leading the world in providing staggering quantities of arms, ammunition and material, over $24 billion just since the beginning of the invasion. And this seems to me to be a pretty modest increment in that, yes, it's a strategic decision, but we should get on with this. BLITZER: I know you have said that, General Petraeus, that Putin still clearly believes Russia can win this war. What will it take to convince Putin that that's not possible?
PETRAEUS: Well, it's going to take a comprehensive effort, Wolf. Obviously on the battlefield where he's already lost probably nine times more soldiers in 11 months than the USSR lost in nearly ten years in Afghanistan, that has to continue, tragically, terribly.
But also there have to be further efforts to tighten the financial, economic, and personal sanctions and also the export controls so that what Putin is trying to do, two days ago he announced his plans to increase the size of the Russian military by 150 or 200,000 soldiers.
There's another conscription drive expected, and he's trying to revive the military industries in Russia to provide the arms and ammunition for this expanded force as well.
Again, he's got to be convinced that this is unsustainable on both the battlefield and on the home front, and that takes a lot of activity, comprehensive approach to do that. But above all there has to be unwavering determination on the part not just of the courageous Ukrainians who have demonstrated that in states but also among the Europeans and Americans.
BLITZER: Retired General David Petraeus, thanks as usual for joining us. We appreciate it very, very much.
PETRAEUS: Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead Alec Baldwin possibly facing jail time after prosecutors reveal charges in the fatal Rust movie set shooting.
BLITZER: Tonight, we're told Alec Baldwin is feeling blindsided by the criminal charges he's now facing in connection with the fatal shooting on the set of his film, Rust. CNN's Josh Campbell has the latest.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A stunning twist to the Rust movie set tragedy. Prosecutors in New Mexico say they'll charge the film Star and Producer Alec Baldwin along with armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This was a really fast and loose set that nobody was doing their job. There were three people, that if they had done their job that day, this tragedy wouldn't have happened, and that's Dave Halls, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and Alec Baldwin.
CAMPBELL: Set in the old west, Rust was filming outside of Santa Fe. Baldwin and crew members were rehearsing a scene inside a church when a prop gun in the actor's hand discharged.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have two injuries from a movie gun shot.
CAMPBELL: Killing Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and Director Joel Souza. Assistant Director Dave Halls who handling Baldwin the gun has already pleaded guilty to negligent used of a deadly weapon. Baldwin has repeatedly claimed that he pulled back the gun's hammer as far as he could without cocking the gun and released the hammer, telling CNN and others --
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well, the trigger wasn't (INAUDIBLE) and pulled the trigger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you never pulled the trigger?
BALDWIN: No, no, I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never. That was the training that I had. You don't point a gun at me and pull the trigger.
CAMPBELL: District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies disagrees.
CARMACK-ALTWIES: Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they're going to handle that gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone. An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor
CAMPBELL: Safety Expert Steve Wolf has a theory as to why Baldwin says he didn't pull the trigger.
STEVE WOLF, MOVIE GUN SAFETY EXPERT: If your finger is on the trigger and you're not aware that you're press it and you pull the hammer back and release it, the gun will also fire. And I believe that that's why he's saying he didn't press the trigger.
CAMPBELL: Baldwin's attorney says he will fight the charges, calling the decision a miscarriage of justice and Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.
An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed calls the charges wrong and believes the armorer would be found not guilty by a jury and she did not commit manslaughter. She has been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not clear to me there's criminal liability here. Given all the circumstances, I'm not seeing that. I'm really looking forward to what they are going to prove because this is an aggressive charge and I'm not sure they have it. (END VIDEOTAPE)
CAMPBELL (on camera): And, Wolf, the surviving family of Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins has issued a fairly strong statement. I'll read part of it. They say that we want to thank the Santa Fe sheriff and district attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that the charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life.
Our independent investigation also supports that charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico no one is above the law. We support the charges, we'll fully cooperate with this prosecution and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.
As far as what happens next here, Wolf, the district attorney tells me that those charges against Alec Baldwin could be filed by the end of this month after which time he will receive summons to appear here either in person or by videoconference. Of course, we expect his legal team to put up an aggressive defense. Wolf?
BLITZER: Josh Campbell in Santa Fe for us, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us is CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller and CNN Legal Analyst, the former Federal Prosecutor, Elliot Williams.
Elliot, Alec Baldwin was both an actor and a producer on this set. How will that factor into the case against him?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Now, that's interesting, Wolf. Because an interview that Josh Campbell had had earlier today with the district attorney, she said she was sort of charging him both as an actor and producer. And that makes sense because he was on the set and fired a gun and had some oversight of the set.
The problem, though, is that he's got a decent defense on both grounds. One, as an actor, he can say that he relied on the advice he had gotten from those around him where people had told him that the firearm wasn't armed, and so that's an entirely reasonable argument that he has as an actor.
And, two, as a producer he can say that, look, there are multiple producers on this film. I didn't have sole responsibility for keeping the set safe. Why was I the only person charged when there're probably 20 people in the chain here that might have had something to do with it?
Now, look, that's not to say this isn't in some ways a reasonable charge.
This was a horrific lapse in -- in conduct by the people working on this film. But it's hard to see how you get to a conviction of Alec Baldwin, but we'll have to see there.
BLITZER: You know, John Miller, the D.A. says safety on the set was fast and loose. Are all the right people being held accountable?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think when you look at the assistant director who handed him the gun and assured him that it was safe, if you go back to the person at the center of this who's the armorer whose job it is to make sure all weapons are safe before they're handed to an actor, it appears they are.
And as Elliot said, Alec Baldwin's dual role as the actor who pulled the trigger after being reassured the gun was safe, but also as a producer. As a producer, you're kind of an owner, a manager of everything that happens on that set.
BLITZER: Let me follow up with you, John. Will investigators ever know how the live ammunition even made it on the set to begin with? And do they need to -- do they need to know that in order to have a strong case?
MILLER: Well, it would be helpful to know that. There were stories at the beginning of this about target practice going on in between scenes around the set and things like that that don't come out in the investigation that we know. Although we haven't seen the charging documents, Wolf, which will come when they actually bring the charges forward. But what they're required to show is wanton, willful, reckless behavior. And it's something that they're going to have an uphill field charging.
If you look at the way they do this in New York, the gun is checked before it gets to the set, checked before it gets to the actor and NYPD people assigned to any movie set where guns, even prop guns are being used then check them again. It doesn't look like all of those steps were followed here.
BLITZER: Yeah, that's a good point.
John Miller, Elliot Williams, guys, thank you very much.
Coming up, we're learning new details about the 6-year-old student who allegedly shot his teacher in a Virginia classroom.
BLITZER: For the first time, we're hearing from the family of a 6- year-old Virginia child accused of shooting this teacher.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, the family has released a statement. What are they saying?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the family is being surprisingly forward with very specific new information on the challenges that their son has been facing.
TODD (voice-over): New details tonight about the 6-year-old boy accused of shooting his first grade teacher in Newport News, Virginia. The boys' parents breaking their science in a statement sent by a lawyer who says he represents them. Quote, our son suffers an acute disability and was under aid care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.
The week of the shooting was the first week when we were not in class with him. We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.
JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: A statement from the parents really does show that the school was aware that this child was having some emotional issues and that there was some sort of a plan that was in place.
TODD: But they don't say specifically what the disability is or whether there were previous disciplinary issues with him at school and the attorney has not responded to CNN's questions on those points.
The parents also saying today, quote, the firearm our son accessed was secured.
MARIO LORELLO, FORMER PROSECUTOR: They could be doing this to cover themselves legally. It's whether or not they're trying to present some mitigation or explain at least some type of rationale as to how this would have occurred.
TODD: But the statement doesn't say how the boy accessed the weapon which a law enforcement source tells CNN was a Taurus model G2C like this one.
The attorney for the family said he could not comment when we asked how the weapon was secured and how the child may have gotten access to it.
Newport News Police previously told CNN the boys' mother who purchased the gun legally could possibly face charges but the investigation is still in the early stages.
LORELLO: If a parent is grossly negligent in terms of any acts or omissions and it causes harm to others, then that's potentially a charge. The other potential charge is reckless handling of a firearm. That's typically a misdemeanor.
TODD: At a school board meeting this week, a parent of other children in Newport News expressed concern about the boy.
DOUG MARMON, PARENT OF TWO STUDENTS IN NEWPORT NEWS SCHOOL DISTRICT: We need to ensure that this student never returns to Newport News public schools.
TODD: The Newport News school district did not comment on the family's statement and told CNN it could not release more information about how the child was handled in class. We have learned the teacher who was shot, Abby Zwerner, was released from the hospital earlier this week -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Happy she was released from the hospital.
Brian, thank you very, very much. Brian Todd reporting.
And we'll have more news just ahead.
BLITZER: Some sad news just in to CNN. Singer, songwriter and rock pioneer David Crosby has died at the age of 81.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is joining us live from Los Angeles right now. She's got details.
Stephanie, what are you hearing?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, founding member of two major iconic rock folk bands has passed away. David Crosby was 81 years old. We're talking about a man who was part of the Byrds and then also founded Crosby, Stills and Nash or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young depending on which way you know it.
We do have a statement in from his family. I want to go ahead and read to you part of that. It says it is with great sadness after a long illness that our beloved David Croz Crosby, has passed away. He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django. Although he is no longer here with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us. His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music.
And this was a man who was prolific in how much music he was making. Just went on twitter and he was still tweeting as recently as yesterday. Just so prolific in so many different ways of putting out music, writing songs, coming up with new tunes and so passionate about what he did.
We also have a statement in from Melissa Etheridge as well and she posted this because her two children, the biological of them was David Crosby and this is what she had to say there. I am grieving the loss of my friend and Bailey's biological father, David. He gave the gift of family. That's what he says there in part there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Our deepest condolences to the family. What a great, great talent.
Stephanie, thank you very much.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.