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Heroes Of Capitol Attack Receive Congressional Gold Medals; Jan. 6 Committee Decides To Make Criminal Referrals To Justice Department; Suspect In LGBTQ Bar Mass Shooting Charged With Murder, Hate Crimes. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 11:30   ET




SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY): But some days, the worst days, the hardest days, we're starkly reminded that these brave men and women in and out of uniform are not an ordinary part of the fabric. They are not colleagues just like any other. When the rest of us move away from danger, they move toward it. When circumstances make everyone else think of safety first, they put theirs last. And when an unhinged mob tried to come between the Congress and our constitutional duty, the Capitol Police fought to defend not just this institution, but our system of self-government.

On-duty officers held the line. Off-duty officers left their families and raced back here. Local officers from surrounding areas and federal personnel from multiple agencies rushed to the scene and joined forces to help clear the Capitol and restore law and order. Because of your bravery and professionalism, Congress finished our job that very night. Because you honored your oath to support and defend the Constitution, we were able to honor ours. That is a reality that was made especially clear 23 months ago, but it is true every single day.

Thank you for having our backs. Thank you for saving our country. Thank you for being not just our friends but our heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the Honorable Charles E. Schumer, Democratic leader of the United States Senate.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY): Madam Speaker, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, Chief Manger, Chief Contee, Reverend, Clergy, my colleagues, friends, families, January 6 was a day of violence and a day of darkness. But today, under this hallowed Capitol dome, we come to sanctify it also as a day of heroes. We do so by bestowing the highest honor Congress has to offer to the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington DC.

On the day democracy faced maximum danger, these public servants responded with maximum valor. Whether it was holding the line on the Lower West terrace or leading insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber or acting quickly to prepare to protect members and staff. History will forever note that on January 6, democracy lived on because of them. Today, we are here to say thank you, thank God for you. A year can pass, two years can pass, a decade can pass but January 6 will always seem like yesterday to me. I can remember sitting on the floor of the Senate that day when my details suddenly came up and said, Senator, we have to get you out of here. You're in danger. And he grabbed me by the jacket as we ran out of the chamber. At one point, I was within 30 feet of the rioters before my brave detail pulled me away to safety.

Their quick thinking, their valor, their ability to stay calm in the face of violence undoubtedly save lives that day. And again, our thanks will forever remain immeasurable. So, to allow gratitude towards everyone who stepped up that day, from the National Guard to the Capitol staff, who restored these halls after the violence. As we observe this solemn occasion, we acknowledge that no honor, no recognition can bring back the officers we lost to the attack.


We mourn their loss. We pray for their families. And we honor their limitless heroism in the face of the unthinkable. And to every member of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police who still bear the scars from that attack, we are here for you always. It cannot be any other way. On that terrible day in January, you stare directly into the heart of darkness. And though outnumbered, you held the line, the line of democracy, you bravely held it and democracy endured.

In return, those of us in elected office must always strive to care for you, to support your physical safety and your mental health, to give you the tools necessary to do your jobs to the best of your ability. To my personal detail, Mike, Kevin, Joe, DeJuan, and Chris, as well as Antonio, Larry, Sefonia, (PH) Christian, Brian, Darren, Kat, Fernando, Richardson, and Alex, thank you. Thank you for what you do every day to keep me, my family, and my staff safe. You're the best of the best. You make your department proud.

Finally, let me say this. The dome of this Capitol is kept lit by day and night as an attorning -- enduring symbol of our precious democracy. It's a message to the entire world that here in America, self-rule must forever serve as our bedrock. On January 6, that light flickered for a brief harrowing moment but it was really rekindled in a new, thanks to the bravery of our Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police, and all of our public servants who dedicate themselves to protecting this Capitol. Today because of these heroes, the vision of our founders remains alive in our time. So, thank you. God bless you. God bless our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): It is an emotional day for all of us that you can just imagine what it is for our Capitol Police, our Metropolitan Police, the families who are here. Listening to the music of the army band U.S. Army Band, Pershing's Own, was so beautiful. Let us salute them again for the beautiful -- it's all lovely, but I'm so glad you went to the fourth verse. Oh, beautiful for Patriots' dream that sees beyond the years, undimmed by human fears. That has always been my favorite line because it is who we are as a country. May we always be patriots who see beyond the years. Thank you for being so beautiful in your presentation.

Here we are, again, under this beautiful dome, as has been referenced by our colleagues in the leadership. This beautiful dome, magnificent dome of the United States Capitol, which led us to recall was built during the Civil War. At the time, the iron and steel used for the construction were said by some to be needed for the war effort but President Lincoln said to halt the war, the work on the dome would be -- wouldn't be right and he said no. And so, in face of brutal violence at the time, the work went on.

The work went on because Lincoln knew that we needed a national symbol, a beacon of patriotism, determination, and resilience. Isn't it magnificent? May we be worthy to work under it. More than a century and a half later, these high ideals were once again on display right here on this sacred ground beneath the dome.


On January 6, we all witnessed the gleeful desecration of our temple of democracy and a violent insurrection against our republic. Our congressional community knows the profound terror of that day firsthand. Members of Congress fled for their lives. Staffed barricaded behind office doors. Support staff, who run this Capitol, hid under furniture the second of the sound of blood-curdling screams, the smell of gas and smoke, all remain raw.

Yet that day, the Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police, and additional agencies bravely threw themselves between us and violence. And may I thank the National Guard for continuing that protection, ending the day and continuing that protection. With great patriotism -- again, harkening back to Lincoln with great patriotism, determination, and resilience, they answered the call to serve, putting their lives on the line to protect the Capitol, the Congress, and the Constitution. Your valor on that dark day is the stuff of legend. And like the dome, they fought to defend a source of strength and hope. And we thank you for that.

United in grief and gratitude. Today, we award them the Congressional Gold Medal for ever-etching their heroism into our history. In doing so, we thank those heroes for their service and sacrifice, especially more than 140 members of our protection left with lasting scars and many more suffering from indelible trauma. And may we always remember the fallen, the martyrs -- the martyrs for democracy, including U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, whose parents are here today, officer -- U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood, Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans killed in the line of duty later on Good Friday. Let us acknowledge and thank them.

I also want to acknowledge those members of the police force, the District of Columbia as well as the Capitol Police who had the courage to tell in testimony what they witnessed that day. And may I acknowledge the mayor of Washington. Thank you, Mayor, for being with us and the -- with the Metropolitan. In his Gettysburg Address, which was in November -- November 18, Lincoln stood on the ground consecrated by the blood of patriots and spoke to the duty to defend democracy. Let us recall his words. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that we are here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that a government of the people by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Shall not perish from the earth no matter what the assault as we saw on January 6.

Thank you to our heroes for being us -- with us today. And thank all of you for joining us as we canonize these heroes in the pantheon of patriots, a beautiful for Patriots' dreams. May God bless them and their families. God bless you and your families. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you all for being with us today. Thank you.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Beautiful rendition of God Bless America there, really rounding out this ceremony almost two years after the attack on the Capitol. Congressional leaders awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all of the law enforcement who as was said today stood in the breach. As Mitch McConnell said thank you for having our backs. Thank you for saving our country.

A moving ceremony, and it's also quite interesting because as lawmakers are standing here in the Capitol rotunda honoring the officers who defended the Capitol on January 6, we do have some breaking news coming in related to the attack on January 6. The chairman of the January 6 committee just announced that they will be making at least one criminal referral to the Justice Department connected to their investigation. We have those breaking details coming in. We're going to have that for you next.



BOLDUAN: Now, we do have breaking news coming in. The January 6 committee has decided to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department as part of its investigation into the deadly attack on the Capitol. This news comes as lawmakers just honored, as we were just watching it together, honored the -- honored the heroes and law enforcement that defended the Capitol, defended American democracy on that day.

Sara Murray is live in Washington with much more on this. Sara, talk us through this breaking news.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I was just talking to Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the committee, along with some other reporters, and he'd made it clear that they have decided that they are going to do criminal referrals. We asked him a couple of times to clarify this has been decided. He says it has. He says the committee will do this.

And this is a significant move, you know. Obviously, the Justice Department doesn't have to listen to what the committee refers to. They do their own investigations. They decide who they're going to investigate, who they may prosecute, but members of the committee have been telling us for weeks and weeks that they thought it would be a significant step to send a significant signal about their work if they moved ahead and issue to criminal referrals to the Justice Department.

Now, Thompson, as you might expect, was playing coy about who may be on that list of potential criminal referrals. We know that this is something that is still an active discussion among the committee members. They're expected to meet later today. Here, we're also waiting to hear more information from them about the basis of these potential criminal referrals, you know. Is there potential perjury, or potential witness tampering? Those are all things that the committee has been looking at.

So, we're waiting for more information on the specifics of exactly what this will look like. But of course, we know the committee does not have much longer to do their work. And this would be a very significant culmination for them to wrap this up.

BOLDUAN: Sara, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it. A lot to work through in a lot more detail to get but great job getting it.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, as well as CNN chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, first you because I know you have some fresh reporting on this. You've been talking to some of the committee members as well. What have you -- what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I did speak to Jamie Raskin. He's one of the members of the committee. I asked him who are you looking at issuing criminal referrals. He would not go that far. He said those decisions are still being discussed exactly who will get referred to by the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution.

But he did say the focus of the committee is on the people who are at the center of the events and who masterminded the attack on Congress and the vice president on that day. So, very likely, it seems that Donald Trump will be on that list, people around Donald Trump, people who were the committee has, of course, heard a lot of testimony about this as well.

Now, this will all culminate, Kate, in a report that this committee will put out after its exhaustive investigation for the past two years of the -- more than a thousand or so witnesses, the thousands and thousands of pages of documents all put together in a report. Raskin told me that they are making great progress in finishing the report. He does not know if it will be done this week but of course, it is expected to be done within the next couple of weeks because come January 3, when Republicans take power, this committee's job, and its work is over.

BOLDUAN: So, there is time -- real-time pressure here and they know this as well, as everyone knows it. A lot -- a lot of questions surrounding all of this, Elliot, but just your reaction to learning that there will be at least one criminal referral we could say, though much more detail as needed on whom and what.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely, Kate. So, a few things. Number one, as Manu had said, this is a statement from Congress, right? It does not actually carry legal weight. The Justice Department doesn't have to -- you know doesn't have to adhere to it. They can, as you -- as we've seen already, they've gone ahead with prosecutions.

Now, look, as a statement, it's a pretty powerful one that they believe a crime was committed. And it made it even more powerful by the fact that they announced it the morning that members of law enforcement were getting Congressional Gold medals for their valor on January 6. That was, I think, not an accident at all. And a very effective bit of stagecraft on the part of the committee.

Now, you know, what could it be? We don't know. You know, certainly, from watching the hearings, it appears that witness tampering or obstruction of justice, and not just for the president, anyone with whom someone who committed a crime might have been working in concert with could be referred for a crime -- for a criminal offense.


And finally, last thing, it's not just crimes here that can be referred. For instance, individuals who are attorneys could be referred to Bar Association's if they're -- you know, basically put the law license in jeopardy if they engaged in some mischief or wrongdoing. So, what -- we'll wait and see, but this is certainly a powerful, powerful statement by Congress.

BOLDUAN: This also, Elliott, gets -- I mean, there's -- what -- this could get to really what has -- if you sum it all up, and it is hard to because it has been a vast investigation, as Manu was getting at, this couldn't get to the absolute core and key question that has really been wondered since the beginning, which is, will this lead to, in their report or separately, this committee urging the Justice Department to prosecute the former president, Donald Trump?

Now, we know from previous reporting, Elliot, that the committee has been divided on whether or not to put forth a criminal referral against the -- against the former president. But the investigation has also shown they have made clear that they believe he is at the center of all of this. So, would you, in the end, be surprised if he -- is surprised if Donald Trump is not among the people who they have a criminal referral against, I think that they give to the Justice Department? WILLIAMS: I think it'd be surprising if they didn't base on the evidence that they put out the statements they've made and where it seems that the committee is going. But let's be clear, the before the president is already being investigated by the Justice Department, they're on the record about that. They're even independent of -- this would be an additional recommendation of -- you know of a possible criminal prosecution. But at the end of the day, the president's already, potentially in a significant amount of trouble as it is.

But you're absolutely right. If you hear what the members of Congress are saying, certainly they are debating it robustly and trying to figure out which way to proceed. I'd be shocked if he wasn't, but again, many people around him ought to also be cautious and worried right now.

BOLDUAN: And, Manu, is it -- what is your expectation of what happens now? Bennie Thompson comes out and says this is going to come. But with the -- as Sara Murray's laying out, lacking all sorts of detail that's required to really understanding the true significance of this. What happens now? What do you make of how Thompson kind of -- is rolling this out?

RAJU: Well, they're still meeting and discussing some of their final decisions, and Raskin and some of the other members so that there are meetings that are happening tonight into the next few days as they tried to finalize the language, not just the people who are referred to in the criminal complaint but just the conclusions that all of their evidence leads to. They are working on all of that in which they believe they're made great progress on.

Now, there are also some outstanding questions too. What do they do about the subpoenas that were issued to Republican members of Congress, including Kevin McCarthy, who might be the next Speaker of the House? They have not made any decisions yet about exactly what to do for -- about the fact that those Republicans defied those subpoenas. They had suggested, perhaps that there could be a referral to the Ethics Committee, maybe even a referral to the Justice Department, but those questions are still unresolved at this hour, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Manu, thank you so much for your continued great reporting. Elliot, thank you for jumping on so much. I really appreciate it. We'll be continuing to follow this obviously throughout the day.

We also have other developments we need to get to on -- at this hour as well. The suspect arrested and charged in the deadly mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ bar in Colorado, they have been formally charged now with murder and hate crimes. Prosecutors announcing hundreds of counts in court today. Lucy Kafanov is live in Denver. She has been following this. Lucy, what else happened in court?

LACY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. The suspected gunman was formally charged with 305 criminal counts including 10 first-degree murder charges, over 70 attempted murder charges, dozens of counts of first-degree assault, and 48 counts of hate crimes. Now, Anderson Lee Aldrich appeared in court in person this morning, walking in, looking more alert than at the previous hearing when you might remember Aldrich was slumped over. He spoke briefly with slurred speech. This time, they set up throughout their proceeding.

Aldrich, whose attorneys say identifies as nonbinary and uses they them pronouns allegedly entered Club Q late November 19 with an AR- style weapon and a handgun opening fire, killing at least five people, at least 19 others were injured, most of whom suffered gunshot wounds. And during that attack, Aldrich was beaten into submission by various club patrons who effectively stopped the mass shooting within minutes. District Attorney Michael Allen has said that murder charges could carry the harshest penalty likely life in prison. And charging Aldrich with hate crimes would not lead to a harsher punishment.

Now, we are expecting the district attorney to speak at any moment now. The press conference has already set up. And the next time we will see the suspect in court, Kate, is February 22nd for a preliminary hearing. Kate.


BOLDUAN: Yes, but a very big step as he's now -- as they are now formally charged hundreds of charges. Lucy, thanks so much for bringing that to us. I really appreciate it. And thank you all so much for watching AT THIS HOUR. A busy day. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.