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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ex-Officer Kim Potter Who Mistook Her Gun For Her Taser Found Guilty Of Manslaughter In Death Of Daunte Wright; House Asks SCOTUS To Speed Review Of Trump's Request To Block Release Of About 700 Pages Of WH Records To Jan 6 Panel; CDC Shortens Isolation Period For Health Care Workers With COVID; Trump: "People Aren't Dying When They Take The Vaccine"; U.S. Hospitals At Breaking Point; Allies Take Page From Trump, Sue To Block Records From Jan. 6 Committee. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 23, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm taking some time off for the holidays, but I want to wish all of our viewers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let's hope 2022 will be a good year for all of us.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, guilty. Kim Potter, the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright found guilty of manslaughter. Tonight, Wright's mother is our guest.

Plus, breaking news, the House pushing the Supreme Court to move quickly on Trump's effort to keep White House records tied to January 6th secret.

And the rapid spread of Omicron shattering records and now the CDC is announcing a big change on how long a certain group of people need to isolate after testing positive. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news, former Minnesota Police Officer, Kim Potter, is behind bars. Found guilty of first and second- degree manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright. The jury determining that she committed a reckless and criminal act when she mistook her gun for her taser while trying to take Wright into custody in April.

They came to that decision after more than 27 hours of deliberation over four days, an excruciating wait for the family of Daunte Wright.


KATIE BRYANT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: Every single emotion that you could imagine just running through your body at that moment, I kind of let out a yelp because it was built up in the anticipation of what was to come while we were waiting for the last few days. And now we've been able to process it.


BOLDUAN: That is Daunte Wright's mother and she's joining us in a moment. But first, Adrienne Broaddus is OUTFRONT for us live from Minneapolis. Adrienne, what has the scene been outside the courthouse today after this?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, as the verdict was read, an explosive applause from people on the lawn of the courthouse, some of them traveling from Arkansas in the Carolinas to be here to support the Wright family. We also learned when the verdict was read today, that members of the jury found Potter guilty on the second-degree manslaughter charge Tuesday at 10:30 am.

And you might remember, five hours after that is when the jury came back with that question asking what steps should they take and how long should they deliberate if they couldn't come to a consensus. Well, they came to a consensus and we heard those results this afternoon.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, on the charge of manslaughter in the first-degree find the defendant guilty.


BROADDUS (voice over): Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kimberly Potter guilty on both counts of manslaughter tonight in Minnesota. Daunte Wright's parents relieved by the verdict.





BROADDUS (voice over): Well, Potter's husband could be heard yelling, "I love you, Kim," after her bail was revoked as she was escorted from the court in handcuffs. Potter said she intended to deploy her taser during a traffic stop in April, but fired her gun instead, killing 20- year-old Daunte Wright almost instantly.


K POTTER: I shot him. Oh, my god.

CROWD: Daunte Wright.


BROADDUS (voice over): Shortly after the verdict, crowds outside the courthouse chanted Wright's name. While the State pushed to reassure of Potter's police family.


KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: When a member of your profession is held accountable, it does not diminish you. In fact, it shows, it shows the whole world that those of you who enforce the law are also willing to live by it.


BROADDUS (voice over): The jury took nearly 27 hours to deliberate whether Potter's actions were criminal.


K POTTER: My (inaudible) ...


BROADDUS (voice over): Over eight days in Minneapolis, jurors heard from 33 witnesses, including tearful testimony from Potter herself.


K POTTER: I didn't want to hurt anybody.


BROADDUS (voice over): The defense aim to prove the 26-year police veteran was protecting her fellow officers during a risky traffic stop.


EARL GRAY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She didn't cause this and she had a right to use deadly force.


BROADDUS (voice over): In closing arguments, they faulted Wright for not cooperating with law enforcement.


GRAY: She says, "Taser. Taser. Taser," and he should have, okay, stop. I give up. No. No. Daunte Wright causes on death, unfortunately.


BROADDUS (voice over): The State pushed back.


ERIN ELDRIDGE, MINNESOTA ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Carrying a badge and a gun is not a license to kill.


BROADDUS (voice over): The State asked jurors not to focus on Potter's intention, but on the consequences of her actions.


ELDRIDGE: This was a colossal screw up. A blunder of epic proportions. It was irreversible and it was fatal.



BROADDUS (voice over): Wright's family reacting to the news outside court.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We only got one thing to say. Are you ready? One, two, three, we love you, Daunte.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One two three, we love you Daunte.


BROADDUS (on camera): Tonight, Kimberly Potter is at a correctional facility about 25 miles outside of Minneapolis. It Houses all females. Her family will not be able to visit on Christmas. It's one of the rules at that jail. But as you know, the Wright family will never be able to speak with Daunte again and they're preparing to spend the first Christmas without him. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Adrienne, thank you for that.

OUTFRONT with me now is Katie Bryant, Daunte Wright's mother and Benjamin Crump, Civil Rights Attorney who represents Daunte Wright's family. Thank you both for being here.

Ms. Bryant, thank you for taking the time tonight to speak with us. Today as I was watching you, you seemed understandably overwhelmed speaking after the verdict. Were you surprised by it?

BRYANT: I would say I was getting a little worried come day three and day four of how it was going to turn out. But I'm grateful that accountability was found in both first and second-degree manslaughter charges.

BOLDUAN: When the jury came back, a couple days ago and asked what would happen and ask the judge what would happen if they can't reach consensus, what was going through your mind then? How worried were you?

BRYANT: At that moment, I was really worried. I wasn't sure if you had your futures that were hung up on a not guilty verdict at all. I was praying that second-degree manslaughter was already charged and they were - it was already found a guilty verdict on and that they were working on the first degree.

There was so many thoughts and so many feelings that were running, running through my mind. That day was a really rough day.

BOLDUAN: How do you feel this evening? It's been a few hours, but how does it feel now?

BRYANT: We'll never have Daunte back. Accountability is what we've been asking for since day one, so we're grateful that we were able to have accountability. But like everybody has been saying we still don't have Daunte home and this is just a step forward and the bigger issue with policing and hopefully there has to be no more Dauntes and so many more names that we chant in our streets.

BOLDUAN: Ben, the Attorney General made a really strong statement after the verdict was read, speaking to, well, speaking to just what Katie was talking about, speaking to police everywhere about what this verdict means. I want to play this one more time.


ELLISON: When a member of your profession is held accountable, it does not diminish you. In fact, it shows, it shows the whole world that those of you who enforce the law are also willing to live by it and that's a good thing. It restores trust, faith and hope.


BOLDUAN: Ben, you've been legal counsel to so many families of black men and women dying at the hands of police. What do you think of what the AG said?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR THE FAMILY OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: I agree with Atty. Gen. Ellison. He and his team understands that it's about equal justice no matter who's the person who committed the injustice. And as my co counsels and I taught them, we taught Katie and her husband, Arbuey, this is not just a victory for their family. This is a victory for equal justice, Kate.

There was a black police officer named Mohamed Noor, who had a similar situation where he killed a white woman and his defense was parallel, identical to that of Kim Potter. He cried and he said he was sorry. He was trying to protect his fellow officer. But yet, he was convicted and he was sentenced to 12 years. They went above the max.

So all of us waited with bated breath to see when the roles were reversed, when a white police woman shot a black man, would we get the same justice that white family have paid. So today is a great victory not just for the Wright family in getting accountability, but also a great victory for America as we strive for equal justice under the law.


BOLDUAN: Ben, what sentence are you pushing for? What sentence is appropriate? What sentence is accountability here? CRUMP: Well, certainly, as I just talked to you about a similar case

that was tried right there in the same courthouse in Minneapolis with a black police officer who was, as they described Officer Kim Potter, a good police officer never been convicted of any crime, never find his weapon, but yet he was sentenced to 12 years. So we will keep a mindful eye to see if the sentence of this white police woman is similar to the sentence given to that black police man.

BOLDUAN: Ben, thank you for coming on, as always. Ms. Bryant, thank you for coming here to speak with us on this day. Thank you very much.

CRUMP: Thank you.

BRYANT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. OUTFRONT for us now, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former defense attorney and former mayor of Baltimore. Stephanie, you've been with us throughout this entire thing, what's your reaction to this verdict tonight?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: I, like many people who've been watching, when we heard the jury have that question about what happens if we can't all come to an agreement, many of us who've watched juries before, thought for sure they were signaling that there might be a hung jury or that they would go for the lesser charge. So I was certainly surprised with the verdict.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this verdict is a sign or says that it was a bad idea to put Kim Potter on the stand to testify in her own defense?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: No, it's a really tough call when you're a defense attorney. But when you have a case like this, when so much of this case was about her mindset at the time, I didn't think they had an option. I think if she wanted a chance of being found not guilty, she would have really had to take the stand.

The challenge is when you take that chance, you have to live with the consequences. And her performance on the stand was mixed at best. There were times when she could have been more sympathetic that she ended up coming off a bit defensive or flat. And I don't think, well, we see that the jury just did not buy it, that they thought that the level of this mistake which everyone agreed it was a mistake. They just could not abide by it. They could not give her the benefit of the doubt.

And I think it speaks also to what that will say to other officers that this level of mistake, you have to be careful when you are using your weapon.

BOLDUAN: Ben Crump - you just heard what Ben Crump said about what sentencing. They would like to see - it's set for mid February. She could face, I believe the max is 15 years behind bars. How long do you think is appropriate here?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: As far as appropriate, that's certainly up to the judge. I will say that I don't think that the 12 years for the other officer to me, if this is an officer that had never had any issues before for a first offense seems high. So I don't think that they will go as high as 12 years and I think they might be trying to hand an olive branch, these officers who they've said, unfortunately, they said in your testimony that the officers were lying, so they might be trying to give an olive branch and go for a lesser sentence.

BOLDUAN: Yes. That's interesting. Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Trump appealing to the nation's highest court in order to keep his White House records secret.

Plus, alarming new data just released about the fast spread of the Omicron variant as we take you inside one hospital that's reaching a breaking point.

And the pressure mounting for a judge to reconsider a 110-year sentence for a truck driver responsible for this deadly crash. A man who lost his brother in that crash is our guest.



BOLDUAN: Breaking news, the January 6 Select Committee asking the Supreme Court to quickly consider whether to take up former President Trump's White House records lawsuit just hours after Trump citing executive privilege, ask the court to block the release of about 700 pages of those records.

Here's what the Committee tells the Supreme Court today, "Delay would inflict a serious injury on the Select Committee and the public. The Select Committee needs the requested documents now to help shape the direction of the investigation and allow the Select Committee to timely recommend remedial legislation."

Some of the documents in dispute are White House visitors' logs, visitors' lists and call logs, written notes from former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, draft speeches and correspondence about January 6th and documents alleging voter fraud.

A reminder that Trump is now asking the Supreme Court to intervene only because two previous courts have already rejected his argument.

OUTFRONT with me now is Donald Ayer, former Deputy Attorney General in the George H.W. Bush Administration. Thank you for being here. He also co-wrote an opinion piece titled 'Will Donald Trump Get Away With Inciting an Insurrection?' calling on the Justice Department to investigate Trump and his inner circle.

So first, let me ask you, Trump now taking his fight to the Supreme Court over these White House documents, this centers on his claim of executive privilege, the Select Committee asking the court to expedite its review. What do you expect the High Court to do? DONALD AYER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRES. GEORGE H.W.

BUSH: Well, so far this process involving these documents has been handled by every court in an exemplary way and handled as well by the National Archives. I'm very hopeful that the court will treat it the same way. This is not a serious claim of executive privilege. There's a whole series of points I can make on that if you want me to, but the essence of it is even if Trump were in a position to be asserting a claim that should be taken seriously and that is highly debatable, because the current president has decided not to assert a privilege.


If you apply the standards that are applied in assessing privilege, this claim doesn't even come close. And in essence, the Supreme Court needs to treat the case the way the other courts have so far moved very quickly recognize, the urgency of our national situation, deny the petition and deny the stay. That's what I'm very hopeful they will do. We'll have to wait and see.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And more broadly, timing is of the essence. And there is a sense of urgency even more broadly than just with the Supreme Court, because how real do you think, is the possibility that tying up the committee's investigation in various court battles, as we've seen, they will be, meaning Trump and allies, able to essentially run out the clock in hopes that Republicans retake the House majority in the next election, thus eliminating this Committee all together.

AYER: Well, I think that committee has done a great deal of work already. They've talked to many, many witnesses and collected many, many documents. We're looking at a situation now in this case, that's quite important. It involves records that belong to the American people. They're the records of the White House under Trump and the decisions that have been handed down by the courts so far are excellent, thorough, complete and make the case in overwhelming terms that there's no privilege.

And what needs to happen now is a rapid denial of the cert petition, a denial of the stay application and get those documents turned over. And I don't think that there's a need to have the clock be run out. I think we're moving forward. I think just reading the papers, people who pay a little bit of attention, are seeing the evidence accumulate and that's only what you see in the media. So I'm optimistic that we're moving in the right direction and that we're going to get accountability here.

BOLDUAN: That gets to your op-ed, because you argue that Attorney General Merrick Garland right now has more than enough evidence and justification to launch a robust and forceful investigation as you put it into Trump and his allies. But you also write you don't see any sign of that happening right now. How worried are you that the leaders who fanned the flames of the interaction will not be held accountable after all of this?

AYER: Well, it's a difficult situation. One of the challenges, one of the big challenges that Merrick Garland who, by the way, has done a superb job as Attorney General in my opinion and I think in the opinion of my co-authors, he had a tremendously difficult job after the prior administration used the Justice Department in a grossly political way to do the favors for the President and a whole variety of things to help him get reelected, total abuse of the department.

Merrick Garland had to restore the traditional, even handed fair way that the Department operates. And he has done that and he has done it very well. One of the features of his situation, though, is that we're dealing with a former president who not only persisted in, in denying that he had lost but who also continues to persist and apparently has minions around the country who are working and plotting the next effort to steal the election.

And so here we are today, with an attorney general who is being judicious and careful. He's not putting out public statements about what he's doing. We don't see evidence of an ongoing investigation. There might be such an investigation. We're concerned, though, that there might not be and that's why we wrote this op-ed piece.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

AYER: I think it's really, really important that there would be a full blown investigation for accountability of the leaders, not just the 700 rioters and people who committed violent acts who are being prosecuted, which is commendable and terrific. But we need to go after the leaders and we want to make sure that that investigation is underway.

So that's why we've wrote this article and it's an investigation that, I want to stress that it's an investigation we're calling for. We're not saying prosecute anyone. Do the job, look at the evidence and make the judgment. And if the evidence supports it, go after all the leaders right to the top.

BOLDUAN: Donald Ayer, thanks for your time.

AYER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next breaking news, new guidelines from the CDC for health care workers with COVID just out as cases surge across the country and doctors and nurses getting crushed under the weight of so many patients who need treatment and care.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the strongest respiratory therapists that I have, have broken down at times.




[19:28:20] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, the CDC announcing a major change to address

the surge in COVID cases and staffing shortages at hospitals. Health care workers who have COVID will no longer be required to isolate for 10 days. The CDC is saying they can return to work after seven days if they're symptom free and test negative.

The change only though applies to healthcare workers, not the public. And since we first learned of the Omicron variant over Thanksgiving, the U.S. has now seen nearly 36,000 deaths and the U.S. now has a higher seven-day average for new cases than at any point during the Delta surge.

New York State just saw another record number of cases for the sixth time in seven days. New York City's Mayor also announcing the New Year's Eve Ball Drop is happening, but fewer people are going to be allowed in Times Square.

And more than a hundred United flights on Christmas Eve have now been canceled as the airline says Omicron is impacting flight crews. A lot to get to.

OUTFRONT with me now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner whose Medical Adviser to the George W. Bush White House and Dr. Peter Hotez, Co-Director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital. Dr. Reiner, what do you think of this change by the CDC late this evening?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I welcome it. It's been a long time coming. And my guess is that the CDC has been watching closely what's going on in the United Kingdom. London has seen about 125 percent increase in sick days for healthcare workers in the City of London over the last week. Omicron is soaring in the United Kingdom and it's taking out the people who are man the hospitals.


And this has been the concern of all of us. I know my friend, Peter Hotez, has been talking about this for a long time, that if this virus surges in the United States we might overwhelm hospitals that will be depleted of health care workers.

So this new change by the CDC surges in the United States we might overwhelm hospitals that will be depleted of health care workers. So this new change by the CDC allows what is basically an entirely vaccinated staff who will almost certainly have either asymptomatic or low-impact illness to get back to work quickly after likely a negative antigen test.

I welcome it. And it's possible we don't even need seven days. It's possible we can move this to five days. We'll have to see.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Hotez, this gets to a conversation I had today with the chair of the South African Medical Association, the medical association. She told me that she is less concerned about a fast- spreading virus like this variant than she is about a slower-spreading variant that causes more severe disease. I'm wondering if that is how we should all be thinking about this now. DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT

TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yeah, I think, you know, Kate, we have to be a little careful about automatically assuming that omicron is a milder virus or a milder illness. Remember, the situation in South Africa and the U.K. is a bit different in that their omicron wave dovetailed on a pretty large delta wave. So a lot of the omicron cases both in South Africa and the U.K. were actually omicron re-infections following a delta infection. We have a different -- which may have had some mitigating effect and give the appearance that their epidemic was associated with milder disease.

We're in a different situation in the U.S. in that our delta wave was relatively confined geographically to mostly the Southern United States and over a defined period of time over the summer and into the early fall. So I think there's more vulnerable in places like New York and Washington.

And I think it may turn out that the omicron variant, the virus may be almost as serious as anything we've seen before. And indeed we are starting to see hospitalizations climb in New York and Washington, D.C.

So we'll see how things unfold over the next couple of weeks. And like, Jon, I'm really quite concerned about this one-two punch, meaning the rise in -- the rapid, rapid rise in omicron like nothing we've seen before in terms of surge and vertical slope together with a significant percentage of the health care workforce knocked out because of breakthrough symptomatic infection. Not that they're getting very sick, but sick enough to be home. And that can create a very dangerous situation for Americans.

BOLDUAN: That's really interesting. Dr. Reiner, this all eventually gets back to vaccinations, right? And in unusually strong terms, former President Trump came out defending COVID vaccines in a new interview and praised the benefit of them. Let me play this for you.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: All are very, very good. Came up with three of them in less than nine months. It was supposed to take five to twelve years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More people have died under COVID this year, by the way, under Joe Biden --

TRUMP: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- than under you. And more people took the vaccine this year. So people are questioning --

TRUMP: Oh, no, the vaccine worked but some people aren't taking it. The ones who get very sick and go to the hospital and the ones who don't take the vaccine. But it's still their choice. And if you take the vaccine you're protected. People aren't dying when they take the vaccine.


BOLDUAN: Dr. Reiner, were you surprised to hear Trump talk like that?

REINER: I was surprised. I was glad to hear him speak this way. And I have no idea what has finally prompted him to do this. I can't get into his head. Nor do I want to.

But this week, we passed the one-year milestone for vaccination in the United States. And over the course of this year, 500,000 more Americans have died. And even if we just look at the time point from when vaccinations were available to everyone, which is basically the first week in April, 250,000 Americans have died.

And from that time point on almost all of those eligible for vaccination but declining to be vaccinated. And through that massive carnage, through that terrible pain for so many people in this country, that man remained silent. He remained silent.

I hope his words have impact. I hope his words convince some of the 40 percent of people who voted for him who remain unvaccinated to go get vaccinated. But he remained silent while hundreds of thousands of people died in this country.

I hope he continues to vigorously promote vaccinations. But it's been a very long time coming.

BOLDUAN: I mean, Dr. Hotez, do you think at this point his words will have impact?

HOTEZ: Well, you know, I agree with Jon. If he had -- if he had said this back in April, May when there were so many people who were defiant of vaccines despite their wide availability, he might have saved thousands much lives.


And Americans should remember this number. 200,000 Americans since June 1 have thrown their lives away because they refused to get vaccinated despite the availability.

And it's tragic that Donald Trump did not say this when we needed him to say it. Okay, he said it now. Yes, it could have an effect, and here's why, because that number of 200,000 from over the last six months of needless American deaths, that is now projected to double by the first quarter of 2022.

So we still have the opportunity to save another 200,000 lives. And so what the president needs to do -- President Trump needs to do and President Biden, if they could work together, is not just make this a one-off thing. They need to launch a campaign to get America vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: I am not holding my breath for that, I will say that. It's good to see you both, though. Thank you very much.

OUTFRONT for us next, inside a New Mexico hospital where you will witness exactly what we have been talking about here. Staff at a breaking point.

And nearly 5 million people including Kim Kardashian supporting a call for clemency for a truck driver sentenced to 110 years for killing four people in this crash. Does he deserve leniency?



BOLDUAN: Tonight, a new study warning of the omicron variant. Though less severe it appears, its high transmissibility could still mean a lot of people ending up in hospitals. Right now, more than 70,000 people are hospitalized with COVID in the United States, and that's pushing some health care workers to their breaking point.

Sara Sidner's OUTFRONT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the annual holiday light display dazzles the eye and lifts the spirit.

But these are the lights grabbing all the attention just down the road. This is a COVID ICU, suddenly as busy as it ever was.

SCOTTY SILVA, RESPIRATORY CARE DIRECOTOR CHRISTUS ST. VINCENT MEDICAL CENTER: It is clinically, psychologically impossible to keep doing this day in and day out, especially for the past year or two -- even the strongest respiratory therapists that I have broken down at times.

SIDNER: The staff is resilient, but despondent some days. And plain old exhausted most. Suffering and death greet them every day.

SILVA: They come to me and they say I do need a break, help me.

SIDNER: You know, when you talk about things like pulling them out and people breaking down, it sounds like a war zone. That's the same language that soldiers sometimes use.


SIDNER: Is that what it feels like?

SILVA: Yes, to the point of it being almost unbearable. To see that, these are very good people. Good respiratory therapists, good clinicians who want to do the best possible job, and they just can't. They can't do it.

SIDNER: There was a moment of light and hope.


SIDNER: Clinical nurse manager Dominick Armijo was filled with hope when the vaccines were approved. He was one of the first in New Mexico to get the shot.

ARMIJO: It was just that light at the end of the tunnel and then all of a sudden it was wham, bam, here we are again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody who's here today!

SIDNER: He couldn't have possibly accounted for the number of people who would refuse the vaccine.

ANGELA BYRES, COVID ICU PATIENT: In the beginning was an anti-vaxxer only because of my immune system, but not anymore.

SIDNER: What was it that sort of kept you from going to get vaccinated?

BYRES: I do not have a very good immune system.

SIDNER: A lot of times the doctors will tell you if your immune system is compromised, go get vaccinated. What were your concerns?

BYRES: My heart issues. I know there was a lot of clotting in the first few. And I did have an example of not a good reaction to a friend who did get vaccinated.

SIDNER: Byres never did get the vaccine. Instead, she got a bad case of COVID and was unable to breathe. Do you regret it now?

BYRES: Do I regret it? Yes and no. I wish I had gotten vaccinated sooner. I wouldn't be here. That's the regret.

SIDNER: I've talked to a lot of doctors and nurses and I've heard a lot of people say I don't want to retire, I don't want to leave but I don't know if I can do it. Where are you on that?

ARMIJO: I'm probably at that end of that spectrum as well. It's trying. But I just -- this is my family. And this is my community. We're the city of holy faith. It's just been a lot.

SIDNER: The unending pandemic surges have taken a toll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lost 110 nurses this year.

SIDNER: That's 25 percent of the hospital's nurses.

LILIAN MONTOYA, PRESIDENT, CEO, CHRISTUS ST. VINCENT MEDICAL CENTER: It's across the board. I mean, most definitely nursing, respiratory, but it's also food and nutrition and custodial support and techs and medical office assistants, and registration. It is across the board.

SIDNER: The remaining staff are fighting back death alongside their patients. There is no respite. Not even for Christmas.


SIDNER: Kate, I cannot tell you or emphasize this enough. It is really hard to see doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists breaking down in front of you. I am a complete stranger, but they are so overwhelmed with so much suffering.

And now, they'll be there for Christmas because there just are too many people who are so severely sick because they didn't get vaccinated -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I think just another round of this is just truly unbelievable.

Thank you, Sara.

OUTFRONT for us next, a truck driver who killed four people after he says his rig's brakes failed is at the center of a campaign for clemency. Does he deserve the 110-year sentence he received? One of the victims' brothers is my guest.

And Trump allies taking a page from the book of Trump. When he sues, they follow suit.



BOLDUAN: Tonight, a judge under pressure to reconsider the 110-year sentence he gave to a truck driver convicted a deadly crash.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was driving a truck in April 2019 when he says his brakes failed causing this 28-car pileup. Four people were killed, several more injured. Prosecutors argued he missed opportunities to prevent this tragedy. The defense said it was out of his control.


KAYLA WIKLEMAN, PROSECUTOR: He knew his brakes went out. He was in gear but still decided to shift out of gear. Why would you ever shift out of gear when you know your brakes don't work?

JAMES COLGAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Everything was happening to him so fast. He was trying to make decisions right like that, and each decision didn't give him reason to think that it was going to stop.


BOLDUAN: Protests have been taking place since that 110-year sentence was handed down. Nearly 5 million people signing a petition to grant him clemency.

The judge has even said this sentence would not have been his choice but he was bound by the mandatory minimum laws in the state.

Now the district attorney is asking him to take another look. A hearing set for Monday. And the state's Governor Jared Polis is reviewing a clemency request at the same time.

OUTFRONT with us now is Duane Bailey. His brother, William Bailey, was one of the four people killed in this tragic crash.

Thank you for being here this evening.

You just met with the governor today about this. What did -- what did you tell him?

DUANE BAILEY, BROTHER KILLED BY TRUCK DIRVER WHO WAS SENTENCED TO 110 YEARS: We told him he should stay out of it honestly until the court proceeding has been done.


We were told it would be done through the court system and the sentence would be considered and more than likely reduced. And for the governor to get involved before that process is done I think would be inappropriate.

BOLDUAN: Did you leave the meeting feeling reassured?

BAILEY: No. I left the meeting, honestly, with him pretty well acknowledging that he was planning to get involved. He didn't say that directly, but he left that impression. But he said he would not make the decision before Monday.

BOLDUAN: You are one of the people most impacted by this crash. What do you think of this sentence?

BAILEY: Honestly, the 110-year sentence, everybody knows -- we did not hear that number until just before sentence that day. They told us then there was procedures in place to adjust the sentence correctly.

BOLDUAN: He says his brakes went out leading to the crash. You say there is more to it than a brake malfunction and a 110-year sentence that people that are seeing this and signing a petition might not understand. I know there's far more detail from the investigation that we can't get into right now.

But what do you think people are missing here?

BAILEY: I can't cover all that testimony that fast. When he got hired, he chose that route, not the trucking company. He was speeding all day long.

He almost ran a couple off the road hours before the crash, 70 in a 45 zone, 30 miles before the crash site, his brakes were smoking. He was concerned about that. He called his boss later and said he had a conversation with while parked there.

He was concerned about the brakes and asking for advice for a route with less hills because he was concerned about his brakes. He was seen driving -- speeding I-70. He saw the signs warning of the downhill. He said that in the testimony. He saw the signs.

He said when he lost his brakes, he was trying to downshift and missed the truck rump, which baffles my mind. If your brakes are gone, that's the only thing you should focus on. Last decision that day when he came across the truck on the side of the road, which he hit the truck in front of him, was to turn into traffic. Reconstruction that day showed his truck went directly between two

semis. I'm not going to say what his intent. It's obvious he chose a route that would save his life without regard for people there. So many other points that I can't get into in a short interview.

BOLDUAN: I totally understand. But one thing I do know is in all of this with all the headlines that this is now grabbing and so many people signing on and weighing in, I think it's important as you have done tonight to not forget four lives that are lost, one of them your brother William in all of this.

Duane, thank you for being here.

BAILEY: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, when Trump sues, his allies follow. An inside look at the legal strategy straight from the former president.



BOLDUAN: Tonight, a growing number of Trump's allies are following in the former president's footsteps, suing to challenge the January 6th Committee's investigation.

Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who won the election on the third? Who won the election on the third? Donald Trump.

ALI ALEXANDER, STOP THE STEAL ORGANIZER: I was the person who came up with the January 6 idea.

CROWD: Stop the steal.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump's allies have spent the past year questioning the 2020 election, and the House Select Committee's investigation into the deadly insurrection January 6th.

ALEXANDER: This evidence exonerates me and this evidence actually is going to exonerate President Donald J. Trump.

SCHNEIDER: And now, they are taking another page from Trump's playbook, suing to stop the committee from getting access to their records and testimony.

The former president filed a lawsuit making its way through the court trying to stop the National Archives from handing over documents, including White House visitor and call logs and drafts and speeches and handwritten notes.

In recent weeks, more lawsuits have poured in, from Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, Trump's first national security adviser Michael Flynn, John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who wrote a memo detailing how VP Mike Pence could interrupt the certification of the election results, Alex Jones, the far right wing media pundit, an election lawyer for Trump, Ali Alexander, one of the planners of the Stop the Steal rally and a handful of other rally organizers. All have sued to stop the committee or to stop phone companies from turning over their records to the committee.

A judge in Flynn's case just denied a request to immediately step in and block a subpoena for his testimony and any request for his phone records as his case moves forward.

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The foundation is not based on a legislative purpose.

SCHNEIDER: Mark Meadows is challenging the basic premise of the committee and others have followed his lead. In his suit, his lawyers write, the select committee acts absent any valid legislative power and threatens to violate longstanding principles of executive privilege that are of constitutional origin and dimension.

Meadows handed over thousands of records to the committee, but when he refused to meet with them, the House voted to refer him for possible prosecution for criminal contempt of Congress.

MEADOWS: But, truly, the executive privilege that Donald Trump claimed is his to wave. It's not mine to waive. It's not Congress's to waive. And that's why we filed the lawsuit to get the courts to weigh in.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are pledging that there probe won't be impeded, stressing that hundreds of witnesses have already cooperated, even as a handful fight in court.

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): We won't stop fighting for democracy. We won't stop fighting for rule of law. We're not going to back down. We won't be intimidated. We're going to keep going.

SCHNEIDER: Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.