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Top Lawmakers to Get Security Briefing Ahead of Right-Wing Rally; U.S. Capitol Police Announce Disciplinary Action for Six Officers; Americans Growing More Supportive of Vaccine Mandates; FBI Releases Newly Declassified Document on Saudi Support for 9/11. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 09:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Two hours from now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with top security official and congressional leaders, concerning an upcoming right-wing rally, in the nation's capital. The "Justice for J6" rally is intended to show support for the insurrectionists who have been charged in the Capitol riot.

CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona joining us now live.

So, Melanie, officials are bracing here for the possibility of violence on Saturday. Just how concerned are they this morning?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the new Capitol Police chief is expected to tell congressional leaders exactly the type of threats and scenarios that they are preparing for. This, of course, is just one of several security briefings that have taken place on Capitol Hill in recent days. Last week, the top lawmakers on the House Administration Committee received a briefing and rank-and- file Capitol Police officers have also begun to receive briefings from leadership.

One source told me that it was a very thorough and transparent briefing, which is a stark contrast to the run-up to January 6th when security intelligence failures were at least partly to blame for why there's lack of preparedness on Capitol Hill. So since then the department has taken steps to improve its internal communications and sharing information about the types of threats and security planning that is going on.

Now here is what we know about the security preparations for that day. The Capitol Police are preparing for potential violent altercation altercations, potential unrest. The crowd size could be in the hundreds. The temporary fencing around the Capitol is expected to come back. We're looking out for that this week. Of course, the National Guard is always an option to be called. It's unclear if that will be necessary.

And it's also going to be all-hands-on-deck at the Capitol Police Department. So, as one source described to me, they're essentially hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Melanie Zanona, appreciate it. Thank you. Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, after an internal investigation into the January 6th attack, U.S. Capitol Police are now recommending disciplinary action in six cases against Capitol Police officers.

CNN's Jessica schneider has been following the story and she joins me now. So there were multiple accusations here. I believe more than two dozen of wrongdoings. So what do we know about these six cases where they found wrongdoing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Capitol Police looked into 26 cases. And out of them they found six cases where they are recommending disciplinary action.


The thing is, though, Jim, we don't know the identities of these officers. We also don't know exactly which actions they took, which led to this disciplinary recommendation. So Capitol Police really painting it with a wide swath here. And what they're saying is they're talking about the range of violations. So here, I'll break it down for you. They say there are three cases for conduct unbecoming. One case for failure to comply with directives, one for improper remarks and one for improper dissemination of information.

But other than that, not details as to specifics here. They are also saying there's an investigation into one official that hasn't been close yet, it is still open. The official of accused of unsatisfactory performance and conduct unbecoming.

Crucially here there are no recommendations for criminal action. But they have referred the information to the D.C. U.S. attorney's office as well as the Department of Justice to be used in their broader investigation here. And all of the hundreds of court cases that are still ongoing.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it appears they're being deliberately nonspecific here.


SCIUTTO: About what exactly the cases are. We did know based on video evidence of some of the things officers were up to.

SCHNEIDER: We did. And we reported back in February that six officers had been suspended without pay, and two of them were seen on video that went viral. One of the officers was seen taking a selfie with one of the Capitol rioters, another one seen on video wearing a Make America Great Again hat and also seeming to direct rioters around the Capitol.

So, those could be two of the officers who were implicated here. The Capitol Police not giving specifics. Capitol Police, they did release a statement saying this, Jim. "The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers on January 6th, the bravery and courage exhibited by the vast majority of our employees was inspiring."

Listen to this, though. The Capitol Police issuing that statement. But just overnight, the head of the Capitol Police Union for the officers here, releasing a pretty scathing, very lengthy statement. And I'll read a part of it, saying, "I believe in accountability, even one incident of an officer not fulfilling their duty is one too many. Yet we have leaders still on the payroll who completely failed to fulfill their duties up to and during the Capitol attack, who have evaded all consequences. Some of those leaders that were in charge on January 6th failed miserably on that day and have since been promoted as they hide in plain sight."

So still a lot of anger among Capitol Police as to the leadership here, of course they note later on in their statement, they referenced the acting -- former acting police chief, Yogananda Pittman. She was in charge of intelligence. They claim that she did nothing that day. She has since been put back into that role. So there, you can see that there's this --


SCHNEIDER: -- underlying disappointment.

SCIUTTO: Well, there are two different issues there, right? You know, whether it was officers that were encouraging or even aiding the rioters during that day and then the other question of lack of preparation, leadership on that day to help prevent injury to officers.

SCHNEIDER: And a new Capitol Police chief who will be briefing Nancy Pelosi and others today on what we can expect for the coming rally this weekend.

SCIUTTO: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

HILL: Still ahead, new evidence that shows vaccine mandates are working. This, as more Americans now say they support them at work and school.

SCIUTTO: And a quick programming note. Mass shootings, gun violence and the NRA's role in U.S. law. What is the cost of the war on gun control? A CNN Film, "THE PRICE OF FREEDOM," airs Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, a new poll shows that most Americans, but not by large margins, do support vaccine mandates for schools, workplaces and sporting events. This, as new data suggests that those mandates are working in terms of hemming in the spread of the virus.

HILL: And joining us now to discuss, Dr. Erin Amjadi, she's an internal medicine physician in Austin, Texas. Doctor, good to have you with us this morning. As Jim pointed out,

there's this new poll that shows support for mandates is growing. Definitely up since the spring, still about evenly split, 59 percent to 49 percent. We know Governor Abbott not in favor of these vaccine mandates. But from a practical perspective, based on what you see in your practice, what kind of a difference do you think vaccine mandates would make and where would they be most effective?

DR. ERIN AMJADI, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: It's definitely going to be helpful across the board. We have seen, in our practice -- again, I see mostly adult patients, but we had a poll of our Medicine patients who show that 90-plus percent of them have been vaccinated, which is wonderful. And because we are also seeing patients who are getting infected even after getting vaccinated, we know that those infections are less severe, less hospitalizations, and less complications. It's going to be a major, major bonus and turning point.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Amjadi, I'm sure you've had a lot of difficult conversations with patients who are still reluctant to get vaccines, and the basic thinking behind the Biden policy seems to be, we tried convincing as a country, right? Showing all available data making it widely available, and free, and all that kind of stuff. That hasn't worked. So now sort of as a last resort, we got to start mandating it.

And I wonder, based on your experience, given all those conversations, is that true?


Do you agree that now, listen, the time for argument is over? Let's start requiring?

AMJADI: Yes. I mean, it's been kind of frustrating from a medical provider standpoint. And we always have encouraged people to ask questions and to get involved with their health care. And if you're still having those issues, please reach out to your physician or your child's pediatrician, or your local epidemiologist if you're still having issues. But if that's not working, then I think for public health safety, it's time.

HILL: You know, there's also -- speaking of questions, and I'm sure this may be one that you get, certainly one that I've heard. People who were previously infected with COVID may say -- not all but some say look, I have the antibodies. I don't need the vaccine. Where is the science today in terms of what we know about those antibodies, how long they last, how much protection they offer versus the vaccine?

AMJADI: Right. We're still learning. I mean, this is all things that are coming at us on a daily basis. And what we understand is that, yes, antibodies are going to -- from having a previous infection definitely will be protective for a while but we don't really have any sense of what a while is at this point. So our recommendations are still get vaccinated, even if you've been infected.

SCIUTTO: So in Texas, of course, you have a governor who's opposed to any sort of mandate whatsoever, certainly on vaccines but also on masks. We noted that the Ft. Worth School District, despite that -- listen, it's going ahead, it's going ahead with the mask requirement there. Are you -- do you believe you will see more of that in the state of Texas, and do you think that's the right thing?

AMJADI: I certainly hope so. And, yes, I do believe it's the right thing. Our school districts in the very beginning, mine in particular, felt unable to mandate masks due to the government's order. And that's the reason why we kept our second grader home, was because we weren't feeling like he was being protected enough by our state officials. So the more that we can get out the word that this simple procedure, of wearing a mask is protective to our children, who are vulnerable, who can't get vaccinated at this point, it's time to step up for them.

SCIUTTO: Well, Dr. Erin Amjadi, thanks so much. We know you got a lot of work to do where you are. We wish you the best of luck.

AMJADI: Thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Well, the FBI is now releasing newly classified documents about the 9/11 attacks 20 years later. What the document reveals about the hijackers' connections to Saudi Arabia. That's next.



HILL: The FBI just releasing the first of what is expected to be several declassified documents related to its investigation of the 9/11 terror attacks and suspected Saudi government support for the hijackers.

SCIUTTO: CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt joins us now.

So, Alex, we knew about some communications between folks in the consulate out in L.A. and some of the hijackers prior.


SCIUTTO: What new does this tell us?

MARQUARDT: Well, this just solidifies that line between these first two hijackers who arrived on American soil in southern California and Saudi officials at the consulate in Los Angeles. It does not provide a smoking gun to anyone in the senior levels of the Saudi government. Much of what we got here is a summary of an interview that the FBI did in 2015 with an unnamed Saudi national who had worked at the consulate and heavily redacted as you can see right there. And it goes into some detail about his frequent contact with multiple people who provided what they called significant logistical support to two of the hijackers.

One of the people that he was in touch with is someone named Omar al- Bayoumi, who is purportedly a Saudi student but believed to have been a Saudi intelligence official, and the FBI report says that he offered travel assistance, lodging and financing to these two hijackers who, as I mentioned, were the first two of the 19 to arrive in the states but there is, as I said, no new information that connects the hijacking plot or planning to anyone senior in the Saudi government or in the Saudi royal family. But this is really just the first release of this long series of declassified documents to come in the coming months.

HILL: And Alex, I'm curious, how are the families of the 9/11 victims reacting to this first document?

MARQUARDT: Well, Erica, despite the fact that there is no smoking gun, as I was mentioning, they have responded quite positively. In fact they said that this puts to bed any doubts about Saudi complicity in these attacks. I want to read you part of the statement that they put out following the release by the FBI of this document. They said, "Even with the unfortunate number of redactions, the report contains a host of bombshell new revelations implicating numerous Saudi government officials in a coordinated effort to mobilize an essential support network for the first arriving 9/11 hijackers. The range of contacts at critical moments among these Saudi government officials, al Qaeda and the hijackers is stunning.

And surely, Erica and Jim, they will also be waiting eagerly for the rest of these declassified documents to come out.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Ongoing litigation, there's a lot of money at stake. Those families suing the Saudi government.

Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.

HILL: President Biden's agenda facing a make-or-break moment. So can Democrats agree with each other on a deal. CNN's new reporting is next.



HILL: Good morning, I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: Welcome to Erica. I'm Jim Sciutto.

New this busy Monday morning, a pair of international scientists says that COVID booster shots are not yet needed for the general public. The scientistic review published in the prestigious "Lancet" medical journal says that vaccine efficacy against severe illness from COVID remains so high even for the Delta variant that that data does not yet support a third shot for the broad population.

HILL: So let's get straight to CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

So, Elizabeth, to be clear, we have been hearing, right, more push for booster shots. What they're saying here is that for the general population, now may not be the time. Break down what more they've said in this new publication in the "Lancet"?