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Pandemic Takes A Toll On Frontline Health Care Workers; Chicago Public Schools Cancel Classes After Teachers Union Votes To Go Virtual; Attorney General Garland Speaks About DOJ's Jan. 6th Probe. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 14:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: But in terms of seeing little kids -- I mean, again, you are a mom of, I think, an under-1-year-old child. So what's that doing to pediatricians?

DR. SARAH COMBS, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, CHILDREN'S NATIONAL HOSPITAL: I think it can be hard. I think certainly that has gone on for a while. I think all those of us who even aren't in health care, it's been an emotional toll.

As a parent, there's a toll of not being sure of what the best decision is for your child. Then add to that, the layer of working in health care and having to see young children suffer. I think it's really tough.

I think one advantage we have in pediatrics -- and this has been talked about in the media -- is that, luckily, for the most part, children are doing very well with COVID.

And those of us in pediatric frontline work, acute-care medical work, we see this in general that children can get sick, very sick very quickly. But they also have this amazing resiliency and bounce back so well.

So I think for those of us where it is hard, there's a toll, there's an emotional toll, it can be heartening to see.

But let's say that patient, admitted to the hospital a few days ago to the intensive care unit, needing support for breathing, really not doing well, three or four days later, they might be walking out of the hospital back to their normal selves.

So I think we take solace in that as much as we can.

CAMEROTA: That is a saving grace.

Dr. Sarah Combs, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

COMBS: Thank you for having me.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Well, Chicago closes its schools physically and virtually after the teachers union voted to go remote. How the mayor is reacting, next.

CAMEROTA: But first, here's a look at some of the other events we're watching today.



BLACKWELL: One day after their union voted to stop in-person instruction, teachers in Chicago say they've been locked out of their virtual classrooms.

CAMEROTA: The city says their decision not to return to class amounts to a quote, "work stoppage," and that teachers can lose their pay over it.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has the latest.

Adrienne, how long do teachers think this is going to go on?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, a representative with the union says the target date to return to the classroom is January 18th, if not before.

And the union has laid out specific requests that will help lead its teachers back to the classroom.

For example, they will return to the classroom if there's a decrease in this COVID surge.

If that doesn't happen, they hope to come to an agreement with the city and the mayor.

For example, they're asking for some specific things, which include increased and better testing. And they want to staff and students to be provided with better masks, specifically KN95 masks.

The union voted last night to return to remote learning. But, as you mentioned, after that vote, the teachers union says the city and the district locked them out of their online learning portals.

We heard from educators throughout the day. Here's what one of them had to say in response to the mayor.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D-CHICAGO): The schools are safe. We know it because of the hundreds of millions of dollars that cps has invested in our schools.

Why are we here again? It doesn't make any practical sense.

BRIANA HAMBRIGHT-HALL, TEACHER: I have seen how the schools are not clean. If we need more workers or you need to get another contract to make sure our schools are safe, then that's what you do. But don't keep using us as sacrificial lambs, saying that it's safe to

be in schools. It's not. It's not. And so this is what you have left us to do. Again.


BROADDUS: So frustration on both sides.

The teachers also saying they never intended to stop instruction. Also saying, earlier today, the students have the tools readily available for remote learning.

So we will wait and see what happens -- Alisyn and Victor?

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Adrienne. Obviously, just the students are on the losing end of this struggle.

Adrienne Broaddus, thank you very much.


BLACKWELL: Any moment, Attorney General Merrick Garland will speak about the January 6th investigation a day before the one-year anniversary. New information we have on what he's expected to say. That's next.


BLACKWELL: Let's go now to the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: -- the more than 115,000 employees of the Department of Justice for the first time.

Today, I have brought us all together again for two reasons.

First and foremost, to thank you. Thank you for the work you have done not just over the last 10 months, but over the past several years.

Work that you have done in the face of unprecedented challenges, ranging from an unprecedented, deadly pandemic to an unprecedented attack on our democracy.

Thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your dedication. I am honored to serve alongside you.

And second, as we begin a new year and as we prepare to mark a solemn anniversary tomorrow, it is a fitting time to reaffirm that we, at the Department of Justice, will do everything in our power to defend the American people and American democracy.


We will defend our democratic institutions from attack. We will protect those who serve the public from violence and threats of violence. We will protect the cornerstone of our democracy, the right to every eligible citizen to cast a vote that counts.

And we will do all of this in a manner that adheres to the rule of law and honors our obligation to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of everyone in this country.

Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of January 6, 2021, the day the United States capitol was attacked while lawmakers met to affirm the results of a presidential election.

In the early afternoon of January 6th, as the United States Senate and House of Representatives were meeting to certify the vote count of the Electoral College, a large crowd gathered outside the capitol building.

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., individuals in the crowd began to force entry into the capitol by smashing windows and assaulting U.S. Capitol Police who were stationed there to protect the members of Congress as they took part in one of the most solemn proceedings of our democracy.

Others in the crowd encouraged and assisted those who attacked the police.

Over the course of several hours, outnumbered law enforcement officers sustained a barrage of repeated, violent attacks. About 80 Capitol Police and 60 D.C. Metropolitan Police were assaulted.

As our own court filings and thousands of public videos of the event attest, perpetrators punched dozens of law enforcement officers, knocking some officers unconscious. Some perpetrators tackled and dragged law enforcement officers.

Among the many examples of such violence, one officer was crushed in a door. Another was dragged down a set of stairs, face down, repeatedly tased and beaten and suffered a heart attack.

Some perpetrators attacked law enforcement officers with chemical agents that burned their eyes and skin. And some assaulted officers with pipes, poles, and other dangerous or deadly weapons.

Perpetrators also targeted, assaulted, tackled, and harassed journalists and destroyed their equipment.

With increasing numbers of individuals having breached the capitol, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, including the president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence, had to be evacuated.

As a consequence, proceedings in both chambers were disrupted for hours, interfering with a fundamental element of American democracy, the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.

Those involved must be held accountable. And there's no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice.

It is impossible to overstate the heroism of the Capitol Police officers, Washington, D.C. Metro Police Department officers, and other law enforcement officers who defended and secured the capitol that day.

They demonstrated to all of us and to our country what true courage looks like. Their resolve, their sacrifice, and their bravery protected thousands of people working inside the capitol that day.

Five officers who responded selflessly to the attack on January 6th have since lost their lives.

I ask everyone to please join me in a moment of silence in recognition of the service and sacrifice of Officer Brian Sicknick, Officer Howard Liebengood, Officer Jeffrey Smith, Officer Gunther Hashida and Officer Kyle DeFreytag.


GARLAND: I know I speak for all of us in saying that, tomorrow, and in our work in the days ahead, we will not only remember them, but we will do everything we can to honor them.


In the aftermath of the attack, the Justice Department began its work on what has become one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.

Only a small number of perpetrators were arrested in the tumult of January 6th itself.

Every day since, we have worked to identify, investigate, and apprehend defendants from across the country. And we have done so at record speed and scale in the midst of a pandemic during which some grand juries and courtrooms were not able to operate.

Led by the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia and the FBI's Washington field office, DOJ personnel across the department, in nearly all 56 field offices, in nearly all 94 United States attorneys' offices, and in many main justice components have worked countless hours to investigate the attack.

Approximately 70 prosecutors from the District of Columbia and another 70 from other U.S. attorneys offices and DOJ divisions have participated in this investigation.

So far, we have issued over 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants, seized approximately 2,000 devices, pored through over 20,000 hours of video footage, and searched through an estimated 15 terabytes of data.

We have received over 300,000 tips from ordinary citizens, who have been our indispensable partners in this effort.

The FBI's Web site continues to post photos of persons in connection with the events of January 6th, and we continue to seek the public's assistance in identifying those individuals.

As of today, we have arrested and charged more than 725 defendants in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia for their roles in the January 6th attack.

In charging the perpetrators, we have followed well-worn prosecutorial processes.

Those who assaulted officers or damaged the capitol face greater charges. Those who conspired with others to obstruct the vote count also face greater charges.

Those who did not undertake such conduct have been charged with lesser offenses, particularly if they accepted their responsibility early and cooperated with the investigation.

In the first months of the investigation, approximately 145 defendants pled guilty to misdemeanors. Mostly defendants who did not cause injury or damage.

Such pleas reflect the facts of those cases and the defendant's acceptance of responsibility. And they help conserve both judicial and prosecutorial resources so that attention can properly focus on the more serious perpetrators.

In complex cases, initial charges are often less severe than later charged offenses. This is purposeful, as investigators methodically collect and sift through more evidence.

By now, though, we have charged over 325 defendants with felonies. Many for assaulting officers and many for corruptly obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.

Twenty defendants charged with felonies have already pled guilty.

Approximately 40 defendants have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding and/or to obstruct law enforcement.

In the months ahead, 17 defendants are already scheduled to go to trial for their role in felony conspiracies.

A necessary consequence of the prosecutorial approach of charging less-serious offenses first is that courts impose shorter sentences before they impose longer ones.

In recent weeks, however, as judges have sentenced the first defendants convicted of assault and related violent conduct against officers, we have seen significant sentences that reflect the seriousness of those offenses, both in terms of the injuries they caused and the serious risk they posed to our democratic institutions.

The actions we have taken, thus far, will not be our last.

The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.

[14:55:07] Because January 6th was an unprecedented attack on the seat of our democracy, we understand that there's broad public interest in our investigation.

We understand that there are questions about how long the investigation will take and about what exactly we are doing.

Our answer is and will continue to be the same answer we would give with respect to any ongoing investigation, as long as it takes, and whatever it takes for justice to be done consistent with the facts and the law.

I understand that this may not be the answer some are looking for. But we will and we must speak through our work. Anything else jeopardizes the viability of our investigations and the civil liberties of our citizens.

Everyone in this room and on these screens is familiar with the way we conduct investigations and particularly complex investigations. We build investigations by laying a foundation.

We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases.

Investigating the more overt crimes generates linkages to less overt ones. Overt actors and the evidence they provide can lead us to others who may also have been involved.

And that evidence can serve as the foundation for further investigative leads and techniques.

In circumstances like those of January 6th, a full accounting does not suddenly materialize.

To ensure that all of those criminally responsible are held accountable, we must collect the evidence. We follow the physical evidence. We follow the digital evidence. We follow the money.

But most important, we follow the facts. Not an agenda or an assumption. The facts tell us where to go next.

Over 40 years ago, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the Justice Department concluded that the best way to ensure the department's independence, integrity, and fair application of our laws and, therefore, the best way to ensure the health of our democracy is to have a set of norms to govern our work.

The central norm is that, in our criminal investigations, there cannot be different rules depending on one's political party or affiliation.

There cannot be different rules for friends and foes. And there cannot be different rules for the powerful and the powerless.

There's only one rule.

We follow the facts and enforce the law in a way that respects the Constitution and protects civil liberties.

We conduct every investigation guided by the same norms, adhere to those norms, even when and especially when the circumstances we face are not normal.

Adhering to the department's longstanding norms is essential to our work in defending our democracy, particularly at a time when we are confronting a rise in violence and unlawful threats of violence in our shared public spaces and directed at those who serve the public.

We have all seen that Americans who serve and interact with the public at every level, many of whom make our democracy work every day, have been unlawfully targeted with threats of violence and actual violence.

Across the country, election officials and election workers, airline flight crews, school personnel, journalists, local elected officials, U.S. Senators and representatives and judges, prosecutors and police

officers have been threatened and/or attacked.

These are our fellow citizens, who administer our elections, ensure our safe travel, teach our children, report the news, represent their constituents, and keep our communities safe.

Some have been told that their offices would be bombed. Some have been told that they would be murdered, and precisely how, that they would be hanged, that they would be beheaded.


Police officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve our communities have been targeted with extraordinary levels of violence.

Flight crews have been assaulted. Journalists have been targeted. School personnel and their families have been threatened.