Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
Attorney General On Jan 6 Vows To Do "Whatever It Takes For Justice"; General: Jan 6 Perpetrators "Must be Held Accountable;" American Medical Association Warns People Could Return To Work And School Infectious If They Follow New CDC Guidance; 340,000 Chicago Students In Limbo Over Reopening Schools; Ex-White House Press Secretary Under Trump Meets With January 6 Panel; Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Ordered To Leave Australia. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 05, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The White House says the President will be blunt, blunt in blaming Trump. Until then, thanks for watching.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the Attorney General vowing tonight to go after anyone responsible for the January 6th insurrection. Does that include the former President Donald Trump?
Plus, the nation's largest medical organization slamming the CDC and its new guidance on isolating after testing positive for COVID. They say it could put more people at risk.
And a tennis superstar, the world's top ranked player who says he's opposed to vaccinations tonight after landing in Australia turned away no longer allowed to enter. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, whatever it takes. Attorney General Merrick Garland breaking his silence tonight and making a promise on the eve of January 6th, defending his investigation into the deadly insurrection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This investigation is the largest in FBI history and it has been slow going. It's taken a year for more than 700 people to have been arrested and the DOJ still doesn't know where 350 More of them are. Most of those 350 seen on video committing crimes that day, but they don't know where those people are a year later, 350 manhunts at least still ongoing and that jarringly large number may be just the tip of the iceberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARLAND: The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's pretty significant, present that day or not. The unsaid crucial extra words. And Garland says he's going to hold everyone accountable. So does that mean elected officials who fanned the flames by lying about the election?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We know that this has really been a stolen election.
REP. MATT GAETZ (D-FL): And an election that was stolen as a consequence of illegal last minute changes to the rules.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I don't know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn't actually win this thing based on all the things you see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And what about the biggest fish of them all, Trump? And those who whipped up the crowd in the days leading up to and on the very day that the crowd stormed the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI ALEXANDER, STOP THE STEAL RALLY ORGANIZER: I was the person who came up with the January 6th idea.
ALEX JONES, DONALD TRUMP ALLY: I don't know how this is going to end, but if they want to fight, they better believe they got one.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we're going to the Capitol, we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Let's have trial by combat.
DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP SON: We're coming for you and we're going to have a good time doing it.
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: According to Garland, everyone will be held accountable. Now, the Attorney General was clear he doesn't want anyone tipping the scales of justice no matter how slowly they turn. Something President Biden has tiptoed dangerously close to when talking about January 6.
For example, he directly said, "I do," when asked if the DOJ should prosecute people who defy the Congressional Committee's investigation. And tonight, President Biden is taking a clear stand on accountability. Listen to the White House Press Secretary when asked what Biden is expected to say on the anniversary tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would expect that President Biden will lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility President Trump has for the chaos and carnage that we saw.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jessica Schneider begins our coverage tonight OUTFRONT live in Washington. So Jessica, Garland has been mostly silent, not talking at all about this. And yet on the eve of the one year anniversary of the insurrection, he spoke out, defended his investigation, detailed it. How different is this from what we've heard from him before?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you sort of alluded to it, Erin. This was really a much more forceful attorney general that we've heard in previous public remarks.
And it's really the first time that Merrick Garland is revealing that the Justice Department could in fact go after the former president or his allies who spread those false election fraud claims and stoke those flames that led to the insurrection.
Now, to be sure, the Attorney General did speak very carefully. He didn't reveal any details about possible ongoing investigations or who investigators might be looking at. But his comments basically amounted to, look, be patient, our investigators are looking at this and there could be more to come here.
This was essentially Garland pushing back on all of his critics who have said maybe the DOJ isn't moving fast enough or maybe the DOJ isn't targeting the right people. The Attorney General pushed back on that and he touted a lot of the statistics here, Erin, from the investigation. He talked about the fact that 700, more than 700 people have been arrested so far, a number of them have been prosecuted, saying they've had 145 defendants plead guilty.
And he said that those people who pleaded guilty so far, mostly to misdemeanors, saying that the prosecutorial resources could be conserved, so they could eventually focus on more serious perpetrators here. Erin, at the end here, Garland said the actions we have taken thus far will not be our last.
And that was really the final words from this Attorney General saying that more will come, but they're going to do it in their own way, a way that he always says they'll do it adhering to the facts and the law here, Erin. But there will be more to come. That's for sure.
BURNETT: Yes. And interesting, of course, as he said, for people who were there or not there that day. I mean, obviously, I'm not saying he's saying anything specific there, but as you point out, there isn't a single word that was said, that wasn't said without purpose today and so those standout as well.
All right. Thank you so much, Jessica, covering this.
I want to go to Donald Ayer now, former Deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush and Elie Honig, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
So Donald, let me start with you because you have raised the alarm about the Justice Department with concern that they don't appear to be investigating Trump or other high level officials for their roles in the insurrection. So today, you hear the Attorney General say that he 'remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators at any level accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible'.
In the context of every word in that prepared statement being chosen with such care and specificity. Did Garland reassure you today or not?
DONALD AYER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRES. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: He did. He did. I thought it was a very strong statement and I thought he was really clear. And you played back the key parts of it, they're basically looking hard and going to put all the resources necessary into investigating at every level up to the top and ultimately, the judgment that's got to be made. It's going to have to be, as he said, a judgment based on the facts that they're able to develop.
I think that there's an important background to this that I think one has to grasp to answer the question why are we only hearing this now. And I think a part of the answer is that when he came into office, Attorney General Garland, based the experience of the of the Trump administration particularly under Attorney General Barr, where he had abused the processes of the department very greatly by misusing the department for political reasons.
His job, one, coming in was to restore trust, by restoring the practices of the department, which include, generally speaking, not commenting at all on investigations. So we really haven't heard very much from him about this investigation up until now. And it's not surprising in general, that we wouldn't.
I think a lot of us were of the view six or seven months ago that it was really a tough call, whether it would be wise in terms of the national harmony and everything else, to consider a prosecution of the former president. And I think where all of us are now is that there's a great sense of urgency and I think he captured it today. There's a great sense of urgency in achieving accountability and an accountability that goes, if possible, all the way to the top or at least as far as you can get.
BURNETT: So obviously, it's an optimistic view and a positive view of what you heard. Elie, I feel like you heard something a little bit different.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erin, if I would have heard this speech today, when Merrick Garland took office in March of 2021, 10 months ago, I would have said, great. He said all the right things. He gave some important aggressive signals that you pointed out earlier in the show.
However, the problem is we're now a year out from January 6th, we're 10 months out from Merrick Garland taking office and the actions have not matched that rhetoric. And I want to be specific here, two things. First of all, out of those 700 cases the DOJ has prosecuted they have come in light and don't take it from me.
Three different federal judges, Obama appointees and a Trump appointee in D.C. have criticized DOJ for being 'schizophrenic for taking a quote, bafflingly lenient approach to these cases. That's number one. Number two is I've seen no indicators that Merrick Garland is meaningfully going after the real power sources here, no subpoenas aimed at those people, no grand jury impaneled to go after those people. Certainly no charges aimed at those people and nobody in position really to flip at that level of power.
So words are great, words matter, but action matters more to me and I'm not seeing that.
BURNETT: So Don, let me ask you about that. Because the pace of the investigation has been slow. We talk about 350 people who are on camera committing violent offenses against the government that they still haven't found. That's just one example. But they've gotten a lot of stuff done. They've gotten, let me go through it here what I have, 5,000, subpoenas and search warrants, 2000 devices have been seized. 20,000 hours of video footage have been gone through. And yet no subpoenas or any witnesses that we've heard about against Trump or anyone high up in that inner circle. Does that worry you, Donald?
AYER: Well, I think it's probably the case, because we probably would have heard had there been such subpoenas that they had in fact been issued. We don't know that for sure, but there's been an enormous amount of work in the cases that they've had now.
I think I agree with Elie that it would in hindsight now have been better if they had gotten started sooner on focusing on the people at the top. And I again, I say that not really knowing because we have no right to know and no way to know just what's been going on. But I think we wrote that in the New York Times column that we did that it didn't seem that that was happening. What I take heart in now is that this Attorney General who I know a
little bit myself personally and I know him to be a person of great integrity. And he has now told us in no uncertain terms what his commitment is, and I take him at his word. And I think we're going to be seeing things.
I think you're right, I think Elie we have to look and see what does happen now. But I'm optimistic that things are going to be happening now, because he's told us in no uncertain terms and he's not a man who would lie.
BURNETT: No. And I mean, Elie, I guess what I'm saying is how much do you read into holding anyone accountable, whether they were there or not, whether they were violent or not, right? I mean, it almost sounds like you read between the lines, he's saying, don't worry, I am going to be holding people accountable who weren't actually smashing windows.
HONIG: Yes. I think that's the signal that he's trying to give us. But again, I've seen no indication that he's going that way.
HONIG: And I think it's important to say this, I take no issue, no question about Merrick Garland's integrity. He's done a very good job of restoring DOJ's truthfulness and integrity, no issue with his competency. He's a very accomplished prosecutor and judge. I think, however, the problem is the good thing Merrick Garland is doing is he's keeping politics out of prosecution. That's so key and that's a reversal from what was happening under Donald Trump and William Barr.
However, I think he is too timid about any case, even if it needs to be brought, if there might be any political implication whatsoever. And if you're too timid about that, then you're not doing your job.
BURNETT: No. And in this case that it gets right to the heart of the entire thing, is the political process. Both I thank you so much for your perspective.
And next, a grim new prediction tonight from the CDC now forecasting up to 84,000 people dying from COVID in the next four weeks and we are in 2022. So once Omicron burns to the U.S., are we done with the deadly disease or no?
Plus, breaking news, Chicago's mayor and the CEO of the city's public schools are about to speak live. The mayor wants those schools back open. The powerful teachers union has voted to keep them closed. A parent and a representative from the union are my guests.
And all day, the U.S. monitoring Russian rocket fired that was spiraling out of control heading back towards Earth, where is it?
[19:17:41] BURNETT: New tonight, the CDC Advisory Committee recommending a
booster dose of Pfizer's vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. That will take effect once the CDC Director signs off on it. But the CDC of course is in the crosshairs because today the American Medical Association blasting the CDC and its decision to not require a negative test in its updated guidance on isolating after COVID infection.
The AMA saying in the statement, "The new recommendations on quarantine isolation are not only confusing, but are risking further spread of the virus."
OUTFRONT now Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health and Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the University of California San Francisco, Department of Medicine.
Okay. I always appreciate having both of you on and we have a lot to talk about. So Dr. Jha, let me start with you. The American Medical Association slamming the CDC in a press release publicly is a big deal. It's a direct shot. Are they right?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes. Firstly, Erin, thanks for having me back. I think the CDC guidance is confusing, and I have been very, very clear from - for many, many weeks that a negative test should be really essential part of ending isolation.
I think CDC is in a tough spot because there aren't enough tests and they're trying to find alternative ways of moving forward. I think they should just be very clear that part of their guidance is really driven by the fact that we don't have enough testing available.
BURNETT: So what's interesting, Dr. Wachter, is when that was put to the CDC Director, she denied it. She said the decision to not have this testing requirement doesn't have anything to do with the shortage of tests in the United States. Here's what she said is the reason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We opted not to have the rapid test for isolation, because we actually don't know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you're transmissible during the end of disease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Doctor what it says is it's not the test sort of just that we don't have any idea if the tests are any good. That might actually be worse.
DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO DEPT. OF MEDICINE: Yes. I wish they'd share that with the rest of us, because at least all the data that I seen says that the tests actually performed quite well or that use and that use being someone who's been infectious and you're talking about day five and to see whether they still have enough virus to trigger a positive test. There is a little bit of concern with Omicron that the first day or so
of infection ...
... the tests sometimes are falsely negative and that is a concern, close family relative who had some illness today and I tested him and he was negative. And I told him, we still have to assume you might be infectious. Let's test again tomorrow. But no good evidence that I've seen at least that the test on day five doesn't do exactly what you want it to be doing at that point, which is to say that you have a level of infection that's below which you can infect another person. Also important to emphasize that whatever the guidance is, you need to go and wear a mask for at least the next five days to be absolutely secure.
BURNETT: Dr. Jha, do you think that maybe the real reason is that they're just under incredible pressure, I mean, economically, to have people not being out and they want to just come back in as quickly as they can.
JHA: I think there's a broader issue here, Erin, which is that there is no doubt that the first five days is when people are most contagious. It's also no doubt that a lot of people are just not doing 10 days of isolation, they're just skipping out.
JHA: So CDC wants to get more people isolating for the first five days. And for a majority of people six through 10 is probably not as important. So they're trying to find a way to get people back safely to their kids, to their lives, to school to work. I think that's a good goal. The question is how do you do it safely?
BURNETT: So Dr. Wachter, let me ask you this in the context of the CDC's new prediction. So they're now predicting 84,000 People are going to die in the United States in the next four weeks. I remember the last time when we were putting out these predictions from the CDC, it was before the vaccines are widely available.
So they're now saying more than 3,500 people are going to die every single day, tripling the number who are dying now. And numbers we have not seen since before there were vaccines. Of course, now we have widely available effective vaccines. But I know you believe that as awful as this is, it burns through in six to eight weeks.
So then my question to you, Dr. Wachter, is this between vaccination, infection and sadly, death are we then done with COVID as a deadly disease in six to eight weeks?
WACHTER: It's impossible to know and any of us who've been in the prediction business over the last couple of years have been burned enough by Delta, by Omicron, by not as many people getting vaccinated as we thought would happen. But I think we have to take our best shot and our best shot today is that the next month is going to be awful, that people should try to do everything they can to be careful and thoughtful about their activities and their masking. I don't buy the idea that we're all going to get Omicron and therefore just give up trying, I think that's wrong.
But in a month or six weeks or eight weeks hard to know, if we follow the pattern that South Africa has followed, if we follow what London appears to be showing us, they're starting to come down in cases. It is I think likelier than not that we will have burned through the population with Omicron. A lot of vaccinated people who have had breakthrough infections, they will have essentially the equivalent of a booster.
And probably more importantly, the unvaccinated people who made I think a very bad choice will get their immunity the hard way, will get it through an infection. If you combine those things, and the fact that Omicron is, in general, somewhat milder an illness than Delta, you have the vast, vast majority of the people having some measure of immunity, you have a virus that still will be hanging around that is more mild, you will have enough testing, you'll have more supply of some of the medicines that are available, particularly Paxlovid, the Pfizer pill, which will lower the probability of severe outcome.
And we may find ourselves and I think likelier than not to find ourselves in a pretty good place. How long it last is anybody's guess, a lot of that depends on whether we have a new variant.
BURNETT: And obviously I know there's talk about that. Now, one in France, there'll be one in other places there. There are questions about that. But you said something, Dr. Wachter, I think that's important. You said don't give up trying. That you shouldn't just say we're all going to get it, because I think we all know a lot of people are starting to feel that way and they're just fatigued.
So Dr. Jha, to that context, what should we do? I want to ask you about schools, right? That debate is happening across the country and the vast majority of K to 12 public schools are open and staying so and committed to staying so. The latest count from Verbio (ph), which is a data company, though, has 4,561 public schools not open.
Dr. Jha, I know you think that option shouldn't be on the table anymore, tell me why.
JHA: Yes, because we've learned a lot, Erin, about how to keep school safe. The debate has always been kind of just open schools or not. That's not really the right question. The question is how do we keep schools open and how do we keep them safe. And we know how to do that, masking of kids, asking teachers and staff to be vaccinated, kids to be vaccinated, improvements in ventilation.
There have been over a hundred billion dollars from the federal government has gone out to states and schools to improve ventilation. So money is no longer the major issue. At this point, if schools haven't done those things, that's really on school administration, superintendents, political leaders, but we have all the tools to make schools safe for kids and teachers and that's why we need to keep schools open.
BURNETT: Dr. Wachter, how do you see it?
WACHTER: Yes. I don't have small kids and I have great sympathy for parents dealing with this now. It's an incredibly tricky situation. I guess, the question I virtually always agree with Ashish, but on this one, absolutely schools could put themselves in a position to keep everybody safe. The question is, as he mentioned, not all of them have.
And if they haven't, they're probably not going to figure out how to do it in the next two or three weeks in terms of vaccinations and maybe they can pull off the ventilation and obviously everybody could wear a mask. They may not be able to access enough tests.
So I absolutely agree that the decisions that we made a year ago to close the schools down were very harmful, but we need to be - do everything we can to try to keep the schools open, but I'm a little worried that we're kind of locked into that position. For some schools, the right decision, if this virus is blasting through their community and they are not in that kind of position where they've done all these things, for some schools, the right decision probably is to go virtual for a few weeks. And I'm influenced by the fact that I really do think a month from now we're going to be in a very, very different place.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time. And we are standing by right now live for a press conference from the Mayor of Chicago. She wants Chicago kids back in the schools, the powerful teachers union has voted to go remote. A representative from the teachers union and a parent are next.
Plus, a one-time loyal member of Trump's inner circle answering questions tonight right now from the January 6 Committee.
BURNETT: Breaking news: Chicago's mayor is about to hold a press conference as she is locked in a battle with the teachers union.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot going to be speaking at that podium going to appear with the head of Chicago public schools. That CEO has maintained that it is safe for kids to return to the classroom.
So, this is going to be the first public comments from the mayor and CEO since the teachers union voted against returning to in-person learning, leading to the district being forced to cancel school for the day.
The parents of more than 340,000 students in Chicago are now waiting. It's already nighttime to state the obvious, they are waiting to hear whether their kids will be able to go to school tomorrow.
OUTFRONT now, Mike Smith. He is a high school history teacher and representative for the Chicago Teacher's Union.
So, Mike, let me ask you -- I know, obviously, we are going to hear from the mayor and the CEO of the public schools in -- momentarily. There was a meeting today between union and district officials.
What did you learn from that? And will there be school in person tomorrow?
MICHAEL SMITH, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION FIELD REP; STEM HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I mean, based on how things are going at this point, the district has decided to cancel school and lock out all the teachers. And as a result, cancelled class for students, so students are not even getting an education.
Right now, we are just wanting basic things, testing. That's what we're asking for. Can we test every student before they come into the building?
Our district, for some reason, has been unable do that. I mean, this is two years now. We have had a lot of time to plan, to get this right. And we're still facing the same old, same old with the people who are running our school district. They can't provide the basic things needed to keep kids, teachers in the building.
There's times when I was in the classroom -- one day, I have 20 kids in front of me. The next three weeks, I got seven. I was at a school over Christmas break. They have 23 classes in elementary school. Over 14 of those classes were out on quarantine.
They have tons of money. They have the resources to keep us safe in these buildings but they're not putting it to good use.
BURNETT: So, I certainly understand your -- your frustration. I mean, look, I -- I'm a parent here in New York. Obviously, you know, our -- our school system is the largest in the country, dealing with some of those quarantine issues that -- that you are talking about. I will say our kids are back in school and they do not have a requirement for children to be tested to return into the school building and the schools are open. Thus far, and -- and safely.
Why do you not feel it's safe for teachers in Chicago to be in classrooms right now, given that, I believe your vaccination rate is well north of 90 percent?
SMITH: Yeah. I mean, when I was in the classroom myself, it's not a matter of we don't want to be there. It's that we can't stay there, and that's the issue.
So, for example, there is times in the school building where we have half the staff out. Kids are sent into these buildings. We can't find subs. As a result, we have random people covering classes.
Even right now -- Monday, Tuesday, there weren't enough people to even hold classes because people were out. They were ushering kids into gyms, into classrooms, kids aren't learning. BURNETT: So -- so, let me, um, ask you and this is tough because a
lot of this, I know, comes from the CDC and their requirements for people having to stay home, right? So, what you are dealing with there is -- is going with federal requirement as opposed to some dispute that may be between your union and -- and public officials like the mayor, who are about to speak.
But doctors do say it's safe for kids to be in school in general, right? Here is just a few of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: All the teachers unions saying we have to delay kids going back to school are wrong. We know what it takes to keep children safe in schools. We need to get our children back at all costs.
DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We need to get our children to be in school.
Most importantly, you know, the socialization, social development. The kids so sorely missed last year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So I know you agree. I mean, you want the kids back, you want to have an education. You are a teacher, I'm sure because you are passionate about teaching. That's what is so amazing about teachers. But, you know, when you hear Dr. Wen say all the teachers unions saying we need to delay kids going back to school are wrong. What is your reaction when you hear that from a doctor?
SMITH: Yeah, I want the doctor to come to our school. I want the doctor to come in there and see. School today isn't like it was before the pandemic. It's just not the same. And when we say socialization and they need all these things, you are right.
But when you drop your kid off, a parent is expecting to have a teacher there that they know to go into a building they trust where everything is working. But today, we drop kids off at some schools. Some schools don't have heat. There is rodents in places. The teachers aren't there. They are being taught or a stranger is in front of them. Sometimes, security guard. People who weren't qualified to teach kids.
So, I agree that we should be in schools if our district, if our mayor was able to provide the fundamental things with all the money -- over $2 billion have gone into the city, she said she spent $100 million -- to provide fundamental things, testing, masks, vaccination, proper ventilation. If they were able to do those things, those doctors are right.
I believe those doctors are making those assertions based on those facts. The issue is our schools -- most of 'em don't have those basic things. And this is happening in the communities that are dear to my heart, South and West Sides. When you go into these places, there is just not being done. No heat.
BURNETT: Mike, I really -- I really appreciate your taking the time and trying to explain, you know, how you feel. And obviously, I know, any minute, we are going to be -- we are going to hear from the mayor and CEO of Chicago public schools so we will stand by for that. I thank you very much for taking the time and talking to me.
I want to go to Ryan Griffin now. He's got a 2nd grader and kindergartner in Chicago who had to stay home today because of the standstill between the district and the teacher's union. He started the Chicago Parents Collective Organization to push for the option of in-person learning.
So, Ryan, you heard Mike. He is a teacher, representative for the union, making his case saying he wants to be there but if the kids show up, there -- there aren't necessarily teachers there and the -- you know, you could have someone filling in who has no teaching credentials whatsoever. What's your response?
RYAN GRIFFIN, PARENT OF STUDENTS IN CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL; WANTS KIDS IN CLASSROOM: Yeah, Erin, thanks for having me on and, again, as a -- as another parent with three kids, you know how challenging it is at this age. The response is simple. I mean, this is the typical rhetoric we hear as parents, right? It's always alarmist.
They were talking about things that are simply not even anywhere on the demands of -- of -- of the CTU currently. And so, I think the frustration is the -- the concept of keeping kids at school above all else is there from every public health expert. And instead of being surgical and quarantining certain classes at certain schools where spread in the community is high, they are closing down 550 -- 550 schools serving 340,000 students.
That is not the right approach. That's putting a sledgehammer and chaos into a big district.
BURNETT: Look, you have a lot -- you have a lot of great points. I mean, I will say, you know, we had the experience where a kid had COVID and a whole class was exposed. So, um, my daughter was the only one able to go, you know, with the requirements being fully vaccinated. So now, New York's changed that, right?
So, if you are exposed but vaccinated and asymptomatic, you can still go, right? Using a scalpel so they can get more kids in.
GRIFFIN: I received that e-mail today. Our 7-year-old was exposed on Monday but he is fully vaccinated and can be in the classroom, and he should be in the classroom. And I am glad you bring up these facts that the teacher's union doesn't acknowledge. Over 90 percent of their staff is fully vaccinated, and they were the first in line to get them.
And we are doing our part getting our kids vaccinated. You know, I'm vaxed and boosted. That is the answer. This is way different than February of 2021. Way different. BURNETT: So -- so, have you spoken to your kids' teachers about all
of this? I mean, I know that there is this, you know, sort of people talk about teachers unions but obviously teachers unions in Chicago, what, it's tens of thousands of people.
The union doesn't necessarily speak for all of the teachers, you know, right? I mean, you know, you have a vote, maybe a majority of those who voted. But what are you hearing?
GRIFFIN: Yeah. I mean, we -- we have appealed directly to our teachers because, you know, Erin, you have said this. I mean, teachers are one of the most essential people in kids' lives.
BURNETT: They are.
GRIFFIN: And we just wanted to remind them, especially at young school-age developmental ages like my children are at and your children are at, it is absolutely critical to have teachers in the classroom. So, we encouraged and personally we reached out to our teachers just to remind them before this vote how important they are. How important in-person learning was for social and emotional development.
I mean, we're ignoring immense harm and I am just really thankful that not only public health experts but politicians are waking up to the immense harm that school closures have had on kids, disproportionately in big cities that absolutely need this essential service.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Ryan, I really appreciate your time.
And everyone so you know, we are standing by for the mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot who has made it clear she wants the schools open and CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
So we are going up to update you as soon as they take that podium. Thank you so very much Ryan. Of course, Mike Shields as well, the representative for the teachers union.
And next, the January 6th Select Committee turning its attention to Trump's former press secretary.
Plus, Australia tonight ordering tennis superstar Novak Djokovic, once he landed in the country, they said, sorry, that visa, actually, no good. Got to turn around because you are not vaccinated.
BURNETT: New tonight, former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, once a close aide to former President Trump and Melania Trump, just finishing up a meeting with the January 6th Select Committee and speaking to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I cooperated fully and I will continue to do so. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It comes as the committee is racing against the clock to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the attack one year ago tomorrow.
Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the most sweeping investigation yet into January 6th. But one year since the deadly insurrection that came dangerously close to preventing the peaceful transfer of power in America, the House Select Committee is still figuring out what went wrong and who is responsible.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): There are a lot of things that should have occurred in a more orderly and streamlined fashion that didn't. And I'm convinced that that was, in my opinion, by design.
NOBLES: On paper, the committee's mission is straightforward. They want to write the definitive narrative as to what led to January 6th, and what happened on that day. They plan to offer up a series of recommendations to prevent it from happening again, and if they discover criminal activity in the course of their investigation, they plan to refer that to the department of justice.
It's that potential for finding criminal activity and holding certain individuals accountable, like former President Donald Trump, that is getting the most attention.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that -- that there are a number of, as the chairman said, potential criminal statutes at issue here.
NOBLES: But finding hard evidence of wrongdoing that would rise to the level of the department of justice filing charges is no easy task. The committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, facing a number of obstacles from fighting legal challenges, including Trump asking the Supreme Court to block them from accessing his White House records, to putting to rest the big lie of a stolen election and accusations, yet again, of a political witch hunt.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's very clear to the American public this is a sham.
NOBLES: Many of the committee's targets are either current or former- Republican elected leaders tied to Trump. As a result, the GOP has questioned the committee's work from the start. For committee members like Representative Elaine Luria, a Democrat who represents a swing district in Virginia, that means investigating people she works with every day.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): No one in this investigation is going to be treated differently because of their current position or their former position.
NOBLES: With the staff of more than 40 people, the committee has conducted more than 300 interviews. They have collected more than 35,000 documents and issued more than 50 subpoenas, seeking phone records, and even bank records as they follow the money behind the insurrectionists.
Their work, done largely behind closed doors, in office buildings off the beaten path.
LURIA: The goal of this is not to go after a person or a group of people, but rather to understand all of the contributing factors that led to the events and provide recommendations moving forward.
NOBLES: And they claim that they are constantly uncovering new evidence, including a timeline of Trump's conduct on that day. A body of evidence, they say will show Trump willfully chose not to quell the violence, despite pleas from his allies and his own children.
CHENEY: President Trump was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office, watching on television, as the Capitol was assaulted as the violence occurred. We know that that is clearly a supreme dereliction of duty.
NOBLES: By late winter, the group hopes to hold prime-time public hearings. They could issue an interim report by summer with a goal of wrapping up their work with a final report in the fall, just before the midterm elections. A necessary deadline because, if Republicans take back the House as expected, this committee will likely be shut down.
But the committee believes their work rises above partisan politics. They hope that their investigation will provide a clear and sober view of what happened on January 6th.
THOMPSON: In this great country of ours, I'm convinced that sunlight and truth is the best disinfectant when you are dealing with a lie. Hopefully, we will provide the proper disinfectant for what's happened on January 6th, so that people will understand it.
NOBLES: With the goal of ensuring an attempted coup never happens, again.
LURIA: Like, if someone tried to do this in the future, are there ways they could still succeed? And we need to safeguard against that.
NOBLES: And as an example as to how the former President Donald Trump and his allies continue to throw up roadblocks against this investigation, in just the past few minutes, another lawsuit has been filed. This, by the CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, one of the former president's biggest and most prominent supporters. He is suing to prevent the January 6th select committee from getting access to his phone records. So far, Erin, the committee's won all of these court challenges but still these roadblocks continue to be put up -- Erin. BURNETT: Ryan, thank you.
And next, the top men's tennis player in the world has been very clear he is opposed to vaccinations of any kind. Now, being ordered out of Australia. It's an incredible story.
And space officials today watching part of an out-of-control Russian rocket that is hurdling back to earth and the big question right now, where is it?
BURNETT: Tonight, Novak Djokovic, the world's top-ranked men's tennis player, has been ordered to leave Australia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: If you are not double vaccinated and you are not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can't come.
(END VIDEO CLPI)
BURNETT: Okay. I mean, it's an incredible story and it's actually a dramatic turn of events because Djokovic went to Australia. He announced he had been granted an exemption to the whole vaccine requirement so that he could play in Australia's Grand Slam. Massive backlash in Australia and here we are.
Phil Black is OUTFRONT.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the world's number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic has hit more than his fair share of aces.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TENNIS STAR: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you, guys.
BLACK: But the Serbian champ's COVID-19 vaccination status has put his hopes of a 2022 grand slam out of reach.
GREG HUNT, AUSTRALIAN HEALTH MINISTER: Mr. Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and visa has been subsequently cancelled. So it is a matter for him, whether he wishes to appeal that. But if a visa is cancelled, somebody will have to leave the country.
BLACK: Local authorities had originally granted a medical exemption to Djokovic to compete in the Australian open. And Djokovic proudly announced he was traveling down under on social media Tuesday. His post inspired outrage from Australian citizens, who have faced some of the most severe lockdown, travel, and vaccine protocols of any country since the pandemic began.
And it's created an outcry over what some perceive to be special treatment for the sports icon. Australia slammed its border shut for nearly 20 months before beginning to ease those restrictions in November. But only after achieving 80 percent vaccination among those 16 and older with some states still requiring mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Victorian officials insist he received no special treatment, saying a handful of medical exemptions were granted via an anonymous application process, reviewed by two independent panels.
The tennis star traveled to Melbourne Wednesday on a visa that did not allow vaccine exemptions resulting in his detention in a room by himself at the airport for several hours while border authorities considered his case.
Djokovic, who already contracted COVID-19 once in 2020, has made no secret of his anti-vaccine status.
During a Facebook live with fellow Serbian athletes in April of 2020, Djokovic said: Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.
His father is outraged by his son's airport detention, telling Russian news agency Sputnik, the winner of 20 grand slam tournaments had been held captive. The incident threatens to create a diplomatic row with Serbian officials demanding answers from the Australian government.
The Australian PM tweeted a forceful defense of the decision to cancel Djokovic's visa, making clear that no one will receive special treatment, no matter how famous they are, saying, rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID. We are continuing to be vigilant.
BLACK (on camera): Erin, we do not know the specific basis on which he sought this medical exemption but his case, whatever it was, was strong enough to convince those two independent expert panels that he should be allowed to play in the tournament. Not strong enough to convince Australian border officials that he should be allowed to enter the country. It means that it is very likely he is going to be put on a plane and sent home at some point in the coming day. It is an undignified episode in the storied career of a player considered to be one of the greatest of all time -- Erin.
BURNETT: It -- it sure is.
All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate it, Phil Black. An incredible story. And next, we do have breaking news on Chicago's schools.
BURNETT: Breaking news: the CEO of Chicago public schools just announcing classes are cancelled tomorrow for a second day. It comes after the teachers union voted against returning to in-person learning, forcing the district to cancel school for the day yesterday.
They say notices have gone out to the parents of the more than 340,000 students in the district who now will be home tomorrow.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.