Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Detroit Moves Classes Online Until January 14 as Cases Surge; Lawmakers Demand Accountability for Deadly Capitol Siege; Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Speaks as Democrats Discuss Voting Rights Bills. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Developing at this hour, the surge of COVID cases across the country is forcing schools really to rethink their plans, many canceling or adjusting their return to the classroom. Overnight, Philadelphia schools announced it would close 81 of its more than 200 schools, moving thousands of students back to virtual learning due to staffing shortages. In Chicago, the teachers union is voting today on a potential walkout, refusing to work in person until they say more safety protocols are in place. And in Detroit, as the percent of positive cases continues to climb, the superintendent there just announced that all schools will be moving to virtual learning through next week.

Joining me now is Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, a member of the Detroit Public School Board. Thank you for being here. So, let's start with what's happening with your district. The superintendent just announced today that Detroit schools are pushing back the return to class even further, staying virtual until the end of next week. Why is that happening?

SHERRY GAY-DAGNOGO, BOARD MEMBER, DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS COMMUNITY DISTRICT: Thank you, Kate, for having me on. I think the superintendent's decision to do that, they're talking certainly with all of our school board members, that that's the safest thing to do in the city of Detroit, where the infection rate is over seven days is exceeding 40 percent range, and we are aggressively testing and providing free testing for all of our staff.

We see those numbers over the holiday has continued to impact our community. A number of people have had the omicron virus. I just recovered myself right before and during Christmas. So, we know that it's highly contagious and we just want to flatten the curve and I think that is certainly the best way to go to keep everyone safe.

BOLDUAN: Is the concern in Detroit schools that the high positivity rate -- with the high positivity rate is it's the risk of transmission among the classrooms, like in school, or is the concern that you won't have enough teachers or staff to lead classes?

GAY-DAGNOGO: So I think there's a combination of issues. I am so proud of all of our DFT members, I am a former Detroit public schoolteacher. And the lion's share of our teachers and our staff in excess of 80 percent have actually been vaccinated. But we have a number of educators, principals, school staff as a whole that have pre-existing conditions and issues that may prevent them from actually moving forward with the vaccination. But we had a number of people who have been sick even with the vaccination. And so with that being the case, yes, all of our schools across the nation are making sure that we're mindful of staffing challenges while we navigate our way through this omicron virus and the COVID as a whole, I should say.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Look, these are decisions that every school districts are facing now and take the nation's largest public school district in New York City, similar positivity rate in New York amongst the schools as Detroit. Yet, the mayor in New York is adamant that he wants to keep schools open for in-person. Let me play for you why he says that is.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): The safest place for children right now is in a school building.


That's the safest place for them. If they're not in school, it does not mean they're not going outdoors. It does not mean they're not going to deal with the trauma of not having socialization, not getting a meal, not being able to get remote learning. It's a luxury to say stay at home when you have all of the tools that you needed, but for poor black, brown children that you don't have access to some of the basic things, school is the best place for you.


BOLDUAN: He is saying being out of school is less safe for the students than no matter what you could be facing with the virus in school. What do you say to that?

GAY-DAGNOGO: So, I have to push back just a little bit. No one would argue that our schools are not a safe haven for our children. Many of them, especially in communities of poverty, rely on the meals that are provided, breakfast, lunch and snacks. So, we know that is an issue. We know that, unfortunately, many of our youth are in homes that are often not safe, but at the same token, we have to consider those who are at home and caring for their grandchildren, our seniors, we have a high population of seniors who are taking care of their second and third generation of children. And if their children are exposed to COVID and they're bringing that back home, think about the rippling effect that that will have on their health, on their life.

I mean, I lost my sister to COVID-19 April 14, 2020. So, I know what that feels like. And I know it feels like for a number of all the friends and legislators that I lost to COVID. So, we have to be mindful of safety and these decisions are not easy. And so they can't be made in a vacuum. I'm thankful that our school district, our health department, our labor and our mayor are working together to make sure that these things are discussed. But the ultimate decision lies with our superintendent and our school board members, and I know that we did the right thing.

BOLDUAN: I think the point that Eric Adams is making that a lot of parents feel is if schools are -- if you have mitigation efforts, the other mitigation efforts in place, like a vaccine mandate, which I believe is going into place in Detroit schools maybe next month for staffers --

GAY-DAGNOGO: January 18th.

BOLDUAN: If you have these mitigation measures in place, like masking, and ventilation, and some -- and if you do all of these things, it is safe to keep them there. It will -- can protect them from getting the virus and taking it back home. I think what Eric Adams is saying the risk of keeping them out at this point now outweighs the risk of them sitting in classes. Do you not see that?

GAY-DAGNOGO: No, I do not. The loss of one life is worth taking the necessary steps to make sure that everyone is safe. Right now, we have mandatory testing for our teachers and all of our staff, and we're doing that on a continual basis even while we're virtual. Unfortunately, there's not mandatory testing for our students. And so that's something I'd like to see. That's something that our superintendent has discussed and something that I will support.

So, until we're able to move our students to the place where there's mandatory testing, until we can remove all of the fears that exist in our community and talk about even vaccination for our young people, that's something that we still have to address. But we have to work together and not make hit-driven decisions about what is safe for someone else.

Too many of our community members, the lives have been lost. And in the city of Detroit, we're the highest in the state. And so we know what that feels like. Our children know what that feels like. And we have to navigate this together, not one person making a decision.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for coming on and speaking with me today.

GAY-DAGNOGO: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: All right. We'll check back in. The return to school in- person is supposed right after January 14th. We'll check back in on how things are going.

GAY-DAGNOGO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming for us, this week marks one year since the Capitol insurrection. Some lawmakers are now convinced the brutal events of that day were the beginning, not the end, were just the beginning. I'm going to speak to a Democratic member of Congress who was just four days into her first term when the Capitol was attacked. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They broke the glass? Everybody stay down. Get down.


BOLDUAN: Terrifying moments one year ago this week. Lawmakers huddling in the House chamber as Trump supporters tried to smash their way in. The images from January 6th are unforgettable, but even more unforgettable for the people who were trapped inside, including Democratic Congresswoman Sara Jacobs. You can see her here in white wearing a gas mask as they were trying to be evacuated. She was four days into the first term in Congress when this happened, still introducing herself to new colleagues when the attack played out. Congresswoman Jacobs joins me right now. Thank you for being here, Congresswoman. It's nice to see you again.

REP. SARA JACOBS (D-CA): Of course, it's great to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Seeing and hearing all of this again, how do you reflect on the attack on the Capitol one year ago this week? I mean, what do you remember most from that day?

JACOBS: The thing that I remember the most from that day is the sound of the buzzing from the gas masks we had to put on because there had been tear gas in Statuary Hall, and just the real feeling of terror at not being able to do anything, as being stuck as we heard the rioters getting so close to us and heard really just how close they were.

And I think it's really important to remember as people try and minimize this that we were members in the gallery who were moments away from something really catastrophic to our democracy happening.

BOLDUAN: I have been reading about how -- there's a group of I think about 20 of you who were stuck in the House gallery together, and how you stayed close in touch, becoming something of a support group in the last year. What has that meant for you?

JACOBS: You know, for me, it was my fourth day in office when this happened, and so I was learning a new job as I was trying to process this trauma that we had all gone through individually and also as a country. And so this group of members has really been my lifeline during this time. And it has been such an amazing group who's provided support and camaraderie and we really helped each other process the trauma that we went through, process how close we really did come to something terrible happening and developed lifelong friendships.

BOLDUAN: So now we look at this anniversary and what we know now, and I think it's important to reflect on that with you. I mean, I saw that you said that a lot of people may think that January 6th was the end of something, but you believe January 6 was the beginning of something. What do you mean?

JACOBS: Yes. So, my background before coming to Congress is actually working on political violence, working on conflict resolution and post-coup transitions.


And what we often see in other countries is that you have one big attack, one big moment that happens, that most people see, although we know we're having trouble with that here in the United States, but it's actually usually the second or the third attempts that are successful, and those tend to be quieter, more through institutions, through the very things that are meant to protect our country, protect our democracy.

And so I'm very concerned at what we're seeing at the state and local level, what we're seeing with voting rights, what we're seeing with attempts to put in place certain people to oversee the actual conducting of the elections. And I'm very concerned that the next time it's going to seem like it's through the official institutions but it's still going to be an attempt to overturn the will of the people. And that is much harder to combat than a big attack that most reasonable people understand is against the norm.

BOLDUAN: And, look, there's a startling kind of view among Americans right now, not just through institutions, but more violence is coming. There's a new poll showing that more than 60 percent, 62 percent of Americans expect violence after future elections over losing, and that is something in the breakdown that both supporters of Joe Biden and people who voted for Trump in the 2020 election, they both expect this to be happening in the future. What do you do with that?

JACOBS: Look, it's very scary and it's a very real threat and it's made worse by leaders who don't acknowledge what happens in the elections, leaders who continue to perpetuate the big lie. But I also want Americans to know that I have worked --

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, so sorry to cut in. We have to jump over to another part of the Capitol. Senator Joe Manchin is speaking now.

REPORTER: So, Senator Schumer said they're going to bring a vote upon the rules changes to the Senate floor. Do you oppose changing the rules by a nuclear option?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, I have always been for rules being done the way we have always done, two-thirds of the members voting. And, anyway, you can do a rules change to where anyone is involved and basically that's a rule that usually will stay. That's what we should be pursuing. But, you know, we're still ongoing conversations as far as on the voting because I think that the bedrock of democracy is making sure that you're able to cast a vote if you're a legal of age in the United States says they should be able to cast a vote and they should be counted accurately. So, we're talking about those things.

I'll go here, don't come.

REPORTER: Just to clarify.

MANCHIN: You had to wait the second. It was a hard one. It was hard.

REPORTER: So, just to be clear, you are open to the idea of using the nuclear option to change the rules and pass the voting rights legislation on a simple majority?

MANCHIN: Let me say being open to the rules change that would create a nuclear option, it's a very, very difficult, and it's a heavy lift. The reason I say it's a heavy lift is that once you change a rule or you have a carve-out, I have always said this, any time that's a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey. There's nothing left because it comes back and forth. So you want things that will be sustainable. That's what you're looking for.

So, that common sense commonality, but, you know, I just believe that it's the bedrock of democracy is voting and we have to do what we can in order to preserve that. But let's just see. The conversations are still ongoing. I have been talking to everybody. We have been having good conversations for about -- since we left two weeks ago.

REPORTER: Senator, I just wanted to try to put a finer point on this.


REPORTER: So the 60-vote threshold, are you willing to change that? And you are involved in ongoing discussions, as you just mentioned, with your colleagues, so there must be some openness.

MANCHIN: There's basically the need for us to protect democracy as we know it, and the Senate, as it has operated for 232 years, are extremely, extremely high bars that we must be very careful that we're willing to cross those. So, I'm talking, I'm not agreeing to any of this to the extent. I want to talk and see all the options we have open, and that's what we're looking at. So they're bringing all the experts in, what type of options, what we can do. We've talked about talking filibusters and we continue to talk about this. It's very interesting. We talk about the motion to proceed. We should be able to get on the bill and should dependent.

We talked about also the ability to restore some privileges to the committees. They have some weights. So, something comes out of committee. And I think these are things that Republicans and Democrats should and could agree on.

So, we want to talk to everybody. I want to engage everybody. I'm just not doing it from one side. I think that for us to go it alone, no matter what side does it, ends coming back at you pretty hard.


I was there in 2013. I was there in 2017 when the judges came back, as far Supreme Court judges, from just the district and circuits that we did in 2013. And I don't think anybody is happy about that when have you to do those changes.

REPORTER: Is the 60-vote threshold here a red line or is it a bipartisanship --

MANCHIN: Well, they're both one in the same. I mean, bipartisanship takes more than just 51-vote threshold, okay? And that's what we've always had. There's been talks about three-fifths of those voting. So, three-fifths of those voting is something that doesn't set a precedent, and we've done that before. So, we're looking at all the historical things that we've done in 232 year.

I'm trying to learn as much as I possibly can and I want to be open and fair but I keep an open mind about it. But I want you to know that the people that go -- everyone should have a right to vote. No one should be impeded from voting. And everybody should have -- make sure that their vote is counted accurately. I might be running against you or you running against me. When the final vote comes in, I might not be happy but at least walk away and say I had no shot (ph), that it was done right.

REPORTER: I want to ask two questions at once. It seems like you're saying this again. You would not be open to changing the rules without Republican buy-in in some way, shape or form.

MANCHIN: That's my absolute preference.

REPORTER: Okay. Preference is different than red line but it seems like --

MANCHIN: That's my preference. I would have to exhaust everything in my ability to talk and negotiate with people before I start doing things that other people might think need to be done.

REPORTER: And number two, could you characterize where you are right now on BBB and what your conversations have been with the White House.

MANCHIN: There's been no conversations after I made my statement. I think it's basically -- you know, I was very clear, I feel as strongly today as I did then that the unknown with the COVID, where we are, we can't even go out to (INAUDIBLE) 95 and 95. We all see all that we do. And so there's different concerns that we have right now that we haven't had for a while. So, that's a concern. Inflation is still a concern. It's still over 6 percent. And the geopolitical unrest that we have.

And I think the president has been doing yeoman's job trying to talk to Putin and calm things down and letting him know where we are. So, these are all challenges, guys, and these are all expensive challenges. So, that's where, Jake, on that, we have, there's been no conversation.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) on BBB, on the child tax credit, are you a hard on ensuring supporting the --

MANCHIN: Child tax credit is still there, as I'm understanding, basically.

REPORTER: Yes. But are you a hard no on ensuring that families with middle income tax obligations can't be expanded? Are you a hard no on that, Senator Manchin?

MANCHIN: I have been basically very clear. I think there should be a work requirement. That means you file a 1099. So, a 1099, if you're going to call it a credit, you have to see if you have a liability or not. The only way the IRS would know that is if you file a 1099. So, I've been very -- I think very direct on that.

Hold on, hold on, hold on. I think --

REPORTER: Senator Schumer has set January 17th as the deadline for having a vote on rules changes. Is that --

MANCHIN: We're supposed to have a meeting today. We're supposed to have one right now. And I guess it's been postponed a little bit because people are having a hard time coming in. So, I'll be going to a meeting and finding out what that entails and the timelines we're talking about.

REPORTER: Senator Manchin --

REPORTER: Are you open to starting negotiations on Build Back Better though?

MANCHIN: I've never turned down talks with anybody. I really haven't. And I just made my -- I was very clear on where I stand and I thought it was time to do that rather than just continue on and on, as we had for five and a half months. I didn't change from the first day when I talked to Leader Schumer on that. And everyone has been working, I think, in the best good faith they possibly can. I just had a very difficult time in understanding where -- understanding where we are and where our country is and the concerns I have.

REPORTER: So, for a child tax credit, does it have to have some sort of a work requirement for you to be able to support the broader Build Back Better package?

MANCHIN: I mean, I've looked and talked about all the different issues on Build Back Better but the bottom line is you're talking about the child tax credit, if you have a credit, that means you've had to earn -- have earnings, okay? And to have earnings, you can't do that until you decide if you have any liabilities. And if you have liabilities, you offset that with a credit.

The child tax credit, I understand, was still in place until 2025, the $2,000. So, if people think that it's all gone by the wayside, that hasn't happened.

REPORTER: And how flexible is the White House on your views on the child tax credit?

MANCHIN: You'd have to talk to the White House about that.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, given your concerns about inflation, would you prefer that they simply shelf Build Back Better until the next Congress or just be done with it this year? Is there a preference to shelved Build Back Better all together? MANCHIN: Well, I mean, we'll have to see what their desires are and what their priorities right now.


They feel very strongly about that and I respect that. I just had a different opinion. And we don't have -- you know, to do some of the things that have been proposed takes more of a majority than what we have. We have no majority. We're at 50-50 with one being the vice president making the deciding vote. And I think we have to take that into consideration. Our caucus goes from one end of the spectrum to the other, and I'm sure they understand that.

REPORTER: Senator, real quick, the Electoral Count Act, is that something that you've been talking to Republicans about? And would you support Build Back Better if the child tax credit was not included?

MANCHIN: I'm really not going to talk about Build Back Better anymore because I think I've been very clear on that. There is negotiations going on at this time, okay? And there's an awful lot things that had a lot of -- a lot of things that were very, I think, well intended, and there was a lot of things that were a pretty far reach on some things and the most delicate times that we have right now and our country is divided. And I don't intend to do anything that divides our country anymore. So, whatever I can do to unite and bring people together, and that means you have to work harder as you work across the aisle to bring people together.

REPORTER: What is your comfort level with the climate provisions in Build Back Better?

MANCHIN: There're a lot of good things in that. I mean, I've always said we have a lot of money in there for innovation, technology, tax credits for basically clean technologies and clean environment, and I think we have to continue and be realistic also. We have to have enough energy to run our country and we have to have a transition as it happens as we move from a fossil dependency to more of a cleaner. Do you do that by using fossils in cleaner ways? You should be able to. And you do that by creating new technologies that -- the renewables that we have, as far as wind and solar and hydro and all the different things.

Hydrogen. I've been big on hydrogen. I'm big on nuclear, okay, and I'm really big on basically making sure fossils are used in the cleanest possible fashion. And in America, we do it better than most other countries.

REPORTER: So would you say you're not as concerned as some of the other --

BOLDUAN: All right. So, we've been listening in to Senator Joe Manchin speaking with reporters, making pretty clear that he is not inclined to support the Democratic -- the other Democrats' latest push to change the voting rules in the Senate, the filibuster rules, in order to allow them to push through voting rights bills that they have been making a big push on. Joe Manchin not inclined to support that, which would be critical.

Also making it clear, it seems, that there really hasn't been any discussions or movements on the Build Back Better plan since everything fell apart. Much more to come as we'll continue to follow all of Joe Manchin's press conferences and opinions on Joe Biden's domestic agenda as they develop.

We also are following breaking news though. CNN has just learned that a Colombian man is now in U.S. custody arrested for his alleged role in the assassination of Haiti's president last year. The suspect is going to appear in a Miami federal court this afternoon.

Let's get over to CNN's Matt Rivers, who is joining us now with all the breaking detais. Matt, what have you learned about this?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, this is one of the top suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. He was killed in his own residence going back to the beginning of July. And this suspect, a Colombian named Mario Palacios, is considered one of the top suspects. He actually admitted in a media interview not long ago to being in the residence the night that this assassination happened.

The big difference with Palacios was that he was able to escape from Haiti. He was one of several suspects that were able to escape from Haiti. He made his way to Jamaica, where Jamaican authorities actually caught him, and he was charged with illegally entering Jamaica. And we found out yesterday that he was going to be deported back to his native Colombia. He's one of more than two dozen Colombian suspects suspected in taking part in this assassination.

However, it was during that deportation in which he routed through panama that he was actually picked up and extradited to the United States. So, he goes from Jamaica to Panama, picked up by authorities in Panama and is extradited to Miami. And that is where he's going to appear in federal court at 2:00 P.M. Eastern today to be arraigned on some pretty serious charges, two charges according to authorities there, conspiracy to provide material support resulting in the death of a foreign leader and conspiracy to kidnap and kill a foreign leader.

This is going to be the first suspect to be formally charged in this case, and this is a big deal in the United States, signaling that the United States government real wants to sink its teeth into this assassination and the U.S. role potentially this plot being organized in the United States, the U.S. government not turning a blind eye to that.

BOLDUAN: Matt, thank you very much for that update.


We'll continue to follow what happens in this courtroom later today.

And thank you all so much though for joining us At This Hour today. I'm Kate Bolduan.