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Holocaust Controversy; Chicago Vaccine Mandate Showdown; FDA Recommends Johnson & Johnson Booster Shot; Bill Clinton Hospitalized; Capitol Police Officer Facing January 6 Obstruction Charges; . Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 15, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour. I'm Alisyn Camerota.


There's breaking news connected to the January 6 Capitol riot. A Capitol Police officer has been indicted on charges of obstruction. Now, the indictment claims that officer Michael A. Riley told a Capitol rioter to tamper with evidence by advising the rioter to remove online Facebook posts that could be incriminating.

CAMEROTA: While he allegedly told this person he was -- quote -- "just looking out" for them.

Let's go to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

So, Jessica, how did this come to light?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is all detailed, Alisyn, in a six-page indictment that was just unsealed this morning after this officer, Michael Angelo Riley, was arrested.

Officer Riley appeared in court about an hour ago. It was virtual. He was in his holding cell while the proceedings went online. And he is being released. He's actually being released with restrictions. He needs to get approval for any travel. He cannot have any weapons. That includes guns.

This all came about, according to this indictment, in the beginning of January, when this officer first friended someone who later appeared at the Capitol riot and made his way inside the Capitol. One day after the Capitol riot, on January 7, this indictment says that this Capitol Police officer contacted the alleged rioter because he noticed that there were videos and pictures on his Facebook feed documenting his time inside the Capitol. So, on January 7, this is allegedly what the officer wrote to that

alleged rioter. Here it is, saying: "Hey, I'm a Capitol Police officer who agrees with your political stance. Take down the part about being in the building. They are currently investigating. And everyone who is in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out."

Then days later, the officer wrote again, saying, "Get off social media," again sending warnings to this alleged rioter that they were being investigated and that they should take down any of this incriminating evidence.

Well, this rioter was eventually arrested on January 19, and was talking to the FBI, revealing to them that they had been in touch with this Capitol Police officer. One day later, the Capitol Police officer is accused of deleting all of these messages and ceasing all communication.

And that's where these two charges of obstruction come in. One charge of obstruction is -- goes to the Capitol Police officer instructing this accused rioter to take down all of his messages and then the second charge pertains to this Capitol Police officer then deleting all of his own messages. These are two serious charges of obstruction.

They each carry up to 20 years in prison. Right now, the Capitol Police officer has been released. He will appear again in court, Alisyn and Victor, on October 26. The Capitol Police, they have said that he has been suspended pending this investigation and they say that they, of course, take this very seriously -- guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jessica Schneider, thank you for that breaking news.

We are also following a growing standoff between the mayor of Chicago and the city's police force over the mayor's vaccine mandate. Tonight is the deadline for officers to submit their vaccination status. If they fail to do so by midnight, they could be put on unpaid leave.

But according to the president of the police union, the numbers are on the officers' side. He claims as many as half of the force will defy this mandate.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is in Chicago.

Adrienne, the police union clearly believes that it has leverage here. What are we hearing from the mayor?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mayor believes the law is on the city's side.

And like you noted, by contrast, the president of the union believes he has the upper hand. We will have to wait and see what happens in court. This after the city filed a complaint against the Fraternal Order of Police and its members, as well as the union president.

In that complaint, the city is asking the court to intervene. Specifically, the city wants the FOP and its members to stop from engaging into work stoppage or strike. This is all in response to the citywide vaccination policy for city workers.


Starting today, all city workers must disclose their vaccination status. If they don't disclose their status, they will be placed on unpaid leave.

Also, folks who are not fully vaccinated will be required to undergo COVID testing twice a week, and those tests must be separated by three to four days.

Now, as you noted, the FOP president has been pushing back and warned at least 50 percent of its membership will not comply with this policy. Listen in to what the mayor had to say, followed by his response to the mayor.


LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: What we have seen from the Fraternal Order of Police and particularly leadership is a lot of misinformation, a lot of half-truths, and, frankly, flat-out lies in order to induce an insurrection. And we're not having that.

And so we want to make it very, very clear that the law is on our side. We feel very confident about it.

JOHN CATANZARA, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: If you can financially sustain a hit, then stick to your guns, take the hit, and we will fight it in arbitration every single time, until the last case is resolved.

The city cannot keep doing what they're doing. They have an obligation to worry about public safety, not about someone's health status.


BROADDUS: And COVID-19 is among the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers.

Take a look at these numbers; 228 officers across the state died last year; 245 -- or excuse me -- 245 died last year, 228 this year. And in Chicago specifically, last year, COVID killed four police officers. And this month, COVID killed the former president of the union here -- Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Adrienne Broaddus, thank you for that.

BLACKWELL: All right, joining us now to discuss, CNN senior law enforcement and analyst and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and Alice Yin, a reporter for "The Chicago Tribune" who has been closely following this story.

Welcome to you both.

Chief, let me start with you. And we heard now this political buzzword of an insurrection from the

mayor. The head of the FOP has invoked the Holocaust in this fight as well.

First, your view of this fight that the FOP chair is now waging against the mayor's office specifically?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, one, it's incredibly unfortunate, obviously.

And just so you know, I'm a 30-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. That's where I began my policing career.

I think the leverage is on the side of the mayor. This is a job action. That is prohibited in the union contract. He's couching it as something different, but that's exactly what it is.

I watched his message on YouTube. And he's calling for officers to not comply with the city mandate, and make out the forms that would let them know whether or not they were vaccinated, or at least be able to submit to regular testing.

And so if 50 percent -- and I don't know if the number is actually that high. Certainly, it would have an impact on public safety. And that's my biggest concern. I mean, police officers have an obligation much higher than this political nonsense that seems to be going around, around vaccines right now. And that is to keep the public safe. They're sworn to do that.

And to walk off the job for something like this is a violation of their oath.

CAMEROTA: Alice, you have been covering this.

To be clear. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, they don't even have to be vaccinated by midnight tonight. This is, if they don't want to get vaccinated, they can submit to testing twice a week, but that's a deal-breaker for them?

ALICE YIN, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Yes, last week, the mayor updated the policy to announce that, until the end of the year, you have the option to submit to semi-weekly COVID testing, at your own time or expense.

But the union's position is, whether you're vaccinated or not, they don't believe that it's right to submit your vaccination status, which, as legal experts have said, the city has the right to ask their employees to do.

BLACKWELL: Chief, you brought up your 30-year history there in Chicago Police Department.

The FOP head said that he does not believe the city has the authority to mandate a vaccine, let alone that information about your medical history. Think back a few decades for me. I'm sure they asked a lot about your medical history to even get the job. Were there vaccines that were required as well?

RAMSEY: Certainly, I mean, just like going to school, I mean, polio and measles, mumps, things of that nature.

I mean, this is not anything new. And, again, the city isn't mandating that they all have to be vaccinated.


RAMSEY: Just show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing.


I mean, this isn't just about your health. It's about the health of everyone around you. And, again, four Chicago police officers died last year from COVID. And now their union president or former union president dies this year.

I mean, I -- personally I don't get it. But I think that the leverage right now is on the side of the city.

CAMEROTA: Alice, we heard Commissioner Ramsey there said that he thinks that the leverage is on the mayor's side.

But given the situation with crime in Chicago right now, there's rising violence, at the end of the day, doesn't she need the police?

YIN: Yes, I think it's important to note that we don't know at this point how many officers will follow his order.

The city has not released statistics on how many officers have submitted their vaccination status so far. And although John Catanzara has said the 50 percent figure, he hasn't really given any proof or data to back that up.

But he does have some leverage, because, as you noted there, the city is grappling with crime. And if officers really are willing to walk to the edge of the cliff with him, the buck would stop with the mayor. People would blame her. They would say that, although she's in a tough decision, weighing public health and public safety, that she allowed this to happen.

BLACKWELL: Now, Alice, I understand that the department also has hundreds of vacancies. So they have got some open positions. The mayor says that she has a contingency plan if there's a large percentage, up to half of those officers walk off the force or are not allowed to work because they don't disclose.

Do you know what that contingency plan entails at all?

YIN: She has been pretty tight-lipped about what the plan of action is. If that happens, she's more preferring to say we will get to that if that even happens.

But Governor J.B. Pritzker has said he's willing to deploy the National Guard to Chicago if there are extreme shortages of Chicago police to help fight crime.

CAMEROTA: Commissioner Ramsey, if you were commissioner today of the Chicago Police Department, what would you tell your officers?

RAMSEY: Well, I would tell them to comply with the directives from the city. And in the meantime, I'd be making preparations on what to do should you have a large number of officers walk off the job, because literally that's exactly what the president is calling for.

You go to 12-hour shifts. You cancel days off. You take people out of administrative positions, put them back in patrol. Again, the National Guard, State Police, I mean, you have got a lot of resources that you could bring into the city on a temporary basis.

But the only losers in this entire thing is the people that live in Chicago and that work in Chicago. Chicago is my hometown. I care a lot about it, still that family there. And they are going through a rough period of time with an increase in gun violence and so forth.

So for a police leader to call for police officers to walk off, in my opinion, is one of the worst things could possibly be done and is truly a violation of their oath of office.

CAMEROTA: Commissioner Ramsey, Alice Yin, thank you both. Obviously, we will be watching what happens at midnight.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

Let's go to Philadelphia now and that city's mandate requiring health care workers, higher ed employees and students get vaccinated. That goes into effect today. They have until the end of the day to get their first shot. And if they don't, they could be placed on unpaid leave or face suspensions.

Alexandra Field is following this for us.

So, Alex, the deadline for the mandate has already been extended. What's next?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, you're talking about hundreds of thousands of people that this mandate applies to, but you have to step back and recognize the fact that the vast majority of people in these groups have been vaccinated already.

So this is really about Philadelphia covering that last mile. They're saying that they saw hospitals, colleges, universities moving in the direction of mandating vaccines as far back as the summer, but their key concern is still the nursing homes.

That, of course, has been a problem not just in Philadelphia, but across the country throughout the course of the pandemic. In the city of Philadelphia alone, you saw about 1, 200 pandemic-related deaths in nursing homes. That's about a third of the total deaths in the city that resulted from COVID-19.

As of earlier this week, the Department of Health was saying that just over 87 percent of nursing home staff had received at least one dose of the vaccine, but they want to get to 100 percent by tonight. And the city believes that mandates really do work, because since they announced this mandate about two months ago, they have seen that vaccination rate against these workers increasing steadily.

There have been calls to extend the deadline even further. The commissioner is rejecting that. She is saying that, if you work in health care, this is a matter of life and death. You are in the business of saving lives. And she went on to say that getting a vaccine during the time of a pandemic is really the lowest bar to clear.



And, of course, we saw that CDC study that said that those who are unvaccinated have an 11 times' higher rate or risk of dying from COVID than those who are vaccinated. Important to get that shot.

Alexandra Field, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Alex.

BLACKWELL: New audio obtained by CNN reveals a Texas school administrator told teachers that if they have a book on the Holocaust in their classrooms, they must also have books offering opposing views.

The controversy and confusion for teachers in Texas.

CAMEROTA: And President Biden ran against Donald Trump's immigration plan, but his administration is now planning to revive one of the former president's controversial policies.

That's ahead.



CAMEROTA: An update now on that controversial abortion law in Texas.

A federal appeals court is siding with the state and allowing the law to stay in place. Texas has the most restrictive abortion law in the country. It bans abortions after six weeks, just six weeks, I should say, into a pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

With the Fifth Circuit's latest move, the Justice Department says it will ask the Supreme Court to step in and block the law.

BLACKWELL: Well, now to another controversy in Texas. This one is in a school district.

A superintendent in South Lake, Texas, is apologizing after one of his district administrators instructed teachers on how to enforce a new state education law.

Gina Peddy invoked the Holocaust as an example of an historic event that would require a teacher to provide books with -- quote -- "opposing views" Now, CNN obtained audio of the incident that was recorded by a staff member.


GINA PEDDY, CARROLL INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: Try to remember the concepts of 3979 and make sure that, if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has opposing--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you oppose the Holocaust?



BLACKWELL: Now, CNN has reached out to Peddy to comment, but has not gotten a response back.

Joining me now is Texas State Teachers Association president Ovidia Molina.

Thank you so much for being with us.

We did not get a response from Peddy, but this is from the school. "During the conversations with teachers during last week's meeting, the comments made were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. Additionally, we recognize that there are not two sides of the Holocaust."

Now, these teachers are trying to understand, try to comply with this new law. Can you just help us understand the difficulty for teachers trying to stay within the bounds of this new legislation?


It's very hard to -- for anybody to understand what this new law says, because it is so vague. It's up to interpretation. And so we have over 1,000 school districts in Texas that are going to interpret this law, the way CARROLL ISD did, and tell our teachers that they shouldn't do something or that they should do something as reprehensible as giving another side to teaching the Holocaust?

The reality is we don't know. We don't know what's going to get us in trouble. We are only wanting to teach the truth. And right now we are afraid to do that.

BLACKWELL: So let me read a section of the law, this clause that really is applicable to this.

First, no teacher is compelled to teach anything that is controversial, but it says teachers who choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs shall to the best of their ability strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.

So, obviously, the Holocaust is not one of those currently controversial or widely debated events. But who is the arbiter to determine what falls into that category and what qualifies as suitable opposition?

MOLINA: And that's where one of our biggest questions and concerns is that we don't know.

We don't know if it's going to be a reprimand from the school district. We don't know. It is a law. So are we breaking the law? Are we going to be arrested? What is actually going to happen? And many of our educators are afraid of what's going to happen to their careers. Is their certificate going to be pulled?

We as educators are always striving to teach our students the truth, to have discussions, to grow curiosity, and have critical thinking occurring so that we can foster a love of learning. And we don't know how to do that if we don't know what we can and cannot do, say, teach our students.

BLACKWELL: Let's listen to an interview with one of the teachers involved in the Carroll District incident.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in such shock when I heard these words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We felt this was necessary because we felt like no one was going to listen until a teacher spoke up.

QUESTION: The district says that they have not told teachers to ban books, to completely shut down libraries. What are you seeing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a lie. It is a flat-out lie. Like, they're -- how could you even make that statement?

QUESTION: What do you think is at stake here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In books, children see what the world can be. And to have that taken away because we're afraid of a few parents getting upset about a word or two or an idea that they have imagined is in a book is unthinkable.



BLACKWELL: You know, they discussed books because, days before that recording, there was a fourth grade teacher who was reprimanded after a parent complained about an anti-racism book that was still in her classroom.

What's what's your concern as it relates to teacher retention and recruitment, considering the difficulty to comply for some teachers with this new law?

MOLINA: There's concerns all over the place .How are we going to recruit new educators into education and allow them to do what they went to school to prepare for and to -- most of our new aspiring educators are wanting to help our children change the world for the better.

How are we going to do that if we don't know what we can say? How are we going to be -- feel as good educators knowing that we cannot teach the truth because we're -- we might get in trouble? We are having to tell our teachers to know their rights. We are having to have meetings to have discussions about what can happen to them.

And the reality is most of the questions is, we don't know. And it's just -- the uncertainty of what we can and cannot do in schools is ridiculous. Politics came into our classrooms, and they shouldn't have.

BLACKWELL: An anti-racism book is enough to get you reprimanded in the state of Texas.

Ovidia Molina, thank you.

MOLINA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, coming up: President Biden is getting an earful from pro-immigrant groups, as his administration prepares to revive a controversial Trump era border policy.

We have our new reporting next.