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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Two House Democrats File Ethics Complaint Against GOP Rep. Santos; House Oversight Chairman Requests Information On Classified Documents Found In Biden's Private Office; Police Chief: "Certainly A Possibility" Mother Could Face Charges After 6-Year-Old Son Shot Teacher. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 10, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tomorrow morning, members say, the House Republican Steering Committee will meet to select committee assignment, which means that by this time, tomorrow night, we could learn more about the deals that Kevin McCarthy made, which include key committee positions, in exchange for the support, he needed, to become Speaker.

Now, some of the agreements are already public knowledge. Some are not, not even to members.

Joining us now, with the very latest on that, is CNN Capitol Hill Reporter, Melanie Zanona.

So, what more do we know about these unknown side deals that the Speaker may have made?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, GOP leaders are not committing to releasing a public list of every concession that Kevin McCarthy made, in his quest, to become Speaker, despite the fact that they have called for a more open and transparent government.

Now, some of these concessions were explicitly spelled out, in the House rules package, which Republicans did pass, last night, with the support of every Republican, except for one.

But some of these other promises that were made were done through more of a handshake deal. And GOP leaders are insisting that there isn't an official master list, and that it wasn't some side deal. They tried to walk members through what some of those verbal agreements were, doing conference meeting, this morning.

That includes tying the debt ceiling to spending cuts, which is a hard line, for Democrats, and could tee up a fiscal showdown. And there's also a promise to put more conservative members, on key committees.

But some rank-and-file members still feel like they are in the dark. Take a listen to what Nancy Mace told our colleagues, earlier today.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): There are still some questions that I think many of us have about what side deals may or may not have been made, what promises were made, what handshakes were made.

Are there any other side deals for chairmanships and committee assignments, we won't know until the Steering process is actually over.


ZANONA: So, Republicans will meet, tomorrow morning, where they will begin to actually populate these committees, with members. After that, chairs get to elect their subcommittee chairs. So, we should start to learn more, in the coming days, about the full extent, of McCarthy's concessions.

COOPER: And, I mean, some of the concessions are already being implemented. What's been noticeable so far?

ZANONA: Well, one of the key concessions that Kevin McCarthy agreed to was to create a special committee, to investigate the quote, "Weaponization of the federal government."

So, the House did pass a resolution, to create that committee, earlier today. It was a party-line vote. And the resolution included specific language that will allow members, to look into ongoing criminal probes, including some that potentially involve former President Donald Trump.

So, the next steps, is Kevin McCarthy will get to appoint members, to that committee. And we are expecting some of the Kevin McCarthy critics to be a part of that. Democrats will get to appoint their members.

But the big picture here is that this is probably going to be the central avenue that Republicans use, to protect Donald Trump, defend Donald Trump, and go after the Biden administration.

COOPER: Right.

ZANONA: Andersen?

COOPER: Melanie Zanona, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, right now, tonight, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise was asked about giving C-SPAN cameras, greater access, to the House floor, the way they had last week, during the Speakership saga. He replied, quote, "I think that'd be great."

Earlier today, Congressman Matt Gaetz filed a measure, to do just that. And Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan says he's introducing similar legislation, calling last week coverage, which included Congressman Mike Rogers, lunging at Congressman Gaetz, quote, "Worthy of an Oscar."

More tonight, from CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican congressmembers, nearly coming to blows, in the battle, over the Speakership.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Democrats roaring, cheering, chanting, for their man, instead.


FOREMAN (voice-over): And fighting words flowing fast.

REP. KAT CAMMACK (R-FL): They want us to fight each other. That much has been made clear by the popcorn and blankets and alcohol that is coming over there.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Normally, cameras, in the chamber, are controlled by government workers, and confined to general shots, of the podiums, for congressional rules and practice.


But there are rare exceptions, and for this event, C-SPAN cameras were free to capture the political lollapalooza, with all its parenting, passive aggression, and petulance.

REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): Madam Clerk, I rise to say, "Wow!"


FOREMAN (voice-over): Caught on camera, a meeting between far-left Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and some of the most hard-right conservatives, on the GOP side.

Kevin McCarthy's supporters walking away, as a holdout, against his leadership, Florida's Matt Gaetz, held out, once again.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): And it's an intent-driven, almost exclusively, by personal ambition. And that ambition is paralyzing the House, now.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And there was new member, George Santos, so embroiled in scandal, over fabrications, in his resume, he sat alone, at times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hour to which the House arise (ph).

FOREMAN (voice-over): C-SPAN started in 1979, as a public service, provided by the cable industry.

REP. AL GORE (D-TN): The solution, for the lack of confidence, in government, Mr. Speaker, is more open government, at all levels.


FOREMAN (voice-over): After years of being limited, in what it can show, of the chamber, C-SPAN's Director of Editorial Operations says in the name of openness, it would be great, if they could provide such coverage, all the time, let people see how the sausage is made.



FOREMAN: There is some support, in Congress, for this idea. But it's hard to imagine the cameras being turned loose, permanently. After all, politics is also theater. And there were clearly some moments, we saw, that were both more tragic, and more comic, than some lawmakers might like.


FOREMAN: Anderson?

COOPER: Tom Foreman, thanks.

Now, the question, of the Congressman, often shown, by those cameras, last week, sitting alone, in the House floor, as you saw, a moment ago, New York freshman Republican, George Santos, who, told voters, and donors, a string of lies, during the campaign, about nearly every facet of his life.

Today, two Democratic members, of the New York delegation, went to the House Ethics Committee with it.

We'll speak with one of them, right after this CNN's report, from Jessica Dean.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Santos' problems piling up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the best outcome here?

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): We have to send a message that if you defraud the voters you're going to be held accountable.

DEAN (voice-over): Congressman Ritchie Torres and Dan Goldman launched their request, for a formal probe, into Santos' financial disclosure reports, on Tuesday.

This, after a campaign watchdog group, filed a complaint, against him, with the Federal Election Commission. The group accuses Santos, of illegally using campaign funds, to pay personal expenses, and of concealing the source, of more than $700,000. That complaint also alleges Santos' campaign falsified how it spent campaign funds.

Santos told reporters, today, he's "Done nothing unethical."

House GOP leadership told reporters, Tuesday, they would address Santos in private.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): This is something that's being handled entirely. Obviously, there were concerns about what we had heard. And so, we're going to have to sit down and talk to him about it.

DEAN (voice-over): All of this, as Santos faces international federal and local investigations, into his past, including a revived investigation, in Brazil, where according to documents, obtained by CNN, Santos admitted in 2010, to stealing a man's checkbook, two years prior that was in his mother's possession, and using it to purchase clothing and shoes.

BRUNO SIMOES, VICTIM OF FRAUD (through translator): I was very frustrated. Being deceived is a terrible feeling.

DEAN (voice-over): According to Brazilian authorities, this Rio shop clerk, at the time, was a victim, of Santos' fraud, losing over $1,300 U.S. dollars, when Santos forged the checks.

Bruno Simoes recounted the experience, to CNN, in an interview, last week.

SIMOES (through translator): Unlike being mugged, by someone, with a gun, who robs you, you might get angry. But being deceived, being fooled, someone acting in bad faith, to steal from you? To me, it's an even worse feeling.

DEAN (voice-over): Santos told Police at the time he was an American, with dual citizenship, and confessed he forged the signature, seen on these checks, according to the documents.

But after that confession, Police in Brazil say Santos disappeared. Unable to locate Santos, for nearly a decade, they suspended the investigation, and the statute of limitations, as a result.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My name is George Santos.

DEAN (voice-over): That is until Santos burst onto the scene, as a Congressman-elect, under scrutiny, for his lies, during the campaign. Now, Brazilian authorities say they will reinstate fraud charges, against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey Congressman-elect, do you have a second to talk?

DEAN (voice-over): The Long Island Republican maintains he has not committed any crimes, including in Brazil.

SANTOS: I'm not a criminal. I committed absolutely no crimes. I'm not a wanted criminal in any jurisdiction.

DEAN (voice-over): Jessica Dean, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Well joining us now is New York Democratic congressman, Dan Goldman, one of the two members, who filed the Ethics Committee complaint.

Congressman, appreciate you joining us.

So, with Republicans, in control of the House, and their leadership saying that Santos will be handled, internally, are you confident at all that there actually will be an ethics investigation?

REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): Well, I don't know what "Internally" means.


But the Ethics committee is required to investigate members, for potentially unethical or illegal behavior. And it's a bipartisan committee that has equal members of Republicans and Democrats, and non-partisan staff.

And I have heard, from several Republican members, including one, in New York, who went public with it, that there is support, on the Republican side, for an ethics committee investigation.

And so, I would hope that if Republicans do care about members of Congress, following the laws that we write, that they would also support an Ethics committee investigation.

COOPER: Is that something that a sitting congressman can use campaign funds, to pay for attorneys, to defend against in an -- or prepare for an ethics investigation? Do you know?

GOLDMAN: I don't actually know. But if you can use campaign funds, for attorneys, generally, I would assume that you're able to, at least use either campaign funds, or some of your member budget.

But I would expect George Santos would also want to be cooperative. If in true, he did nothing unethical, as he said, then he should turn over the documents, and the materials, related to his financial disclosures, and his campaign finances, to the Ethics committee, so they can examine them, and make a determination, whether or not he did do anything unethical. If he's right, then there shouldn't be an issue. And if he's wrong, then he shouldn't be in Congress.

COOPER: We obviously saw, during the battle, over the Speaker's gavel, just how narrow the margins are, for House Republicans. Santos' support was obviously critical, to McCarthy's victory. If McCarthy continues to need that vote, do you think Santos likely remains safe?

GOLDMAN: Well, it's very clear that the Republican leadership has not, at any point, rebuked or condemned Santos' conduct, his web of lies that has come out more and more, seemingly every day and every week. In fact, there was reporting, last month, that it was perceived to -- it was perceived to be a running joke, among Republican leadership. So, George Santos is essential to Kevin McCarthy, getting the

Speaker's gavel. He's essential to continuing their majority. And what is clear is that GOP leadership has wrapped themselves, around George Santos, a serial liar, and complete fraud, as part of who they are.

COOPER: What do you think the consequences should be, for Santos? I mean, based on what is already known, about the lies, he told, I mean, there are those who say, deny him committee assignments, or expel him from Congress. There's also who say, let the voters deal with him, at the ballot box, in two years.

GOLDMAN: Well, part of the reason that we filed this complaint, is that there are no specific ethics laws, prohibiting deception that he -- we know of, I should say. So, he lied about, his ethnicity, his religion, his education, his employment history, the list goes on and on.

But what -- we filed this complaint, with the Ethics committee, to look into his finances. And there are very specific and clear laws, governing financial disclosures, for candidates for Congress. And so, that's why we are pursuing this angle, is that his financials, financial disclosures are incredibly suspicious.

He had a windfall of several million dollars, after being in debt, and making almost no money, and he gave $700,000, of that windfall, to his own campaign. There are yellow lights, all over the place here. So, let's see what is in them, and then we'll make a determination what the proper recourse should be.

COOPER: I've heard that in the past, some members of Congress, who have been investigated, by the House Ethics Committee, have spent millions of dollars, on attorneys, trying to defend themselves. And that if they resign, basically, they can save themselves that trouble, because the investigation would stop.

Is that the case that if he was to resign, and if there was a House Ethics investigation, and he was to resign, would that investigation stop?

GOLDMAN: Generally speaking, yes. If you're not a member of Congress, my understanding is that the Ethics committee investigations would cease. Of course, the criminal investigations into him would not.

COOPER: Right. And if Republicans refuse to do anything, what then?

GOLDMAN: Well, they're going to have to embrace George Santos. And they are going to have to live with the fact that they are wrapping their arms, around a serial fraudster, who deceived the voters, in his district, by lying about just about everything possible, in order to get elected.

And if the Republican attacks on democracy, want to continue now, with attacks on free and fair elections, like what George Santos did, in his New York district, then that is who the Republican Party is going to be.

COOPER: Yes, it's incredible, he was able to do this, and get elected!

Congressman Goldman, appreciate it. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, the political fallout, on Capitol Hill, to the revelation that classified documents were discovered, at President Biden's former private office, with a federal investigation, underway, the President weighing in, for the first time, on the subject.


Also later, Brazil, their version of January 6, and what one of the rioters, just told CNN, about their attack, on the seat of government, on behalf of the losing presidential candidate.


COOPER: President Biden, weighed in, for the first time, tonight, in the discovery of classified documents, 10 of them, in a private office, used, after his time as Vice President.

Speaking, from a prepared paper statement, at the end of his visit, to Mexico, he said his lawyers, quote, "Did what they should have done," end quote, when they realized what they had, and immediately call the National Archives.

According to a source, familiar with the matter, among the classified documents, are Intelligence memos, and briefing materials, covering topics, including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom. Separately, CNN today learned that Attorney General Garland has been briefed, multiple times, on the matter.

Additionally, of course, there's the political dimension to this. Want to get some perspective, from CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, at the Capitol.

So, what more are you learning about the new Republican House Oversight Chairman's request, for information, regarding these documents?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's James Comer. He is the new Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. And he's wasting no time, in digging into this issue.

He sent out two letters, both to the White House, and the National Archives, asking for a wide range of records and communications, including the records that were retrieved, in the Biden's private office. And he wants it all by January 24th. Among the matters he's looking into, is whether or not other people have handled these records, people, their security clearance, as well as other issues.


Now, the question will be whether the Biden White House decides to cooperate. Biden, tonight, suggested that they would fully cooperate. Does that mean though they will give over everything, to the new Republican House, and whether that means, if they don't, how will they proceed then? Will that lead to a subpoena fight? Those are all questions, in the days and weeks ahead.

Now, there are other ways that the Republicans are hoping to get some more information, including in the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, who is the new Chairman of that committee, issuing a letter to the Chairwoman of the direct -- the Director of National Intelligence, I should say, asking for a damage assessment, of those records. One worrying that this could lead -- could have led to potential national security breaches, and wondering if that was simply the case.

So, you're seeing Republicans wasting no time digging into this issue. The question will be how much will the Biden administration cooperate, and if not, what happens next, Anderson?

COOPER: Is this a comparable request, to what House Democrats asked, of the National Archives, in the Mar-a-Lago documents inquiry?

RAJU: In some ways, yes, Anderson. And, in fact, there are some Democrats, right now, who are asking for the similar -- have similar questions. Senator Mark Warner, who's the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked for a briefing, himself. He wants also that briefing, about what happened with Mar-a-Lago.

But there're also Democrats that are saying that this is a completely different situation than the Mar-a-Lago case, in which Donald Trump had far more records, apparently tried to obstruct that investigation, allegedly. And also, they're in battle back-and-forth about this.

And people like Dick Durbin say, this is different. Joe Biden cooperated, apparently, turned over these documents. Though, Dick Durbin, that's Judiciary Committee's Chairman, also said that Merrick Garland, the Attorney General has handled this thoroughly and professionally.

But I should also say, Anderson, that a lot of Democrats are just simply keeping their powder dry. They don't know where this is going to go. Senate Democratic leaders and House Democratic leaders have been mostly quiet about this, just as trying to assess what comes next.

COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, appreciate it. Thanks, Manu.

RAJU: Thank you.

COOPER: Joining us now, CNN Political Commentator, and former Obama Special Adviser, Van Jones; also CNN Senior Political Correspondent, and CNN "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" Anchor, Abby Phillip.

COOPER: So, Van, what do you make of this?

I mean, obviously, there's an investigation underway. Democrats are very quick to point out the differences between what happened with the Vice President may or may not have done to what the former President has done. What do you make of it?

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm proud of Joe Biden. He -- somebody on his team made a mistake. And, as soon as he figured, it out, raised his hand, turned the stuff back over. That's what you're supposed to do.

Look, can we just be honest here? There's a bigger problem, which is the over-classification of, and under-monitoring, of documents. I mean, this is not just the first time this has happened. Your public library does a better job of keeping track of library books, than the federal government's doing, keeping track of these classified documents.

And so, sometimes people make mistakes. The key is, when you make a mistake, do you own up to it, and try to get it right? Or did you hide it, and do all the stuff that Trump has been doing?

So, Joe's team made a mistake. He admitted to it. Ordinarily, this is the type of thing. It's not a crime. It's a mistake, unless with a criminal intent. You see no criminal intent, here.

COOPER: Abby, as we heard him, President Biden, said, late today, he takes classified documents seriously. He was surprised to find out that there were any government documents, in the office.

Is that going to be enough of an explanation? I mean, certainly not for Republican members of Congress.


COOPER: Should it be -- should it be enough?

PHILLIP: It's certainly not going to be enough of an explanation, for Republicans. I mean, I think that they see this, as a political gift, for them, as a way of inoculating themselves, against -- the allegations against former President Trump, who, by the way, had hundreds of documents, in his possession. And the issue really there was that he wouldn't give them back, when the government asked for them back. That's a key part of all of this.

Now, one of the challenges for Biden is that he, in commenting on the Trump case, seemed to sort of say, "I don't understand how in any way these documents can ever end up outside of where they ought to be."

And I do think though, there is an argument to be made, that that at times, things can get mixed up, and people, as Van pointed out, can make mistakes. But there's a process, for dealing with that, which is to call the Archives, give those documents back, as promptly as possible.

And I think Biden is going to have to answer, for those comments that he made, in the past. It's not going to be enough for him to say, "Well, I didn't know that they were there." It is his responsibility, and that of his staff, to go through his belongings, and give everything back, when he leaves office. And six years later, doing that is not just a mistake, but it's something that I think, he knows should not have happened.

COOPER: And Van, I mean, look, Democrats are very quick to defend the President, and again, point out these differences.


But shouldn't -- I mean, if they were concerned about any classified documents, being at Mar-a-Lago, shouldn't they also be concerned about why are there classified documents in, according to Jamie Gangel's reporting, file marked "Personal," in the then-Vice President's office?

JONES: Yes, they should be. And that's why there's a law against stuff like that. And his team screwed up. And I think that we will be in situation, where we'll have more information, going forward. But I think the most important thing, we can say, tonight, is that perfection is not a job requirement, for the President, the Vice President, or anybody else, who works in Executive branch.

People do make mistakes. The question is do you cure those mistakes? You get yourself into a bunch of trouble. When you have the chance to cure the mistake, and you don't, it looks like you're doing it on purpose. That's where the criminal intent shows up. That's why people are more concerned about what Trump did than what Biden did.

Listen, if it turns out that Biden's hiding a bunch of stuff, and for some reason, he's not -- stops cooperating? We should treat him the same way. But we should not treat Biden, inappropriately harshly, to justify treating Trump appropriately, harshly.

COOPER: Abby, obviously, House Republicans, who are looking into, what they say, is, the weaponization, or concerned about the weaponization, of the federal government, against conservatives, and particularly Justice Department or the FBI, this certainly plays into that.

These documents were discovered the week before the midterms, last fall. There have been questions by Republicans, in the House, raised about, why was this information held on to, for so long? Why does it only leak out now?

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, I think that by that same token, you could argue that the Justice Department could have made announcements that could have been seen as politically damaging, to Trump, prior to the election. And they didn't do that either.

The Justice Department has a long-standing policy of trying to avoid making moves, before an election that could have an impact on that election. Remember, after the last midterm election, they announced a Special Counsel, to look into, to take over the Trump case. They could have done that before the election, and they didn't.

And I think that this cuts both ways. So, you can attack the Justice Department for waiting. And certainly, there are some questions about why we're learning about this now, in January, when these events happened in November. But I don't think that that it's much of a surprise to me, or really anyone else, that they would not have wanted to make any big moves, before a major midterm election.

And I should note that one of these individuals, on the House side, the Oversight Chairman, James Comer, is now looking into this issue, when it comes to Biden. But just a few weeks ago, he told CNN that "It wasn't a priority," that's a quote, it's not a priority, for him, to look into the Trump documents case. It's another case of a double standard, here, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Abby Phillip, Van Jones, appreciate it. Thank you.

A 6-year-old shoots his teacher, Police aren't ruling out charges, against his mother. New details, in the investigation, and the teacher's condition, coming up.



COOPER: Adding to the list of horrific school shootings, in America, Police say a 6-year-old boy, pulled the trigger, at Richneck Elementary School, in Newport News, Virginia, on Friday. His teacher was shot, remains hospitalized. Among the many questions are how this could happen, and who's to blame.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mother of a first grader could face charges, Police tell CNN, in the case of the teacher, shot, in the chest, Friday.

CHIEF STEVE DREW, NEWPORT NEWS, VA POLICE: I think that that is certainly a possibility.

TODD (voice-over): It was the mother's gun, the 6-year-old intentionally shot the teacher with, Police tell CNN.

DREW: He put it in his backpack, and was driven to school by his mother that -- later, that morning. And then, at some point, it came out of his backpack, and was concealed on him.

TODD (voice-over): Failure to secure a gun, from a child, is only a misdemeanor, in Virginia, although, in other cases, more serious charges have been brought.

After a fatal school shooting in 2000, a 6-year-old's uncle served two years, for involuntary manslaughter, after the child found his loaded gun, in a shoebox, on the bed.

ARTHUR BUSCH, PROSECUTED UNCLE FOR DIFFERENT SHOOTING BY A 6-YEAR-OLD IN 2000: If you leave a gun laying around, it's pretty obvious, to most people, that that's a dangerous thing to do. The question is whether the parent could foresee that this harm would come. There is where prosecutors get into some tangle.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say the 6-year-old, now being evaluated, under a temporary detention order, is likely too young, to be charged, or tried.

SONNY STALLINGS (ph) JR., FORMER PROSECUTOR: He can't form a criminal intent to maliciously wound someone, which would be the charge. And two, he's not competent that age to understand the proceedings.

TODD (voice-over): The teacher, Abigail Zwerner, is in stable condition. Her first question to the Police Chief was whether the other kids were OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: #TeacherStrong, #RichneckStrong.


TODD (voice-over): A fellow teacher calls her compassionate, and kind, but also mentally and physically strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I've seen her resilience, dedication, and love, for what she does, day in and day out. Just being in her presence has helped me grow, as a teacher, and as a person.

TODD (voice-over): The Police Chief believes Zwerner saved lives, along with another heroic employee, who restrained the child, afterward. There were more bullets in the gun.

DREW: She made sure that every one of those kids were out of that room, and she was the last one to leave. And she took upon herself, in that situation, after -- after suffering a gunshot wound.

TODD (voice-over): Another focus, school security. CNN has learned the elementary school has only an unarmed guard, shared with another school.

MARK ANTHONY GARCIA SR. (ph), PARENT: There are no metal detectors into that school. There's only one metal detector, and that's inside of the library. We don't have a precise guideline of clear backpacks that could possibly had helped this, as well as security would want to get each child through properly.

TODD (voice-over): Those measures are currently mainly used, at the district's middle schools and high schools.

SUPERINTENDENT GEORGE PARKER III, NEWPORT NEWS PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I hate to be, at this point, where I'm -- where I'm considering this, but we have to start relying on those -- those types of deterrence, at the elementary level, as well.


COOPER: Brian Todd joins us now.

Brian, I mean, we've heard about how heroic the teacher was. I understand you've got some details, on the heroism of another school employee?

TODD: That's right, Anderson. I really don't think that this part of the story has been discussed enough, in this whole scenario.


We have heard about the heroism of that teacher, Abby Zwerner, getting all the kids, out of that classroom, and being the last one to leave, before she herself have sought help, in the school office.

But Police say there was a second school employee, who right after those children, rushed out of that classroom, rushed into the classroom, restrained the 6-year-old boy, until Police got there. And Police say that boy, at that moment, became combative, and struck that employee. The employee was still able to restrain him, until the Police got there.

When you think about that, and the heroism that it took, after those kids get out of that classroom, you rush in there, you don't know what you're going to confront? That gun still had several bullets in the chamber. That child could have taken aim at that second employee and fired. And you don't know any of that going into that room.


TODD: That took some real heroism, and I think that's kind of an underplayed part of the story, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Brian Todd, appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's get some perspective now, from Joey Jackson, criminal defense attorney, CNN Legal Analyst.

I mean, this is obviously just troubling. It's just horrible. How likely is it in your view that the child's mother would be charged?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's very likely, Anderson, for the following reason. I think prosecutors are not only going to look at the existing statute. Of course, that statute is well-known.

In the event that you recklessly leave a gun, lying around, and it gets into the hands of a child, you certainly know that it could endanger others. But that's just the Class 1 misdemeanor. Virginia, not to get too technical, goes Class 1, 2, 3 and 4. And a Class 1, you're eligible for up to one year in jail, OK?

So what, as it relates to a person, who has been shot, and in the stomach, by the child? That's the more serious issue. So, it's not just the misdemeanor, I think prosecutors will look to. I think they'll look to employ other measures, right? Other measures, for example, where you are criminally negligent, in another way, such that it raises the specter, of what the liability should be, as this happened, in other cases.

And so, I think prosecutors will be very creative, about using other laws, to potentially get more criminal responsibility, beyond a Class 1 misdemeanor. It's much more serious than that. And I think a felony, which is something over a year in jail, should be considered, for deterrence value, when just the value in this happening, it should not have.

COOPER: How difficult might it be for prosecutors, or defense attorneys, trying to piece together, precisely what happened, given the shooter is a 6-year-old child? I mean, is there -- are there a lot of precedent cases for this?

JACKSON: So, there's a lot of challenges, in every case, with respect to noting exactly what the circumstances were that led up to it. But I think there'll be a full and fair investigation.

"Where was the gun?" Obviously, they have already looked, to determine how it was purchased, and the fact that it was legally purchased, by the mom. "But what were you doing with it? Where were you storing it? Where was it that day? How did the child have access? How did you not know that the child took the gun, put it in the backpack, and went to school? What preventative and protective measures did you employ?"

So, it's not just the evaluation of the 6-year-old. It's the evaluation of all the surrounding circumstances. So yes, there are challenges indeed. But, I guess, at the end of the day, prosecutors and Police will do a good job determining, to the best of their knowledge, how exactly this could happen, and preventing it from happening again.

COOPER: And, I mean, at this point, no one is suggesting the child would face charges. What would you expect the State to try to, I mean, take some action, whether it's counseling or some sort of intervention?

JACKSON: Yes, I think that that's important. And, of course, when you're dealing with a child, we talk about the mental state, right? Adults certainly can formulate mental states. You look at whether an adult, excuse me, did something intentionally, were they reckless, were they a careless.

Lot more different, with a child, who, really has other issues, in terms of formulating. Did the child know what they were doing? Did they know, right, from an intentional perspective, the consequences of their action? Were they competent for all of those issues?

And so, I think the system has to deal with them in a different way, from a real rehabilitative aspect, to determine what they can do, moving forward, to get the child better, get them in a situation, where they could grow and advance, and certainly correct, this misstep, for that child and for others, who may follow their lead. It can't happen (ph).

COOPER: Yes. Joey Jackson, appreciate it. Thank you, Joey, thank you.

Just ahead, top legal officials, in Brazil, promising to punish all responsible, for violent attacks, Sunday, on their Congress, the Presidential Palace and, the Supreme Court. We'll talk to Isa Soares, who's in Brazil, to hear from one of those




COOPER: Brazil's Justice Minister and a Supreme Court justice have vowed to punish all those responsible, for Sunday's riots, where supporters of the country's previous president, who lost a close election, in October, swept past security forces, and stormed key government buildings, in Brazil's capital, Brasilia. Officials say that more than 1,500 were detained. About 527 people were arrested, unclear how many are still in custody.

The former President, Jair Bolsonaro, was just released, from a hospital, in Florida. He tells a CNN affiliate that he expects to return to Brazil.

CNN's Isa Soares, is in Brazil, spoken to one of the protesters, who was arrested.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pro-Bolsonaro supporters, defiant and unremorseful.


SOARES (voice-over): "Victory's ours!" they scream.


SOARES (voice-over): "Our flag will never be red!" they chant, a direct reference to President Lula da Silva's left-wing Workers' Party. They leave the Federal Police Academy, as free men and women, after being questioned, about their alleged role, in one of the ugliest days, in Brazilian politics.

Some of those, still inside, complain of the conditions.


SOARES (voice-over): "It is awful food. Not even dogs eat this," one says.

Some authorities have vowed to punish those involved.

Those found to have violently played a part, in tearing through the democratic institutions, are being accused of terrorism, and attempted coup, among other offenses.

SOARES (on camera): One senator tells me that a large number of them have been freed, but many are still inside. Authorities are trawling through all the Intelligence, all the video, to find out what role they played, on that Sunday, as they run riot, through the capital. [21:45:00]

SOARES (voice-over): A protester, who acknowledges she went inside, but denies being part of any violence, tells me her story.


SOARES (voice-over): "It's chaos, here, because we don't know anything. They can't say exactly if people are imprisoned, if they're going to get out," she tells me.

For 50 days, she says, she was protesting outside the army headquarters, in Brasilia, hoping the election that she says was robbed, from Jair Bolsonaro, would be overturned.

For many, like her, the issue is Lula, a man, who previously served time, on corruption charges. Those were later thrown out, on a judicial technicality.


SOARES (voice-over): "Our intention," she asks, "not agreeing with everything that was happening," she says. "The ballot boxes, we keep claiming this all the time, asking for help from the armed forces, to help the people," she adds.

I ask her, if her actions make her a terrorist.


SOARES (voice-over): "I'm not a terrorist. I don't have weapons," she tells me.

SOARES (on camera): But those that did carry them, left their mark, on this country's institution, tearing through the halls of power, here, with axes, knives (ph) and even grenades, according to the Justice Minister, in an act that can only be described, as an attack, on Brazilian democracy.

SOARES (voice-over): Back at the Federal Police, I ask the same protester, if she regrets anything.


SOARES (voice-over): "I don't regret it. I don't regret it. Because I wasn't armed. I didn't go with a mask. I didn't go with glasses. I didn't go with a bomb."

And this is a challenge for Lula da Silva, who has been on the job, for just over a week, uniting a polarized country, a movement that is angry, and simply refuses to accept defeat.


COOPER: And Isa Soares joins us, tonight, from Brasilia, the capital.

So, what's your understanding of how many people have been charged, and what kind of consequences, they could actually be facing?

SOARES: We spoke to the Federal Police, this evening, Anderson. They told us about 599 protesters, pro-Bolsonaro protesters, have been released. 527 have been charged, and they could face up to 12 years, in prison, dependent on the charge, could be anything from being part of a coup d'etat, or to terrorism. But about 500 or so, Anderson, are still being triaged, are still being questioned, by local authorities.

Questions are also being asked, tonight, though, Anderson about the security, here, in the country. Was there a security lapse? Was there an Intelligence failure?

Celso Amorim, who is Lula's adviser, telling CNN, there was definitely some problems, with security, but pointing the finger, directly, at the Governor of the Federal District, who has been dismissed.

Also, in the last 15 minutes, the Supreme Court, here in Brasilia, in Brazil, has ordered the arrest, of a gentleman that you probably come to hear of. His name is Anderson Torres. He was in charge of the security, here, of the District, and he's currently in the United States.

COOPER: Isa Soares, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Coming up, how bad is COVID in China? Well, we have new images that paint a stark picture of the surge of COVID deaths, and hospitalizations, there, just as the country reopens its borders, and some countries banned travelers, from China.

CNN's Selina Wang is in Beijing, tonight. Her report, next.



COOPER: China, today, retaliated against travelers, from Japan and South Korea, after both countries had placed COVID-related restrictions, on travel by Chinese citizens. It is the first move, by China, like this, in the latest fallout, from a massive COVID wave there that's led to a sharp increase, in hospitalizations, and images of crowded crematoriums.

CNN's Selina Wang is in Beijing, and has more.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anticipation is in the air. Flowers in hand, they anxiously wait. This is the most exciting time, in three years, at China's airports, as the country reorders.


WANG (voice-over): And the moment finally arrives. These are especially meaningful reunions. For the first time, since the start of the Pandemic, travelers from abroad, can meet their families, right after getting off the plane, instead of getting sent to a quarantine facility.

A mother and her son, waiting for her husband, his father, at the airport, they haven't seen each other, in almost a year.

MS. YU, BEIJING RESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I'm really excited. It's been too long.

WANG (on camera): He's a little shy, but he says he misses his dad, and the flowers are for his dad.

WANG (voice-over): The family, running, to greet the father, his son finally getting that warm embrace.

WANG (on camera): The Beijing Capital International Airport is finally coming back to life. But as China is opening up, other countries are getting nervous. More than a dozen countries have imposed COVID-19 testing rules, on travelers, coming from China.

WANG (voice-over): Some countries, like South Korea, have gone a step further. It stopped issuing short-term visas, from its consulates, in China.

In retaliation, Beijing has now suspended issuing short-term visas to South Koreans.

Morocco has even banned travelers from China.

China has only officially reported a few dozen COVID deaths, since reopening.

But satellite images reveal a different story. These images, taken in late December, and early January, show crowds, at China's crematoriums, and long lines of cars, waiting outside of funeral homes, in six Chinese cities. The images appear to show that a funeral home, at the outskirts of Beijing, has even constructed a brand-new parking area.


WANG (voice-over): We visited a crematorium, in the City center, last month, showing crowds, and body bags, piling up in metal crates.

But the explosion in COVID cases is not stopping people from going abroad.

WANG (on camera): Where are you going to right now?


WANG (on camera): Are you excited you don't have to quarantine anymore?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very good. WANG (voice-over): Countries, like Thailand, are eager for the economic boost, welcoming the first group of Chinese tourists, with flowers, at the airport. And more Chinese travelers are on the way. Immigration offices, across the country, are flooded with residents, lining up to apply, for travel documents.


Across the country, all of China's land borders have reopened. Residents cheered the historic moment. But the celebratory mood dampened, by the explosive spread of COVID. The medical system was unprepared for the country's sudden U-turn away from zero-COVID.

But it's a poignant moment, for all of these families, at the airport. After years of sacrifice, during zero-COVID, finally, they're reunited.


COOPER: And Selina Wang joins us now, from Beijing.

What has the Chinese government said about the explosion of COVID cases?

WANG: Well, Anderson, the message from the central government is "Look, everything is under control" that zero COVID was a success and things are still going well. So, it's no surprise that state media is ignoring pictures of crowded crematoriums, overflowing hospitals.

But meanwhile, you've got the World Health Organization, and the U.S., accusing China, of under-representing the severity of the outbreak.

Now, Beijing has stopped reporting nationwide data, on COVID infections. But some provinces are sharing their own numbers.

The Provincial Government of Henan said that around 89 percent of its residents have been infected, as of last Friday. This is China's most populous province. We're talking about a population of more than 98 million people. Local officials there though did not disclose the death toll.

COVID deaths numbers here are a sensitive topic, because a high death toll, Anderson, would directly challenge the years' long narrative that China's COVID approach is superior to the West's, and specifically superior to America's approach.


COOPER: Yes. Selina Wang, appreciate it. Thank you.

The news continues right now. "CNN TONIGHT" with Laura Coates, is next, right after a short break.